Upon these Last Days

The era of the Levitical priesthood terminated with the superior word revealed by God in His Son

Sunshine - Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
God has spoken His superior “
word” in the Son - “Upon the end of these days.” The clause may reflect the idea attested elsewhere in the New Testament that the “last days” began following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Certainly, its use here signals that a significant new era began with his arrival - [Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash].

The letter does refer briefly to the final events. For example, on the day when God “again brings the firstborn into the habitable earth,” all the angels will worship him. A final day is coming when the Son of God will appear again on the earth.

Moreover, faithful Abraham was a sojourner on the earth who looked for the “city whose builder and maker is God.” This indicates a coming day when this eternal city will be revealed for all to see. Likewise, the saints of the new covenant are on their way to the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” - (Hebrews 1:5-6, 11:10, 12:22).

  • In many parts and in many ways of old, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets at the end of these days, He spoke to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages, who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places” – (Hebrews 1:1-3).

THE ISSUE


But the letter shows little interest in prophetic indicators or final events expected to occur prior to the return of Christ. It focuses far more on the present situation of its audience and what the church must do to avoid apostasy.

The final judgment is mentioned but as a warning against the failure to heed the word of the Son in the present. Everlasting punishment is the inevitable result of disobedience and apostasy.

The congregation is facing renewed pressure from outsiders, and some members are contemplating returning to the local synagogue to escape persecution. But that will mean once again practicing the rites of the Levitical system, which is why the letter spends considerable time demonstrating the superiority of Christ’s priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant over the “first covenant.”

Thus, it is more likely that the reference to the “end of these days” has in view the new era in salvation history inaugurated by Jesus. Having “achieved the purification of sins,” he “sat down” forever in the presence of God where he now intercedes as high priest for his people.

His victory over sin ushered in the long-promised new covenant, and that means the old one has reached its termination point. The now obsolete rituals and sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood are no longer in force.

If there was “perfection through the Levitical priesthood,” there would be no need to install a new priesthood, one “according to the order of Melchizedek,” and a change in priesthood also means a “change of law” – (Hebrews 7:11-12).

The animal sacrifices of the old covenant are only “shadows of the good things to come, but not the very image of the things,” and as such, they are incapable of “perfecting those who drew near” the altar.

In contrast, the Son “offered one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering he has perfected forever them who are sanctified” – (Hebrews 10:1-14).

THE NEW ORDER


The point of stating that Jesus “sat down on the right hand of God” is not that he now reigns supreme over the Cosmos, as true as that is, but that he now is our “high priest, the minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle.”


Sunrise Scotland - Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash
[Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash]


The Levitical priests served in a man-made tent that was a mere “copy and shadow of the heavenly things,” whereas, the Son intercedes forever in the true and greater tabernacle “pitched by God” – (Hebrews 8:1-13).

And as our high priest, he mediates the “better covenant that has been enacted upon better promises.” If the first covenant was perfect, there would be no need for the second one.

And by promising the “new covenant” that does accomplish the forgiveness of sins, Scripture declares the first one “old and becoming obsolete and near to vanishing away.”

Thus, with the advent of the “high priest after the rank of Melchizedek,” the time of the old Levitical priesthood with its rites and sacrifices has reached its intended end. In Jesus, the new and final era of salvation history has commenced.



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