There are many different titles associated with Jesus and one of them is our High Priest. The high priest in the Old Testament was the one who entered the holiest of places into the presence of God on behalf of the people. Jesus Christ does this for us and takes us with him into this holiest of places.
In the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, the author declares the importance that Jesus is our high priest.
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus Christ is our Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and King; these titles are all clear to understand what they are and how they apply to us. But what does it mean that Jesus Christ is our High Priest? To understand this, we will first need to go to the Old Testament to understand what the role of the high priest was in Israelite society.
The Role of High Priest
Jewish society revolved around the worship of God, and the place of worshiping God was in the Temple in Jerusalem. This temple consisted of two main sections: the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The only people allowed in these areas were the priests and the High Priest. The priest would go “regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties,” whereas the High Priest would be the only person who would go into the second section, “and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” (Heb 9:6-7)
The High Priest was the highest religious position in Israelite society, and he would enter the holiest spot in the world (the Holy of Holies), into the presence of God one day a year to offer blood for forgiveness of the sins.
Our Separation from God
So, the High Priest was a very high position and the Holy of Holies was a very important place in Jewish religion, but what did all this actually mean? To understand this, we need to go back to the garden in Genesis.
In Genesis we see Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in the presence of God in perfect peace. It wasn’t until they sinned that they feared the presence of God. “Now they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen 3:8) Because man had sinned, “the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden.” (Gen 3:23)
God is holy and after man sinned, this sin separated him from fellowship with God. The law, the temple, the priests, and the high priest all communicate that God is holy and we are not. But we have hope…
What is a Forerunner
…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to hold firmly to the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:18-20)
Jesus is our hope. He is the one who takes us through the veil and into the Holy of Holies, into the presence of God.
In the passage above we read that Jesus is our ‘forerunner’ who enters the Holy of Holies before us. The word ‘forerunner’ is translated from the Greek word prodromos1 which could mean one of two things. In the 1st century, the word prodromos πρόδρομος was used for reconnaissance troops that went ahead of the main army to ensure a safe path forward for troops to follow.2 This second meaning (which is a naval term that connects it to the word ‘anchor’ that the author used in the previous verse) is for a small boat that was used when a ship needed to safely enter a narrow harbor under difficult conditions. An anchor was put on a small boat, called a prodromos, which went ahead of the ship and placed the anchor inside the harbor so that the ship could pull itself safely into harbor. 3 4
The Role of Christ as Our High Priest
In the Old Testament the high priest would enter the presence of God only once a year and only as a representative of the people.5 This had to be done each year and one high priest after the other had to make an offering for forgiveness of sins. Now, with the new covenant, we have Jesus Christ who is our hope who we hold firmly to, and who is our prodromos who goes before us to drop anchor in the Holy of Holies, once and for all, and brings us into the presence of God!
What this Means for Us Today
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” (Heb 4:14-16)
- Strong’s 4274. pródromos
- There are two uses of this word which light up the picture within it. In the Roman army the prodromoi ( Greek #4274 ) were the reconnaissance troops. They went ahead of the main body of the army to blaze the trail and to ensure that it was safe for the rest of the troops to follow. The harbour of Alexandria was very difficult to approach. When the great corn ships came into it a little pilot boat was sent out to guide them along the channel into safe waters. That pilot boat was called the prodromos ( Greek #4274 ). It went first to make it safe for others to follow. That is what Jesus did. He blazed the way to heaven and to God that we might follow in his steps. William Barclay.
- The Anchor Holds in Spite of the Storm. By Dr. David O. Dyke
- This verse uses the Greek term prodromos, translated into English as “forerunner.” This is similar to the reference in Hebrews 2:10, which used the word archēgon to call Jesus the “captain,” or “author” or “founder,” of our salvation. This helps to blend the reference to an anchor with Christ’s entry into the inner sanctuary; sailors would often carry a ship’s anchor to a more secure point in order to attach the anchor as solidly as possible. BibleRef.
- Precepts Austin on “Forerunner” in Hebrews 6:20. Marvin Vincent