Hebrews 8:1-6

Now the main point of what is being said is this: We have this kind of high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that was set up by the Lord and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; therefore it was necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He wouldn’t be a priest, since there are those offering the gifts prescribed by the law. These serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was warned when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For God said, Be careful that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain. But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.

– Hebrews 8:1-6 (HCSB)


Today’s reading is short and sweet, but packed with tons of meaning. Recognizing that he’s hit his hearers (and us as readers) with some pretty dense theological material, our author here summarizes what he has been saying.

Our High Priest, is one who has several characteristics. He is one of us, he is without sin, he can sympathize, he learned obedience through suffering, he can save because of his indestructible life, he is the surety of our covenant, he was appointed by an oath. He goes on to further explain why the things said of our High Priest is true.

The reason that these things are true is not, exclusively, because of what Christ did in time. These things are true because of the eternal appointment of the Son, by the Father, in the pactum salutis or Covenant of Redemption.

This agreement, between the three divine persons of the Trinity, entails several things. Most importantly is the appointing of the Son as our High Priest, who would redeem us and unite us with the Father through his intercession. We saw this in the repeated earlier refrain that Christ was eternally appointed to the priestly order of Melchizedek.

The Levitical priesthood thus was a “copy and shadow” of this Christ’s eternal priesthood. Rather than think that Christ’s priesthood is copied from the Levitical, the reality is reversed.

This leads us to a stunning conclusion, which the author here alludes to. The doctrine of the Trinity was necessarily revealed to Moses on the mountain. The Law was given to Moses, including its priestly ordinances, as a copy of what he had been shown. What he was shown was not just a visual revelation of the heavenly temple, but a revelation of the eternal agreement of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which included the appointment of Christ as the God-man High Priest. The Covenant of Grace, of which the Mosaic Covenant is a type, is itself an extension of the Covenant of Redemption. Without a doctrine of the Trinity, the Covenant of Redemption is non-sensical and thus the shadow which Moses was given would also be non-sensical.

Our author closes by once again stating that the redemption wrought by Christ’s priesthood in the New Covenant, which is a result of his eternal priesthood in the Covenant of Redemption, is a superior ministry to the typological shadow of the Levitical priesthood in the Mosaic Covenant. This priesthood is “legally enacted on better promises.” That better promise rests eternally on God’s oath to his Son: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”