Sunday, November 02, 2008

Melchisedek Priesthood and the Everlasting Covenant

The LDS Church has a unique perspective on Priesthood authority as compared to any other religion. What is priesthood? Priesthood is the power and authority to receive revelation for other people, to speak and to act in the name of God. God is perfect. Man is imperfect. Man cannot return to God because we would dirty the carpet. So, God has a plan to clean us up and make us presentable before we are to stand before Him and make an accounting of our lives here on Earth. So, to show us where the soap and water are and to encourage us to remember to clean behind our ears, God has called, chosen, and ordained prophets and apostles. Their words are written in the scriptures and there is a living prophet today.

How do we verify that someone who says they are a prophet and speaks for God is a prophet? Do we look for miracles and signs? No, we ask God ourselves in prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Because although someone may claim to be speaking for God, everyone has the right to receive revelation from God for themselves. Also, what that person is saying should be in-line with what God has already revealed in the Scriptures. So, personal prayer and the scriptures serve as a check-and-balance. Also, they should say and do everything they say and do in the name of Jesus Christ, because we know that salvation comes in and through the merits and mercy alone of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now that we know to search the scriptures and to pray to know if someone is authorized to speak and act in the name of God, that leaves getting an answer. God answers prayers by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, it is an important skill to differentiate your own thoughts and appetites of the flesh, feelings of excitement, and temptation from the devil from communication from the Holy Spirit. But I think most people have a sense for how to do this. In simple terms, the Holy Spirit is part of your conscience. The Bible speaks of it as a "still small voice" and a "burning in the bosom" as well the "unspeakable gift." Although, it is difficult to put in to words what our conscience is or "feels" like, I think most people experience and recognize the influence of their conscience.

So, where did Priesthood begin? Some Christian denominations teach that Moses was the first person to record scripture or know anything about Christ. But the New Testament teaches something very significant. The New Testament talks about the priesthood of Moses and Aaron or the Levitical Priesthood and asks if salvation comes by the Levitical Priesthood (Heb. 7: 11). The New Testament says no, because the Law given to Moses was a preparatory law to prepare the Israelites to receive Christ. In the Law of Moses, there was a High Priest who was in charge. Paul in the New Testament calls Jesus Christ the High Priest of a new and everlasting priesthood. But when the New Testament names this priesthood authority, it doesn't make up a new name for this priesthood, but gives it the ancient title of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Who was Melchizedek? Melchizedek was the king and High Priest of the City of Salem in the land of Canaan. Melchizedek was the guy who Abraham paid tithes to when he took up residence in Canaan. It turns out that Melchizedek and other Patriarchs before Moses knew a lot about Christ. And some of them like Enoch formed such perfect societies, that the City of Zion or the City of Enoch was taken up to heaven like Elijah.

How do we know about the Patriarchs? After Joseph Smith finished the translation of the Book of Mormon, he came across ancient papyrus that just happened to have writing on them about Abraham. They were written by Joseph in Egyptian about Abraham. While Joseph Smith was translating these documents, he learned also that Adam was the first Christian, and was baptized, and taught his children to read and write. And all the pre-flood patriarchs like Adam, Seth, Methuselah, and Enoch were very spiritually advanced people. Enoch was said to have walked with God. Now, how can you be an imperfect mortal and walk with God an not know anything about Christ? Not possible. So, it turns out that these ancient patriarchs had something special. And when it comes to Noah and Abraham, the Bible says that He will establish an everlasting covenant with them. Well this isn't the Mosaic Law or Covenant, that was temporary. This Everlasting Covenant is administered by the Melchizedek Priesthood and it is that priesthood and covenant which descended down through the Patriarchs from father to birthright son.

From the writings of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that Abraham recognized that Babylon was apostate. So, he left Babylon to seek out the covenants of the ancient patriarchs. God led Abraham to Salem and to Melchizedek who was a High Priest. And Melchizedek ordained Abraham a High Priest over his family with the same authority. Abraham passed that authority to Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), who bestowed it with the coat of many colors on Joseph who was sold into Egypt.

After many years, Israel was in a state of apostasy, and there was no prophet in Israel. Moses who grew up as an adopted son of the Pharaoh, was led out of the spiritual famine and found the everlasting covenant and priesthood from Jethro, the High Priest of Midian. Jethro received his priesthood through an unbroken line through a prophet Esaias who was a contemporary of Abraham and Melchizedek. Now God had chosen and authorized Moses to be the new prophet in Israel. Moses learned from Jethro about Enoch, Abraham and Melchizedek and God wanted Moses to create the same perfect society that Enoch and Melchizedek had achieved.

God tells Moses: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel" (Ex 19:4-6).

God wanted each individual in Israel to be a Abraham, an Enoch, and a Moses. God wanted to establish his everlasting covenant with each person over their family. But the people wouldn't have it. When Moses invited the men of Israel to ascend the mountain to speak with God, the people were afraid of God, and refused.

The men of Israel said: "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex. 20: 19).

And then, when Moses came down from the mountain with the everlasting covenant, he found the people worshiping Aaron's golden cafe. Moses destroyed the tablets and when he went up into the mountain again and descended with a new set of tablets, Israel had demonstrated they were not ready for the higher law, but were given the preparatory Law of Moses where only the tribe of Levi and sons of Aaron were made Deacons and Priests. When Moses led the Israelites into the Land of Israel, they named their capital city, Jerusalem or "New Salem" after the perfect city established by Melchizedek.

Now when Jesus Christ came and restored the everlasting covenant and is called a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, He passed the keys of that authority to Peter as well as the sealing power that whatever Peter sealed or loosed on Earth it would be sealed or loosed in heaven (Matt. 16: 19). And directly after that, we see Jesus and Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, and there appeared to them Moses and Elijah. And these prophets passed their authority and keys to Peter. And next it says that Jesus Christ gave the sealing power to bind and loose on Earth and Heaven to the Disciples. But the term disciples refers to a specific group. These disciples were the 70 elders, mentioned in Luke 10: 1, 17 who were ordained to go 2 by 2 as heralds into all the places Christ was going to visit before he got there. These are the same disciples spoken of in Matt. 18: 18 were speaking of the keys being given to the rest of the 12 Apostles and the sealing power alone being given to the Seventy.

Who were the 70 Disciples or Elders? This idea goes back to Jethro and Moses in the Bible and likely earlier. Moses was carrying the heavy responsibility of arbitrating all the disagreements between the people of Israel. When Jethro saw this He gave some inspired counsel regarding delegation:

Exodus 18:13-16 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.

In addition to these Judges or Captains of 1000, 100, 50, and 10; God later tells Moses to choose 70 Elders of the Levites to serve as ecclesiastical leaders (Ex. 24: 1, 9). So we see the roots of the theocracy of the perfect Society under the Everlasting Covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood where the political and spiritual organization of the people is explained which will be finally realized when Christ comes again as King of kings and Lord of lords.

But what does this have to do with today. Because God wants to make the everlasting covenant with us. Peter said:

1 Pet. 2: 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
Heb. 13: 20 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,

God prophesied in the Old Testament about this day, that the time would come that He would sanctify Israel and restore the temple, and establish His everlasting covenant.

Ezek. 37: 26-28 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

And John in Revelations talks about this over and over again. This is the whole meaning of the Book of Revelations. As I have explained elsewhere, those who enter into this everlasting covenant, are those that are "sealed in their forehead" in preparation for the tribulation. They are the same group who have "overcome" and who are "dressed in a white robe" and who are made "kings and priests" unto God who is the King of king and the Lord of lords, the Most High God and the Most High Priest.

Rev. 1: 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev. 5: 9-10 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Rev. 17: 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

[Barnabas 14: The Lord hath given us the testament which Moses received and broke]

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