Our High Priest in Heaven


What is Jesus doing these days?

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, that he then ascended to the right hand of God, and that he is coming again to rule the earth. But too often I have neglected to consider what he is doing now.

The Bible addresses this question in the letter to the Hebrews, a sermon of encouragement directed to Jewish disciples of Jesus who faced the prospect of the destruction of the beloved Jerusalem temple. The author reminds this audience that the temple was patterned after an even greater temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). When the temple in Jerusalem was gone, the heavenly one still would be fully operational.

Reasoning by analogy, the author of Hebrews asserts that the heavenly temple, like the one on earth, must have its own high priest and sacrificial system. On the other hand, the temple in heaven is not subject to all of the rules governing the one on earth. The two temples are analogous but different.

While only members of the tribe of Levi could serve in the earthly temple, for example, there is no such rule for the heavenly one. Based on Psalm 110:4 (“You are a priest forever …”), he concludes that Israel’s Messiah would be an eternal priest. Therefore, it is Jesus who serves in the temple in heaven, even though he comes from the tribe of Judah.

The high priest on earth, an imperfect human being with a finite lifespan, only could come into God’s presence in the temple’s holiest place once a year. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur in Hebrew), the priest brought sacrifices for himself and the people of Israel and prayed on behalf of the people (Leviticus 16). Israel thus was cleansed from its sins and continued its relationship with God.

Jesus, on the other hand, is sinless and lives forever, so he can serve at all times in the heavenly temple. There he offers one perfect sacrifice-his own body-and intercedes for his disciples continually, maintaining their relationship with God (Hebrews 7:23-28; 9:23-28).

And that is what Jesus is doing! He serves as our high priest in heaven, interceding for us continually. The Day of Atonement (Sept. 25 in 2023) is a fitting time to commemorate and give thanks for his high priesthood as we look forward to his return (Hebrews 9:28). If you find this idea intriguing and worth considering more, Church of the Messiah in Xenia will hold a Christian observance of the Day of Atonement on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. where all are welcomed.

Doug Ward is an elder at Church of the Messiah in Xenia and an avid reader.

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