Christ, Symbolism, and Salvation
associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham
New Testament books, Romans is the most abused, Revelation the most
misunderstood, and Hebrews the most neglected. Admittedly, Hebrews is
a difficult book. It is to the New Testament what Leviticus is to the
Old: Leviticus announces the Mosaic system, while Hebrews explains
it. In it, Paul shows how the gospel grew out of the soil of the
Levitical order. By the light of the gospel restored in his day, he
shows how the Levitical system was intended as a bridge by which
those in the wilderness of carnality could cross over to the rest of
of the books in the New Testament, the Gospels included, are more
Christ centered than Paul's epistle to the Hebrews. In it, Paul seeks
to show Christ as the fulfillment of the Mosaic system. The imagery
of the Mosaic system finds its reality in Jesus of Nazareth and his
atoning sacrifice. A marvelously purposeful law has now seen the
accomplishment of its purpose. The shadow of Christ has now become
the reality of Christ.
as the Personification of the Father
who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto
the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us
by his Son," Paul begins his epistle to the Hebrews. Let us
paraphrase: God, who, on a great variety of occasions and in a host
of ways, spoke to the prophets of old, has also spoken to us. Indeed,
he has granted us the most sublime and instructive of revelations—his
own Son! The Son, Paul tells us, is in the "brightness of his
[Father's] glory, and the express image of his person." (Heb.
1:3.) Thus, the manifestation of the Son is the revelation of the
Father. To know the Son is to know the Father. As the Son expressed
it, in response to the request of one of his disciples that they be
shown the Father, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
the scriptures tell us little of the Father, in a comparative sense,
they tell us much of the Son—and to know the Son is to know the
Father. The example and doctrine of one is the example and doctrine
of the other. Christ constituted a living, moving, breathing
revelation of his Father. "The Son can do nothing of himself,"
Christ said, "but what he seeth the Father do: for what things
soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." (John
5:19.) Again, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath
taught me, I speak these things." (John 8:28.) And yet again,
"If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and
from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." (John
all prophets are types and shadows of Christ, so Christ is a type and
shadow of his Father: it could not be otherwise. Christ could hardly
come and say, "I am the antithesis of the Father; in no way are
we the same. He does things his way and I do things mine. Now come
follow me. I will be your example in all things." Nor could his
prophets come, saying, "We agree with Christ in some things, but
certainly not in everything. We must be true to ourselves. In some
ways we seek to be like him and in others we do not."
very concept of salvation is of oneness and unity. It is a concept in
which the Godhead professes to be one, the apostles and prophets one,
the congregation one, husband and wife one, and the family unit one.
Christ stated the principle thus: "If ye are not one ye are not
mine." (D&C 38:27.) Thus, types, shadows, similitudes, and
likenesses, in all their forms, become the common denominator for
teaching the gospel.
addition to being in the brightness of his Father's glory and the
express image of his person, Paul explains that Christ has been
"appointed heir of all things" (1:2), and that following
the atoning sacrifice, he took his place "on the right hand of
the Majesty on high" (1:3). He received of his Father's fullness
and became equal with him in power, might, and dominion (D&C
76:94-95), or, as John stated it, "He received all power, both
in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for
he dwelt in him" (D&C 93:17). Thus, Christ was "crowned
with glory and honour" (Heb. 2:9) and became the personification
of the Father.
Too Are of the Heavenly Family
described Christ's relationship with the Father, Paul now asserts
that "both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are
all of one" (Heb. 2:11), meaning one family. That is, he who
sanctifies and they who are sanctified are of one origin. Modern
translations state it thus: "For the one who sanctifies, and the
ones who are sanctified, are the same stock." (New Jerusalem
Bible; compare New English Bible.) The "one" is not Adam
(cf. Acts 17:26) or Abraham (cf. Heb. 2:16), but God, the Father of
the spirits of all men. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with
our spirit," Paul had observed in his epistle to the Romans,
"that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs;
heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer
with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom.
cited Old Testament texts to sustain his argument that we and Christ
are children of the same Father. It was prophesied, Paul noted, that
the Christ would not be ashamed to declare the name of God unto his
"brethren" of the "church" (Heb. 2:12; Ps.
22:22), and that Christ would be called upon to "trust" as
with all of God's "children" (Heb. 2:13; Ps. 18:2; Isa.
8:18). Though he is God's son, Christ did not take upon himself the
"nature of angels." (Heb. 2:16.) It was for him to work out
his salvation with fear and trembling like the rest of God's
children, "in all things." Paul said, "it behoved him
to be made like unto his brethren." (Heb. 2:17.) Were this not
the case, Christ's life would be of little value to us as an example.
We could not be expected to pattern our lives after someone whose
nature was so very different from our own that following in his
footsteps would be impossible.
is our kinship with Christ, our descent from the same Father, that
gives meaning to the divine plan for the salvation of men. We too are
in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26; Mosiah 7:27; D&C
20:18); we too are heirs, even joint-heirs with Christ; we too may
receive of his fullness (D&C 93:19), sit upon thrones (D&C
132:19), and become equal with him "in power, and in might, and
in dominion" (D&C 76:95). Thus, salvation comes to us as it
did to Christ, by becoming one with the Father. The whole system of
salvation centers in the doctrine of oneness and unity. As Christ is
the revelation and manifestation of the Father, so we too are to be
manifestations of the Father. As Christ was a living, moving,
breathing revelation of his Father, so all who would be saved must be
the same. This principle of similitude, or oneness, is the key that
unlocks the book of Hebrews.
Ordination as a Type for the Messiah
is generally understood that both the priests of the Levitical order
and the presiding high priest were types for the Messiah. As they
functioned in their office, they constituted living prophecies of
what Christ would do and be. What has gone virtually unobserved is
that the call, preparation, and ordination to the priesthood are also
a Messianic prophecy. Paul and Alma are our two most instructive
teachers on this subject. Let us review some of the insights granted
us by these two.
explains, "The Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order,
which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the
people." (Alma 13:1; italics added.) This announces the manner
in which the call and ordination to the priesthood come as a teaching
device. Priests, he tells us, were ordained "after the order of
his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what
manner to look forward to his Son for redemption." (Alma 13:2.)
Thus Alma sees ordination to the priesthood as a type by which those
of Old Testament times were to identify the Messiah and by which they
were to understand the nature of his atoning sacrifice.
establish his point, or explain the manner in which priesthood
ordination is a Messianic type, Alma reminds us that those who hold
the priesthood are "called and prepared from the foundation of
the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their
exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to
choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and
exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling,
yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according
to, a preparatory redemption for such." (Alma 13:3.)
Alma's description, we learn that key elements associated with
ordination to the priesthood, or the authority to stand in the stead
of God, include being called, prepared, proven in faith, and
established in good works "from the foundation of the world."
All who are so called typify Christ, who was called in the councils
of heaven to his redemptive office on "account of his exceeding
faith and good works." More explicitly, none hold the priesthood
of God or any office within it save they have been chosen to do so by
God. Authority, or office in the kingdom of God, is not by our choice
but by his. False priests, prophets, and messiahs serve at their own
bidding, not that of heaven. God chose those whom he has prepared, a
preparation that commenced long before the spirit was housed in a
mortal tabernacle. As to preparation, Alma spoke not of schools and
degrees, but of the development of "exceedingly great faith"
and of the doing of works of righteousness.
the same principle, Paul tells us that Christ "took not on him
the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham."
(Heb. 2:16.) The Messiah was to be mortal and, as such, subject to
all the frailties of the flesh that afflict his fellows. Further, he
was to be the seed of Abraham, for such was the promise given to the
Father of the Faithful. (See Gal. 3:16.) He was, as Moses had
prophesied, to come forth from the midst of his brethren. (Deut.
18:15.) He was to be called of God, as Aaron had been called (Heb.
5:4); that is, Aaron's call to serve as Israel's high priest was but
a type foreshadowing the call that would be given in some future day
to a fellow Israelite, who would offer the crowning sacrifice in
Israel's behalf. The Messiah, Paul taught us, was to be prepared, not
in the disciplines of men but in the discipline of God. "Though
he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he
suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal
salvation unto all them that obey him; called of God an high priest
after the order of Melchisedec." (5:8-10.) 1
then, were those of Jesus' day to identify the Messiah? How were they
to recognize him who was to preside among them as their Great High
Priest? First, they knew he would be of Abraham's seed, for all who
held the priesthood must rightfully claim Abraham as their father.
(Abr. 2:8-11.) Second, they knew that, as the seed of Abraham, Christ
would come forth from their midst; he would be one of their brethren.
Such he had been in the pre-earth life and such he would be in
mortality. Third, they knew he would take no honor unto himself and
that he would await the call of God. Fourth, he would be ordained to
the priesthood, by the laying on of hands, as had been Aaron and all
true priesthood holders in ages past. Fifth, he would be fully
obedient to all the laws and statutes of God. Sixth, he would abound
in good works. Seventh, he would have exceedingly great faith and, as
such, have great power with God. Finally, a matter obvious to those
of past ages but lost upon many of our modern day, Christ would be a
man—for only men functioned as priests and priesthood holders.
Such was the prophetic profile of the Great High Priest, and such is
the profile of all who would claim priesthood, be they ancient or
Priest and High Priest as Messianic Types
established the call to the priesthood as a prophetic type for the
Christ, we now turn our attention, more specifically, to the offices
of priest and high priest in the Aaronic order as they officiated in
the church anciently. Paul will be our tutor and the book of Hebrews
our text, as we see how these ancient offices functioned so as to
teach and testify of the Messiah and of his atoning sacrifice.
this epistle to the Hebrews, Paul refers to Christ as "an high
priest" (4:15; 5:1, 6, 10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11; 10:21), "a
great high priest" (4:14), "a merciful and faithful high
priest" (2:17), "the Apostle and High Priest of our
profession" (3:1), and "an high priest after the order of
Melchisedec" (5:10). Unfortunately, the etymology of the word
priest is uncertain. 2 Of a certainty, however, is the fact that the
priest (cohen) in Old Testament times functioned as a mediator
between God and man. Strong suggests that the primary root means "to
mediate." 3 It has also been suggested that cohen is derived
from a verb meaning "to minister," or in the noun form, "a
minister." 4 Its Greek root is a derivative of sacerdos,
signifying that which is sacred or holy. 5 Such definitions seem
wholly appropriate, by way of describing the nature of the office of
a priest as found in the Old Testament, and consistent with Paul's
description of Christ as the "great high priest."
priests were types for Christ. To understand their office and calling
was to understand the nature of the Messiah's ministry. Their duties,
as summarized in Deuteronomy, were to watch over and guard the
covenant, to teach the law of God, and to make the ritual offerings
required by the law. (Deut. 33:9-10.) The performance of their
ministry placed the priests in a dual mediational role. In their
ritual performance, they functioned as a mediator between the people
and God. In teaching the law, they represented God to the people. As
the priest was mediator between God and man, so Israel was called to
be the vehicle of the knowledge and salvation of God to the nations
of the earth. As the priest was to be holy, so the nation was to be
holy. Indeed, it had been the desire of the Lord initially that
Israel be a "kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Ex.
19:6.) It was Israel's refusal to live such a standard that led to
the priesthood being confined to the tribe of Levi.
duties were associated with the office of high priest, including: (1)
entrance into the most holy place (Lev. 16:3); (2) mediating with God
for the people (Ex. 28:29); (3) bearing the sins of his people (Ex.
28:38); (4) offering incense—a symbolic act representing the
ascension of Israel's prayers (Lev. 16:12-13); (5) making atonement
(Lev. 16:32); (6) judging of uncleanness, in establishing worthiness
to enter the presence of the Lord (Lev. 13:2); and (7) blessing the
people (Num. 6:23). In two matters, the office of high priest was
particularly distinguished from that of the ordinary priest. The
first was his responsibility to communicate the mind and will of God
to the people. To do so, he had been granted the use of the Urim and
Thummim. Second, each year, on the Day of Atonement, he entered the
Holy of Holies, where he would sprinkle the blood of a sin offering
on the mercy seat. This was done to seek forgiveness for the sins of
his people in a manner foreshadowing the atonement yet to be made by
Christ. (See Lev. 16.)
priesthood, which occupied a mediational position between God and
Israel, testified to the holiness that God demands for access to him.
No principle was better understood among the ancients than the
doctrine that no unclean thing could enter his presence. The ritual
system, with its sacrifices, shows the seriousness of sin and
testifies that a life must be given before forgiveness can be
obtained. The very existence of the priesthood establishes the need
for a mediator. No common man could make the sacrifice that provided
access to God. Only one clothed with priesthood and the robes of
righteousness, one called and chosen of God, could serve at the altar
and enter the holy place or the Holy of Holies.
Jesus Christ, Israel was to see their faithful and spotless Mediator
and high priest. In him every mediational role in the Old Testament
finds its fulfillment: (1) Christ rent the veil and entered the true
holy place—heaven, the abode of God (Heb. 9:24); (2) in heaven,
Christ labors as a mediator in our behalf (Heb. 9:24); (3) Christ
bore the sins of the elect (2 Cor. 5:21); (4) Christ's ascension and
intercession appear to be the spiritual fulfillment of the ascending
smoke of incense; (5) Christ offered himself as an atonement for our
sins; (6) through the atonement, Christ becomes the judge of all and
will yet come on that great and dreadful day to reward all according
to their works; and (7) through Christ and the atonement, all the
blessings of the gospel become a reality to those seeking after them.
the Rest of the Lord
entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies and his passing
through the sacred veil of the temple was a type for that future day
when the Son of God would rend the veil to enter the heavenly temple
and stand in the presence of God. Having satisfied the demands of
justice through his atoning sacrifice, Christ could now commence his
great work of mercy and mediation in behalf of all whose labors
attested that they had accepted him. By virtue of his mercy and
grace, the faithful of all ages could now also enter into the holiest
place. "So now, my friends, "Paul explained, "the
blood of Jesus makes us free to enter boldly into the sanctuary by
the new, living way which he has opened for us through the curtain,
the way of his flesh. We have, moreover, a great priest set over the
household of God; so let us make our approach in sincerity of heart
and full assurance of faith, our guilty hearts sprinkled clean, our
bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19-22, New English
purpose of the atonement was to remove the effects of the Fall
whereby men were cast out of the presence of God. Through his
sacrifice, Christ opened the door through which we might return to
the divine presence. To return to the presence of the Lord is, in the
language of the scriptures, to obtain the "rest of the Lord."
Paul reminded the Hebrew saints of Moses' efforts to bring the
children of Israel into that rest while they were yet in the flesh.
He was unable to do so because of their unbelief and the hardness of
their hearts. (See Ps. 95:7-11; Heb. 3:8-11.) Blessings that are
obtained on the same grounds in the meridian day were lost on the
same grounds. Paul warned that if the meridian saints hardened their
hearts in unbelief, they too would forfeit the privilege of entering
into God's rest. "Let us labour therefore to enter into that
rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
appropriateness of Paul's warning, with an expanded explanation of
its implications, is given to our day through the Prophet Joseph
Smith. This revelation traces Moses' priesthood back to Adam and
identifies it as the authority by which the gospel is administered.
It tells us that this priesthood, the very priesthood restored in our
day, holds the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom and the key of
the knowledge of God. Further, it tells us that this priesthood is
given to prepare those of the house of faith to be brought into the
presence or rest of the Lord. Moses, having the same priesthood,
sought the same end. We are told that he "sought diligently to
sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; but they
hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore,
the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore
that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness,
which rest is the fulness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out
of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also," giving them in
its stead the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood. (D&C 84:19-25.)
those of our day have been clearly warned that failure to use the
priesthood for the purpose for which it has been given—namely,
to sanctify us so that we might enter into the divine presence—will
result in that priesthood and the fullness of gospel blessings being
taken from us. The principle can apply no differently to us than it
did to the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness or
as they joined with the church of Christ in the meridian of time.
as a Type for Christ
stands to reason that if the priesthood is a type for Christ,
Melchizedek, whose life personifies what a priesthood holder ought to
be, is also a type for the Savior. Paul so identifies him to the
Hebrews. By interpretation, he tells us that the name Melchizedek
means "King of righteousness." (Heb. 7:2.) Melech (Melek)
is the Hebrew word for king, while Sedek (Zedek) means just or
righteousness. No more appropriate name could have been used as a
substitute for the name of deity in referring to the priesthood. The
priesthood is the authority of our king, an authority that can be
used only in righteousness. Paul also notes that Melchizedek was the
King of Salem, which he interprets as "King of peace."
(7:2.) Salem is a form of the Jewish greeting shalom, meaning "peace
to you." Thus, Gideon named the place where the Lord gave him
the promise of peace, "Jehovah-shalom." (Judg. 6:23-24.)
the Bible text, we read that Melchizedek is "without father,
without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days,
nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; [abiding] a
priest continually." (Heb. 7:3.) This statement, an obvious
Bible error, has been the source of much mischief and nonsense among
uninspired writers. From the revelation on the priesthood previously
cited, we learn that it is the priesthood and not Melchizedek to
which reference is being made in the verse. (See JST, Heb. 7:3; also
(D&C 84:17.) In identifying the Melchizedek Priesthood as being
"without father, without mother, without descent," Paul is
simply emphasizing that the Greater Priesthood, unlike the Lesser
Priesthood, is not the exclusive province of the tribe of Levi. With
the restoration of a higher order of things, it was righteousness
that qualified one for the priesthood, not descent from Levi.
Further, our corrected text reads, "And all those who are
ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God,
abiding a priest continually." (JST, Heb. 7:3.)
also describes Melchizedek as a classic type for Christ. "Now
this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people
had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone
astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; but Melchizedek
having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high
priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance
unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did
establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the
prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under
his father." (Alma 13:17-18.) Alma's profile of Melchizedek is
of a great preacher of righteousness, a teacher of repentance, whose
message, once it was accepted by his people, established perfect
peace among them. This prince of peace then ruled Salem as prophet,
priest, and king, which he did "under his father." The
likeness to Christ is made even more perfect by adding the
description from the Joseph Smith Translation, from which we learn
that Melchizedek "was called the king of heaven by his people,
or, in other words, the King of peace," and that his people
"wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven." (JST, Gen.
Ordinances Prefigured Christ's Ministry
was not an epistle to Gentiles, but to Hebrews, those schooled in the
law of Moses. It was one thing to know the law and entirely another
to know the reason for the law. Similarly, in our day it is one thing
to know what the Bible says and entirely another to know what the
Bible means. Israel had her tabernacle—within the temple; the
altar, ark, veil, Holy of Holies, and so forth—in which
sacrifices and cleansing ordinances were performed, which Paul, by
the spirit of revelation, now identifies as similitudes of the coming
of the Son of God. Through these ordinances, the faithful among the
ancients obtained a forgiveness of sins and learned what was required
of them to obtain the rest of the Lord.
us briefly identify the symbolism associated with those parts of
Israel's ancient temple worship referred to by Paul in Hebrews 9:
The tabernacle was a portable temple of the Lord, the place of the
divine presence, and thus represents the kingdoms of heaven. The
outer court represents the telestial order, the holy place the
terrestrial order, and the Holy of Holies, the celestial world, the
place where the throne of God is found.
The seven-branched candelabrum of the tabernacle was part of the
furniture of the holy place. It was not lighted by candles, but by
pure olive oil in cup-shaped containers resting on the head of each
of its branches. (Ex. 25:31-40.) Its light represents the light of
the Holy Spirit. The seven branches or stems represent the fullness
and perfection of the revelations of God and could be taken as
affirmation that they would burn brightly in seven great gospel
Paul's reference is to the table of shewbread that stood on the north
or right side as one entered the holy place. It faced the candlestick
and upon it were to be placed twelve loaves of bread made of fine
(unleavened) flour. Paul does not identify its symbolism. Its
equivalent in our day could be the sacrament table.
Literally translated, the name shewbread means "the bread of
faces," or "the bread of the presence," signifying
that this bread was placed before the face of the Lord or in his
presence. That there is a common symbolism between the Sabbath ritual
in which the priests were to eat the shewbread and the ordinance of
the sacrament, as introduced by Christ, seems apparent.
The sanctuary, in this text, refers to the holy place.
Paul's reference is to the thick curtain separating the Holy of
Holies from the holy place in the temple. The rending of the veil
symbolizes the removal of the barrier between man and God, for man is
thus enabled "to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus."
(Heb. 10:19.) Thus, the faithful and obedient can, in the fullest and
most complete sense, enter into the rest of the Lord.
of All: By holiest of all, Paul is referring to the Holy of Holies.
This, the most sacred place in the temple, is the symbolic
representation of the heavenly temple where the throne of God sits.
Censer: The vessel used for the burning of incense in the holy place
was known as the golden censer. (Paul seems to indicate that this was
housed in the Holy of Holies. There is nothing in the Old Testament
that corroborates this.) The smoke rising from the vessel is a symbol
of the prayers of Israel rising to God. (Ps. 141:2.)
of the Covenant: Housed within the Holy of Holies, the ark of the
covenant signifies the divine presence and as such is the most sacred
symbol in ancient Israel.
Among the sacred relics found within the temple was a golden pot
containing some of the manna sent down from heaven as food for Israel
during their wilderness wanderings. This bread from heaven typifies
the spiritual salvation that could be had only through Christ, who is
the Bread of Life.
Rod: To affirm his call to Aaron and his tribe to labor in the
priesthood in preference to the other tribes, the Lord instructed
Moses to have each of the tribes bring a rod or branch with the name
of their prince on it. These twelve rods were then placed before the
Lord in the Holy of Holies. The following morning when Moses went to
the sacred place, he found the rod of Aaron covered with buds,
blossoms, and even mature almonds. The other rods remained as barren
as before. (Num. 17.) As I have written elsewhere, "The
symbolism associated with this test was most deliberate: A rod, or
branch, had been chosen to represent each of the twelve tribes or
families of Israel; each had its name carefully placed upon it. By
tradition, the rod, as a staff or sceptre, represented one's position
and authority. Together, all were presented before the Lord. By
making Aaron's rod bud, blossom, and put forth fruit, the Lord
demonstrated once again that it was for him to choose those who will
stand in his stead, be filled with his power, and bring forth his
of the Covenant: The tables of the covenant refers to the tablets
upon which the Ten Commandments were written.
The images of two cherubim were placed over the mercy seat of the ark
in the Holy of Holies. Cherubim are angels, set to guard the way
before the presence of the Lord. They are to see that no unclean
thing enters the divine presence.
Seat: The mercy seat is the golden lid to the ark of the covenant:
This lid, which covers the ark, is a symbolic representation of the
manner in which the Atonement overarches or covers all that is
sacred. The name comes from the Hebrew kapporeth, which, in turn,
comes from the root kaphar, meaning to cover or expiate. It implies
the making of an atonement, a cleansing or forgiving.
Paul did not detail the meaning of each of these items associated
with the temple, his purpose was to emphasize that each was intended
as a witness of Jesus as the Christ.
was not written to Gentiles, but to Jews. It was written to those
schooled in the law of Moses. Yet it took Paul, a living prophet, to
unfold its symbolism and explain the meaning of Mosaic rituals to the
Jewish saints of his day. Through his eyes they came to see that all
things associated with the Mosaic law centered in and testified of
Christ. Similarly, in this epistle Paul seeks to bring the Hebrew
Saints to the understanding that everything in the gospel centers in
Christ. Salvation is not the result of ritual performance nor is it
the result of a verbal declaration. Rather, salvation consists of our
becoming one with Christ.
was in the express image of his Father's person and the brightness of
his glory. As such, he personifies what a saved being is. Thus, he
shows the way for all who desire salvation. Salvation comes by taking
upon ourselves his name, by saying and doing what he would say and
do. For us to obtain salvation means we will obtain that same
brightness and glory. Such brightness and glory can be obtained only
by taking upon ourselves his name and learning to do as he would do.
Christ was a living prophecy of his Father. We must become living
prophecies of Christ. Paul declared it thus: "Now the God of
peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great
shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you
that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to
whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (13:20-21.)
On the original manuscripts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the
Bible, the following note is found (N. T. manuscript no. 2, folio 4,
p. 139): "The 7th and 8th verses allude to Melchizedek, and not
to Christ." (See Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer
Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible [Provo:
Brigham Young University Press, 1975], pp. 383-84.) Since
Melchizedek—in name (his name literally means "my king is
righteousness" or simply "king of righteousness") and
in deed—was a remarkable type of Christ, it would appear that
Hebrews 5:7-8 would have reference to both Melchizedek and Christ.
(See Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols.
[Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-73], 3:157; The Promised Messiah:
The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978], p.
Brown, Driver, and Briggs, in their work A Hebrew and English Lexicon
of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), make no attempt
James Strong, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (Nashville: Regal
Publishers, Inc.), "Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible," p. 54.
William Gouge, Commentary on Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel
Publications), p. 182.
Strong, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, "Dictionary of the
Greek Testament," p. 37. See also Gouge, Commentary on the
Hebrews, p. 182.
Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism (Salt Lake City:
Bookcraft, 1985), p. 73.
F. McConkie, Jesus
Christ, Symbolism, and Salvation