His Priestly Kingdom

At Mount Sinai, Yahweh summoned Israel to be His “kingdom of priests and holy nation.” If the nation kept His covenant, Israel would become “my own possession… for all the Earth is mine.” He never intended for His people to be isolated from the rest of humanity. Instead, Israel was to reflect His light in a dark world. However, Israel failed to keep the covenant and never lived up to her calling. Now, with the arrival of the Messiah, the Church has inherited this mission.

The Apostle Peter is explicit. When writing to largely Gentile congregations, he exhorted the saints to eschew all “wickedness, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and defamation,” and to abstain from the “fleshly lusts that war against the soul.”

Castle - Photo by Mike Yukhtenko on Unsplash
[Castle - Photo by Mike Yukhtenko on Unsplash]

Separation from the world is vital since Jesus has called his followers “to be
a holy priesthood and to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The Body of Christ is the “chosen race, the royal priesthood, and a holy nation, the people for God's own possession.” As His holy people, his followers are tasked with “showing forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” - (1 Peter 2:1-11).

These passages combine the ideas of priesthood, royalty, and kingdom. In this way, Scripture redefines the nature of government and how it is implemented on the Earth. In other words, the Kingdom of God is a priestly realm.

While Paul does not apply the term “priest” or “priesthood” to the Church, he certainly employs language from the Levitical system when describing correct conduct. For example, believers are to “present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is their logical service.

Unfortunately, the force of the language is lost in many English translations. “Service” represents the Greek noun latreia, and it means “worship, divine service, ministration” (Strong’s - #G2999).

Previously, Paul used the same term for the “divine services” performed in the sacrifices in the Levitical system (“Whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the divine service, and the promises- (Romans 9:4, Hebrews 9:1-6).

Paul provides practical examples of what our “logical divine service” entails. The believer must not “think of himself more highly than he ought.” He is to use the gifts provided by God for service in the Assembly and for others. It is through such service that the Body of Christ renders priestly service in this fallen age - (Romans 12:3-8).

FAITHFUL WITNESS


The idea of the priestly kingdom is developed further in the Book of Revelation, beginning with Jesus, the “Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the Dead.” By his shed blood, he constituted his followers as “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”

In the Greek sentence, the term rendered kingdom” is in apposition to “priests - the latter term defines the former. It is a priestly kingdom, and its members execute their royal duties ASpriests.”

The term “Faithful Witness” refers to the witness that Jesus bore in his sacrificial death and the “Firstborn of the Dead” to his resurrection. This understanding is confirmed by his declaration, “I am the Living one, and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” - (Revelation 1:4-6, 1:18).

In his opening vision, John saw him as “one like a Son of Man” who was “clothed with a robe, reaching to the feet, and girt about the breasts with a golden belt,” and he was walking among the “Seven Golden Lampstands.”

The Sanctuary in the ancient Tabernacle featured a single gold-plated lampstand with seven branches. Similarly, John sees seven individual “lampstands,” representing the “Seven Churches of Asia.” The “robe” and “golden belt” of the “Son of Man” correspond to the vestments worn by the High Priest under the Levitical system - (Exodus 25:31-40, Leviticus 8:1-13).

In short, John saw Jesus in a Temple setting where he was serving as the High Priest of his people. He is the model that his priestly servants emulate. He is the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth,” but priesthood defines HOW he rules.

Jesus “overcame” and acquired all power and authority, but he did so as the “slain Lamb.” And he calls his disciples to “overcome” and reign in the same manner - (Revelation 3:21, 5:6-12).

This understanding of how he conquered is confirmed by John’s vision of the “Sealed Scroll.” In his vision, he heard one of the “twenty-four elders” declare that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” overcame, but when he looked, he saw the “slain Lamb” approaching the “Throne” to receive the Sealed Scroll.

Thus, Jesus fulfills his messianic role through his sacrificial death – It is the “Lamb” and not the “Lion” who opens the “Scroll.” The Greek text uses a present tense verb to signify that those redeemed by him “are reigning” as “priests” on the Earth – (Revelation 5:5-12).

Jesus is both priest and sacrificial victim, and by his sacrifice, he “purchased” men and women for God whom he sends as his “priests” into the world. They mediate his light, and thereby they reign with him over the nations.

Like him, his saints “overcome” their enemies by the “blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives unto death.” It is through their priestly service and faithful “testimony” that his Kingdom is expanding throughout the Earth.



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