In the series “13 reasons why Melchizedek was actually the pre-incarnate Word of God” the following article is reason # 9.
Melchizedek was a heavenly high priest, not an earthly one.
Hebrews 8:1-5 says:
(1) Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
(2) A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
(3) For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
(4) For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there [on earth] are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
(5) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Next, Hebrews 7:8 says:
And here [i.e. on earth] men that die receive tithes; but there [i.e. in Heaven] he [i.e. Melchizedek] receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
Did you notice how Hebrews 7:8 could present a problem for those that claim Melchizedek was an earthly king and priest practicing the true religion in Salem? The verse clearly states that Melchizedek who “liveth” [forever] receives tithes in Heaven! The pronoun “he” in the expression “he receiveth them” can only point back to the antecedent Melchizedek. The term “liveth” is a reference back to Psalm 110:4 which requires the conclusion that Melchizedek is immortal. On the other hand, according to Hebrews 7:5, the mortal Levitical priests received tithes on earth from the other twelve tribes (Deuteronomy 14:22; 14:27-29). The fact that “there” (i.e. in Heaven), the everlasting high priest Melchizedek receives tithes can only hinder the idea that Melchizedek was anyone but God. The key points of contrast are worth repeating. Earthly tithe-taking Levites vs. Heavenly tithe-taking Melchizedek, Mortal Levites vs. Immortal Melchizedek (according to Psalm 110:4 & Hebrews 8:3). If Melchizedek is indeed a heavenly high priest (as Hebrews 7:8 claims) and if Christ is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 110:4), then it would seem to follow that Christ is also a heavenly high priest.
This is confirmed in the implications of Hebrews 8:4. According to Hebrews 8:3, every high priest was required to offer some sort of sacrifice. It was therefore necessary for Jesus being a high priest to have something to offer as well. And indeed He did have something to offer; for He offered His own shed blood in the holy place in the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 9:24), once and for all! But Hebrews 8:4 argues that since every earthly high priest must offer both gifts and sacrifices according to the Mosaic law, and since Christ didn’t, then He couldn’t have been an earthly high priest. In the mindset of the writer of Hebrews, all earthly priests are priests which the Mosaic law must sanction. Therefore, in God’s mind, earthly priests and Levitical priests are synonymous terms. There are no other legitimate earthly priests than those of Levitical descent. It’s not that there weren’t other people on earth who styled themselves as priests (e.g. Jethro in Exodus 3:1); what we are saying is that God’s idea of a true earthly priest is a person of Levitical lineage because such was the priestly stipulation of the Mosaic law.
One of the ways in which Christ failed to offer a sacrifice according to the Mosaic law is in his lineage. Hebrews 7:13-14 sates that the Law did not sanction those without Levitical lineage from serving as priests. Another way in which Christ failed to offer sacrifices according to the law was in His sinlessness. Hebrews 7:27 states that earthly (or Levitical) high priests first had to offer sacrifices for their own sins prior to doing so for the sins of the nation. Since Christ was sinless He could not have met the requirements of this law. So we see an argument stemming from the stipulations of the Mosaic law that bars Christ from being an earthly high priest.
Many of my opponents (i.e. those who think Melchizedek was a mortal) would heartily concede that Christ was not qualified to be an earthly high priest:
Albert Barnes writes:
He could not perform that office. The design of this is, to show a reason why he was removed to heaven. The reason was, that on earth there were those who were set apart to that office, and that he, not being of the same tribe with them, could not officiate as priest. There was an order of people here on earth consecrated already to that office, and hence, it was necessary that the Lord Jesus, in performing the functions of the office, should be removed to another sphere.
[Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on Hebrews 8:4”. “Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/hebrews-8.html. 1870.]
John Owens writes:
That if he had been a priest on the earth, to have discharged the whole work of his priesthood here below, whilst they were priests also, then he must either have been of the same order with them, or of another; and have offered sacrifices of the same kind as they did, or sacrifices of another kind. But neither of these could be. For he could not be of the same order with them. This the apostle proves because he was of the tribe of Judah, which was excluded from the priesthood, in that it was appropriated unto the tribe of Levi, and family of Aaron. And therefore also he could not offer the same sacrifices with them; for none might do so by the law but themselves.
[Owen, John. “Commentary on Hebrews 8”. “Owen’s Exposition of Hebrews”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/joc/hebrews-8.html. 1862.]
Adam Clarke writes:
As the Jewish temple was standing when this epistle was written, the whole temple service continued to be performed by the legal priests, descendants of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi; therefore if Christ had been then on earth, he could not have performed the office of a priest, being of the tribe of Judah, to which tribe the office of the priesthood did not appertain.
[Clarke, Adam. “Commentary on Hebrews 8:4”. “The Adam Clarke Commentary”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/hebrews-8.html. 1832.]
But if Christ could not be an earthly high priest then why would anyone be tempted to think that Melchizedek, upon who’s order God sanctioned Christ’s priesthood, could be deemed an earthly high priest? How would such thinking reinforce the expected correspondence between the priesthood and those those who it sanctions? If the Melchizedek priesthood sanctioned earthly priests then Hebrews 8:4 is false. Therefore, since the Melchizedek priesthood did not sanction earthly priests, then it becomes certain that Melchizedek was not an earthly high priest.
And what of Melchizedek’s offering? As a priest Hebrews 8:3 would apply to him as well. So, what, as a priest, did he have to offer? It certainly couldn’t have been the blood of bulls and goats since Hebrews 10:4 says that such a sacrifice would have disqualified Melchizedek’s priesthood from being one which perfect its subjects (in Hebrews 7:11 & Hebrews 10:1). Neither could Melchizedek have offered his own shed blood during the Genesis 14 era since that would have obviated Christ’s sacrifice. So again what did Melchizedek have to offer? Such is the dilemma for those that espouse the idea that Melchizedek was an earthly priest in Salem. On the terms of those who see Melchizedek as a theophany this question is not difficult to answer. If Melchizedek and Christ are the same person (i.e. the Word of God) then if follow’s that Christ’s sacrifice is the same as Melchizedek’s.
So, Hebrews 8:4 rules out the idea that Melchizedek’s priesthood was being practiced on earth during Abraham’s time since it tells us that there is no way that Jesus could be a priest on earth. If Christ couldn’t be a priest on earth according to the law and if Jesus is a high priest after the order and similitude of Melchizedek then it follows that neither could Melchizedek. Hebrews 9:24 confirms this by revealing that Christ is serving as a high priest in heaven.
Furthermore, Hebrews 8:5 says that the heavenly tabernacle not only preceded the earthly tabernacle used by the Levitical Priesthood but was the basis for its blueprint. This fact combined with the realization that Melchizedek was the first priest mentioned in the Bible seems to indicate that he was a high priest in heaven before there was even one on earth.
Regarding Hebrews 8:3-5; 9:2, Dr. Henry Morris states:
The only true tabernacle is in heaven (Rev 21:3, Rev 21:10-11), but God’s glory had filled its earthly model (Exodus 40:34) when its construction was carried out according to the pattern given by God to Moses (Heb 8:5)…The “example” [in Hebrew 8:5] is an actual set of plans, as it were, and Moses was instructed concerning all its details…The design of the tabernacle in the wilderness, with its appurtenances, is described specifically in Exodus 25-27. Many of these details, as well as the worship services specified for the tabernacle, were models of the heavenly tabernacle and types of the spiritual ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest…The heavenly tabernacle is a real physical structure in the real place called Heaven.
Since the true tabernacle in heaven preceded the earthly tabernacle of the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 8:5) and the true tabernacle has a “minister of the sanctuary” (Hebrews 8:2) then it is not reasonable to think that the perpetual intercession of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:3) was and is being carried out in the true tabernacle and that Melchizedek is actually Jesus the Christ the perpetual high priest who intercedes with His blood which was shed “from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)”
1. See notes on Hebrews 8:3-5; 9:2, The DEFENDER’S Study Bible, Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D.