THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
Copyright © 1995 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
There is a concept that often has been rejected by both Jews and Christians. The concept is that of the royal priesthood. The Lord informed the Israelites in the wilderness that they were a special called-out nation, a people belonging to God in a manner not true of the remainder of mankind.
In many instances the Jews and Christians have virtually ignored the fact of their calling, preferring to be regarded as no different than other people. Their unwillingness to accept their election is rebellion against the Lord.
Until the separation of the royal priesthood is understood and accepted it is impossible for a member of God’s Israel, whether Jewish or Gentile, to gain a clear picture of the program of God in the earth and thus to grow spiritually and minister effectively.
Table of Contents
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
A priest is an individual who stands between God and people. God has selected people from the ranks of mankind to stand between Himself and other people for eternity.
We see from the following two verses that the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai and the Christians in the wilderness of the world of today have precisely the same calling. Their calling is to belong to God in a manner that is not true of other people.
‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:6)
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 2:9)
A kingdom of priests. A holy nation. A chosen generation. A royal priesthood. A people for God’s own possession.
The Apostle Paul did not refer to believers as Christians but as “saints,” that is, holy ones. Holiness is the Presence of God. To be holy is to be close to God and part of God.
Let us look at the context of Exodus 19:6 (above):
‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
‘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.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:4-6)
It is clear that God called the Israelites under the old covenant, and Jews and Gentiles under the new covenant, to belong to Him in a way not true of other people. The Church, including the Israelites and the Christian Jews and Gentiles, is to be a firstfruits of mankind to the Lord.
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:18)
The calling of the royal priesthood was addressed to the house of Jacob, the children of Israel.
And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: (Exodus 19:3)
The new covenant also is made with the House of Israel.
Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— (Hebrews 8:8)
The royal priesthood always is Israel and Judah whether of the old covenant or the new. There is no “Gentile Church.” There is only Israel, the royal priesthood, the family of God, the elect of God, the true and only Church of the living God.
The purpose of this booklet is to emphasize the fact that the purpose of the present age is to call out and perfect the members of the royal priesthood. This does not mean the Gospel is not to be preached to everyone. We have been commanded to preach the Gospel to every person.
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
Neither are we suggesting that God will refuse any individual who calls on the name of the Lord.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. (Romans 10:12)
What we are advocating is that the emphasis on worldwide evangelism and church growth must be balanced with the concept of Divine election and guidance, and also with the understanding of the whole program of God from the rebellion among the angels to the coming down to earth of the new Jerusalem.
The good news of the Kingdom of God is to be preached to every person. At the end of the Church Age the angels will remove from the Kingdom those who are wicked.
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,
“and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41,42)
We are to preach the Gospel to everyone. We understand also Christ is building His Church and knows exactly what He is doing.
When we use the term Israel, in this booklet, we mean the one elect of God, beginning with Abraham and ending with the last person called of God at the end of the present age. Israel is one.
There is but one family of God in Heaven and on the earth.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (Ephesians 3:14,15)
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Israel, God’s elect, God’s chosen, God’s royal priesthood, is one whole whether under the old covenant or the new. Israel is the Servant of the Lord, the Body of Christ, the Olive Tree, the Seed of Abraham.
If we would understand the Divine plan we must recognize that within the ranks of mankind there is a group of people whose names were called out before the beginning of the world. They compose the royal priesthood. They have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ so He will be the Firstborn among many brothers.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
This does not mean the elect will become the brothers of the Lord no matter how they behave. In order to gain their predestined inheritance they must seek continually to grasp that for which they have been grasped.
This does not mean everyone else is predestined to be lost. God is willing that all should be saved from wrath, that all should come to repentance.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
The “salvation” of the royal priesthood includes being in the moral image of Christ and being one with Christ in God as Christ is one with God.
The “salvation” of all the other members of mankind means at the final judgment they will not be hurled into the Lake of Fire but will be brought forward into the new heaven and earth reign of Christ, there to take their place as the citizens of the saved nations.
And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. (Revelation 21:24)
(Most of the newer translations say “nations” instead of “nations of those who are saved.” It makes no difference because it is obvious these nations are made up of saved people. The holy city is the royal priesthood that governs those of mankind who are saved but not members of God’s elect, God’s Israel.)
Israel (“he struggles with God”) came into being when Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees. At that point a huge wall was erected between God’s elect, His Church, and the remainder of mankind. God’s elect always are to be His witnesses, His priesthood, His representatives among mankind. Because of this God deals with each member of His elect in a very particular manner, while the remainder of people on the earth go about their business.
Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:7)
“You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no god formed, nor shall there be after Me. (Isaiah 43:10)
This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise. (Isaiah 43:21)
The physical nation of Israel to this day has preferred to be a part of the family of nations rather than a people holy to the Lord. Physical Israel has suffered greatly because of this rebellion against the Lord. In our day some of the leaders of the nation of Israel are striving so hard to be accepted by the secular nations they are contradicting and blaspheming their own Scriptures rather than humbly trusting in their Lord. It gives us no pleasure to say that more trouble is heading toward physical Israel if this attitude continues.
The Christian people also in numerous instances have refused to keep themselves separate from the world and have attempted to be like the world and please the world. Great suffering is ahead for the Christian churches because they have lost their “salt.”
In the day in which we are living, God once again is asking chosen individuals, both Jews and Gentiles, if they will consent to be His family, His special treasure among the nations. God wants His own people to be separate, holy to Himself, continually lifting up holy hands and singing praises to Him. Whoever will yield to God will become a part of the faithful remnant that is being drawn from the multitude of Christian churches. The majority of “believers” already are becoming part of “Babylon the Great.”
We are not advising people to leave their churches. Being separate to God is a condition of the heart. Perhaps the time will come when God’s true elect will be forced from the “Christian” assemblies, but that time may not be here as yet.
The three thousand-or-so years from the birth of Christ to the judgment of the White Throne, that is, to the final phase of the Judgment Seat of Christ, may be considered as one period of redemption. The first two thousand years we are referring to as the Church Age and the final thousand years as the Kingdom Age.
The pattern of two thousand and then one thousand may be observed in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The volume of the Holy Place was two thousand cubic cubits. The volume of the Most Holy Place was one thousand cubic cubits.
The purpose of the Church Age is to call out the members of the royal priesthood from the ranks of mankind. The purpose of the Kingdom Age is to perfect the royal priesthood and to reconcile the saved nations of the earth to the Lord.
The thousand-year Kingdom Age (often referred to as the Millennium) is the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement observed by the Jews. We may term this period the Age of Reconciliation, because during this time the members of the Bride of the Lamb will be wholly reconciled to the Lamb, and the members of the saved nations will be reconciled to the rulership of God in Christ in His saints. The world will come to know that God has sent Christ and that He loves the saints as He loves the Lord Jesus.
“I in them, and you in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me. (John 17:23)
The purpose of the coming of the Lord is to drive evil from the world. The Lord Jesus will return, call up His saints to Himself, and then descend upon the earth. All that is of Satan shall be removed. The sons of God will go throughout the earth, destroying sin and lifting the Divine curse from nature. The saints, the members of the royal priesthood, shall govern with the rod of iron. All who resist will be broken to pieces just as clay pots are smashed when struck with an iron rod.
We see a picture of the iron hand of the priesthood in the response of Phinehas, the priest of God, when he saw a couple fornicate:
Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand;
and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. (Numbers 25:7,8)
Notice the response of the Lord to the action of Phinehas.
“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.
“Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace;
‘and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’” (Numbers 25:11-13)
“An everlasting priesthood.”
When the sons of God return with the Lord Jesus they will not approach the nations of the earth with gentleness and patience. The time for gentleness and patience is now. In that Day the rebellious nations will bow the knee to the Lord Jesus or be removed from the earth.
The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)
The purpose of the coming of the Lord is not to carry His saints to Heaven but to bring justice to the nations. Considering the state of mankind today, can you think of anything more wonderful than the removing of sin from the earth? No more aborting of babies. No more mutilating of children. No more perversion, drunkenness, crime, treachery, evil men seeking to dominate other men. A world in which nature comes alive in the Spirit of righteousness.
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles [nations]. (Isaiah 42:1)
He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.” (Isaiah 42:4)
Before justice can prevail on the earth the sin and rebellion must be removed from it. The sin and rebellion will be removed at the hands of Christ and His mature saints. Christ—Head and Body—is the Servant of the Lord announced in the Book of Isaiah. Another name for Christ—Head and Body—is Israel.
Before Israel can return and establish justice on the earth, each member of Israel must be built up in the Head to full maturity—full maturity as measured by the fullness of Christ. Then and only then can Israel, the royal priesthood, return with the Lord.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
The Scriptures, Old and New Testament, are written primarily to God’s Israel. When the Lord Jesus came to earth He did not come to the world but to Israel. He came to the children of Abraham that they might become oaks of righteousness.
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)
The Old Testament Prophets addressed Israel:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Isaiah 1:1)
Not that which he saw concerning any of the Gentile nations, but concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Several of the Prophets did address the Gentile nations. God has had and still has a multitude of His chosen who are Gentiles by race. But the Word of God is directed primarily toward those who are of true Israel, both Jews and Gentiles, not toward those who are not of Zion.
The coming of Christ was to the Jews:
Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (Luke 2:34)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the saints:
To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
The warnings in the Gospel accounts are to the Lord’s servants:
“But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12)
The term Christ means “the One anointed with oil.” The Lord Jesus was anointed with the Spirit of God to build up Israel until each member is strong in the Lord, living in righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion [the Church], to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
“To console those who mourn in Zion”! Not in the world but in Zion! We are emphasizing this because the churches often view their responsibility as that of saving and delivering the world. The Lord has His sheep and they know His voice. We show our love for the Lord when we feed His sheep, that is, the members of the royal priesthood.
The gifts and ministries given by the ascended Christ are for the purpose of building the members of the Body of Christ until they attain unity and maturity—maturity as measured by the full stature of Christ Himself.
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of [maturity as measured by] the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:13)
This is the purpose of the two thousand years of the Church Age.
What will take place when the Body attains maturity? The Lord will call the saints up to Himself (where the Carcass, the slain Lamb is, there the eagles will be gathered). Then the whole Servant of the Lord will descend from the sky and bring justice to the meek of the earth.
Notice what follows the creating of the oaks of righteousness, the building up of the members of the Body of Christ.
And they [God’s saints] shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:4)
First the building of Zion. Then the return of Zion to the earth and the restoring of Paradise to the earth at the hands of the sons of God (actually God in the Son in the sons).
This, then, is the pattern: two thousand years to form the royal priesthood, and then one thousand years spent in reconciling man to God.
After the thousand-year Age of Reconciliation the earth and the heaven will flee from the Presence of Christ and the dead will be judged.
Those who are saved at that time will enter the eternal reign of Christ. Those who are lost at that time will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the devil and his angels.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
“and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28,29)
The Elect Receive Eternal Life in Advance of the Saved of Mankind
Let us turn now to the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John. In this chapter the Lord Jesus speaks especially to the royal priesthood.
“as you have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. (John 17:2)
‘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. (Exodus 19:5)
Notice the parallels: “Authority over all flesh.” “All the earth is mine.” “To as many as you have given him.” “A special treasure to me.”
All the earth belongs to the Lord Jesus. He retains authority over all people. But found among the members of mankind is a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen people destined to act for eternity as priests between God and the members of the saved nations.
God has given the chosen people to Christ. Christ gives them eternal life.
“I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, you gave them to Me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)
The members of the royal priesthood have belonged to God from the beginning of time. God gives them to Christ. The elect keep God’s word by following the Lord Jesus.
Notice the distinction between the world and the royal priesthood, those who belong to God in this special manner.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given Me, for they are Yours. (John 17:9)
Again, the distinction between the people of the world and those whom God has given to the Lord Jesus.
“I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)
When we truly are living a holy life to the Lord, the people of the world will hate us. We are not to seek the friendship of the world. Whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
James, the Jew, was speaking to God’s Israel!
The members of the royal priesthood are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Our task is to represent God, to bear witness both of the goodness and the severity of God. We are to inform the world of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. We are to announce that God has appointed a day in which He will judge all of mankind by the Man whom He has raised from the dead, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)
The Word of God is a rebuke and warning to the people of the world.
The royal priesthood is not a part of the world system, of the secular nations of the earth.
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)
The royal priesthood has been chosen from among the members of the human race and no longer is part of the nations.
We are emphasizing the separation of the royal priesthood because the concept of being a chosen nation has often been offensive to Jews and Christians alike. This distaste is proof of the spirit of rebellion in us.
We prefer to be part of the human race rather than accept the fact that God has drawn us to Himself so we may live a holy life and praise Him continually, at the same time revealing His Person and will to the peoples of the earth.
One time the writer was hitchhiking home from high school. There were a number of students strung out along the road waiting for a ride. A car pulled up a short distance ahead of where I was standing. One or two aggressive students who were nearer to the car rushed to get in. But the man pointed back to me. Evidently he knew my parents and wanted to give me a ride. I was embarrassed and moved slowly toward the car. The man became impatient because other students were attempting to press in ahead of me, but he waited. I finally got in and we drove off.
That incident has stayed in my memory over the last fifty-five years, probably because of my embarrassment in front of the other students and because the driver was upset that I was not more aggressive. The incident is true of Divine election. We may be embarrassed in front of other people to keep ourselves separate as being special to the Lord. But let us not make the “driver” impatient. He has selected us for His own reasons. Our part is to “accept the ride.”
By keeping ourselves separate we do not mean we are to be filled with religious pride and haughtiness or to hold ourselves aloof from the members of our family who still are involved in the world. Rather we are to fulfill all family, social, and vocational responsibilities cheerfully as to the Lord. But in our heart we are serving the Lord and Him alone. We are not a part of the world system.
“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me. (John 17:21)
The above verse is one of the most startling of the entire Scriptures. It reveals to us that the members of the elect, the royal priesthood, are to become one with the Lord Jesus in the Father until the Whole is one Expression of the Father.
As we said previously, the term salvation is used in two different ways in the New Testament. “Salvation” sometimes refers to the entire program of bringing the elect, the royal priesthood, all the way from the moral image of Satan and the spirit of Satan to the moral image of Christ and untroubled union with the Father through Christ. “Salvation” is used also to refer to preservation from the wrath of God.
We see the aged Apostle Paul pressing toward the fullness of the salvation offered to the royal priesthood.
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Obviously Paul is speaking of more than salvation from wrath.
Salvation sometimes means primarily to be preserved from the wrath of God in the Day of Judgment.
and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (I Thessalonians 1:10)
The above verse was written to members of the royal priesthood, to “the church of the Thessalonians.” This fact tells us that during the present age people are delivered from wrath, the primary meaning of “salvation,” and then invited to run the race that leads to the fullness of salvation, that is, to possess Christ fully.
We see the two aspects, salvation from the Divine wrath, and then membership in the Church, the Israel of God, in the following verse.
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
On the one hand we read that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus and is baptized shall be saved. Then we find numerous exhortations to lay aside our life and run with patience the race set before us. He who endures to the end shall be saved. Perhaps the concept of the race, the battle to apprehend the promise of the Lord, is directed especially toward the royal priesthood.
Let us add a reminder that if one is called to the priesthood he cannot say, “I will settle for naked salvation from wrath and then go about my business in the world.” There may be some who will attempt to “make a deal” with God in this manner. But the end is destruction. The members of the royal priesthood are not judged according to those with a lesser calling but with a much stricter judgment. The higher our calling the more is given to us. The more that is given to us the heavier are the requirements. Much shall be required of them to whom much is given. Jerusalem always receives double for her sins.
The Book of Hebrews is a stern warning to experienced Jewish saints who, it seems, were not as intense as when they first put their faith in Jesus. The writer of Hebrews could not be more severe in his warning to them that they will experience Divine judgment and destruction if they do not press forward into the rest of God.
but if it bears thorns and briars [neglectful Christians], it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8)
We have never read a Bible commentator who left the text of Hebrews 6:4-8 intact. Every editor rushes to assure the believers, sometimes making elaborate analyses of the Greek text, that no person who makes a genuine profession of faith, no individual called to the royal priesthood, could ever be near to cursing and then burned in the end.
The editors and commentators who attempt to manipulate the plain, clear Word of God are false prophets and teachers. Our land is filled with error because of false teachers—teachers who are so filled with the spirit of humanism they are willing to pervert the Scriptures. They are on the side of people rather than on the side of the Lord. They are rebelling against God though they are not aware of it.
The following verse, Hebrews 6:9, reveals clearly that the author is referring to genuine believers when he warns them about falling away.
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. (Hebrews 6:9)
The writer of the Book of Hebrews was reminding the saints that the fruit of righteousness must accompany their salvation. If it does not, the heavenly Farmer will come around to see why His crop is failing to bear fruit.
It is time for the Christian people to cast off the current teaching that a believer can never put himself in jeopardy of the fires of Divine judgment. We have been lied to. We need to awake to righteousness and cease our sinning before the Judge comes and chastens us severely.
Let us turn now to the third and fourth chapters of the Book of Hebrews and note the manner in which God deals with His chosen.
From Egypt to the Land of Promise
Before we go further, let us define the terms used in the third and fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
Egypt refers to the spirit of the world, which we leave when we believe in Christ, repent of our wicked ways, and are baptized in water.
The rest of God is speaking of our goal, our land of promise. In these two chapters the expression “partakers of Christ” is synonymous with attaining the goal, the land of milk and honey.
Egypt is the spirit of the world. The “rest” of God is referring to our overcoming the enemies that come against us until we are in the moral image of Christ and are dwelling in untroubled union with Christ. We have ceased from our own works and are resting in God’s perfect will. Such rest is possible only as through Christ we overcome our love for the world, the lusts of our flesh, and our personal ambition, for it is these three factors that keep us performing our own works, that prevent us from resting in the will of Christ.
One finds throughout the Book of Hebrews a stern warning to Christians who are not pressing into the rest of God. Let us look closely at comments in the third and fourth chapters.
but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
“If we hold fast the confidence.” Our salvation always is conditional, always is an opportunity we either grasp or let slip.
As we study this section of Hebrews we must keep in mind that the picture is that of God’s Israel, not of the salvation of the world but of the royal priesthood. Notice we are not saved, in the sense of becoming the house of Christ, unless we continue pressing forward with joy and confidence throughout our lifetime on the earth. We must endure to the end if we would be saved.
The concept of our not being saved unless we continue serving God steadfastly, moving each day toward the rest of God, the fullness of Christ, is absolutely revolutionary in our time. The current teaching is that we are saved the moment we “accept Christ.” The Scriptures teach we are saved the moment we accept Christ provided we continue in faith until we finish our course.
Perhaps this is a good point at which to give an overview of the Divine plan of redemption.
To begin with, the God of Heaven sent His beloved Son to the earth to die for the sins of the whole world. Sin is never a problem for anyone as long as he or she does not resist Christ when His will is made known.
And He Himself is the propitiation [appeasement] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (I John 2:2)
The Lord Jesus Christ appeased the wrath of God concerning the sins of the whole world. No more sacrifice for sin is needed. By the same token, the whole world belongs to Christ in that He paid the price for it.
It is God’s plan to establish a kingdom on the earth in which His will always is performed. God’s will shall be imposed on the earth by force, at the return of Christ and His saints, and then maintained under the rulership of Christ and His saints.
Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)
There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)
“They [the members of the royal priesthood] shall reign for ever and ever.”
To be “saved” is to be brought into the Kingdom of God. To be “lost” is to be denied entrance to the Kingdom and to be confined forever in the Lake of Fire, eternally shut away from the Presence of God. This is a fate so terrible as to be incomprehensible. Think of being confined for eternity in an area of torment along with Satan, his angels, and the demons, as well as the most wicked people of history!
The Lord Jesus began His Kingdom with twelve people. The Lord taught the multitude and commissioned seventy disciples to go forth preaching the good news. But His main effort was directed toward the twelve.
From the twelve, and those who followed them, the Word of God has been carried to every nation, calling out those whom God has chosen to be part of the royal priesthood. The Gospel call never has been randomly addressed. It is true that whoever will choose to do so may receive Christ. But no individual ever at any time is able to come to Christ unless the Father draws him.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16)
Notice in Acts (below) that while the Apostles preached the Word to everyone, it was only those who were ordained to eternal life, that is, the chosen members of the royal priesthood, who were able to believe. This is the same pattern that we found in John, Chapter 17.
Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
What about those who were not ordained to eternal life? The answer is, they were not chosen from the foundation of the world to be part of the royal priesthood.
This may be a difficult concept for us to accept because we are so filled with the spirit of humanism, but it is the clear teaching of the Scriptures.
The resurrected Christ has given gifts of ministry to the members of His Body, to the royal priesthood. The purpose of the gifts is to build each member of the royal priesthood into a perfect man as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of [maturity as measured by] the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Each saint is to press forward to become part of the Body of Christ, and at the same time to be ministering his gifts to the other members of the royal priesthood. He or she also is to be bringing the Gospel to outsiders as the Lord directs. In addition there are all sorts of good works that the saints are to do, such as helping the poor and praying with all who ask for assistance—especially those who are of the household of faith.
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)
in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, (Titus 2:7)
Something else is to take place with the members of the royal priesthood, the Body of Christ. They are to bear witness to the heavens and the earth of the Person, way, will, and purpose and Kingdom of the Lord God of Heaven.
The gifts and ministries of the Spirit have as their purpose the building of the Body of Christ, which is the holy Lampstand of God. As the Lampstand is being constructed it is giving light—light that makes clear to angels and men the Person and will of God.
to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by [through] the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 3:10)
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
In the present century there has been considerable emphasis on evangelism. The idea is that every Christian has been charged by the Great Commission to “go out and get souls saved.”
There are some considerations that need to be added if this admonition is to be scriptural and fruitful.
The Great Commission was given to eleven men specially chosen by the Lord. The record of the Book of Acts reveals that the Apostles of the Lamb were greatly revered by the believers as being representatives of the Lord.
Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. (Acts 5:13)
The Great Commission was not to go out and “get souls saved” but to make disciples, teaching them to obey the commandments of the Lord.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19,20)
The parables of Jesus teach us that the Gospel of the Kingdom is seed that is sown that hopefully will grow into a great “tree,” a Christ-filled personality producing righteous behavior.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,
“which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31,32)
The emphasis on evangelism in our day tends to be a blind proselytizing with little or no understanding of the distinction between the world and the royal priesthood, no sense of the Lord’s timing or of His calling out an elect, no willingness to sow the seed of the Kingdom and then wait for God to give the increase. Instead there is a blind stress on getting people to make a profession of belief. Those who do make the profession are counted to see how many “decided for Christ.”
Today we use the expression “winning souls for Christ.” This expression is not found in the New Testament. It may be true that by this saying we mean persuading people to receive the Lord Jesus. However, when we use an expression not found in the Scriptures it probably is because there is a shade of meaning that is not scriptural.
The expression “winning souls for Christ” is used as though the Lord is looking down to see how many people we can persuade to receive His salvation. The work of the Kingdom does not proceed in this blind manner. Rather, the Holy Spirit speaks to those whom the Father is giving to the Lord Jesus. The Lord then receives them and gives them eternal life.
We are not teaching that Christian people have no place in the work of the ministry. Rather we are stating that the true work of the true ministry proceeds as the Lord Jesus directs His workers, not as they figure out what the need is and attempt to meet the need by their own wisdom, strength, and money.
The Lord commanded us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into the harvest. The directive of the Lord has been changed into, you go forth as a laborer. There is an uncrossable gulf between praying that the Lord would send forth laborers, on the one hand, and deciding to go because the fields are white for harvest, on the other hand.
The Apostle Paul toward the end of his life was attempting to “win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). “I count all things but loss… that I may win Christ.”
Some well-meaning teachers have quoted Paul as saying “I count all things but loss that I may win some to Christ.”
This may appear to be a harmless alteration of the Word of God, but the spirit behind it is that of Babylon, of attempting to build the Kingdom of God by human means.
Our argument here is not academic trivia, something impractical, harmful, or of no consequence. It is true rather that the current attempts to “save” everybody in the world produce Babylon, not the Kingdom of God.
One minister recently claimed that if he had a hundred million dollars he could “win the world.” A Christian writer at one time stated that the Kingdom of God can move only as money is provided. These two incidents give us some idea of the blind proselytizing that characterizes the work of the ministry.
The idea of “church growth” is to get as many people into a building as possible regardless of the calling of the Lord or the growth of the individual in Christ. The concept of sowing the seed of the Kingdom is not always present. The worth of the church is measured by the number of heads present on Sunday morning.
Every sincere, experienced believer knows it is impossible to judge the worth of an assembly of believers by the number of members. Still the “numbers game” continues to be played with very few exceptions.
The Lord said He would build His Church. The Lord adds to the Church daily such as should be saved.
Sometimes there is work for us to do. Timothy was charged to “do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5). But every gift and ministry must be guided by the Lord. If it is not, the product is worthless in the Kingdom of God. The Book of Acts reveals clearly that Paul was guided in all he did.
After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. (Acts 16:7)
“for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:10)
Of special importance is the understanding that the purpose of the present age, the Church Age, is to call out and build up the Body of Christ. Some passages of Scripture inform us that when the Lord perfects a remnant of saints He will appear with them. At that time many nations of people will come to the Lord.
The evangelist is one of the major ministries of the Body of Christ. The goal of the evangelist during the Church Age is to recruit new members for the Body of Christ. He is one of those who builds up the Body in this sense.
In a larger sense, all members of the Body are “evangelists.” To evangelize is to bring the “good news” to those around us. Each member of the Body by means of his or her unique gift, whether giving, making intercession, being helpful, teaching, administrating, “evangelizes” in the sense of helping bring the good news to other people.
It is important, when discussing the role of evangelism during the Church Age, to recognize the difference between evangelizing and witnessing. Formal evangelizing is the process of leading those people whom God has called, His elect, to a belief in Christ so they may receive the forgiveness of their sins. The candidates for salvation are then to repent and be baptized in water.
Witnessing, on the other hand, is the act of revealing the Person and will of God. Each member of the Body of Christ is to be a witness to the heavens and the earth of the Person, will, way, and coming Kingdom of God.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
While Acts 1:8 was spoken to the Apostles whom the Lord had chosen, it is true that every member of the Body of Christ, of God’s Israel, of the royal priesthood, is to reveal in himself or herself the Personality and will of the Lord God of Heaven.
Evangelizing is successful when the Gospel has been brought to someone whom God has ordained to eternal life and he or she repents and receives Christ. Witnessing is successful when the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose has been portrayed clearly, whether or not the witness is received.
The result of attempting to minister apart from the guidance of the Lord is that today numerous churchgoers have never really met the Lord. If the demands of discipleship were presented to them they would flee from the Gospel of the Kingdom. Many ministers, realizing that if they present the demands of discipleship they will lose most of their members, soothe their congregations with flattery and platitudes. The preacher may speak of living a righteous life, of presenting our body as a living sacrifice, of laying down our life, taking up our cross, and following Jesus. But he understands and the congregation understands that these are things that are said in church but no one is actually going to do them.
Such churches are worthless. They are not being built by Christ. Both the minister and his congregation accept the fact that the people have no intention of offering their body to God as a living sacrifice. The game goes on!
Intense persecution is ahead for the Christian churches in the Western world. The true members of the royal priesthood, the elect of God who were predestined from the beginning of the world, will stand true to the Lord Jesus. They will be refined until they are a bride without blemish.
The great majority of “believers” will grow cold. They never have been ordained to the royal priesthood. They were brought into Christianity by the devices of the Christian “ministry.” They do not know the Lord. They are not His sheep. They are churchgoers now, but in the time of persecution they will compromise with the authorities until the Holy Spirit leaves them completely. They are members of Babylon, not of the royal priesthood.
However, it always remains true that any person at any time can choose to serve the Lord. Any “vessel for dishonor” can become a “vessel for honor” by turning away from sin and following the Lord Jesus. No person will be able to say to the Lord, I truly wanted you but you did not want me. Whenever someone seeks the Lord with all his heart the Lord will be found!
Back now to the Book of Hebrews.
but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
We are not speaking here of the members of the saved nations. Their time of salvation will come in the future. Notice this in the following verse:
“But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. (Revelation 11:2)
The “court which is outside the temple” refers to the nations of people that God will save at the coming of the Lord. They are the “sheep” of Matthew, Chapter 25. The nations of “sheep” are not judged (measured) at this time and the spirit of Satan continues to dominate them.
The goal of becoming a part of Christ’s house is the goal of the royal priesthood. Becoming a part of Christ’s house includes vastly more than just being saved from the wrath of God, although the members of the house indeed are saved from the wrath of God.
The nations of people on earth will also be saved from the wrath of God provided they believe in the Lord when He is presented to them. But they will not be made part of the house of Christ. The house of Christ is the eternal Temple of God, the new Jerusalem, the holy city that will govern the nations of saved people for eternity.
Each member of the royal priesthood must understand he is a member of Christ’s house only as long as he continues in confidence and rejoicing to the end of His discipleship.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; (Hebrews 3:12)
It is entirely possible for an individual to be called out of the world (the meaning of the term church) and then to depart from the living God. If we are to pursue our goal of becoming the house of Christ we must, through God’s grace, overcome every enemy that comes against us.
but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
“Exhort one another daily.” It is not enough for us to get together on Sunday. The believers must be in contact with one another each day so if a member begins to be overcome by sin we can exhort that person concerning his or her need to continue in Christ.
The Word of God is living and powerful—sharper than any two-edged sword. As we make our way through the wilderness of this life the Word of God keeps cutting deeper into our personality. As it does, the love of the world, our lusts, and our self-love and self-will keep being exposed at a deeper level. The instant the Word of God exposes the darkness in us at the new level our pursuit of God is challenged.
The question is, now that we are confronted with this new evil, this new temptation, this new trial, what will we do?
The Israelites in the wilderness were continually faced with thirst, hunger, doubt, fear, discouragement, human enemies, discomfort. How did God’s chosen people, His royal priesthood, respond?
They responded by questioning God’s intentions toward them. As a result they all died in the wilderness.
Why has the failure of Israel been written in the New Testament? It has been written in order to warn God’s royal priests of today that they will be tested in the “wilderness.” If they cast away their confidence in God they will perish without becoming a part of Christ’s house.
Two factors are of the greatest importance if we are to partake of Christ. One factor is belief in God’s goodness and faithfulness. The other factor is obedience to all that God says. If a saint permits the pains and doubts of his wilderness experience to cause unbelief and disobedience to enter his personality he is in danger of not becoming a partaker of Christ.
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, (Hebrews 3:14)
We saints, the members of the royal priesthood, enter the rest of God on the condition we continue stedfastly in Christ every day of our pilgrimage in the world. If we stumble we are to get back up on our feet and fight on. The Lord will forgive us as we repent and keep on pressing ahead in Him.
Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? (Hebrews 3:17)
We know that of the generation of adults that left Egypt, all but two died without entering the land of promise. The writer of Hebrews is warning us that if we abandon our joyous hope and confidence in the Lord Jesus, turning away from our discipleship because of unbelief or disobedience, we will not be a partaker of Christ.
The Rest of God
And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? (Hebrews 3:18)
Precisely what is the rest of God? What does it mean to become part of the house of Christ, to partake of Christ?
What is the new-covenant counterpart of Canaan, the land of promise, the land of milk and honey, the promised-land rest of God?
God calls each member of the royal priesthood out of Egypt. The calling out from Egypt means the saint has left the world and, as a future priest, is now making his or her way toward a life of separation and service to God. Then the saint is confronted with the hunger, thirst, pain, discomfort, and general deprivation of life in the wilderness. The goal set before him is a land where he can dwell in peace with the Lord, being a firstfruits to God of the nations of the earth.
The individual begins life in the moral image of Satan and in bondage to the spirit of Satan. The blood of Calvary gives him the authority to leave Satan and move toward the moral image of the Lord and union with the Lord.
In order to enter the rest of God, the place of perfect abiding in Christ in the bosom of the Father, the believer must battle numerous enemies that would keep him from being able to rest in perfect, untroubled union with God; from finding the total joy of having his will be identical with the will of the Father for him or her.
Each member of the elect was assigned a place of rest in the Father. The works were finished from the foundation of the world. Therefore our orientation to life should not be that of striving for our own survival and comfort, attempting to gain as much pleasure as we can, or working day and night to build a memorial to ourselves. Since God has already determined our role in the Kingdom we should occupy our days with seeking God’s will for our life.
Canaan, the land of promise, is a type of the rest of God because we must fight to enter the rest just as the Israelites had to fight to enter Canaan. We enter the rest of God when all of God’s enemies that are in us are brought under subjection to the Lord Jesus.
The Sabbath day is a type of the rest of God because when we are in the Divine rest we cease from our own works and delight to do the Father’s will just as the Lord Jesus delighted to do the Father’s will.
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13,14)
The Lord Jesus always abides in the Sabbath rest of God and each member of His Body is to be with Him where He is.
Paradise and every other good thing is added to us when we are at rest in the Presence of Christ. But the most important aspect of our inheritance is the Lord Himself.
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
We have to labor to enter the rest of God. God does all the fighting when we come out of Egypt. God does not do all the fighting as we go through the wilderness and enter Canaan. We have to fight as the Lord guides and assists us.
The Canaanites were fierce warriors who were defending their farms and families. Satan and his legions are fierce warriors who are claiming the earth and earth’s peoples for their own possession.
The earth and earth’s peoples are the inheritance of Christ and those who are coheirs with Christ. The saved nations are our inheritance.
Let each one of us make certain that he pursues Christ until he inherits all of that to which he has been predestined. We must continue joyfully and stedfastly in belief and obedience if we are to be made a partaker of Christ.
The Divine Calling
There are numerous passages in the New Testament stating that the members of the royal priesthood are called out from the world for the special purposes of God. We already have mentioned a few of these passages.
“For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)
“As many as the Lord our God will call.” Not to everyone but to those whom God shall call.
“for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:10)
God has those who belong to Him in a special manner. There were many such in Corinth.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
“Called according to his purpose.”
(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), (Romans 9:11)
“The purpose of God according to election.”
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (I Corinthians 1:26)
Not many are called to be members of the royal priesthood. We are not speaking of being called to be saved, because God is willing that all be saved. Whoever will choose to do so may come to the Lord.
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (II Timothy 1:9)
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [immorality, lust] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
It must be obvious to the reader that we are not endlessly repeating some remote verse of the Scriptures. The concept of calling and election are major premises of the Old and New Testaments. They have been abandoned in our day because of the pressure of humanistic thinking. Humanistic thinking would never permit the doctrine that some people were specifically called out from the ranks of mankind to occupy a special place in God’s Kingdom.
Humanism is man making himself God. Humanism is of the spirit of rebellion against God. We are rebelling against God when we tell Him that He cannot love Jacob and hate Esau before they were born; that He cannot harden Pharaoh’s heart; that He cannot give Egypt as a ransom for Israel, His chosen people.
We shall never understand God or His salvation until we are willing to let God be God, to call out from the world whomever He wishes, to exalt one person and put down another. The potter has authority and power over the clay. We are in no position to question God’s rights or His judgment.
There are other verses we could add to set forth the doctrine of Divine calling. We think we have included enough, and the inquirer can discover many additional passages. Salvation is of the Lord. God knows those who belong to Him. If we are to grow in the Lord and minister effectively we must recognize that we are saints—holy ones called out from the world by the Lord. We must recognize also that throughout the world there are others whom God has called to be part of the royal priesthood. God will show each one of us his particular role in building the Body of Christ.
In addition we are to be bearing a true witness of God so the secular governments will have a moral light by which to govern people according to God’s will. Christians are the salt of the earth. They make the earth palatable to God. They are the light of the world so all people may understand how they can live in the will of God.
The End-time Revival
The two thousand years from the birth of Christ compose the Church Age. During this period the emphasis is on calling out God’s elect and building them into the image of Christ, and pressing them into untroubled union with God.
But what about the remainder of mankind?
When the Lord builds Zion to His satisfaction He will appear with His saints and holy angels. Then the people of the nations will be judged, some being assigned to eternal life and some cast into the Lake of Fire.
Much is stated in both the Old and New Testaments concerning the nations that will enter salvation when the royal priesthood is ready to appear with the Lord.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
The nations will believe in the Lord Jesus when the Church has entered the rest of union with Christ in God.
“I in them, and you in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me. (John 17:23)
The world is waiting to see the good works that will be demonstrated by the saints when they are in the rest of God.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:12)
The day of visitation is when God comes to judge the world. All the ends of the earth will come to the Church when the Church is filled with the Glory of the Lord.
The Gentiles [nations] shall come to your [God’s elect] light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:3)
Righteousness and praise shall appear to the nations through the Church.
For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
Notice the following passage:
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns.
The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name. (Isaiah 62:1,2)
One translator, in his haste to show that God’s people will never be righteous except by imputation (legally ascribed righteousness), inserted the adjective “imputed” before the word “righteousness” in Isaiah 62:1. The insertion of “imputed,” signifying an ascribed righteousness, is neither found in the Hebrew text nor is it even logical. How can the nations see imputed righteousness or walk by the light of an ascribed righteousness? Great is the blindness that rests on Christian thinking!
The Lord Jesus described how some nations will enter into the Kingdom of God, and some into the Lake of Fire, when He returns to the earth.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31,32)
The present writer is not certain whether the sheep and goat judgment will take place with living nations of people at the return of the Lord, or whether the sheep and goat judgment is part of the White Throne judgment that will occur at the termination of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
If the sheep and goat separation is to take place at the return of the Lord, this would mean that at the beginning of the thousand-year period some nations would enter eternal life and some would go into the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:34)
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41)
“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
Consider the consequences of some nations having eternal life and being in the Kingdom of God, and others being in the Lake of Fire, throughout the thousand-year period.
This would mean that the righteous nations, being in the Kingdom of God and possessing eternal life, would be being ruled with a rod of iron and broken in pieces. This would not be impossible because even the righteous of today are saved with difficulty.
‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; (Revelation 2:27)
This would mean that the righteous nations, being in the Kingdom of God and possessing eternal life, would be among the nations that revolt against the saints at the end of the thousand-year period. Again, this is not impossible because we may notice that people that have served the Lord for many years will meet some hurdle that will cause them to rebel against the Lord. Satan deceives them in some manner or another and they do not keep themselves strong enough in the Lord to overcome the temptation.
and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp [fortress] of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. (Revelation 20:8,9)
This would mean also at the White Throne judgment, which takes place after the thousand-year period, after the present earth and heaven have passed away with a great noise, the “sheep” would be resurrected and stand before God and be judged once again. We know that the “sheep” would not experience resurrection prior to the end of the thousand-year period because only the royal priesthood is raised when the Lord come. The rest of the dead must wait until the end of the thousand years.
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This [living again] is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5)
If the sheep and goat judgment takes place at the beginning of the thousand years, when the Lord returns, then the “goats,” being members of nations alive on the earth at the coming of the Lord, would be cast into the Lake of Fire before they died physically. The Scripture teaches that it is appointed to men once to die and after this be judged.
We understand that the Beast and the False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire without having died physically, but we believe this to be an exception.
Perhaps the reader can understand why we are not certain about the placing the sheep and goat judgment at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
If we put the sheep and goat judgment at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, then the sheep and goat judgment becomes the judgment of the White Throne, which is the Judgment Seat of Christ. We see no problem arising from such a placement.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And anyone not found written in the book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
The future, then, would look something like this.
Because of persecution, and also the abundance of sin, the present Christian churches will be divided into nominal believers and a holy, faithful remnant. The nominal believers will join with the great Babylon, the huge religious institution of the last days, while the remnant are driven from the cities of the earth and made ready for the Lord by the things they suffer.
When the Lord returns He will call up to Himself His holy remnant, consisting of both Gentiles and Jews who have fled from the face of Antichrist.
This is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This [living again] is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power [authority], but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
Here is the royal priesthood. The invitation to membership in the royal priesthood must be grasped by giving one’s life completely to the Lord.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
Christ and His remnant, His army, His priesthood, will return to the earth in glorified bodies. They will deliver Jerusalem from Antichrist and drive Satan and all his followers from the earth. The nations that are left after the Battle of Armageddon will be governed with a rod of iron. The nations will go up to Jerusalem to learn the righteous ways of the Lord. The law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Life will continue on the earth much as today except that righteous spirits will be governing from the spiritual thrones in the air. In some respects the thousand-year Kingdom Age is a continuation of the Church Age. During this time the Church, the Bride of the Lamb, will be perfected.
The thousand-year Kingdom Age is the third thousand-year period, the “third day.”
After two days [2000 years] He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. (Hosea 6:2)
And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’ (Luke 13:32)
At the end of the thousand years the nations, having been governed by the saints throughout the Kingdom Age, will be seduced by Satan and will revolt against the saints. Fire will come down from the heaven and consume them.
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp [fortress] of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. (Revelation 20:9)
Christ now appears on His great White Throne. The earth and the heaven flee from His Presence. All the dead will be raised and stand before that throne. How this will be possible we do not know since there will no earth or sky. But we know that Enoch, Elijah, and the Lord Jesus are in the spirit realm today in their bodies, and so what is possible in the spirit realm is not known to us at this time.
The only people possessing resurrected bodies at the beginning of the White Throne judgment will be the Lord Jesus and the royal priesthood. Everyone else will stand before that throne and be judged according to his works.
For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear [be revealed, manifest] before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
The dead great and small will be there. The great “sea” of people will be there. Those in “death” will be there. Those in Hades will be there.
Whoever is not found in the Book of Life will be put into the Lake of Fire. This is what it means to be lost.
Whoever is found in the Book of Life will be brought forward into the new heaven and earth reign of the Lord Jesus. This is what it means to be saved.
There will appear a new sky and a new earth—unbelievably greater in size and glory than anything we ever could imagine. Down from the new sky will descend the holy city, the Bride of the Lamb, the royal priesthood, the new Jerusalem.
All the saved nations of people will walk in the light of the royal priesthood. The saints will rule over the nations on the new earth for eternity.
Seeing we have opportunity to be a member of the royal priesthood and to inherit all these marvels, especially to inherit the members of the saved nations as well as the farthest reaches of the earth, let us lay aside every weight that would hinder us and fight on until at last we enter the rest of God and are made an eternal part of Christ.
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:7)
(“The Royal Priesthood”, 3594-1)