Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The High Priestly Ministry of Christ

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds you Jesus is interceding for you today.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I want that to grip you—He’s not a past-tense Savior, and it’s not just that He’s alive and we’re just here waiting until we can get rescued out of this mess and get taken to heaven. No! He’s working on our behalf right now!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, April 9, 2015.

At the beginning of the Lenten series, Nancy began a series called "The Incomparable Christ." She’s wrapping it up this week, pondering what Jesus is doing right now.

Nancy: I’m so grateful for the way the Lord has been using this "Incomparable Christ series in the lives of our listeners. Let me read to you what one listener wrote that was so encouraging to me. She said:

After twenty-five years of trying to change myself with self-help books to be a better person, wife, mother, etc., I think I finally get it. All I really needed to do was to focus on Christ! I feel like a huge burden has been lifted today.

Well, Christ does lift burdens. He’ll lift your burden. He lifts my burden. As we look to Christ, our burdens are lifted.

We’ve seen that Jesus died, and He rose from the grave, and He ascended to heaven, and He promised that one day He will return to take us to be with Himself. But I want to ask this question today: What is He doing in the meantime? Like, right now, what is Jesus doing?

We know a few things about what He is doing. We know that He is preparing a place for us (see John 14:3). He will come and take us to that place one day soon.

We know that He’s enjoying intimate, joyful fellowship that He had with the Father since before the world began. He’s enjoying that fellowship. And, wonder of wonders, He has brought us into that eternal circle, into the communion and union and the fellowship of the Trinity. That doesn’t make us part of the Trinity, but They have brought us into Their fellowship.

Colossians 3 says it this way:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. For you have died [with Christ], and your life is hidden with Christ in God (vv. 1, 3).

You can’t get any closer than that to the throne of God—raised, seated with Christ in the heavenly places, as we read about in the book of Ephesians. And now Colossians tells us our life is “hidden with Christ in God”—enjoying that fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We know that Jesus is today head of His Body, the Church. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 tells us that He is “walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (that is the local churches). And what is He doing?

  • He’s reigning.
  • He’s observing.
  • He’s guiding.
  • He’s supplying.
  • He’s protecting.
  • He’s providing.

He has this very active ministry today on behalf of His churches. He’s not just this distant, far-away ruler who just looks at things going down here on earth but has a totally different life up in heaven. He is actively engaged with us by His Spirit here on earth as the Head of His Church.

We’ve just come through Passion Week and Good Friday. I think most of us are mindful of the past-tense work of Christ on the cross for us. But as I’ve been working on this series, I’ve come to believe that many of us live without a conscious recognition of or dependence on a living, active Savior.

How often do we think back to the cross—as we should probably more often than we do? When I survey the wondrous cross . . . We think of Him, the one who died for our sins—that’s past tense. But what would happen if we’d start to think of Him not only as the crucified Savior, but as the one who is alive and active on our behalf today, right now, the Savior who is serving us today?

We’re missing out on an incredible resource if we’re not thinking that way. We need to be reminded that He is not only the crucified Savior, but He is ascended to heaven. He is seated in heaven, and today, by His Spirit, He is present with us as we assemble in His presence, as we’re alone communing with Him in His presence. He is active on our behalf. It’s not just that He saved us—past tense—at the cross. But it’s also gloriously wondrous that He sustains and ministers to us daily as our living, active High Priest.

That’s what we want to focus on today as we come to the end of this series on "The Incomparable Christ." We want to talk about the high priestly ministry of Christ on our behalf in heaven.

This is the focus of much of the book of Hebrews. Some day maybe we’ll do a whole study on this. I hardly knew what to include and what not to include because there’s so much in the book of Hebrews, but for part of this session, I just want to wash you in some of these Scriptures that talk about our High Priest in heaven—how Christ is our High Priest.

The Book of Hebrews reminds us that Christ’s priesthood is superior to the Old Testament priesthood. The Old Testament priesthood was just a shadow, just a foreshadowing, just a glimpse of which Christ as our High Priest is the fulfillment.

We also learn in Hebrews that, unlike the Old Testament priests, Jesus had no sins of His own for which to atone. When high priests would offer sacrifices, they had to offer sacrifices first for their own sins. But Jesus had no sins of His to be atoned (see 7:26–28).

We learn also in Hebrews that Jesus’ priesthood is permanent—unlike that of the Old Testament priests—and it lasts forever. The Old Testament high priests only were high priests as long as they lived. When they died, there would be a new high priest. But we learn that Jesus’ priesthood lasts forever because of His resurrection and endless life. Hebrews 7:24 tells us that.

Hebrews also tells us that Jesus had to become fully human in every respect (except for sin) to represent us as our High Priest. That’s why it’s so important that we grasp not only the deity of Christ—the fact that He is God—but also the humanity of Christ—that He put on our humanity and has a permanent incarnation, a permanent human body. He is permanently a member of our human race so that He can serve as our High Priest (see 2:17).

We also learn in Hebrews that because Jesus was tempted as we are—though He never sinned; He said “No” to temptation each time—but the fact that He was tempted and that He had to battle with temptation makes Him, for us, a merciful High Priest (see 4:15).

We saw in the last session that Jesus is today seated in heaven. Let me just read from a couple of verses in the book of Hebrews. Now the point in what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God (see 8:1; 10:12).

Here again, we have an incomparable Christ who is infinitely superior to the Old Testament priests because the Old Testament priests didn’t have time to sit down. They were continually busy offering sacrifices, but Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all time. So no further sacrifice is needed—ever! There is no condemnation, no guilt for sin. It has been atoned once for all by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. That’s why He could sit down—because love’s redeeming work was done! It is finished!

We commented yesterday that the fact that He is seated does not mean that He is sedentary. He is active. He is present. He is at work even when we can’t see Him or feel or sense His presence. At this moment in heaven and here on this earth through His Holy Spirit, He is at work performing a high priestly ministry on our behalf.

Now, let’s talk about that work. Again, let’s go back to the Old Testament high priests. The high priests in the Old Testament wore a breastplate on which were inscribed the names of the tribes of Israel—twelve of them.

One day every year—the Day of Atonement—you read about this in Leviticus 16—the high priest, and the high priest alone, and just on that one day, would go into the Holy of Holies—the most holy place, the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle or the temple. No one else could ever enter that place because that’s the place where God was. God’s glory dwelt there—God’s presence—and sinful people could not approach that holy presence of God.

That holiest place, that Holy of Holies was set apart from the rest of the temple by a thick, heavy curtain. Mankind separated from God. That was the picture it was intended to communicate. So the high priest once a year (this was a provision God had made in the Old Testament anticipating the ultimate sacrifice of Christ for our sins) would go into the holiest place, representing the people to God.

When he went into the holiest place, he would carry the blood of a sacrificial goat, and he would spread that blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, which was called the mercy seat. In so doing, in putting that shed blood of that innocent sacrificial goat, in spreading that blood before God, he was making intercession for the people. He was confessing their sins. He was claiming God’s mercy, based on His promises. So he represented the people to God, taking the blood offering.

When the high priest came out, He represented God to the people. He would bless the people. God accepted the sacrifice, preparing for the one sacrifice that would be completely acceptable, and that is the sacrifice of God’s own Son on the cross. So he represented the people to God carrying the blood, and then when he came out, he represented God to the people by giving pardon and peace and forgiveness and blessing.

Well, at the cross, Jesus served as both a priest to offer the sacrifice, and as the sacrifice itself, by giving His life for the atonement of sin.
In His ascension, Jesus took His offering into the Holy of Holies in heaven—the Holy of Holies in the temple here on earth was just a picture of that heavenly temple. Jesus took His offering of His life, His shed blood, into Holy of Holies in heaven when Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, and He offered up His life of perfect obedience and His sacrifice for sin on our behalf.

Now, I can’t say it as well as the Scripture says it, so let me read to you from the Book of Hebrews, chapter 9—just several verses that show us this picture:

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second [that is the holiest place] only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (vv. 6, 11, 24).

So not only did He die on the cross on our behalf, but then when He ascended to heaven, He took the offering of His perfect, obedient, sinless life and His sacrificial death on the cross, He took that offering and offered it up to God in the very presence of God on our behalf as our Great High Priest.

That means several things that have incredible importance for our lives down here on this earth. Let me just mention a few of those.

First, He serves in heaven today as our mediator with the Father—our mediator.

Hebrews chapter 12 says, “You have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (v. 24).

First Timothy chapter 2: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Remember we said His humanity was important? That translation there could be: Christ Jesus, Himself a man is the mediator between God and men. You see, the mediator between God and men had to be both God and a man. Only Jesus, the incomparable Christ, fills that description. He is the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, "who gave himself as a ransom for all" (vv. 5–6).

A mediator is one who intervenes between two disputing parties. Only Jesus, the God/man can bring a holy God and sinful man together and restore them to fellowship and a right relationship. There is no human being on this earth—it doesn’t matter how many seminary degrees he has—who can do that for us. Jesus alone, the God/man is the mediator between God and man.

That means that we can approach God’s throne, His holy presence personally. We don’t have to go through any human being. We don’t have to go through someone else. We go through Christ who is our mediator. He takes us into the presence of God. We can come boldly, unashamed, clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone, bold to stand before the throne of the Holy God. So He is our mediator.

And then we see that He, as our High Priest, is our advocate with the Father. He advocates on our behalf.

First John 2 says it this way: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin . . .” Anyone want to raise their hand here? He says, “I’m writing this so you don’t sin.”

And they go, “Oh, well, what about me?”

“Well, if anyone does sin . . .”

“Oh, okay, this is for me. I’ve sinned. Yes, what do I have?”

"We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1).

You see, Satan acts as a relentless prosecutor. Revelation 12 tells us “he is the accuser of the brethren” (v. 10). But Jesus serves, in a sense, as our defense attorney. He’s the one who argues our case, and He guarantees that we will be acquitted because of His death on the cross in our place.

As Oswald Sanders says, “He appears as our advocate, not to appeal for clemency but to claim justice for us—to claim what we are entitled to in virtue of His sacrifice on Calvary.”

Satan says, “She ought to die!" And that would be true if it weren’t for Jesus.

But Jesus says, “No! I’ve already died.”

Satan says, “She deserves to suffer guilt and pain and consequences and condemnation for that sin.”

And my own flesh is telling me the same thing, that I deserve to live with this guilt, to be under this pile, to live under condemnation for a while. “Oh, I can’t believe I did that again!”

But Jesus says, “No! I’ve paid the price. I’ve paid the penalty. I took the shame. I took the guilt. There’s no more guilt. It’s finished! Let her have access.” He claims justice for us here on earth. He claims for us what we’re entitled to by virtue of His sacrifice on Calvary. Thank You, thank You, Lord! He’s our Advocate with the Father.

And then He makes intercession to the Father on our behalf. This is part of His ongoing active priestly ministry for us in heaven today. I want that to grip you—that He’s not a past-tense Savior. And it’s not just that He’s alive and we’re just here waiting until we can get rescued out of this mess and get taken to heaven. No! He is working on our behalf right now.

When I sin, He is there offering Himself and that blood sacrifice and His sinless life to the Father. When I fail, when I doubt, when I forget Him, He is still there serving as my High Priest, making intercession to the Father on my behalf.

Romans 8 says, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (v. 34).

Hebrews 7:25 says, “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.”

It’s what He’s doing—interceding on our behalf.

I love what Oswald Sanders says at this point in his book, The Incomparable Christ. He says:

Our High Priest is able to save us completely. There is no personal problem for which He has no solution, no enemy from whom He cannot rescue, no sin from which He cannot deliver—because He ever lives to make intercession for us. . . . We could not live the Christian life for a day were it not that He lives to intercede for us.

To which I would add this thought: And because He lives to intercede for us, there is not a day that we cannot endure and press on! Jesus is praying for us on the basis of His shed blood, the sacrifice of His sinless life—it’s an acceptable sacrifice—and because He’s interceding for us, we can press on and endure.

I love that Robert Murray M'Cheyne quote where he says:

If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.

It’s an amazing thing that He’s our High Priest. Here’s how Hebrews talks about our response to that:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:14–16).

Because He took on our humanity and has been tempted as we are, He sympathizes with us when we are weak and tempted. And because He never sinned, He is able to help us when we are tempted. We desperately need the grace of God.

As you think about Jesus being our mediator, our advocate, our intercessor, our heavenly High Priest, as yourself this question: When I am tempted, scared, lonely, angry, struggling, depressed, what difference would it make if I were conscious of what He is actively doing on my behalf at that moment?

Here’s how Charles Wesley put it in 1742:

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

Leslie: After ascending to heaven, what did Jesus begin doing? A lot! Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been opening our eyes to all Jesus is doing for us today. Nancy will be right back.

Have you ever thought much about today's topic before? About what Jesus is doing right now? Oswald Sanders will help you consider aspects of Jesus' life you may never have thought before. He wrote a book called The Incomparable Christ, and it's the basis of this current teaching series.

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No matter what you’re facing, there’s no greater source of hope than the coming return of Christ. Tomorrow Nancy will explore His promise to come back to earth. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Now, let’s pray. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Thank You, thank You, Lord, that this moment in heaven we have an advocate. We have a mediator. We have one who ever lives to intercede for us, a great, holy, sinless, human, merciful, gracious, amazing, incomparable High Priest.

Thank You that today, this moment, He is active and alive, working on our behalf. We love You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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