Now if perfection came through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the law), what further need was there for another priest to appear, said to be according to the order of Melchizedek and not according to the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must be a change of law as well. For the one these things are spoken about belonged to a different tribe. No one from it has served at the altar. Now it is evident that our Lord came from Judah, and Moses said nothing about that tribe concerning priests.Hebrews 7:11–28
And this becomes clearer if another priest like Melchizedek appears, who did not become a priest based on a legal regulation about physical descent but based on the power of an indestructible life. For it has been testified:
You are a priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.
So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
None of this happened without an oath. For others became priests without an oath, but he became a priest with an oath made by the one who said to him:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever.”
Because of this oath, Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.
Now many have become Levitical priests, since they are prevented by death from remaining in office. But because he remains forever, he holds his priesthood permanently. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.
For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.
Quotes from Chapter 8
He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:25
When we talk about Christ’s intercession, we are talking about what Jesus is doing now.
Christ’s heavenly intercession is a part of Christ’s work that is uniquely reflective of his heart.
To be justified is to be declared righteous in the sight of God, fully legally exonerated in the divine court, based on what another (Jesus) has done in our place. We are declared right with God not once we begin to get our act together but once we collapse into honest acknowledgment that we never well.
Justification is largely a doctrine about what Christ has done in the past, rooted centrally in his death and resurrection.
What is he doing now? He is interceding for us.
His heart is as drawn to his people now as ever it was in his incarnate state. And the present manifestation of his heart for his people is his constant interceding on their behalf.
What is intercession? In general terms it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a cause to one on behalf of the other.
Intercession applies what the atonement accomplished. Christ’s present heavenly intercession on our behalf is a reflection of the fullness and victory and completeness of his earthly work, not a reflection of anything lacking in his earthly work. The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work.
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? Gos it eh one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.Romans 8:33–34
Christ’s intercession reflects how profoundly personal our rescue is. His interceding for us reflects his heart—the same heart that carried him through life and down into death on behalf of his people is the heart that now manifests itself in constant pleading with and reminding and prevailing upon his Father to always welcome us.
The Son’s intercession does not reflect the coolness of the Father but the sheer warmth of the Son. Christ does not intercede because the Father’s heart is tepid toward us but because the Son’s heart is so full toward us. But the Father’s own deepest delight is to say yes to the Son’s pleading on our behalf.
God “justified us, not either by giving laws unto us, or by becoming our example, or by our following of him in any sense, but by his blood shed for us. He justified by bestowing upon us, not by expecting from us.”1
The intercession of Christ is his heart connecting our heart to the Father’s heart.
Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.Hebrews 7:25
God’s forgiving, redeeming, restoring touch reaches down into the darkest crevices of our souls, those places where we are most ashamed, most defeated. He knows us to the uttermost, and he saves us to the uttermost, because his heart is drawn out to us to the uttermost. We cannot sin our way out of his tender care.
Christ’s heavenly intercession is the reason we know that he will save us to the uttermost.
The divine Son never ceases to bring his atoning life, death, and resurrection before his Father in a moment-by-moment way. Christ “turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness,” wrote Calvin, “to avert his gaze from our sins. He so reconciles the Father’s heart to us that by his intercession he prepares a way and access for us to the Father’s throne.”2
Christ continues to intercede on our behalf in heaven because we continue to fail here on earth. He does not forgive us through his work on the cross and then hope we make it the rest of the way. He never disengages. He never lets go, wishing us well, hoping we can glide the rest of the way into heaven. He carries us all the way.
“It is a consoling thought,” wrote theologian Louis Berkhof, “that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life.”
The doctrine of the present heavenly intercession of Christ is a consoling truth and flows right out of the heart of Christ. Whereas the doctrine of the atonement reassures us with what Christ has done in the past, the doctrine of his intercession reassures us with what he is doing in the present.
- The Word of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor, 3 vols. (repr. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 1:221.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford L. Battles, 2 vols. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1960), 2.16.16
- Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1958), 400.
- What does it mean to be justified?
- What is a doctrine largely about what Christ has done in the past?
- What is the present manifestation of Christ’s heart for his people?
- What is Christ’s presently heavenly intercession on our behalf a reflection of?
- How is intercession defined?
- Is the doctrine of intercession neglected today? Why or why not?
- What is the relationship between intercession, justification, and atonement?
- How do you need Christ’s intercession for you in this moment?