The Lord hath sworn - Has most firmly purposed, and will most certainly perform it, feeling himself bound by his purpose, as an honest man would by his oath.
And will not repent - Will never change this purpose; it is perfectly without condition, and without contingency. Nothing is left here to the will of man or angel. Christ shall be incarnated, and the Gospel of his salvation shall be preached over the whole earth. This is an irresistible decree of that God who loves mankind.
Thou art a priest for ever - The word כהן cohen signifies, not only a priest, but also a prince; as, in the patriarchal times, most heads of families had and exercised both political and sacerdotal authority over all their descendants. Every priest had a threefold office:
For the elucidation of this point, the reader is requested to refer to the notes on Genesis 14:18, Genesis 14:19, and to the observations at the end of that chapter, where the subject, relative to the person, name, and office of this ancient king, is fully discussed; and it will be necessary to read that note, etc., as if appended to this place.
Melchizedek was king of Salem, that is, king of Jerusalem; for Salem was its ancient name: but שלם salem signifies peace, and צדק tsedek, righteousness. Christ is styled the Prince of peace; and he is the king that rules in the empire of righteousness; and all peace and righteousness proceed from him, Hebrews 7:2.
He is priest after the order of Melchizedek - after his pattern; in the same kind or manner of way in which this ancient king was priest.
Calmet properly observes that there were three orders of priesthood.
This order, therefore, was not perpetual; it was intended to last only for a time. But that of royalty is perpetual, though not now in general use, because founded in what is called natural right. It is, therefore, according to this most ancient order, that Christ is a Priest for ever. The kings of England as heads of the Church appointing all bishops, continue to assume, in a certain way, this original right.
Melchizedek is said to be "without father without mother, without beginning of days, or end of life." We have no account of his parents; nothing of his birth; nothing of his death. Christ, as to his Divine nature, is without father or mother, and without beginning of days; nor can he have any end. Other priests could not continue by reason of death; but he is the Eternal, he cannot die, and therefore can have no successor: "He is a priest For Ever." Therefore, as Melchizedek was a priest and a king, and had no successor, so shall Christ be: of the increase and government of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Melchizedek was priest of the Most High God; and consequently not of one people or nation, but of the universe. Aaron was priest of one people, and for a time only; Jesus is priest of all mankind, and for ever. He tasted death for every man; he is the King eternal; he has the keys of hell and of death. As God is the King and Governor of all human beings, Christ, being the priest of the Most High God, must also be the priest for and over all whom this most high God made and governs; and therefore he is the priest, the atoning sacrifice, of the whole human race. In this the main similitude consists between the order of Melchizedek and that of Christ.
The Lord hath sworn - He has confirmed the appointment of the Messiah by a solemn oath, or as by an oath. That is, It is as sure and fixed as if he had taken an oath. Compare Hebrews 6:13. The “time,” so to speak, if the word time can be applied to transactions in a past eternity, was that when he was designated in the divine purpose as Messiah; in the eternal counsels of God. Compare Psalm 2:7.
And will not repent - Will not change his purpose.
Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek - The word rendered “order” here means properly a word, a thing, a matter; hence, a way or manner. The meaning here is, that he would be a priest “after the manner” of Melchizedek; or, such a priest as he was. He would not be of the tribe of Levi; he would not be in the regular line of the priesthood, but he would resemble, in the characteristics of his office, this ancient priest-king, combining in himself the two functions of priest and king; as a priest, standing alone; not deriving his authority from any line of predecessors; and having no successors. See this verse explained at length, in its application to the Messiah, in the notes at Hebrews 5:6 (note), Hebrews 5:10 (note); Hebrews 7:1-3 (note). The passage as it stands here, and as looked at without any reference to the use made of it in the New Testament, would imply these things:
(1) That he who was spoken of would be, in a proper sense, a priest.
(2) that he would have a perpetual or permanent priesthood - “forever.”
(3) that he would not be of the established line of priests in the tribe of Levi, but that his appointment would be unusual and extraordinary.
(4) that the appointment would come directly from God, and would not be “derived” from those who went before him.
(5) that as a priest he would “resemble” Melchizedek, according to the record which was found of Melchizedek in Genesis.
(6) that as Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God, so he would be.
(7) that as Melchizedek combined in himself the functions of both priest and king, so these would be found in him.
(8) that as Melchizedek had no successors in office, so he would have none.
How far these things were applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ, and with what propriety the passage might be applied to him, may be seen by examining the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 57.
As the divine Sufferer hung upon the cross, angels gathered about Him, and as they looked upon Him, and heard His cry, they asked, with intense emotion, “Will not the Lord Jehovah save Him?” ... Then were the words spoken: “The Lord hath sworn, and He will not repent. Father and Son are pledged to fulfill the terms of the everlasting covenant. God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ was not alone in making His great sacrifice. It was the fulfillment of the covenant made between Him and His Father before the foundation of the world was laid. With clasped hands they had entered into the solemn pledge that Christ would become the surety for the human race if they were overcome by Satan's sophistry. FLB 76.3Read in context »
Those who would overcome must put to the tax every power of their being. They must agonize on their knees before God for divine power. Christ came to be our example, and to make known to us that we may be partakers of the divine nature. How?—By having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust. Satan did not gain the victory over Christ. He did not put his foot upon the soul of the Redeemer. He did not touch the head though he bruised the heel. Christ, by His own example, made it evident that man may stand in integrity. Men may have a power to resist evil—a power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master; a power that will place them where they may overcome as Christ overcame. Divinity and humanity may be combined in them. 1SM 409.1
It was the work of Christ to present the truth in the framework of the gospel, and to reveal the precepts and principles that He had given to fallen man. Every idea He presented was His own. He needed not to borrow thoughts from any, for He was the originator of all truth. He could present the ideas of prophets and philosophers, and preserve His originality; for all wisdom was His; He was the source, the fountain, of all truth. He was in advance of all, and by His teaching He became the spiritual leader for all ages. 1SM 409.2
It was Christ that spoke through Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. Melchizedek was not Christ, but he was the voice of God in the world, the representative of the Father. And all through the generations of the past, Christ has spoken; Christ has led His people, and has been the light of the world. When God chose Abraham as a representative of His truth, He took him out of his country, and away from his kindred, and set him apart. He desired to mold him after His own model. He desired to teach him according to His own plan. The mold of the world's teachers was not to be upon him. He was to be taught how to command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. This is the work that God would have us do. He would have us understand how to govern our families, how to control our children, how to command our households to keep the way of the Lord. 1SM 409.3Read in context »
It was a difficult task for the Prince of life to carry out the plan which He had undertaken for the salvation of man, in clothing His divinity with humanity. He had received honor in the heavenly courts, and was familiar with absolute power. It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as for men to rise above the low level of their depraved natures, and be partakers of the divine nature. 7BC 930.1
Christ was put to the closest test, requiring the strength of all His faculties to resist the inclination when in danger, to use His power to deliver Himself from peril, and triumph over the power of the prince of darkness. Satan showed his knowledge of the weak points of the human heart, and put forth his utmost power to take advantage of the weakness of the humanity which Christ had assumed in order to overcome his temptations on man's account (The Review and Herald, April 1, 1875). 7BC 930.2
No Particular Adaptation for Obedience—We need not place the obedience of Christ by itself, as something for which He was particularly adapted, by His particular divine nature, for He stood before God as man's representative and was tempted as man's substitute and surety. If Christ had a special power which it is not the privilege of man to have, Satan would have made capital of this matter. The work of Christ was to take from the claims of Satan his control of man, and He could do this only in the way that He came—a man, tempted as a man, rendering the obedience of a man (Manuscript 1, 1892). 7BC 930.3
(2 Corinthians 5:19) God Endured Temptation in Christ—God was in Christ in human form, and endured all the temptations wherewith man was beset; in our behalf He participated in the suffering and trials of sorrowful human nature (The Watchman, December 10, 1907, reprinted from The Signs of the Times, January 2, 1896). 7BC 930.4Read in context »