Hebrews 7:26c

We've all heard of the phrase,

"Friends in high places."

Currently I don't have any friends in high places—but I once knew in a very high place. My brother had a good friend when he was a teenager. They were such good friends that when they went away to college they got an apartment together. At the time I went to college in the same town and I watched the final of the 1972 hockey showdown between Canada and Russia with them (Canada won the game when Paul Henderson scored the winning goal with 39 seconds left in the game). For Canadians an experience like that creates a bond that doesn't go away. I got to know him even better in the following years as when we visited my brother we would often socialize with his former roommate. My brother's roommate later entered federal politics and became a cabinet minister who served in several portfolios. For several years he was one of the top politicians in Canada, a close confidant of the Prime Minister. I never had any reason to contact him for help but I sometimes thought of him when I heard some horror stories that happened to people when they were crossing the border into Canada—like having their car searched so thoroughly that the customs people would take it apart piece by piece. That would be bad enough but the worst part was that they wouldn't put it back together, that you had to do that yourself. I don't know if those stories are true or not, but when I heard them I remember thinking,

"If that ever happens to me, I'm going to call my brother's friend."

Having a friend in a high place can be a great thing. It is especially true in regards to our salvation. In the context here the writer is showing us how Jesus is a high priest who exactly meets our needs. Our text says, (Hebrews 7:26)

"Such a high priest meets our need—
one who is holy,
blameless, pure,
set apart from sinners,
exalted above the heavens."

Jesus is set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. This shows us that Jesus meets our need in a way that the Levitical priests never could. For what we see in our text is that

the high priest that we need has to serve in the heavenly realm.

He has to be set apart from sinners, exalted about the heavens.

The Levitical priesthood ministered here on earth, first at the tabernacle and later at the temple. The Bible tells us that that was insufficient. Hebrews 8:5 says of the Levitical priests,

"They serve at a sanctuary
that is a copy and shadow
of what is in heaven.
This is why Moses was warned when
he was about to build the tabernacle:
See to it that you make everything
according to the pattern
shown you on the mountain."

Hebrews 9:23–24 adds,

"It was necessary, then,
for the copies of the heavenly things
to be purified with these sacrifices,
but the heavenly things themselves
with better sacrifices than these.
For Christ did not enter a man-made
sanctuary that was
only a copy of the true one;
he entered heaven itself,
now to appear for us in God's presence."

The real tabernacle is in heaven.

There were at least two things that were inadequate with the earthly ministry of the Levites.

First of all,

the Levites ministered at the earthly tabernacle which was merely a copy of the heavenly tabernacle.

Their ministry on earth was inadequate and pointed to a much greater reality. The earthly sanctuary was merely a shadow of the great heavenly reality. The Greek word translated 'shadow' here sometimes refers to, (BDAG, 929)

"a mere representation of someth."

It's not the reality itself, it points to the reality. We see this word used later in Hebrews 10:1 It reads,

"The law is only a shadow
of the good things that are coming—
not the realities themselves."

One way to illustrate this is to compare political polls to the real election. We all know how wrong polls can be. I think we were all surprised last November. Before the election candidate Clinton won almost every poll. If my memory is correct there was only one poll that had Donald Trump winning. Before the election the news media made a great deal out of that. They said that candidate Trump had no chance of winning.

But polls aren't elections. In reality they're insignificant. They don't count for much. What counted were the actual votes on November 8. Polls are part of the political process—but they aren't the reality. The election is the reality. The polls were anticipatory, they point to the reality. Sometimes they do that well and sometimes they don't.

Now I want everyone to stop thinking about politics and elections now and make sure you understand the point about the Levitical priests. The Old Testament Levitical priesthood's earthly ministry was part of the process—but it wasn't the reality.

Compared to the reality, the shadow of a thing is not substantial. One commentator says part of the distinction here is between what is substantial and what is not. The NIDNTTE puts it this way, (" Σ," 4:311)

"in comparison with the high-priestly work of Jesus Christ, who is 'in the heavens,' all earthly worship, as conducted in the tabernacle, takes on secondary importance. Thus the Mosaic law may not be regarded as absolute in its validity, for it belongs only to the 'shadow of the good things that are coming…' "

It was anticipatory. The Levitical priests were sinful. They were temporary. They used the blood of bulls and goats. They ministered exclusively on earth, at the copy of the real tabernacle in heaven. Their work was part of the process but it wasn't adequate. It was all pointing to the coming work of the Messiah, the One who could do what needed to be done—to take away sin once and for all. The Messiah would do that by dying on behalf of sinners, by rising from the dead, by ascending into heaven and on the basis of His work enter the heavenly sanctuary and make atonement for sin. The One who had to do this was One who was holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. William L. Lane writes (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 192)

"The clause affirms that Jesus' life among sinners ceased with his ascension. He has left the sphere characterized by testing, hostility, and suffering and has been exalted to the sphere of God. His separation assumes his moral perfection, but the emphasis falls upon his actual entrance before the divine presence, where he accomplishes the ministry of intercession. The phrase is descriptive of the majesty of the high priest…"

Philip E. Hughes writes, (Hebrews, p. 275)

"How could he have offered an all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of others if he himself had not been entirely free from sin? It was only as he himself had been tested and proved prefect that he could become the source of eternal salvation to others."

Jesus didn't operate on an earthly level. He went to the heavenly sanctuary and He went as an exalted and glorious high priest.

This was something the Levitical priests were unable to do. They were inadequate in that

they were unable to enter, to serve at the heavenly, the real sanctuary.

Service at the heavenly sanctuary was what was needed.

There were lots of problems with the earthly sanctuary. The reason we needed a Savior who was exalted above the heavens, to the place of God's presence is that fact that

God's presence of blessing can and did leave the temple on earth.

Ezekiel chapters 9-11 tell how the glory of God departed from the earthly temple because of the sin of the people. We read, (Ezekiel 10:3–4, 18–19

"Now the cherubim were standing
on the south side of the temple
when the man went in,
and a cloud filled the inner court.
Then the glory of the Lord rose
from above the cherubim and
moved to the threshold of the temple.
The cloud filled the temple,
and the court was full
of the radiance of the glory of the Lord."

"Then the glory of the Lord departed
from over the threshold of the temple
and stopped above the cherubim.
While I watched,
the cherubim spread their wings
and rose from the ground,
and as they went,
the wheels went with them.
They stopped at the entrance
to the east gate of the Lord's house,
and the glory of the God of Israel
was above them."

God's presence left the temple. Because of the sin of the people—God's glory, His presence left the temple.

That was a problem. How could the Levitical priests fulfill their duty after that? In a very real sense God was gone. The Levitical priests could not follow God's presence as it left the temple.

Not only that, but the earthly temple could be destroyed. When the Babylonians captured the kingdom of Judea in 586 B.C. they ransacked the temple.

2 Kings 25:4 tells us,

"On the seventh day of the fifth month,
in the nineteenth year
of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,
Nebuzaradan commander
of the imperial guard,
an official of the king of Babylon,
came to Jerusalem.
He set fire to the temple of the Lord,
the royal palace and
all the houses of Jerusalem.
Every important building he burned down.
The whole Babylonian army,
under the commander
of the imperial guard,
broke down the walls around Jerusalem.
Nebuzaradan the commander
of the guard carried into exile the people
who remained in the city,
along with the rest of the populace
and those who had gone over
to the king of Babylon.
But the commander left behind
some of the poorest people of the land
to work the vineyards and fields.
The Babylonians broke up
the bronze pillars,
the movable stands and the bronze Sea
that were at the temple of the Lord
and they carried the bronze to Babylon.
They also took away the pots,
shovels, wick trimmers,
dishes and all the bronze articles
used in the temple service.
The commander of the imperial guard
took away the censers and sprinkling bowls—
all that were made of pure gold or silver."

Not only that, but what happened to the priests? 2 Kings continues, (2 Kings 25:18, 20–21)

"The commander of the guard took
as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest,
Zephaniah the priest next in rank
and the three doorkeepers.
Nebuzaradan the commander
took them all and brought them
to the king of Babylon at Riblah.
There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath,
the king had them executed.
So Judah went into captivity,
away from her land."

The Babylonians killed the high priest and the priest next in rank. Satan trying to snuff out all hope for God's people.

A priest serving at the earthly tabernacle was inadequate. God's presence could leave the temple. The temple could be destroyed. The priests themselves weren't safe, they weren't secure. How inadequate the whole thing was.

The high priest that we needed had to enter and serve at the heavenly sanctuary.

He had to be exalted above the heavens. William L. Lane says that the phrase, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p.192

" 'higher than the heavens,' has specific reference to the place of God's throne."

Philip E. Hughes says that Jesus being exalted above the heavens means, (Hebrews, p. 275)

"above… transcendental reality. It embraces the triumph of Christ's resurrection, ascension, and glorification, and it portrays the supreme perfection of our ever living High Priest in the sanctuary above."

Hebrews 9:11-13 says,

"When Christ came as high priest of
the good things that are already here,
he went through the greater
and more perfect tabernacle
that is not man-made,
that is to say,
not a part of this creation.
He did not enter by means
of the blood of goats and calves;
but he entered the Most Holy Place
once for all by his own blood,
having obtained eternal redemption."

No Levitical priest could enter the heavenly sanctuary. It was beyond their grasp. Even if a Levitical priest could ascend to the heavenly sanctuary—He wouldn't to present an adequate sacrifice. The blood of bulls and goats was not able to take away sin. Jesus entered on the basis of His own blood. 1 Peter 1:19 tells us that we were redeemed,

"with the precious blood of Christ,
a lamb without blemish or defect."

Jesus is the exalted and glorious high priest that we need. Jesus has been exalted to God's presence in the heavenly tabernacle, which can never be defiled by sin, which God will never leave. He has made atonement for our sins and sat down at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is exactly the high priest that we need.

The main lesson we should take from this is that

our salvation is guaranteed.

William L. Lane says of the phrase 'exalted above the heavens' means that Jesus has gained, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 192-193)

"access to the presence of God… Jesus enjoys direct, unhindered access to God, which enables him to fulfill his high priestly ministry on behalf of his people."

Jesus has entered the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood. Jesus has paid for our sins once and for all. He has accomplished our salvation once and for all. His entering the heavenly sanctuary had great implications for us. Ephesians 2:6 says that God,

"raised us up with him
and seated us with him
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…"

We are safe. 2 Corinthians 1:22 tells us that God has,

"set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts
as a deposit,
guaranteeing what is to come."

He ever lives to make intercession for us.

Philip Hughes writes, p. 275,

"Christ, alive and supremely exalted as he is, is truly our contemporary and our ever present Lord." "The truth of the transcendental glory of our ever living High Priest guarantees to us the existential reality of his person and work, for it assures us that he is not just a figure of the past, but also of the present and the future, indeed of eternity (Heb. 13:8)."

Jesus is a high priest exactly who we needed to save us.

If you're not a Christian all of this should show you that you need Jesus. Only He can save you. Only He could die for you. Only He could rise from the dead victorious over sin. Only He could enter heaven on the basis of His perfect work—His perfect life and His dying on our behalf. Go to Jesus today. Ask Him to save you. Trust in Him.