Hebrews 7:23–24, “23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.”
Those of us who live under the new covenant are in a far better position on this earth than any who lived under the old covenant. We have all that God has chosen to reveal whereas earlier believers had the Old Testament. We have the Spirit poured out into our lives in a way much greater than was ever experienced under the old covenant. We no longer have to wait for redemption to be accomplished, we only have to wait for its full application to ourselves and to the cosmos.
Perhaps the greatest benefit we have under the new covenant is that we have an eternal High Priest. We do not have to endure a Levitical priesthood that is unable to perfect us (Heb. 7:11). Rather, we have a perfect High Priest, one from the order of Melchizedek who is seated at the right hand of the Father and whose work will make us holy (vv. 20–22).
Sometimes it is hard for us to keep the priestly work of Christ in mind. The main reason for this is that so much of it is done in the heavenlies, unseen by human eyes. It is in the heavenly temple where Christ does His work of intercession and where He makes the hope of our salvation a sure anchor for our faith (6:19–20). Just as it is hard for us to keep the priestly work of Christ in mind, so too was it hard for the original audience of this epistle. They were tempted to return to the Levitical priesthood because it was something they could see and touch.
The original audience of Hebrews needed to be reminded of the greatness of Christ’s work. They needed this epistle so that they would understand the greatness of Christ’s priesthood. Christ’s absence made it tempting to forget that He arose from the dead and now continues as a High Priest forever (7:17).
In 7:23–24 we are once again reminded of the eternality of Christ’s priesthood. Verse 23 tells us that when death came to the priests of old, their time in office ended. This is not so with Christ whose death was the very thing that made Him fit to hold such office (2:10; 5:8). Unlike the Levitical priests, Christ’s story did not end with His death. Rather, His resurrection and ascension prove that He continues forever. Christ is our eternal and perfect High Priest (7:24). Any desire to go back to Old Testament times or for the temple services to be reinstated misses the point that this Jesus, from the order of Melchizedek, is the final and eternal High Priest.
With the temple still standing in Jerusalem, it was hard for the original audience of Hebrews to believe that Christ brought its necessity to an end. But truth does not depend on whether something is easy to believe or not. Ask God to increase your faith in His Word, even when it says things that are sometimes difficult to grasp completely.