This post is an excerpt from the book review of Death of Death in the Death of Christ.
Here is Owen’s primary argument:
P1: A High Priest wouldn’t be fulfilling his duties if he offers a sacrifice on someone’s behalf, but didn’t intercede for them
P2: Christ is a faithful High Priest, fulfilling His duties
C1: therefore, Christ does not make an offering for someone without also interceding for them.
Scripture support for P1:
“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 2:1-2
In support of his argument, he makes another:
P3: Christ offered His blood to God at the entrance of the holy place
P4: Christ entered the holy place by His blood to intercede for the elect
C2: Therefore, offering and intercession are two parts of the same tabernacle function
Scripture support for P3 & P4:
But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:7-14)
P1, P3 & P4 are incorrect. Offering and intercession are not part of the same ceremonial function. By examining the book of Leviticus, you will not find a single reference to intercession, prayer, entreatment, mediation or the like. What you will find is priests making sacrifices and offering them to God. So offering and intercession should not be joined together as if they were two parts of the same duty. The passage Owen cites in support of P1 is 1 John 2:1-2:
“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins.”
Intriguingly Owen leaves off, “and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” But that aside for the moment, the passage is not saying advocating and propitiation are two parts of one ceremonial function a high priest performs. It is true propitiation that is the basis of advocation, but that doesn’t mean the two are not separate duties of a high priest.
P3 is false as is plain from the passage that Owen cites in support of his claim. It says Christ goes into the holiest of holies to offer His blood to God. He has not already offered it.
P4 is false because 1) Owen is confusing offering with intercession (as is seen in P3) and 2) Christ’s intercession is done at the right hand of God after He has made His offering, and 3) the offering is once, but the intercession is ongoing.
Christ’s duty as Mediator (or Intercessor) starts after and based on His offering His blood to God. Once Christ offers His blood to God, He sits down and from there He advocates for us. With Christ sitting at God’s right hand, we have no need to fear approaching the throne in a time of need.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:14-15)
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (Hebrews 8:1-2)
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Christ offers Himself and sits down at the right hand of God. Based on His completed offering, Christ is the Mediator and we can approach the throne. Also, by contrasting Hebrews 7 with Hebrews 10, we should note that the offering is one time, but intercession is continual. Therefore, they are two different duties of a high priest.
The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)
For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)