In Hebrews 7, following upon the extended discourse of Melchizedek as the type or pattern for Christ’s own priesthood, we arrive at a profound statement on the application of this better priesthood.
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25
The contextual basis for this summary is derived from the earlier comparison between the numerous priests, under the Levitical priesthood, and their temporary office, limited due to death, with the singular, permanent, and perpetual priesthood of Christ. Consequently, or based on this, Christ always lives to make intercession, and is able to save, those who draw near to God through Him.
Working through this passage, we arrive at the first point of application built upon the establishment of this better priesthood, namely that this Priest, Christ, is able to save to the uttermost. First we must ask, save from what or whom? This salvation is first and foremost from the all-holy God who has every right, first as Creator, then as Sovereign Lord, to distribute punishment to all those whom He sees fit. As we saw in our overview of the Levitical priests relationship with the tabernacle, keeping the people from wrath of God, much more with Christ who shields His people from God’s wrath on the basis of His propitiatory sacrifice. All of humanity, by birth, is under the wrath of God as a consequence of our sin. Which brings us to the second point, this salvation is a saving from sin, both its guilt and its defilement. Through His sacrifice, which Hebrews reminds us is by His own shed blood, Christ purifies the consciences of those who have placed their faith in Him while likewise purifying, or literally cleansing them from sins defilement. Third, it is a salvation from ourselves, our internal corruption, old man, or flesh, that has been integral to our beings since birth. The new man that began in Christ at salvation is brought through unto final salvation in glorification. Finally, it is a salvation from death, both spiritual and physical. Because of Christ’s validation as Lord and Savior through His own resurrection, He defeated death thereby defeating death for all those united to Him by faith.
Therefore Christ, the author says, is able to save, to the uttermost. This peculiar word choice here is vague as to whether it refers to complete, meaning in time, i.e. forever, or whether this means completeness in its extent, essentially the aspects we have just enumerated above. Its likely, especially when this concept is traced throughout Scripture, that both are true. The salvation that Christ secures is complete in its eternal duration as well as complete in what it provides; salvation to the uttermost.
Next, we arrive at those who receive the action of this salvation, which we’ve hinted at above as those who are in Christ by faith. Here, however, we find the phrase, those who draw near to God through Him. The concept of drawing near to God is not unique to this verse in Hebrews, as it as been previously mentioned in Hebrews 4:16, which calls us to draw near to God with confidence on the basis of our sympathetic high priest. Then in Hebrews 7:19, our drawing near to God is upon the basis of a better hope, namely Christ. Finally, and coming up in 10:22, “since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with a pure water.”
Back to our verse in Hebrews 7:25, the little prepositional phrase, through him, is not a throw-away, but is integral, not only to understanding the group identified as those who draw near, but also the relationship between Christ and those who would draw near. Through him implies union with Christ. Christ, by means of election before the foundation of the world, then dying for them, and uniting them to Himself by faith, becomes the channel through which the blessings of salvation, not the least of which is His priestly intercession, flow.
One final statement draws this passage to conclusion and supplies the basis for this salvation, that “he always lives to make intercession for them.” The implication of Christ’s resurrection and His eternality let us know that this priesthood is not limited by death, as the Levitical priesthood was. Additionally, it is not simply a passive priesthood, but Christ is actively, always and forever, making intercession for those who draw near to God through Him.
Though extensively removed from the time and culture of those who were under the Levitical priesthood, Hebrews calls our minds to understand the role of this priesthood instituted under the Old Covenant so that we might better, more clearly, understand the nature of our Lord’s Priesthood under the covenant that He mediates.
What a comfort it should be for us to know that He always lives to make intercession for those who draw near. It should be an overwhelming assurance to know that our salvation is guaranteed on the basis of our eternal High Priest who saves always and forever.
[For the entire series on the Book of Hebrews, see the Scriptural Index link.]