When most people think of Jesus’ Priestly work on our behalf these are the things they think of, but we shouldn’t stop here because His Priestly work continues and will continue until glory.
Don’t misunderstand me at this point. Roman Catholics believe that Jesus’ Priestly work still continues today but they believe it wrongly and we see their error in what they call the ‘mass.’ In the mass Roman Catholics believe the same sacrifice of Calvary is offered again in an unbloody manner. Because of this many people call the mass a ‘re-sacrifice’ of Christ, and for them (not for us Protestants) this is part of why they believe Jesus’ Priestly work still continues today.
We very much disagree and stand with Hebrews 9:28 and other places in Scripture that says Jesus offered Himself to God once to bear the sins of many. Jesus does not repeatedly die, no He only died once. Which means, His Priestly work of substitution, satisfaction, and reconciliation is no longer continuing today. This is why I do not recommend anyone to participate in a mass because the mass seeks to do what the Bible strictly prohibits.
Back to our point: what then do I mean when I say that His Priestly work is still continuing today? During His humiliation His Priestly work took place in terms of His sacrificial work, but in His exaltation His Priestly work continues in terms of His intercession.
In the beautiful section of Hebrews 7-8, 7:23-25 says this, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but He (Jesus) 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.”
To intercede for someone is to plead or pray for them. This verse teaches that Jesus, after His ascension, is still carrying out His Priestly work by continually praying and pleading to His Father about us and for us. Do not confuse the praying or pleading of Christ with how we think of someone pleading with another today. Today when we think of someone pleading we think of someone begging. Jesus does not beg His Father to save us. What does He do then?
John Murray says this, “The heavenly high Priesthood of Christ means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens to present Himself as the perfected High Priest to plead, on the basis of what He has accomplished, the fulfillment of all the promises, the bestowment of all the benefits, and the enduement with all the graces secured and ratified by His own High Priestly offering. This is a ministry directed to the Father. This is it pre-eminently. The God-ward reference is primary here as it is also in the once for all priestly offering. But it is also a ministry on behalf of men.”
Joel Beeke comments on this saying “the application of justification is the direct result not of Christ’s death nor His resurrection, but of His intercession.” Thomas Goodwin said it like this, “We owe our standing in grace every moment to His sitting in heaven and interceding every moment” (Puritan Theology, 354). By saying these things Beeke and Goodwin do not mean to belittle the cross and it’s work, rather they mean to show us how Jesus applies His fully sufficient work to the hearts of the elect throughout all of time. He does so in His intercession where He applies the benefits of His life and death to the Church, pleading the perfect righteousness and His blood as our Advocate.
Thomas Vincent commenting on this question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Christ, in His intercession does pray to and plead with God, as our advocate, that through the merit of His death we might be actually reconciled, our persons accepted, our sins pardoned, our consciences quieted, our prayers answered, and at last our souls saved.” Because of these things Jesus is truly our Advocate (1 John 2:1) and this is why Jesus can now tell us, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14) Hebrews 8 declares that Jesus is our High Priest who continues His work of applying His redemption to His people so that we’ll persevere in faith until He comes back, when He will put aside His offices and be glorified together with the Father and the Spirit.
I know I often say this, but isn’t this is an incredibly encouraging truth? Knowing Jesus right now, at this very moment, is praying and pleading for us before His Father, continually applying His redemptive work to our hearts so that we grow from degree of glory to another, this gives a solidity to the soul, a boldness to the bones, and encourages us to risk all for the sake of the Gospel.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne felt this and said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies, yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox photography)