When did Christ become our High Priest?

When did the High Priesthood of Christ begin, at the offering of Himself on the cross, or upon His sitting down at God’s right hand?

If I were to ask, at what point in the record given us in the 8th and 9th chapters of Leviticus did the high priesthood of Aaron begin, I should probably receive various replies. Some possibly would tell me that he was high priest from the very beginning of the first day of the eight mentioned in these chapters, when he was put forward, before the congregation (chap. 8. 2-5), as the one God had “called” (Hebrews 5:4) for the position. Others might say that his priesthood should be reckoned from after the bathing, and clothing, and anointing, and offering (including that of the ram of consecration) on that first day had been completed. Others still might think that only at the end of the seven “days of consecration” (chap. 8. 3) could he be called high priest; while some perhaps would suggest that his priesthood did not effectively begin until he commenced to act on the people’s behalf during the transactions of the eighth day (chap. 9. 15). If I got these replies, could I say that any of them was entirely wrong? I do not think so.

Let us then see what the Hebrews epistle has to tell us about the beginning of the High Priesthood of Christ. In Hebrews 9:11, after a description of the ministry of the Old Testament high priests, we read, “But Christ having (R.V.) come a High Priest . . . entered in . . . having obtained eternal redemption.” Here the expression “having come a High Priest” seems to suggest that, right from the commencement of His Activities in connection with obtaining redemption, He was acting in priestly character; and definitely so, before He “entered in.” Then in Hebrews 2:17 we get, “It behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might become (see Greek, or Newberry) a. . . High Priest . . . to make propitiation (R.V.) for the sins of the people.” In this passage His becoming High Priest is made consequent on His having been made “like unto His brethren,” and yet it was as High Priest that He made propitiation for sins. Again, in Hebrews 6:20 (R.V.) we read, “Whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a High Priest”; which appears to imply that His “entering” followed immediately upon His becoming Priest. Next, in Hebrews 5:10, after having “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (this, in light of Phil 2:8 surely including His death), and after having thus been “made perfect”; He is then “named (R.V.) of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek,” probably in the sense that there was a proclamation of His Priesthood at His ascension. Lastly, in Hebrews 8:4 we are told that His Priesthood is not “on earth,” and in Hebrews 7:26 that it is in a sphere where He is “separated (R.V.) from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”

In view of all this, would I be safe in setting down as wrong: (1) the person who says that when Christ offered up Himself He was Priest as well as Sacrifice; or (2) the person who tells me that His Priesthood is part of the outcome of His death; or (3) the person who states that for the exercise of His Priesthood, He required to be where He now is, in the heavenly Sanctuary? In each case, I do not think so.