Jesus Christ, Symbolism, and Salvation

Joseph F. McConkie

associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University

Among 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 the Lord.

None 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.

Christ as the Personification of the Father

"God, 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." (John 14:9.)

Though 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 14:7.)

As 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."

The 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.

In 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.

We Too Are of the Heavenly Family

Having 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. 8:16-17.)

Paul 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.

It 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.

Priesthood Ordination as a Type for the Messiah

It 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.

Alma 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.

To 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.)

By 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.

Teaching 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

How, 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 modern.

The Priest and High Priest as Messianic Types

Having 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.

In 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."

All 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.

Sundry 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.)

The 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.

In 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.

Entering the Rest of the Lord

The 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 Bible.)

The 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." (4:11.)

The 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.)

Thus, 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.

Melchizedek as a Type for Christ

It 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.)

In 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.)

Alma 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. 14:34-36.)

Mosaic Ordinances Prefigured Christ's Ministry

This 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.

Let us briefly identify the symbolism associated with those parts of Israel's ancient temple worship referred to by Paul in Hebrews 9:

Tabernacle: 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.

Candlestick: 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 dispensations.

Table: 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.

Shewbread: 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.

Sanctuary: The sanctuary, in this text, refers to the holy place.

Veil: 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.

Holiest 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.

Golden 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.)

Ark 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.

Manna: 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.

Aaron's 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 fruits." 6

Tables of the Covenant: The tables of the covenant refers to the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written.

Cherubim: 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.

Mercy 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.

Though 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.


Hebrews 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.

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.)


1. 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. 450.)

2. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, in their work A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), make no attempt at definition.

3. James Strong, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (Nashville: Regal Publishers, Inc.), "Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible," p. 54.

4. William Gouge, Commentary on Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications), p. 182.

5. Strong, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, "Dictionary of the Greek Testament," p. 37. See also Gouge, Commentary on the Hebrews, p. 182.

6. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), p. 73.

Joseph F. McConkie, Jesus Christ, Symbolism, and Salvation