The Order of Aaron and the Order of Melchizedek
In the Bible there are two divisions [orders] of priesthood: the order of Aaron and the order of Melchizedek.
1. The order of Aaron
The order of Aaron is a priestly division in which the priests conducted sacrifices according to the laws and regulations of the old covenant. Aaron was a Levite, so the order of Aaron is also called the Levitical priesthood [the order of Levites].
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of 12 sons including Levi, who was the third son of Jacob and his wife Leah. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt when his son Joseph became a ruler of Egypt, and they left Egypt after 430 years. Millions of Jacob’s descendants headed to Canaan, following their leader Moses.
After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites entered the desert, and when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, they built the tabernacle to keep the Ten Commandments in. At that time, Aaron the older brother of Moses was the high priest whose main duty was to offer sacrifices to God in the tabernacle, and the entire tribe of Levi, which Moses and Aron belonged to, was called to serve in the temple.
When the Levitical priests offered sacrifices to God for the people’s sins, they slaughtered a lamb or goat. Over a period of 1,500 years from the time of Aaron until the time when Jesus established the new covenant, all the descendants of Levi [the tribe of Levi] continued to serve as priests according to the order of Aaron in the earthly sanctuary.
2. The order of Melchizedek
Besides the order of Aaron, there are also references to the “order of Melchizedek” in the Bible; Christ is described as the “High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
『. . . It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.』 Heb 6:19-20
So, let’s study Melchizedek first.
Melchizedek was a person who lived during the time of Abraham about 2,000 years before Jesus came to this earth. He represents Christ. Melchizedek is mentioned in only two places in the Old Testament; he is just described as “king of Salem” who lived in the time of Abraham. There are no exact records of how he became a priest or where “Salem” was located.
This mysterious figure, Melchizedek, brought out bread and wine to bless Abraham as he was returning from a battle where he had defeated the kings and their armies to rescue his nephew Lot. The Bible calls this Melchizedek “priest of God Most High.”
『After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him . . . Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.』 Ge 14:17-20
In the time of Abraham, animal sacrifices were offered to God according to the tradition of Abel’s sacrifice. However, Melchizedek offered a sacrifice of bread and wine to God.
The Apostle Paul explained a lot about Melchizedek. He described Melchizedek as “king of righteousness” and “king of peace,” saying that like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. He also wrote in detail that the Levites and even Levi himself the father of the tribe of Levi, who would collect a tenth from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, paid the tenth to Melchizedek through Abraham, and that Christ became a priest in the order of Melchizedek with an oath from God, while others in the earthly sanctuary became priests without any oath (Heb 7:1-28).
3. Christ who followed the order of Melchizedek
About 1,100 years before Jesus came to this earth, David, being moved by the Holy Spirit, prophesied that the Lord [Christ] would come to serve as a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
『The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion . . . The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”』 Ps 110:1-4
Jesus interpreted the “Lord” whom David mentioned in the book of Psalms as “Christ.”
『While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”』 Mt 22:41-45
David prophesied that Christ would be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, and the LORD God [Jehovah] promised with an oath that He would surely fulfill it.
Just as Melchizedek blessed Abraham through bread and wine, Jesus blessed human beings through bread and wine at the Passover.
『So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover . . . While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup [wine] “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”』 Mt 26:17-28
Why did God raise another priest from a different order—the order of Melchizedek—instead of the order of Aaron, which had been handed down over a period of 1,500 years? As aforementioned, the sacrifices offered according to the order of Aaron were a copy and shadow of what Christ would establish later; for the order of Aaron [the Levitical priesthood] could not forgive sins.
『If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood . . . why was there still need for another priest to come―one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?』 Heb 7:11
The tithe Abraham gave Melchizedek represents our offering to Christ who has come as the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Just as Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything when Melchizedek gave him a blessing with bread and wine, God’s people in Christ give a tenth to Christ because He has given us the blessing of eternal life with the bread and wine of the Passover as the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
The order of Aaron was a division of priesthood in which the priests offered the blood sacrifices of animals to God, while the order of Melchizedek is a division of priesthood in which the sacrifice of bread and wine is offered.
The saints of the early Church were able to receive the perfect forgiveness of sins by believing in Christ, the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, and by keeping the feasts of the new covenant. However, after Jesus ascended into heaven and all the apostles died, Satan infiltrated the Church and abolished all the feasts of the new covenant; the Passover of the new covenant was abolished in A.D. 325. The abolition of the Passover was an act of abolishing the sacrifice itself, which Christ would offer according the order of Melchizedek to give His people the blessing of eternal life with bread and wine. Therefore, since the sacrifice offered according to the order of Melchizedek was abolished, no one has been able to receive the blessing of eternal life.
Now the world is coming to an end. In this end time, who can be saved unless the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek appears? So in these days, the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek has to come with the bread and wine of the Passover, which is the sign of Melchizedek.
『On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine . . . he will swallow up death forever . . . In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD . . .”』 Isa 25:6-9