What the Bible says about
Kingdom of Priests
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Balak puts Balaam to work almost immediately upon arriving. The diviner has Balak build seven altars, on each of which he offers a bull and a ram (Numbers 23:1). The bull and ram are the prime animals to offer because of their value, and the number seven has a long history of being especially propitious. By these offerings, Balaam is trying to ensure his ability to bribe a curse out of God.
God, of course, will not be bribed (Deuteronomy 10:17), so He puts a blessing on Israel in Balaam's mouth (Numbers 23:9-10).
Balaam was indeed standing in a high place of Baal at the time (Numbers 22:41), and evidently, from this height he could see the whole camp. What he saw was an immense mass of people that he could not begin to count, a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:16: "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered" (see also Genesis 15:5). Balaam's oracle suggests that this growth would continue, something Balak did not want to hear (Numbers 23:11).
In saying that Israel was "a people dwelling alone," Balaam notes its separation by covenant from the rest of the world and to God. This recalls God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, in which He prophesies Abraham's offspring returning to Canaan as a people (verses 13-16), and certainly, it alludes to the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17. This separation by covenant is ratified anew at Mount Sinai: "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6; see Deuteronomy 7:6-11).
The soothsayer's final words are a wish that he, a Gentile having no part in the covenant, could be included under it. The "righteous" are those who keep the terms of the covenant, which is obedience to God. His words of blessing may allude to Genesis 12:3, where God promises Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you." If he cannot join them, Balaam at least desires the blessings that come from blessing them!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Prophecies of Balaam (Part One)
"The kingdom of God" in Matthew 21:43 refers not to the future establishment of Christ's Kingdom on earth, but to a dominion then in existence.
The context of this parable begins in Matthew 21:23, indicating that its audience was “the chief priests and the elders of the people.” Verses 45-46 show their reaction:
Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. (Emphasis ours throughout.)
Even though God had not given the religious leaders the means to understand all the mysteries of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:11), they could still perceive that Jesus aimed several of His teachings directly at them.
The chapter break obscures that Jesus continued speaking to the same leaders in the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14), another parable of “the kingdom of heaven” (verse 2). The king sends out invitations to the feast in batches. The first two sets are declined, signifying the response of the physical nation of Israel. Only after the “king . . . sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (verse 7)—foreshadowing Jerusalem's destruction forty years after they rejected the gospel of the Kingdom—does a third call go out, and his servants find suitable guests for the wedding.
This third group of guests represents those whom Christ later gave, not only entrance to the wedding feast, but also authority to rule. As He had earlier told Peter, a representative of the spiritual nation, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom” (Matthew 16:19). The stewardship of the Kingdom would be transferred.
Likewise, Jesus foretold of a future time when His followers would receive greatly increased authority: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Even as Jacob supplanted Esau, so God would make certain that Jacob's descendants would likewise be supplanted (though not forgotten) because of their unfaithfulness.
In these two parables, we can see a critical facet of God's dominion. Jesus considered the chief priests, the elders, and the Pharisees part of God's Kingdom, and also certified that they would have the Kingdom taken from them. They, like tenant-farmers, had a measure of responsibility over that national Kingdom because of their leadership positions within it. They wielded religious power that Jesus acknowledged (Matthew 23:2-3), which had its source in God (Romans 13:1).
In the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers, the vineyard is the Kingdom of God, and the vinedressers are those tasked with attending to it. Jesus prophesied that stewardship would be transferred because the original caretakers had proven themselves unfaithful. Psalm 80:8-19 also represents the Kingdom of Israel as a vineyard (as does Isaiah 5:1-7), and the shared symbol confirms that the Kingdom of Israel was the Kingdom of God at that time, though not in its fullness.
Similarly, the Parable of the Wedding Feast, though a parable of the “kingdom of heaven,” deals at length with Israel, specifically Judah. It illustrates the physical descendants of Abraham as not acting like Abraham at all (see John 8:30-38). God told Israel even before she made the covenant, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), revealing that His original intent for Israel was to be a Kingdom.
Israel's first human king, Saul, was unfaithful, and the Kingdom was taken from him and given to David. After the people contributed for the Temple, David praised God, saying, “For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all” (I Chronicles 29:11). Similarly, Abijah refers to the house of David as “the Kingdom of the LORD” (II Chronicles 13:8). Both Asaph and Isaiah proclaim that God was still Israel's King, even though earlier the nation had requested a king “like all the other nations,” rejecting God (Psalm 74:12; Isaiah 33:22; see I Samuel 8:4-8; Deuteronomy 17:14). The Kingdom of Israel was an aspect of the basileia—the sovereign dominion—of God. It was a Kingdom with its origin and authority in heaven.
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part One)
Revelation 5:9-10 provides a vision of what we are being prepared for. This incomplete vision presents a generality that points specifically to Jesus Christ. The issue in the vision is finding One who is qualified to open a certain scroll. Beginning in Revelation 6, we find that the scroll contains visions of events that will occur beyond the time of chapter 5, events both before and after Christ's return. The issue of opening the scroll is resolved because Christ, the Lamb of God, is qualified to open it due to what He has already accomplished. He has been prepared to open it.
His qualification is important because it sets an example for us. Revelation 5:10 speaks to what is most critical to us concerning our present lives as God's called, as well as to what we will be doing in the future. Christ has appointed the people mentioned in verse 9 to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God and to bear a measure of rulership. They are selected to fill such responsibilities because they, like the Lamb, Christ, have been prepared to render these services in God's behalf. These preparations are taking place in the lives of Christians right now.
Note that “kingdom of priests” is a better translation of the Greek in verse 10 than “kings and priests,” as the King James and New King James versions render it. By the word “reign,” verse 10 indicates that rulership is definitely in view in addition to priestly responsibilities. There can be no doubt that both ruling and priestly positions include shepherding responsibilities, so the positions that await Christians in God's Kingdom require leadership training to prepare those God will assign to them after Christ's return.
By way of contrast, the world's approach to salvation focuses almost exclusively on merely being saved. As important as that is, it pays little attention to any other purpose and responsibility connected with being saved. However, this period prior to our transformation into the Kingdom of God has a major purpose: to prepare to continue serving God at a far higher level of responsibility after Christ returns.
God does not call people who already possess the leadership qualities He desires they practice in His Family Kingdom. Instead, He calls those with potential, gifts them with the raw materials they need, and then creates them individually into what He desires for them in terms of purpose and position.
We are being created in the image of Christ, and leadership is what God is looking for in us. Not that each of us is leading vast numbers of people, but we are learning leadership by overcoming the carnal nature and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. How? By faith in God's existence and in His Word—by following His way of life—we are deliberately and with full purpose, choosing to allow ourselves to be transformed into His image.
The fruit of following this program under our High Priest's direction and the Father's oversight is leadership in God's way. If we happen to lead others, it is primarily by example. We are not forcing this way of life on others.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)
The issue in the vision of Revelation 5 is finding One who is qualified to open a certain scroll that contains a listing of events that will occur beyond the present time, both before and after Christ's return. The issue is resolved because Christ, the Lamb, is qualified to open it because of what He has already accomplished. He is our Redeemer and thus qualified. His qualification sets an example for us to follow in our Christian lives.
Verse 10 concerns us most. It helps to know that the term “kings and priests” is better translated as “kingdom of priests,” as numerous modern translations render it. Christ has appointed the redeemed (verse 9) as a kingdom of priests to serve our God and to bear a measure of rulership (“we shall reign on the earth”). They are appointed to a responsibility by Christ because they, like Him, have been prepared to render these services in God's behalf.
Beyond the priestly functions, rulership is clearly in view for the redeemed. Christ will appoint only those already prepared for these positions. Both rulership and priestly functions contain shepherding responsibilities. A priest is an individual especially consecrated to the service of a deity as a mediator between the deity and his worshippers.
Note two passages of Scripture that confirm what we are being prepared for:
» You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (I Peter 2:5, 9)
» They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:3-4)
Both of these future positions help us focus on what we are to do within our calling now before the events of Revelation 5 and 14 occur. We must prepare to lead in the Kingdom of God. The world's approach to salvation focuses almost exclusively on being saved by confessing Jesus Christ as Savior. As important as that is, it pays little attention to any other purpose and responsibility attached to it.
However, this period prior to our ultimate admission into the Kingdom of God has a major purpose: to be prepared to continue serving God at a remarkably higher level of responsibility after Christ returns. We are being created into Jesus Christ's image, and leadership is what God is looking for in us. He does not need to see us leading vast numbers of people, but He wants to see leadership in spiritual growth as we overcome our carnal natures.
How? We are to be living sacrifices, deliberately choosing to allow ourselves to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ through obediently following His way of life. If we lead others in this life, it is primarily by example, as we are not forcing God's way on others.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Four)
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