Kingdom - Priests

SYNOPSIS – Christians reign with Jesus and fulfill their royal role as “priests” who render service to God in His “Tabernacle” - Revelation 1:5-6

Calvary - Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash
The self-sacrificial death of Jesus is 
THE foundation and source for the visions of the book of Revelation. Moreover, his death means installation of overcoming believers to become “priests.” He reigns already over the “kings of the earth” because of his death and resurrection, and the outpouring of his lifeblood has consecrated us to be “priests” to his God - [Calvary - Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash]:
  • (Revelation 1:5-6) – “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him who loves us and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father.”
In the Greek sentence, “kingdom” is in apposition to “priests”; the latter term defines the former. That is, this is a priestly kingdom; its members execute their kingly duties AS “priests.” There is one group in view, not two - “priests” - not “priests” and “kings.” Priestly service to God IS what it means to reign with Christ. The verse echoes the original call given to Israel when the nation stood before Mount Sinai:
  • (Exodus 19:6) – “You will be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”
In the opening vision, Jesus is the glorious “Son of Man,” an image employing language from the book of Daniel. Not coincidentally, he is portrayed as a priestly figure who is serving inside a sanctuary.

The first thing John saw was the “seven golden lampstands.” The ancient Tabernacle featured a seven-branched lampstand, but now, Jesus walks among seven separate “golden lampstands.” He was clothed with a full-length linen robe held together by a “golden girdle,” the garments of the high priest. The “Son of Man” was tending the “lampstands,” trimming wicks and replenishing oil as needed. The “golden lampstands” represented the seven churches of Asia set inside a sanctuary – (Revelation 1:12-20).

To the saint who “overcomes,” this same Jesus promised to “grant him to sit down with me in my throne, just as I also overcame and sat down with my Father in his throne.” Note well! To rise to such a high honor a believer must “overcome” in the same manner as Jesus did – The faithful witness who loved us and “loosed us from our sins by his blood.” He is our high priest who has appointed us to be his priests – (Revelation 3:21).

In the vision of the Throne, only the “slain Lamb” was found worthy to open the sealed scroll. Jesus IS the “lion of the tribe of Judah” but fulfills that role as the sacrificial “Lamb.” This understanding is confirmed when a myriad of voices breaks into praise:
  • Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and purchased unto God with your blood men from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,  and made them unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earthWorthy is the Lamb that has been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” – (Revelation 5:9-12).
Once again, the call of ancient Israel is applied to those redeemed by the “Lamb.” They were constituted a “kingdom and priests,” and therefore, “they reign on the earth.” While some ancient Greek manuscripts use a future tense verb (“they will reign”), the better manuscripts have a present tense verb – “they are reigning on the earth.” As reigning priests, the redeemed bear testimony, and otherwise, mediate the light of the “Lamb” on the earth.

In the vision of the “innumerable multitude,” John saw men and women “clothed in white robes” coming out of the “Great Tribulation,” having washed their robes and made them white “in the blood of the Lamb.” The image reflects the garments worn by Aaron and his sons when they were installed to the priesthood – (Leviticus 8:6-7, Revelation 7:9-17).

This priestly company stands before the Throne and the “Lamb” where they “render divine service” in the “tabernacle.” “Render divine service” represents the Greek verb latreuô, the same verb applied to the service of the Levitical priests in the ancient Greek version of the book of Leviticus, the Septuagint. In the Greek clause, once more, present tense verbs are used – “They ARE SERVING him day and night.” The future tense describes their eventual reward - (“He that sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them. They will hunger no more…”).

The priestly image is clear when John “measured” the “sanctuary,” the “altar,” and “those rendering divine service” in it – (latreuô) – A group of priests conducting their duties before the “altar.” After John “measured” the “sanctuary,” the entire “holy city” was handed over to the nations and “trampled underfoot forty-two months” – (Revelation 11:1-2).

The same reality is found in the vision of the “beast ascending from the sea.” The “beast” was given a “mouth speaking great things” with which it “slandered the tabernacle, those that dwell in the heaven.” In the Greek, there is no conjunction between “tabernacle” and “they who tabernacle.” The two terms are in apposition and the latter defines the former. This is confirmed by the next verse, which interprets the image – “And it was given to it to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” The “beast” wages its war against the priestly company that is “rendering divine service” (latreuô) rather than “rendering homage” (proskeneô) to the “beast” – (Revelation 13:4-6)

The “kingdom of priests” is presented once more at the start of the “thousand years.” After Satan was bound in the “Abyss,” judgment was given for the martyrs who had died for the “testimony of Jesus and the word of God, and such as did not render homage to the beast.” They “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” This is the “first resurrection.” Then a voice declared – “Over these, the second death has no power; but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and reign with him a thousand years” – (Revelation 20:1-6).

In Revelation, Jesus is a priestly and a sacrificial figure. His sacrifice redeemed men and women to God, consequently, he now reigns as their high priest. In turn, his lifeblood poured out on their behalf consecrated them as a company of priests that reigns with him. They are summoned to “overcome” and reign in the same manner that he did (and does). They “overcome” their enemies by the “blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their life unto death”; that is, through self-sacrificial service on behalf of their high priest.


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