Melchizedek was king of the ancient city of Salem. The name “Melchizedek” literally means, “King of Righteousness.” This king was so righteous that Abraham paid tithes to him. Melchizedek offered a holy supper to Abraham and others after a successful conquest (Genesis 14, see JST Gen 14). Melchizedek was a Gentile, and yet held a priesthood greater than Abraham. Some traditions hold that Melchizedek was Shem, the son of Noah. That Levi and Aaron were subordinate to Father Abraham shows that the Levitical or Aaronic priesthood is subordinate to the Melchizedek order of priesthood.
Of Melchizedek, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith:
“26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.
34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;
36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.”
In the Book of Mormon, Alma spoke of the priesthood being from before mortality, and that faithful men were foreordained to the priesthood. Alma explained:
"And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 And those priests were ordained after the of his Son, in a that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being and from the of the world according to the of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great , are with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such....
9 Thus they become forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of , equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen....
11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were , and their were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
12 Now they, after being by the , having their garments made white, being and spotless before God, could not look upon save it were with ; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God....
14 Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of , who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever....
17 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18 But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
The priesthood is actually the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son. However, we call it after Melchizedek, because of who he was.19 Now, there were before him, and also there were many afterwards, but were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention." (Alma 13:1-19)
In Melchizedek, we have a prototype and foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Melchizedek took a wicked people and made them fit to be translated or taken up into heaven. He was able to do great works and miracles through the power of his priesthood. This priesthood preceded him, held by Enoch and Adam, who received it from the premortal Christ. Melchizedek was called the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s role as the ultimate Prince of Peace.
So important was Melchizedek and his priesthood that in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ 11Q Melchizedek, the fragment tells us: “Melchizedek is El (God)!” and “Melchizedek is Yahweh (Jehovah).”
This is not to be taken literally that the mortal Melchizedek is God the Father (El) or Jesus Christ (Jehovah). It is to say that Melchizedek is a symbol of the Father and Son. Yes, as a divine heir with Christ of all the Father has given, Melchizedek the man also became a king in heaven, sitting on God’s throne (we’ll discuss more in the upcoming lessons in Revelation), etc. Remember, Melchizedek literally means, “King of Righteousness.” Jesus is our eternal King of Righteousness under Father’s direction.
As before noted, justification, or being guiltless is brought forth by the blood sacrifice of Christ, the great High Priest. The power and ordinances of the Lord’s great priesthood also provides for sanctification as we are made holy through faithfulness, obedience and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The Lord is in his Temple - a New Covenant
Paul brings us to the Tabernacle or Temple of the Lord. The Tabernacle was Moses’ portable Temple, where the children of Israel could remain in God’s presence (the temple represented the House of the Lord and his Shekinah [Presence]). Later, King Solomon’s temple would replace the Tabernacle, but the same rites and teachings would continue regarding the sacrifices.
Jesus would be the high priest and king in the heavenly tabernacle, pitched by God and not man. While in the earthly tabernacle, animal sacrifices continued day and night in order to atone for man’s sins under the Law of Moses, in the heavenly tabernacle would be only one divine sacrifice. Rather than sacrifice an animal, this one sacrifice would be the lamb of God and Israel’s High Priest, Jesus Christ.
With the divine sacrifice came a new covenant to replace the old one. No longer would the Levitical priests be required to sacrifice animals on the altars of the temple. Instead, Jesus will redeem all mankind in his sacrifice.
How can it be that Jesus was not sacrificed in the temple, but we see this as pertaining to him? Because during the last week of his life during Passover, Jesus taught daily in the women’s court of the temple. And anciently, the entire city of Jerusalem was considered the outer court of the temple. It was the holy city, where the Lord’s presence shown in his house within the city. To slay Jesus in Jerusalem was to essentially kill him in the outer parts of the temple or Tabernacle.
The ancient Tabernacle contained sacred emblems to represent God. Paul mentions the Tabernacle containing different rooms, some more sacred than others, as well:
“1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly” (Heb 9).
Once one entered in from the outer court where sacrifice was made, the priest entered into the Holy place. In this place was the menorah (candlestick with 7 candles), and the table holding the shewbread. In Christian teaching, the menorah represents the Holy Ghost and how it lights our path in life. The shewbread table (which often also held a cup of wine) represented the Savior Jesus Christ as the bread and wine represented his sacrifice.
Within the veil was the Holy of Holies. Herein was found the most sacred of items representing God and his promises to man: manna as the Bread of Life, Aaron’s rod also representing life after death, and the Mercy Seat or throne of God sitting upon the ark of the covenant. Each of these represents a member(s) of the Godhead, and more especially represent Jesus’ various roles as Sacrifice (shewbread), our Example (menorah), resurrection (Aaron’s rod), and eternal life (manna). Judgment and Mercy are shown forth at the Mercy Seat by Jesus, who is our Judge and Intermediary with the Father.
While the priests went daily to offer animal sacrifice and to care for the menorah and table of shewbread, only the chief high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies, and this only once per year. His temple vesture included bells on the fringes of his robe, so that the priests outside could hear if he was still alive. A rope was tied to the chief high priest, so that if God were to strike him down, they could pull the deceased out of the Holy of Holies without entering inside. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would perform an atonement for himself and all of Israel, sprinkling the blood of a sacrifice upon the Mercy Seat, the ark of the covenant, and all of the holiest of items.
Jesus was the chief high priest who entered into the Holy of Holies of the Heavenly Tabernacle, and after shedding his own blood for himself and all mankind, would then go forth and take his rightful place sitting upon the throne or Mercy Seat.
In chapter 10, Paul tells us that sacrificing animals really cannot atone for our sins. This is done as a symbol of the great sacrifice done by Jesus Christ for all mankind.
“11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10).
Paul finishes explaining his quoting of Psalms 110, wherein the Lord will make his enemies his own footstool. When the Lord ascends to the Mercy Seat, he will judge all mankind. Those who have embraced Christ in faith and repented, will be his true disciples and receive the promises made. Those who reject the Lamb shall be judged for their sins.
Faith and Endurance
Paul goes into a discourse on faith, describing how the ancient prophets were accepted of God because of their great faith. Abel, Enoch, Abraham and others obtained great blessings of God due to their faith. We are promised the same blessings as we become as they were, with unshakable and enduring faith in Christ.
In verses 33-34, we see what power was given to the prophets (compare this with Melchizedek’s power above):
“ 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
While they all experienced great trials, and many were slain for their testimonies, they will receive a great reward in heaven for that faithfulness. In times of trial, studying their faithfulness through difficult time can give us the strength and faith to endure well.
In chapter 12, we find that the Lord chastens those he loves. God allows difficult times to occur to the righteous, simply because gold is purified by the highest heat, while the dross is left behind. We cannot easily increase in faith, hope, charity, compassioin, mercy, forgiveness, patience, love, or any other godly characteristic without a trial that will push us beyond our comfort zone and into the arms of God. We only find joy when we find true meaning in life. The plan of salvation shows us that the trials are necessary so we can learn to be and think as God does, And it is necessary so that we come to truly appreciate the atonement of Jesus Christ. If life were easy enough to get through without sinning, we would have no need of the atonement. But then we would not really understand compassion. Paul taught that Jesus suffered so that he would know how to succor us (Hebrews 2:18, Alma 7:12).
“ 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb 12).
If we are truly children of God, we will endure the trials he allows us to go through. And we will seek to learn the lessons we need to learn, in order to be like him. If we refuse to accept such trials and learn from them, we are not true children of God, but reject his corrections and guidance. As stated above, such gives us meaning in our lives and from such comes the peace, holiness and the fruit of righteousness.
God is the “Father of our spirits.” He has prepared his Only Begotten to be the great and final sacrifice. God imbued Christ with the Melchizedek Priesthood, so that he could perform all his mighty works, and above all, make us holy and able to enter into the Holy of Holies with Jesus to stand in God’s presence once again.
Jim Faulconer’s notes on Hebrews: http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2011/09/03/nt-sunday-school-lesson-37-jf-hebrews/
Theopedia on Hebrews: http://www.theopedia.com/Epistle_to_the_Hebrews
Wikipedia on Hebrews: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_to_the_Hebrews
Catholic Encyclopedia on Hebrews: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07181a.htm
Early Christian Writings on Hebrews: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/hebrews.html
Catholic Resources on Hebrews: http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Epistles-Hebrews.htm
Justification and Sanctification, see lesson 36 on Romans: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2011/09/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-lesson-36.html
Joseph Smith Translation concerning Melchizedek the King of Salem: http://lds.org/scriptures/jst/jst-gen/14?lang=eng
11Q Melchizedek in Dead Sea Scrolls: