The following article is one that has come from my own studies alone. I have never in anything that I have read or heard, seen anyone who has come up with this answer as to who Melchizadek is. It is my research alone that has been the source of my coming to the conclusions listed below.
In terms of Biblical mysteries, the mystery of Melchizedek seems to top the charts. The second is, who are the twenty-four elders? These two mysteries are at the pinnacle of unknown mysteries that baffle scholars. Both of those mysteries will be addressed here, as there is, I believe, a direct connection between the two. First we will begin with Melchizedek. Who exactly is this enigmatic figure that appears in Genesis, the Psalms, and again in Hebrews? Why is he worthy of mention? Much has been speculated and very little written about him. He seems to defy identification. At least that is how many scholars feel about him. I believe the answer is not in that he cannot be identified, but that too many people are studying commentaries instead of studying the Scriptures. Also, people are not taking the Scriptures literally and if one does not do that, one will never understand who he is. We are told specific things about Melchizedek which can only lead to certain conclusions. The fact that these conclusions are outside the box and make some feel uncomfortable, does not mean we should not accept them. We need to accept that Scripture is true as it stands and believe it even when it presents a totally new concept. To investigate this unusual person, we need first to read all that has been written about him.
Gen. 14:18-20 - “And Melchizedek, king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”
Ps. 110:4 - “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Heb. 6:20-7:17 - “Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is King of peace, without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes, but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertained to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedec.”
Bear with me as we wade through all of this information. It may seem a little convoluted as we go along, but I think it will untangle itself and become clear by the end. Let’s start by seeing what is said about this Melchizedek. He has two names, King of Righteousness and King of Peace. He had no mother or father and no descendants or offspring. He had no beginning of life, no end of life, presently lives, and continues to be a priest forever. His priesthood and Christ’s priesthood are of the same kind. Christ is the last (obviously) in Melchizedek’s order. The Levitical priesthood is inferior to this priesthood as Abraham, through whom the Levitical priesthood came, gave a tithe to Melchizedek. The Levites were made priests through the law of a carnal commandment or a commandment of the flesh (heritage). The priesthood of Melchizedek's order is established in part by the fact of an endless life.
If Christ is of the same order as Melchizedek, the rules that apply to Christ’s priesthood should apply to Melchizedek’s, and by extension to all of the priests in this order, for there are more priests, otherwise there wouldn’t be an order. The very word order implies a group. Christ received his priesthood directly by the oath of God by virtue of the power of an endless life. “Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” Heb. 7:16, 21. Christ is a heavenly priest, not an earthly one. He represents us before God in heaven. During the Levitical priesthood, God for a time dwelt in the Holy of Holies, and so an earthly priest could annually come before God to make atonement. But that was only for a time. This brings us to the question, by what right did Melchizedek become the priest of God? Not by the carnal commandment like the Levites. Surely not by his own initiative. He was made a priest by God, by virtue of an endless life, just like Christ. To what purpose? As already mentioned, Melchizedek is only one of an order of priests. God has never left mankind without some sort of representative that can mediate and act as priest between God and man. We know of the Levitical priesthood, and we know of Christ’s priesthood which superseded the Levitical one. But what of that time period before the Levites? The time period in which Melchizedek was a priest, and before the flood? From Adam until Moses, there was, according to Ussher’s chronology, roughly 2400 years (rounded off). We know that Abel and Cain offered sacrifices, and we know that Noah, Job, and Abraham all offered sacrifices. In Noah’s and Abraham’s case we know that they actually did the sacrificing (killing of the animals) themselves. Apparently then, it was acceptable for them to do this, but there had to be more to the story than that, as Melchizedek was a priest of God, so God did have priests. And he was only one of an order, so there were a number of priests acting on behalf of God somewhere and sometime in the past. The question is who and when and even how many.
Let’s look at what manner of person Melchizedek was. Arthur Conan Doyle had his character of Sherlock Holmes make an insightful statement. He said that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth. Using that axiom, we can determine several things. Scripture clearly states that Melchizedek was the King of Righteousness. Dare any human lay claim to this (being sinful) except for Jesus Christ? He was also King of Salem (which means peace). Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And Salem was the forerunner of what would become Jerusalem, which is the place of God’s throne on earth. It is also clearly stated (and this is where many have a problem) that he had no parents, no descendants, was not born, did not die, and still lives (herein lies the endless life part). Some would like Melchizedek to be the pre-incarnate Christ, but some of these characteristics eliminate that possibility, plus there is the fact that this was an order of priests, not a single priest. Christ was born, died, and had a mother, so that eliminates Him from the running. Melchizedek also continues to be a priest to this day and will continue to be one forever. This does not mean that he is presently acting as a priest in carrying out the duties. Christ is now and always will be the final and only priest from the time of his death on. However, Melchizedek continues to hold the office of priest. Christ’s priesthood is a heavenly priesthood, so also must be Melchizedek’s and his whole order’s. Since it is impossible for a human to fulfill these qualifications, the only answer is that Melchizedek is not a human being. If he is not human, what and who is he?
The only answer to Melchizedek’s identity is that he is some sort of created heavenly being who, for a time, sojourned on earth to carry out the duties as priest of God. Naturally he would be located in Salem, as this is God’s throne on earth. He was a king (not being born of a human sinful nature would allow him to be a king of righteousness) and priest (God‘s heavenly temple has to be served by someone), as is Christ. Is there any indication that there is an order of heavenly priests to serve God‘s temple? There most definitely is. If one studies the Old Testament scriptures about the building of the tabernacle, one finds that God is very, very particular as to its building. Even down to its dimensions. Why is that? It is because the tabernacle and all of the accompanying accouterments were replicas of the heavenly objects. The laver, the candlesticks, the ark, the dimensions of the rooms, the priests' garments, everything was to exacting specifications as it all had a counterpart in heaven that it was patterning. Heb. 9:22-24 "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us."
Now we come to the priesthood itself. Very specific rules were laid out for the priesthood also as to how to dress, how to behave, what they could do, and of importance for this, how many there were. Why? No doubt because it also imitated a priesthood that resides in heaven and ministered to God as the intermediary between God and man in the days before the earthly priesthood was established. The priesthood of Aaron had twenty-four courses, as they were called. 1 Chronicles 24 lists these twenty-four courses. In other words, twenty-four divisions of priests. Each division served two weeks out of the year (each week six months apart) and the other weeks were the festival weeks when everybody worked. Do we see in the Scriptures anything in heaven that resembles this Levitical priesthood that would allow us to draw the conclusion that there is a heavenly priesthood from which the Levitical priesthood was patterned? I believe we do.
Now the second mystery comes into play. Many have wondered and hypothesized as to whom the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:4 are. They sit around the throne (indicating that their work is completed, as they are not standing at the ready to do anything). They wear white (naturally in heaven they would, but it is a sign of righteousness). They have crowns. Crowns are an interesting item as you either wear one by right as a king, or because it has been earned as a reward for a faithful belief during this life. Since the rapture/resurrection does not occur until chapter 14 of Revelation (see endtimesstudies.blogspot,com for more on this), this heavenly picture is how heaven looks before the resurrection/rapture occurs. Therefore this cannot be any of the saints, nor could the crowns be rewards for a Christian walk, as that judgment has not yet taken place, as the resurrection has not yet occurred. Therefore the crowns symbolize kingship, so these elders are kings. They are not angels, as they are referred to as elders, (and angels don’t earn or wear crowns). And there are twenty-four of them, which is a significant number.
Taking the position that there is a heavenly priesthood, what would we expect would define that priesthood? First, this order of priests would be retired, as Christ is now the heavenly and only priest between God and man. That means they would not be working, so they could be sitting around and only worshiping God. That’s exactly what these elders are doing. Next, they would be wearing white (a given). They would be near the throne as a priest’s position is to be ministering near God, although their only job now is to worship. It is customary even today to refer to priests and especially retired priests as elders, since the retirees no longer are acting priests, although they still maintain the rank of priests. That’s what this group is called, elders. A heavenly priesthood would obviously be without parents, or children, have no birth or death, still be alive, and still be priests by rank, being specially created beings to live and minister both in heaven and on earth. Remember no human can look on God and live, so they could not be human and live in heaven, although as heavenly beings they can live on earth. While we are not directly told these last facts about the twenty-four elders, they do fit the first part of the above description and as we know they are not humans, (the resurrection/rapture not having happened) they most certainly fit the second part of the description. Interestingly the second part of our hypothetical description of what a heavenly priest would be and do, exactly describes Melchizedek’s priesthood and order as outlined in Hebrews. Since we see Melchizedek on earth and not in heaven, we cannot say that the first part of the description (being a heavenly priest) does not apply to him, in fact it probably most certainly does. So now it appears that the puzzle of the twenty-four elders is solved by the hypothesis that they are an order of retired heavenly priests.
Getting back to Melchizedek, heavenly priests would be priests forever, as they do not die, so they hold the rank of priest, while not doing the work of a priest. Again, a description of Melchizedek. If Melchizedek is a heavenly priest as described above, and a king as well as a priest, in heaven he and his order would have crowns. So do these elders. The coincidence is too great to miss. We have 1) a hypothetical description (albeit a most apt one based on Christ's priesthood) of what a heavenly priesthood would be. 2) A man whose life is defined as fitting that description and 3) a group of elders who also fit the description. It would seem all three are describing the same thing. An order of priests to which Melchizedek and Christ belong, that order being the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4. That Christ would be of an order of priests that fit this description makes a great deal of sense. He could not be of the Levitical system, because they are not able to do the actual work of priesthood duties in heaven. Christ had to be of a heavenly order, as that is where He ministers. Therefore, the inescapable conclusion by putting all the pieces together is that there is a heavenly order of priests, the elders are that order, and that Melchizedek is one of the twenty-four elders. The only reason Melchizedek is mentioned, while the others are not, is because of his interaction with Abraham. As an added note, as mentioned before there were approximately 2400 years between Adam and Moses and the giving of the law. That would mean that if each priest spent one hundred years on earth in succession, it would cover the time until the Levitical priesthood took over. Since I do not think God ever wanted to leave man without a mediator between Himself and man, it makes perfect sense that he would create a priesthood to cover that time period, one that could minister both to Him in heaven and mankind on earth.
Again, I realize that this seems like a convoluted description, but I think it can be seen that the improbable is in all likelihood the truth, as it fits all the pieces together in perfect harmony and answers not only one mystery (that of Melchizedek's identity), but a second mystery (who the twenty-four elders are).
I believe that when we don't understand something in God's word, it is because we have not studied the Scriptures in their totality enough. Many mysteries and questions are answered the more you study the entire Bible and put the pieces together. I think that this is one of those times.