Inasmuch as it seems clear from Heb. 7:28 that Christ did not become high priest until after his incarnation, "who then," it is asked, "was priest in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary for the first four thousand years?"
The Lord, speaking of the priesthood of Christ by the mouth of David said: "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." Ps. 110:4.
One thing impresses the thoughtful reader of this solemn utterance, and that is the exalted position ascribed in this oath of Jehovah to the priest Melchisedec.
Some have labored to show that Melchisedec was only a mortal man - a sinning, dying man; but such a view belittles not only Melchisedec, and the priesthood of Christ, but God himself; for it represents God as taking a solemn oath, swearing by himself because "he could swear by no greater," "Thou (Christ) art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, a mortal, sinning man, now dead." If Meichisedec was only a mortal man who lived and sinned and died, in what respect was the Melchisedec order of priests greater than the Aaronic order, whose priests lived and sinned and died? Let this solemn truth impress the reader: He who degrades the priesthood of Melchisedec, thereby degrades the priesthood of Christ, for Christ is a priest of the same order as Melchisedec. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, unlike some modern writers, found it in harmony with the theme of his epistle, to show the exalted character of Melchisedec in every possible way. He interprets the name Melchisedec, which means "King of Righteousness;" and then his title, "King of Salem," which is King of Peace. Melchisedec was therefore King of Righteousness and Peace. Heb. 7:2.
He declares that Melchisedec was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days not end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.
Here it is declared of MeIchizedec that he abideth a priest continually, unlike mortals who have a beginning and end of life. It is further stated that Melchisedec is "like unto the Son of God." Heb. 7:3.
"Now consider," says the apostle, "how great this (person) was. V.4. (The word "man" is not in the original.) This work of the Holy Spirit in showing how great Melchisedec is, is in striking contrast to those modern writers who spend their time in trying to show how insignificant Melchisedec is.
The greatness of Melchisedec is next shown by the fact that Abraham, the father of the Aaronic priesthood, paid tithes to Melchisedec, the King of Righteousness and Peace.
Again, the King of Righteousness and Peace was so exalted that he blessed Abraham who had the promises. The writer continues:
"Here (in the time of the Levitical priests) men that die (the Levitical priests) receive tithes; but there (in the time of Abraham) he (Melchisedec) receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth."
How dare men assert that Melchisedec was a mortal man who was born and died like other men when the Holy Spirit plainly declares that unlike mortal men who live and die, he like unto the Son of God abideth a priest continually? and again, that "he liveth," in contrast to "men who die"?
One thing will not he disputed and that is that Christ's priesthood is not the beginning of a new order of priests, like Aaron's priesthood was, but the continuance of an old order which existed at least as early as the days of Abraham. "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec;" "after the similitude of Melchisedec." vs. 15 and 17.
Another truth which cannot he denied is that since Christ belongs to the same order of priests as Melchisedec, the latter is therefore a priest of the same order as Christ, Melchisedec, like unto the Son of God abideth a priest continually. Heb. 7:3.
Putting these scriptures together, we have the positive statement that the Son of God is a priest for ever after the similitude of Melchisedec and that Melchisedec "abideth a priest continually" "like unto the Son of God." vs. 3,15,17.
Since Melchisedec is of the same order of Priests as Christ, it follows that the order of priests in which Christ now ministers, is an order of priests which existed as early as the days of Abraham.
And since Christ is a high priest of the New Covenant and of the New Covenant sanctuary, it follows that Melchisedec was a priest of the New Covenant and of the New Covenant sanctuary as early as the days of Abraham.
MELCHISEDEC A PRIEST OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY.
Since Melchisedec was a priest of the heavenly sanctuary in the days of Abraham, it follows that the heavenly sanctuary, which all admit existed from the beginning with God upon the mercy seat in the holy of holies, was not closed to a fallen world, as some assert, for four thousand years, with no ministering priest to minister pardon and life (blessings of the New Covenant) from the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary to the penitent sinners of earth.
And it is only reasonable to conclude that if there was a ministry on behalf of sinners in the heavenly sanctuary as early as the days of Abraham, that sanctuary was open to hear the prayers of the penitent from the beginning.
Or, in other words; since the Meichisedec or New Covenant Priesthood extends as far back as Abraham, it is only reasonable to conclude that it extends back to the fall of man and is contemporaneous with the gospel.
The writer in reaching this conclusion is in substantial harmony with one of the published positions of the denomination as it appears on page 39 of the pamphlet on tithing, entitled "Will a man rob God" and issued as No.145 of Bible Students' Library, and which reads as follows:
"In Heb. 5:6 Christ is said to be a priest after the order of Melchisedec. That order of priesthood existed from the fall of man till the introduction of the Levitical order of priesthood; and then contemporaneously with the latter, and since the Levitical order ceased (at the cross), the Savior has been a priest ... according to the Melchisedec order."
Again in the next paragraph we read:
"The Melchisedec priesthood is contemporaneous with the gospel."
Since we have before proved that the Melchisedec priesthood was connected with the heavenly sanctuary, it follows that that sanctuary was not locked up for the first four thousand years of the gospel ministry, but was open to the prayers of sinning men.
ANGELS AS PRIESTS OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY.
Among the ministers connected with the heavenly sanctuary before the cross, we have the ministering angels. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them which shall be heirs of salvation?" Heb. 1:14.
Sent forth from where? From the heavenly sanctuary, of course, whence salvation was ministered from the beginning. That this ministry includes a priestly work in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary carried on before the cross, is proved by the fact that a ministering angel ministered pardon to the prophet Isaiah from the altar of incense before the throne.
"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar and he laid it upon my mouth, and he said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin is purged." Isa. 6:6,7.
"Another angel" is brought to view in Rev. 8:3 as offering "much incense" "with' the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."
That angels are ministering spirits, ministering from the heavenly sanctuary to the sinners of earth, is clearly expressed by another, thus:
"These (curtains) like the inner covering, which formed the ceiling were of the most gorgeous colors, blue, purple, and 'scarlet, beautifully arranged, while inwrought with threads of gold and silver were cherubim to represent the angelic host who are connected with the work of the heavenly sanctuary, and who are ministering Spirits to the people of God on earth. Patriarchs and Prophets, p.347.
In harmony with the foregoing evidence from Scripture some of the more studious of my brethren in the ministry have admitted that there was a service conducted between the heavenly sanctuary and the sinning world, from the fall to the cross, carried on by ministering angels. But they are loth to admit that it was a priestly ministry. But if these ministering angels offered the penitent prayers of sinners before the heavenly veil, and carried back the new covenant blessings of pardon and life, what more could a priest do? This is just what the priest did in the first apartment of the typical tabernacle. O the power of a creed to shackle the mind of the searcher after truth!
WHAT DID ANGELS MINISTER "BEFORE THE VEIL."
The objection has been made that there could be no ministry in the heavenly sanctuary until Christ shed his blood, because, it is argued, that the ministers would have nothing to offer. This objection betrays a sad misunderstanding of the type. The Aaronic priests had no blood to minister which met the penalty of the law, until the blood of the Lord's goat was shed. All they had was a prayer for pardon through the blood of Christ, which the sinner expressed through the channel of the blood of the victim which he brought and which the priest offered for him. The very fact that "on the day of atonement, the high priest, having taken an offering from the congregation, went into the most holy place with the blood of this offering and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat, directly over the law, to make satisfaction for its claims;" (Gt. Con. p.420) proves conclusively that the claims of the law were not satisfied by the blood ministered "before the veil." This is positive proof that there was a long ministry in the first apartment of the earthly sanctuary before the blood was shed which satisfied the claims of the law. Therefore there must be a long ministry in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary before the blood is shed which satisfies the claims of the law. And there was such a ministry.
What did the ministers offer? They offered the penitent prayers of faith expressed by the offering which the sinner brought. And in response to these prayers of faith, ministering angels ministered pardon from the heavenly sanctuary to the penitent sinner for the space of four thousand years, before the blood of Christ was shed which satisfied the claims of the law. Therefore if there had not been a ministry in the heavenly sanctuary before Christ's blood was shed, the ministry there would not have agreed with the ministry in the earthly sanctuary. Therefore he who argues that there was no ministry in the heavenly sanctuary until the blood of Christ was shed which satisfies the claims of the law, makes the ministry in the earthly contradict the ministry in the heavenly.