The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, 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. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. – Hebrews 7:23-28 ESV
The sacrificial systems of the Jews (and the priests who administered it) was designed to be temporary or impermanent, not only in its duration, but in its efficaciousness. As the author clarifies in chapter ten, “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1 NLT). Why? “For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 NLT). He goes on to say that God never really wanted and was never pleased or satisfied by the sacrifices that consisted of the blood of bulls and goats – even though they were required by the law of Moses (Hebrews 10:12). They were intended to be a foreshadowing of something far greater to come. The blood offerings were meant to demonstrate the costliness of sin. Which is why the author says, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV).
Even the priests who ministered under the old covenant, the covenant of law, were impermanent, hampered by the reality of their own mortality. And as long as they lived, they had to continually offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could come into God’s presence on behalf of the people. Their own susceptibility to sin and vulnerability to death made them less-than-perfect representatives for the people. They couldn’t stop sinning and they couldn’t keep from dying. And eventually, with the destruction of the Jerusalem and the captivity of the people in Babylon, the temple would become non-existent and the priesthood, non-essential.
So back to chapter seven. Jesus is a better high priest. And while there were many priests under the old covenant, there was only one necessary under the new. Jesus was enough. He was sufficient. And the sacrifice He made was a one-time sacrifice, never needing to be repeated. His offering, the spilling of His own blood, completely appeased or propitiated the requirements of a holy God. “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27 ESV). His sacrifice was efficacious or effective. It accomplished exactly what was intended, paying the penalty for man’s sin and securing a verdict of “not guilty” from the lips of the Judge of the universe.
Jesus did not need to offer a sacrifice on His own behalf, because He was without sin. And the sacrifice He made was His own life. He was both the priest and the offering. He gave His life so that we might live and never die. Peter tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 NLT). The bulls, goats and lambs that were sacrificed on behalf of the people of Israel died permanent deaths. But Jesus died only to be raised again to life by the power of the Spirit of God. Paul would remind us, “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22 NLT). Now that’s a better high priest. He has done what no other priest before Him had ever done. He has reconciled sinful men to a righteous, holy God. He made fellowship with a sinless God possible for sinful people. No more trying to earn our way into God’s good graces. No more striving to keep the law in an attempt to keep God satisfied. “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him.” (Hebrews 7:25 NLT). But there’s the rub. We have to come to God through Him. It has to be based on His efforts, not our own. Salvation is the result of the work of Christ, not our human effort. As Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). Jesus is our high priest. He has offered Himself as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. He has paid the debt we owed. And as John so clearly reminds us, “We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true God. We are in union with the one who is true, his Son Jesus the Messiah, who is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ISV). We need no other priest. God requires no other sacrifice. There is no debt still owed. Jesus has taken care of our sin problem, once for all.