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The Priesthood of the Believer
To fully understand the priesthood of the believer I think itís best to give a (not so) brief history of the priesthood over time. And, as we go through this I will develop for you this one inescapable fact: that personal revelation has always been the necessary characteristic of the priesthood, and personal revelation has always been the result of a true, personal relationship with God. In the Old Testament the first priests were heads of the family, the first-born male. Adam was the first priest, and though details are sketchy, it remains to be seen whether or not he, Eve or firstborn son Cain benefited from his priesthood and the revelation God had given him. However, Jesus tells us Abel, his second-born, was a righteous man (Matthew 23:35).
Itís clear from what we see in the record that Noah functioned as the family priest (Genesis 8:20-21). Itís also clear that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were family priests. Jacob stole the right to be the family priest from his older brother Esau, who had no interest in it, then carried out his priestly duties with Godís blessing (Genesis 25:29-34, 27:1-46, 35:1-15 with Hebrews 12:16-17).
Job, a contemporary and most likely a personal acquaintance of Moses, was a family priest (Job 1:1-5, 4:3-4). Iíve alluded to the family priest in earlier papers in my mention of Jethro, the priest of Midian. Jethro, a direct descendant of Abraham through his son Midian (Genesis 25:1-6), taught Moses the ways of God during those 40 years Moses spent in the desert in preparation for the task of leading Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 2:15-16, 3:1).
Then, Moses acted as priest under Godís direction in establishing Aaron the Levite and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar in the priesthood (Leviticus 8, Exodus 28:1, 41). Then, because Nadab and Abihu were killed when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, the established priesthood was limited to the lines of Eleazar and Ithamar (Leviticus 10:1-2, Numbers 3:4). So, for approximately 2500 years, the knowledge of God was entrusted to and perpetuated by the family priest. Then, beginning with the Exodus generation as God began to mold Israel into a nation, the concept of the family priest was replaced by a more centralized Levitical priesthood.
To speed things up we can jump forward about 1100 years to the time of Malachi to see how the Levitical priesthood had become little more than an ineffective, self-serving, religious crowd that had incurred Godís curse. Godís message to the priests in Malachi accuses them of dishonoring Him by offering unacceptable sacrifices consisting of spoiled food, probably soured wine, rancid oil, contaminated flour, and so on (Malachi 1:6-9). They had prostituted themselves, taking bribes from the people in exchange for accepting sick, lame animals for sacrifice, instead of the healthy, sound ones God required (Malachi 1:12, where the verb chalal, translated "have profaned", means, "to prostitute"). They saw their priestly duties as drudgery and no longer functioned in the priestly anointing as Godís servants and representatives to the people (Malachi 1:13, Exodus 40:13-15).
God tells them that since they will not listen to Him (a reference to revelation), take their responsibilities seriously or give Him the glory due Him, the self-serving blessings they use to gain favor with the people will be turned to curses (Malachi 2:2). The expression "spread dung upon your faces" is a picture of the embarrassment and public humiliation the priests would experience because of their unfaithfulness to God and their refusal to reverence Him (Malachi 2:3).
Then God accuses the priests of breaking the covenant He had made with the priestly line of Levi and tells them that since they had broken the covenant, He was establishing a new one. In the original covenant God promised to give the priests life and peace and the priests would reverence Him and stand in awe of Him in return. The priests were to speak only truth, stand against dishonesty and wickedness, walk with God in peace and justice and turn others away from sin. They were to guard the knowledge of God and keep it pure. And the people were supposed to be able to seek out the priests for Godly instruction, because the priest is Godís messenger. But, instead, the priests had failed to do those things and had caused many to stumble by their poor example and wrong instruction. So the Lord tells them that in the new covenant He will make them despised and humiliate them before the people (Malachi 2:4-9).
The point I want to make with Malachi is that the Levitical priesthood was (to put it kindly) less than what God had intended. About halfway between the times this priesthood was established and Malachi was delivering Godís message of condemnation, you find this statement in I Samuel 3:1 regarding the days of Eli the priest. "Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. Revelation from the Lord was rare in those days and there was no prevailing vision (understanding of the will and purpose of God)."
When you continue on in time, from Malachi to the birth of the Christ was approximately 400 years. During this time (known in history as "the 400 years of silence") Israel, as a nation was preoccupied with national survival, being dominated by the Persians, then the Greeks and, finally, the Romans. There was no prophet in the land and several groups emerged that, in effect, made a bad situation worse where the priesthood was concerned. First, a group known as the Sadducees slowly began to replace the Levitical priesthood in terms of religious and political influence. They were basically a religious-oriented political action organization that further diluted and perverted an already seriously distorted Judaism. These guys didnít believe in much of anything where God was concerned, but instead, controlled the religious activity to achieve their own personal, political and military ends.
Then about 150 years before Christ the Pharisees came into prominence. The Pharisees were a backlash movement against the Sadducees. An intellectual and grossly misguided fundamentalist group, the Pharisees wanted the freedom to practice a lifeless, rules-oriented, ritualistic Judaism, something the Sadducees cared little about. But they, too, wanted to control the religious, judicial and political activity in Israel for their own self-serving and self-indulgent purposes, which they did with the help of those appointed to rule their country by the Greeks, then the Romans. Itís clear by their rejection of Jesus and the constant and sometimes fierce opposition of the Savior that neither the Sadducees nor the Pharisees functioned in any capacity of the priesthood God had given to Aaron and his sons almost 1500 years before.
Then Jesus comes on the scene and the function of the priesthood gains a more public prominence. And we need to clear up one other point before we move on. The function of the priest has never changed from the first family priest down to the present time. Iím kind of jumping around from one thing to another here, but I think I need to talk about this before we go any further. What is the one thing that separates dead, empty religion from spiritual reality where God is personally involved and His will and purpose are understood and pursued? Most people canít answer that question. When you read about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, the Prophets, James, John, Peter, Paul and some others in Scripture, what did they have in common? If youíre thinking it has anything to do with personal revelation, youíre right.
The single, most important, essential thing that validates the priest (the one who represents God before the people, Old Testament, New Testament, it doesnít matter) is revelation as it relates to the will and purpose of God. A manís ability to entertain a crowd, his ability in teaching the doctrinal positions held by his denomination, his charismatic ability to influence people, his talent for raising money to complete projects or his anticipation in developing ministry programs that appeal to people have absolutely nothing to do with Godís anointed priesthood. Those things are merely signs of worldly, religious acumen. Meeting with God on a personal level, understanding Him, hearing His silent, indistinguishable voice, developing the ability to follow His Holy Spirit and being able to relate His message to others so they can understand it, apply it to their lives and know Him, was, is, and always will be the function of the priest.
To think the only duty of the priest in the Old Testament (whether family priest or Levitical priest) was to mindlessly follow the same rituals, reciting the exact same dialogue over and over is just as wrong as it is to think that religious leaders today who blindly follow their denominational training in its forms and rituals or the latest canned program presented in seminar form as it travels from church to church actually represent God. They donít. They represent religious systems and religious programs. Those who represent God and function as a priest will have a continuing, current revelation message from God and will be used by God to help people understand how to have a relationship with Him that is individual, personal and real. The one thing that will forever separate religion from reality is the existence of a living message from a living God.
And the message of the real priest is always different from the message of the religious leader. The priest will have a message from God that has to do with understanding His will and purpose and knowing Him in a relationship that is real. The religious leader will have a message that will have to do with making the church membership grow, how to deal with depression or the latest gimmick on how to manipulate God to get what you want.
Godís condemnation of the priests in Malachi 2:2 when He says, "Since you will not listen to me, nor will you lay it to heart to give glory to My name" has entirely to do with the fact that the priests were not serving God, therefore He was not giving them revelation, therefore they could not represent God in a present reality to the people. The function of the priest will always be the same Ė to give people a real message from a living God that helps them understand His will and purpose. And Iím sorry, but I have to stop again and remind you that Godís will and purpose is not to make you healthy or wealthy. Itís not to give you what you want. Itís not to "bless" your "church" and make it grow. Itís to deliver you from sin over time through your submission and obedience to Him, changing you from what you are into Who He is, conforming you to the image of His Son. He wants to have a real, individual, personal relationship with you that is built on the foundation of His will and purpose. It was never Godís intention that people struggle to know Him only on the basis of lifeless instruction and ritual. While the rituals and festivals of the Old Testament had definite instructional and memorial value, it was Godís intention that there be revelation along with them to give them life and reality. Now Iíve gone to preaching again, I can always tell when the paragraphs get too long.
But let me back up just a little bit and show you what I mean. You only have to open your Bible to the Book of Genesis and begin reading and soon youíll start noticing phrases like "the Lord God said", "the Lord said", "and God said", etc. How did Abel know to bring an offering of the firstborn of the flock and the fat portions? How did Noah know how to build an altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord? How did Abram know that he was to leave his home in the Ur of the Chaldees and journey to the Negeb? And how did he know how to build an altar at Bethel, where he offered sacrifices to the Lord and worshipped Him there? And on and on we go through the Bible from start to finish, God revealing Himself, His will and purpose to these and other family priests.
And later, when the Levitical priesthood came into being, did God stop the revelation? Hardly. When Moses is instructed by God to anoint Aaron and his sons and sanctify them to serve as priests in Exodus 30:30-31, the word translated "anoint" is mashach, a word used to define an anointing in which God Himself is the authorizing agent and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the result. And when the Holy Spirit is present, revelation is part of the program. The same word is used in I Samuel 10:1 read it along with verse 6 in the same chapter and see what I mean.
As we come farther forward in time weíve already looked at the condition of the priesthood in Malachi. Because of their rebellion and disobedience, revelation was relatively unknown to them. God curses them and it goes from bad to worse. Then (as I started to say several pages back) Jesus comes, revelation is restored and the priesthood is then vested in those who follow Him. That Jesus communed with the Father and received revelation from the Spirit is obvious (Matthew 3:16, 17; John 5:30, 7:17, 8:38). It is just as obvious that His followers and others were told to expect this same revelation from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 12:11,12, 21:12-15), and it became a reality (Peter in Acts 2:14-18; Stephen in Acts 6:8-10; Paul in Acts 9:17, 20-22 just for starters). And so, these and others became priests of the New Covenant.
Now, if youíre one of those poor souls who choose to believe God doesnít speak to men (and women) today, Iím sorry for you because youíre condemning yourself to a life void of any present reality in God. The Sovereign, Pre-existent, Eternal God of the Universe makes it perfectly clear in the Scriptures that He will not change in either His character or His nature (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). In other words, Who He is and what He does will never change. God will not change His mind concerning what He has promised, He will not try to confuse us and Heís not trying to hide from us (James 1:17). What He established in the earliest times with the family priest is the same thing He established later with the Levitical priesthood, which is the same thing He did with the early followers of Jesus as itís recorded in the Scriptures and is the same thing He does today with those who are submitted and obedient to Him and who refuse to be deceived by the religion experts that say God just doesnít do that anymore. The idea that God hasnít spoken to men since the completion of the Canon of Scriptures is one of the most preposterous deceptions ever perpetrated by institutional religion. And, itís one of the most damaging.
That God communicates with man, revealing Himself and His message with the desire and expectation that man will respond to what He has said is all too obvious in the Scriptures. This is two-way communication, an example of the personal involvement and participation of God in the lives of men. Those who say they have a "personal" relationship with God, but only participate in religious forms and rituals are deceiving themselves. God has always wanted us to have a personal relationship with Him and the reality of that relationship is always found in revelation regarding His will and purpose; relationship with God void of revelation is not really relationship at all, itís religion.
So, maybe now would be a good time to look at this concept of revelation. Again, Iíll try to be brief. First, letís look at Hebrews 11:6.
"But without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God. For anyone who wants to come near to God must, as a necessity, know that He exists and that He will respond with kindness and generosity to those who diligently seek Him."
Whatís Paul saying here? Heís simply saying that itís impossible to please God unless weíre submitted to Him. Itís impossible to please God unless weíre seeking His will and purpose (and, as always, this will and purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus). And itís impossible to please God unless weíre determined to be obedient to Him as His will and purpose unfolds in our life.
Now, this verse is a great example of a pervasive principle that is the very foundation of anyoneís relationship with God. This principle is found over and over again in both the Old and New Testaments and literally defines the process of coming to know God in an experiential reality as opposed to the false, deceitful, supposed relationship based on head knowledge that is presented by the worldís religious systems. Iíve mentioned this principle before in other articles and will most certainly mention it again, since it has many obvious applications in our understanding of the ways and purposes of God.
Basically, the principle is this: Godís promises are real and valid, but are always conditional. Therefore, God will not fulfill His promises until His conditions are met. The principle is expressed simply in this phrase, "if you will, then I will". In other words, He makes the promise, sets the conditions, waits for us to meet the conditions and only then will He fulfill the promise.
God requires that our relationship with Him be built on the element of trust. He tells us what to do and what Heíll do when weíre obedient. Then He waits to see if weíll trust Him. The above verse in Hebrews 11:6 tells us that He is ready to respond when weíre diligent in seeking Him. The ball is in our court, so to speak. We have to initiate the action. When we seek, He responds. It doesnít say Heíll respond whether we seek Him or not. We have to make the first move. God is still saying, "If you will, then I will."
Anyone who wants to know God must accept the reality of something heís never seen. And he must be diligent to seek after something he may never see in this life. He must be determined to understand and follow a God who does not manifest Himself in obvious ways to our natural senses. This is what Paul had to say about understanding things that canít be known through the natural, physical senses. Itís found in I Corinthians 2:9-16.
"But just as Isaiah has said, the eye hasnít seen, nor the ear heard, neither has man in his wildest imagination ever dreamed of all that God has prepared for those who reverence Him and are quick to obey Him. But God reveals them to us through His Holy Spirit. For it is only the Spirit Who understands the things that lie hidden well beyond the perceptive abilities of our natural senses. Men tend to understand only what theyíve reasoned out of their own minds. But the Holy Spirit understands only the things of God (Heís not burdened down with a rational mind controlled by physical senses and appetites). Now, we donít follow the natural senses that reveal only the things of the world. Instead, we follow the Spirit of God, Who has been given to us so we can comprehend the things that God has given to us out of His grace. So that the things weíve been telling you about have not come out of our own understanding (they didnít originate in our own thoughts, and we didnít learn them from other men). But it is the Holy Spirit Who has taught us these things by adding one spiritual concept upon another. Therefore, those who insist on relying on their own natural senses will never understand what the Spirit teaches. They will think these things are absurd and will never understand what comes only through the Spirit. The man who follows the Spirit will understand spiritual things. Yet, those who follow only after their natural senses will never understand Him. And who has ever understood all that is in the mind of the Lord that he could ever tell Him anything? Yet we have the mind of Christ available to us (revealing the thoughts and purposes of His heart to those who are submitted to Him)."
God has chosen to reveal Himself and His purpose to us through His Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit doesnít knock on the door, come into the kitchen and sit down to have a cup of coffee with us while He explains to us what we need to know. We canít see Him with our eyes. We canít hear Him with our ears. We canít smell Him, taste Him or touch Him. The Holy Spirit cannot be detected through our natural senses. Neither can the Father. For that matter, neither can the Son. For even though He has taken on the form of a man (Philippians 2:7,8) and continues to exist as the visible representation of the unseen God (Colossians 2:15), He currently resides at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:32-34), a place slightly beyond the capacity of our natural sight.
There are several ways that the Holy Spirit reveals Godís will, purpose and direction to us. The first is His "still, small voice". Of course, this is a reference to Elijahís experience in I Kings 19:12. The words "still" (the Hebrew demamah) and "small" (daq) literally means silent and indistinguishable. How can a voice be silent? What does indistinguishable mean? The voice of the Holy Spirit cannot be heard with your ears and you cannot recognize His voice by tone, accent, vocabulary or any other characteristic you might use to recognize a personís voice. The Holy Spiritís voice has no distinguishable characteristics.
Let me use a most unlikely source to illustrate what I mean Ė Hollywood. In the movie The Ten Commandments Charlton Heston (Moses) couldnít understand why the bush on the side of the mountain could burn for so long and not be consumed. So he decided to go check it out. We all know the story. When he came back to tell his wife what had happened, he gave a great description of Godís still, small voice. He explained to her that God had spoken to him out of the burning bush. But it wasnít with a voice he could hear. He pointed to his head and said that the words were just there, and thatís how Godís silent, indistinguishable voice comes to us. We canít hear it. We donít recognize it because it sounds like God. Itís just there all of a sudden and we know this is God speaking to us because it has some affinity with what we know is His will and purpose for our lives. In this particular instance, this was certainly not the first time Moses had recognized the voice of God. He had just spent the better part of 40 years in the desert learning how and God was preparing to send him back to Egypt to do what He wanted Moses to do.
The ability to recognize Godís silent, indistinguishable voice is not gained quickly or easily. Neither is it acquired apart from a general understanding of Godís purpose. Here we go again. Godís purpose is not to make you wealthy. Itís not to keep you healthy. Itís not to help you accomplish all the goals youíve set for yourself so you can be a success in this world. Godís purpose is not to make Himself available to respond to your every whim or desire. He wants you to submit your life to Him so He can transform you into the image of Christ. He wants to deliver you from the bondage of what you are by changing you into Who He is. That is your salvation. Godís voice comes to those who are submitted to Him so they can know more about His purpose or so they can help someone else understand more about His purpose.
And you will never learn to recognize His voice until you understand, at least in general terms, what He wants to talk to you about. Everyone hears voices inside their head. But since most people donít have a clue what God wants to say to them, the voices they hear are either their own or the voices of the enemies of God from the spirit realm. People tend to hear what they want to hear. The problem is that they donít recognize the fact that these voices represent a very real spiritual battle that rages around every one of us.
The second way the Holy Spirit reveals Godís purpose is through the circumstances and situations we face in our everyday lives. And just like His voice, our ability to recognize what Heís doing is directly related to our understanding of just what His purpose is and what He wants to do. When we know that He wants to change us, weíre more apt to recognize the opportunities Heís giving us to change. If you submit yourself to God and to His purpose, He will confront you with your faults and give you the opportunities you need to correct them.
If you have a problem with anger, Heíll send people into your life that will frustrate and anger you. Now you have a chance to prove to yourself and to God that you want to change. Now you have a decision to make. Will you respond to this situation like you always have in the past? Or will you respond in the way that God wants you to? If you respond correctly, you have just cooperated with the purpose of God and you and He together have just affected a change in you. You have just experienced God in a positive way and your obedience has made you more like Jesus.
And by the way, I canít resist pointing out the fact that the word translated "salvation" (soteria) in the New Testament would be better translated "deliverance". And we could all understand Godís purpose a little more clearly if we used the word deliverance instead of salvation. God wants to deliver us and I have just explained to you the only way He does it. God will not magically transform us in the absence of our willing participation over time in the process. Neither will He accept our attempts to reform ourselves in the absence of His active participation (this is religious morality, the self-righteousness that He hates).
And while weíre talking about how God reveals Himself, I have to mention the Scriptures. Most people believe that God only reveals Himself to us through His written word and that it is the written word that gives us the blueprint for His will and purpose. Allow me to give you this truth. If you understand it, then good for you! If you donít, well then Iím sorry for you. The Scriptures reveal the general, over-all will and purpose of God for mankind, which is that He wants to deliver us by changing us from who we are to who He is (Romans 8:28-29). But the Scriptures do not reveal Godís specific will and purpose for each one of us individually, because that is different for each one of us and can only be known through our real, personal relationship with Him. It is only through our personal experiences with Him that God is able to reveal His specific will and purpose for us. And it is only through our willingness to seek Him, submit to Him and be obedient to Him that He is able to accomplish that will and purpose.
Those who believe that He only reveals Himself to us through the written word will never understand deliverance and therefore will never experience it. Theyíre dead in the water. Itís impossible for them to have a relationship with God thatís real and that will allow Him to reveal Himself to them. Because those who believe only in the written word are like the Pharisees Jesus was talking to in John 5:39. They thought salvation could be found in what was written. They were trusting only in what their eyes could see!
Now, earlier I told you how Jesus received revelation, that His followers were told to expect the same thing, and gave examples of that. So, letís make the application and see how this applies to true believers today. Hopefully you havenít forgotten by now the subject of this paper is the priesthood of the believer. Iíve taken all this time to explain the development of the priesthood through time, the main characteristic of the priesthood (revelation) and just what revelation is and how it works so you could have as complete an understanding of this subject as possible. Why? Because it is my hearts desire to see you function as a true priest of God.
The Scriptures are clear, all believers in the New Covenant (New Testament) are to be priests before their God. As Peter says in I Peter 2:4-5, "Come to Him, that Living Stone which men threw away, but is precious in Godís sight. Come, and like living stones be built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to God through Jesus Christ." Then a few verses down Peter says in verse 9, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people who belong to God, so you can tell others the virtues of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
Now, earlier I said we would look at how all this applies to true believers. And, I suppose if you asked ten people on the street, "How can you identify a true believer?" you might get ten different answers. But, fortunately for us, Peter gives us some ideas in this passage (it actually goes from verse 1 to verse 9).
In verse 1 he talks about not having any malice, hypocrisy, jealousy or slander in your life. So, a true believer (though far from perfect) is cooperating with God to rid himself (be delivered) of these things. In verse 2 a true believer "craves" the spiritual truths (milk) that will help him grow and progress in this process of deliverance.
Then in verse 6 we see two more characteristics of the true believer in the phrase, "he who believes in Him will not be disappointed". First, the word "believes" is essential. It is translated from the word pisteuo, and has several meanings more specific than "believes". In English "believe" may not mean anything more than mental assent or agreement. But pisteuo should be translated "to be persuaded" or "to trust or rely on". The difference is important. "Pisteuo" describes something that changes your life!
As to the second, this has to do with "will not be disappointed", to which I will simply say those who are pursuing God in this way are experiencing the most exciting and rewarding thing they possibly can Ė the concrete knowledge that the God of the universe is personally involved in their life, preparing them for an eternity with Him! And, the emphasis in the language is on the eternity part! The verb "will not be" is an emphatic future negative, a double negative used to indicate a very strong future truth. The believer-priest will not be disappointed in an eternity with God and all that it holds.
There are a couple of other things we should consider in this passage from I Peter. The first is that Christ is called the "Living Stone" and believers are called "living stones". And these "living stones" are to be built up into a "spiritual house" on the foundation of Christ the "Cornerstone" (verses 6 and 7). Here, Peter uses this analogy to describe the true church, made up of living stones (true believers) that become part of the building (the true church) due to their allegiance to the cornerstone (Christ). The so-called "churches" you see in towns, cities and countries across the world do not make up the true church. Nowhere in Scripture do you see any instruction for men to build wood and brick structures and call them "churches". There is not even the slightest hint of instruction for the formation of the many groups, denominations and institutions in the world that claim to represent God as His "church". Why, in fact, would God authorize anything that would cause the disunity, confusion, hostility, greed, corruption, moral decline, abuse of authority and spiritual vacuum brought about by these competing factions over the past two thousand years? The truth is, He didnít. The time will come when Christ will return to this earth and will abolish every form of religion and the only thing that will be allowed is the individual priesthood of the believer built on his allegiance to Christ alone.
The other is that you may have wondered as you read the verses above, just what are the "spiritual sacrifices" Peter is talking about in verse 5? Here is another analogy. In the Old Testament one of the duties of the priest was to offer sacrifices (accompanied with revelation). In the New Testament this priesthood of believers also share in this responsibility. Just remember, this is an analogy, a word picture. Weíre not talking about animal sacrifices here. Actually, Peter tells us what these "sacrifices" are in verse 9 that I quoted above when he says, "so you can tell others the virtues of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light".
Let me explain this one in some detail. The verb "can tell" ("should show forth" in the King James) is from exaggello and means, to tell or declare. And here the grammar is important; itís an aorist subjunctive passive. To keep it simple, this means you should do this when the real opportunity arises. Iíll make the application from my own personal experience. There are times when someone may ask me about my relationship with God and I can tell as I begin to talk about it that they really want to know. In which case I can talk to them for hours, if they have the time. But when I detect that they really donít want to hear what I have to say, I walk away with a clear conscience. These are the ones Peter describes in verse 8, "they stumble because they donít believe the message, as they were destined to do".
Letís move on. In the Revelation to John (the last book of the New Testament) there are several references to this priesthood. The first is Revelation 1:5b-6. "To Him Who will always love us and has once for all time freed us from our sins by His own blood, and formed us into a kingdom of priests to His God and Father Ė to Him be glory and dominion throughout the ages." Then in Revelation 5:9-10 in the midst of a celebration in heaven we see "And now they can sing a new song, You are worthy to take the scroll and open the seals that are on it, because You were sacrificed, and with Your blood You purchased men to God from every tribe, language, people and nation. And You have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign as kings over the earth."
Now weíre getting to the heart of the matter. This is where I can get really excited! Do you recall that long passage from I Corinthians 2 about not being able to recognize the Holy Spirit through our natural senses? It started with, imH
"But just as Isaiah has said, the eye hasnít seen, nor the ear heard, neither has man in his wildest imagination ever dreamed of all that God has prepared for those who reverence Him and are quick to obey Him". Do you remember the meaning of the emphatic future negative, "will not be disappointed" reference? Well, those statements apply to what Iím getting ready to show you. You had to notice the last statement above in Revelation 5:10 (I underlined it), "And You have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign as Kings over the earth."
There will be a time yet future when Christ will return to this earth and for the next one thousand years He will deal with the enemies of God and transform the earth into a virtual paradise and its inhabitants into a people who wholly reverence God in preparation for the time when God will come to dwell on the earth with men. This time is described in Revelation 20:6 that says, "Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over them the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with Him a thousand years." Do you see where this is going?
The priesthood of the believer is preparation for the time when all true believers will play an active part in Christís plan to transform the earth and its inhabitants into what they must be before God can come to dwell on the earth for all eternity! And here, again, I must destroy the religious myth that all believers will spend eternity with God in heaven. How could they, when God is on the earth? This is Revelation 21:2-3, "And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, arrayed like a bride, adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Now the abode of God is with men and He will live among them. They will be His people, and God will personally be with them and be their God."
This is the last reference found in Revelation 22:3-5 and gives a slight glimpse of what eternity will be like for this priesthood (you should read Revelation 21 and 22). "There will be no more curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. And they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever."
Now I know verse 3 doesnít make a direct reference to priests, it uses the term "servants". This is from doulos, a slave. The usage of this word in the New Testament is very specific. It is used to describe someone who serves his master willingly (not grudgingly) and displays true loyalty, submission and obedience. In other words, the servant is the same as a true believer, who is the same as a priest of the New Testament.
The connection is found in the last sentence that says (the "servants"), "will reign forever and ever".
Imagine, if you can, a world where everything hurtful and destructive has been removed and God is directing the affairs of men, instead of governments made up of people whose best efforts do little or nothing to affect the hurt and destruction that exists. Better yet, imagine an eternity as a believer-priest serving God at His direction face to face!
Recently in one of my house meetings someone asked, "where do I start?" And this is usually my answer, "Jesus is our example". Remember earlier when I talked about the principle essential to having a relationship with God, where He says, "if you will, then I will". That applies here. If you want God to talk to you, then you must begin to talk to Him. This is what Jesus taught.
"And when you pray, donít be religious about it. Donít recite long, flowery prayers in public, where everyone can hear. Who are you talking to? If youíre talking to God, go to a quiet, private place and just talk to Him. Then Heíll honor your personal, heart-felt prayers by blessing you in ways that show you really do talk to Him. Just try to be yourself. Thereís something false and impersonal about reciting the same, old, tired, worn-out formulas. Remember this. The Father responds to sincerity, not to the length of the prayer." (Matthew 6:5-7)
And if you havenít already, I suggest you read the series on The Model Prayer on this website, so there wonít be any confusion. And look at the example Jesus gave to the disciples when He was continually going off to be alone to pray to the Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46 and Luke 6:12, 9:18 for some examples).
Now, let me wrap this up by simply saying that I hope from reading this you understand one of two things: that you are a believer-priest, or that you may not be. Itís not my place to judge, but it certainly should be yours. There is not one thing in this life that is more important than settling this question. You are either focused on God and submitted to His plan and purpose for your life or you have allowed religion to deceive you into thinking your participation in the group activities and programs of your church will be sufficient or you are pursuing only the things of this world and ignoring God altogether.
Paul says it better than I ever could. This is II Timothy 2:10-13.
"So, I am ready to stand my ground with patience and endure everything for the sake of Godís people, so they may obtain the deliverance that is in Christ Jesus, with its promise of eternal glory. This saying is worthy of confidence: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we reject Him, He will also reject us. If we are faithless and do not believe in Him, He remains faithful (to His Word and to His righteous character), for He cannot deny Who He is."
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