Priests are mediators between God and human beings. Hebrews says, however, that Levitical priests could not provide complete, confident access to God because they could not provide perfection (Heb. 7:11, 18, 19). After all, they themselves weren’t perfect, so how could they somehow bestow perfection upon others?

Nor could the animal sacrifices cleanse the conscience of the sinner. Their purpose was to point forward to the ministry of Jesus and His sacrifice, which alone would provide true cleansing from sin (Heb. 9:14; 10:1–3, 10–14). The function of the Levitical priests and their sacrifices was temporary and illustrative. Through their ministry, God wanted to lead the people to put their faith in the future ministry of Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NKJV).

Hebrews 7:12 explains that the change of priesthood made a change in the law necessary. Why? Because there was a very strict law that prohibited a person who was not from the line of Levi through Aaron from serving as a priest (Num. 3:10; 16:39, 40). Hebrews 7:13, 14 explains that Jesus was from the line of Judah, and so this law prohibited Him from being a Levitical priest. So, Paul argues that the appointment of Jesus as priest meant God has changed the law of the priesthood.

Jesus’ coming also implied a change in the law of sacrifices. Sinners were required to bring different kinds of sacrifices to obtain atonement (Leviticus 1–7), but now that Jesus has come and offered a perfect sacrifice, the law of animal sacrifices has also been put aside (Heb. 10:17, 18) as a result of the new covenant and the fuller revelation of the plan of salvation.

According to Hebrews 7:16, Jesus received the priesthood on the basis of an indestructible life and because He holds an eternal ministry. The implications of these facts are astounding. It means that Jesus’ ministry will never be surpassed or outclassed. Jesus saves completely, eternally, “to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25). The salvation that Jesus provides is total and final. It reaches the innermost aspects of human nature (Heb. 4:12; 9:14; 10:1–4). Jesus’ intercession before God involves all the benefits granted under the new covenant.

It includes much more than the forgiveness of sins, too. It implies putting the law in our hearts, making us new people in Him, and leading to the dissemination of the gospel to the world (Heb. 8:10–12). As One with God and with human beings, Jesus represents us before the Father. As One who offered His life as a sacrifice, He has unwavering favor before God.

Hebrews 7:22 states that Jesus is the surety of the new covenant because God swore an oath that Jesus would be a priest “forever” (Heb. 7:21). It is very easy to fail to understand the importance of this oath. Paul had already referred to the oaths God made to the desert generation and to Abraham (Heb. 3:7–11; 6:13–15). The difference between those oaths and the oath that God has sworn to the Son is that those oaths were made to mortal human beings. Oaths stay in force as long as the beneficiaries are alive. God’s oaths to the desert generation and to Abraham were binding as long as there was a desert generation and descendants of Abraham (see Gal. 3:29).

In the case of the Son, however, whose life is “indestructible,” the oath God made to Him will be binding forever. A person who stood in surety or guarantee of another was liable to the same penalties as the person for whom he stood in surety, including death. Yet, the Father established Jesus as a guarantee to us that He will not default on His promises. That’s how certain we can be of the salvation that we have been given in Jesus.