In Hebrews 7, let’s discuss Melchizedek and how the superior priesthood in Christ fulfills the old covenant. Next, I will talk about how Christ is the new covenant and what that means for us as believers.
The first thing we notice is that Melchizedek was a type of Christ. When scholars refer to a type, they mean, “a person, thing, or event in the Old Testament, designed to represent or prefigure some person, thing, or even in the New Testament.” Types are pictures, object lessons by which God teaches his people concerning His grace and saving power.
Here is a good way of remembering it. Imagine you are going through the drive-thru at Wendy’s. You order two cheeseburgers, two small fries, and a frosty. When you get to the window, as you hand the money off, the sun casts a shadow off the Wendy’s bag and reflects onto your hand.
Would you be content with the shadow or would you want the actual bag of food? I would imagine the food. In the same way, types are not the actual substance—types only represent or foreshadow something greater than itself.
Can you think of examples from the Old Testament that are considered types? How about the potential sacrifice of Isaac—which was prevented because it foreshadowed God the Father and the Son Jesus—who was the perfect lamb of God. How about Joseph, who is like Jesus in that both were rejected, both became servants, betrayed for silver, falsely accused, and attained authority at the right hand of their respective thrones? For instance, Joseph was the second in command to Pharaoh and Christ submits to the Father within the Godhead.
What were some events from the Old Testament that prefigured something in the New Testament? Passover? Day of Atonement? The temple? Remember, Jesus said destroy this temple and on the 3rd day I will raise it up again. The religious leaders thought he was talking about the physical building, but Jesus was speaking of his own body. The temple foreshadows the crucifixion.
How about Melchizedek? Many of the early church fathers had a wide array of opinions concerning him. Philo of Alexandria believed he was a figure of the human soul. Origen thought he was an angel of the Lord. Epiphanius believed Melchizedek was the incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Other scholars believed he was a type of Christ.
The reason people believed Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Christ was because He was called the King of peace, and in Hebrews 7:3 it says, “without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God. Let’s continue with four reasons why Melchizedek was considered a historical figure who pre-figured Jesus rather than the pre-incarnate Christ revealing himself in the Old Testament.
First, Hebrews 7:6 states Melchizedek did have a genealogy; he just was not in the line of Abraham as Levi was. Second, If Christ and Melchizedek are one and the same, then the argument of Hebrews 7 would be weak because the point is that Christ is better than Melchizedek (Heb. 7:22), just as He is better than the angels (Heb. 1:4), and better than Moses (Heb. 3:3). Third, how could Melchizedek be made like the son of God if he was the Son of God? This whole passage would not make complete sense if the two were exactly the same. Finally, it states several times in the Bible that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. This differentiates Christ from Melchizedek.
The following are reasons why Melchizedek could have been the pre-incarnate Christ. First, he is called the King of Salem. The Hebrew name Melek (מלך) means king and the Hebrew zedek (קרצ) means righteous. Thus, He is called the “Righteous King.” Second, the city of Salem, where Melchizedek is from, is Jerusalem. He is the King of Righteousness who is from the city of peace. This seems to be a beautiful picture of Christ himself. The Prince of Peace and the King of kings.
I think both arguments have strengths and weaknesses. As you read through the Book of Hebrews and other passages throughout Scripture, I am confident you will come up with an answer to this question. Be a Berean and search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal this truth to you and how it can make you a better Christian. Whatever decision you make, the key is this: Melchizedek was a Prince of peace, and we are called to be peacemakers for God. Let’s do that well. In Jesus name. Amen.
Article written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)