THE THREE SEPARATIONS OF THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
Copyright © 1992 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 are two issues presented in the New Testament writings. One issue is that of being saved, of not being cast away from the Presence of God. The other issue is that of attaining membership in the royal priesthood, of participating in the first resurrection from the dead.
There are three separations that must be experienced by every member of the royal priesthood: separation from the world, separation from sin, and separation from self-rule.
Table of Contents
THE THREE SEPARATIONS OF THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1,2)
There actually are two issues presented in the New Testament writings, although they are not emphasized as such, and the terms involved cannot be stressed so as to create a doctrine that holds the two issues apart that we may select one or the other.
It is clear, nevertheless, that there are two issues. It is of practical help to the saint to understand the two issues or he may come short of the Glory of God.
- One issue is that of being “saved,” of not being cast away from the Presence of God in the Day of the Lord.
- The other issue is that of attaining membership in the royal priesthood, of participating in the first resurrection from among the dead.
In order to be saved from Divine wrath we must believe in the Lord Jesus, repent of our ungodly behavior, and be baptized in water.
In order to attain membership in the royal priesthood we must overcome our love for the world, for sin, for all that is of Satan. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus every day. We must be crucified with Christ so He may live in us.
The Apostle Paul, toward the end of his life, still was seeking to attain that to which he had been called. Paul was not pressing toward the mark of being saved, of not being cast into the Lake of Fire (Philippians 3:8-12). Paul was seeking to attain the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood.
All of us indeed must press diligently into whatever truth is given to us or face the consequences of having neglected our salvation.
There is no doubt that today’s standard for being a Christian comes woefully short of the declarations of Scripture. Paul’s goal that he was pressing toward so determinedly may be something beyond what we customarily associate with being “saved” (Philippians 3:8-15).
To participate in the parousia, to appear with Christ at His coming, to attain to the first resurrection—the resurrection of the royal priesthood (Revelation 20:4-6), to be a king and priest of God, may require far more than merely believing in the Lord Jesus and being baptized in water.
Believing and being baptized in water are sufficient for the obtaining of salvation (Mark 16:16) but they are only the beginning of our entrance into the royal priesthood, only the first step in becoming a member of the Body of Christ.
Being a king and priest of God is not handed to the believer by imputation (ascribed righteousness). Becoming a part of the eternal Tabernacle of God (Revelation 21:3), the new Jerusalem, requires a severe training—a training that numerous believers of our day may not be willing to undergo.
Let us emphasize that by separating the training of the royal priesthood from the position of being spared destruction in the day of God’s wrath, we are not suggesting that one may choose to settle for basic salvation and not press forward to the attaining of glory. God always will judge us in terms of our individual calling.
The members of the royal priesthood were selected before the world was brought into being.
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)
God is not willing that a person, who has been chosen from the creation of the world to be a member of the Body of Christ, decide to believe in Christ, be baptized in water, and then neglect to pursue the heavenly calling that rests on him. To neglect our individual calling is to invite God’s anger. We shall be punished for our disobedience. Neglecting to use one’s Kingdom talents can result in dismissal to outer darkness (Matthew 25:30). We are “unprofitable” servants at our peril.
The purpose of making a distinction between basic salvation and membership in the royal priesthood is to enable the saint to understand the reason for the seemingly endless dealings of the Lord with him. It may help the believer to realize he is not merely being harassed by the devil while he is waiting to go to Heaven. Rather, he is being separated to God so he may be able to serve in the role of a king and priest of God.
Do we suppose we will be invited to ascend the most powerful throne of the universe without the most severe, strenuous preparation? Even the Lord Jesus Himself learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
There are three separations that must be experienced by every member of the royal priesthood, of the Body of Christ:
- Separation from the world.
- Separation from sin.
- Separation from self-rule.
Separation from the World
The saved peoples of the earth will be divided into two groups: (1) the members of Israel, of the Body of Christ; and (2) the remainder of mankind. During the present era, the Church Age, those who are saved are added to the Church. When the Lord returns there will be multitudes who will be saved into the Kingdom of God but who will not become a part of the Church, the Bride of the Lamb.
The division between the Church and the world began when Abram was called out from Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham’s Seed is Christ and all who are members of Christ.
And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. (Genesis 11:31)
The calling out from Ur, and then from Haran, of Abram and his family marks the beginning of the calling out from the world of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ. All the elect, the Seed of promise, left Ur with Abraham.
The calling out of Abram is not a type of salvation, as in the case of Lot being removed from Sodom. Ur was not destroyed as soon as Abram left. One would not find in the Scriptures, we believe, that the calling out of Abram from Ur is a type of salvation from wrath. Rather, it is the calling out from the world of the royal priesthood.
Abram was not called out from the world to condemn the world but to save the world.
Notice the result of Abraham’s obedience:
“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:18)
“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” All the nations of the earth will be blessed. This was not said of Lot.
It is one matter to be saved, as was Lot. It is another matter to be called as a member of the royal priesthood, of the Body of Christ, of the temple of God that will serve to release the world from the bondage of corruption (John 17:21-23, Romans 8:21).
The term church does not imply that those who are part of the Church are saved and the remainder of mankind is lost. Rather, the term church means “called-out” from the world in order to be a king and priest of God.
God’s kings and priests are more than just saved from wrath. They are the rulers, the judges, the priests, the teachers of the nations of saved peoples of the earth. They are the deliverers of mankind, the servants of God and rulers of the works of His hands throughout the ages to come.
The New Testament writings (except for the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation, which reveal a distinction between the nations of the saved and the Wife of the Lamb) speak of salvation primarily in terms of membership in the Church, that is, in the true Israel of God. We who are saved are immediately grafted on Christ, on the one true olive tree. Our salvation is our becoming a part of Christ, of the true Vine of God.
However, the writings of the Hebrew Prophets reveal clearly that there will be not one, but two classes of people who will be alive on the earth in the ages to come: Israel, which we believe to be all who are part of Christ (for the oneness of true Israel, elect Jews and elect Gentile, is taught beyond question by the Apostle Paul); and then the nations that choose to serve Israel and learn of God through Israel.
We are referring to such verses as the following:
For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined. (Isaiah 60:12)
It appears obvious there will be nations alive on the earth in future ages that will serve Israel—nations that are “saved” in the sense of not being in Hell or the Lake of Fire but who are not part of God’s Israel.
If we are to be kings and priests it appears evident there must be saved people over whom we rule, whom we serve as priests of God—people who are not part of the royal priesthood and yet who remain alive on the earth in the will of God.
The implication that there will be nations of the world that will be saved on the basis of their response to the Presence of God in Christ in the saints, who are not part of the Church but who believe in Christ through the saints and are willing to be taught by the saints, appears in both the Old Testament and the New.
For example, notice the manner in which the nations of the saved will come to the Lord’s priests in Jerusalem to be taught of the Lord. The people who come up to Jerusalem are “saved” in the sense that they have not been cast into torment at the coming of Christ, but they obviously are not part of God’s Israel. They themselves are not members of the Church, the Body of Christ:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion [body of Christ] shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2,3)
The current Christian teaching holds that the above two verses are speaking of physical Israel, that the Christian Church will be in Heaven while the Jews on the earth rule (in the flesh?) over nations of human beings on the earth. As long as one maintains this concept it is impossible to understand the Scriptures.
The material aspect of the Kingdom of God is the physical people and land of Israel. The spiritual aspect of the Kingdom of God is Christ and those who are part of Christ. There can be no Kingdom of God until the spiritual Jerusalem comes down from Heaven and clothes the material Jerusalem with eternal life and glory.
Satan’s purpose in creating a separation between Israel and the Church (which is confusion in and of itself in that true Israel and the Church are identical) is to prevent the Kingdom of God from coming to the earth. Of course Satan cannot prevent the spiritual Jerusalem from descending from Heaven but he hopes to accomplish something of value to himself by introducing confusion into Christian thinking.
Some are teaching that the new Jerusalem, of the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation, the royal priesthood that will govern the nations of the earth, represents physical Israel. To maintain that the new Jerusalem is physical Israel creates enormous problems of interpretation.
If the new Jerusalem consists of the physical Jews, then the Throne of God and the Lamb will dwell among physical Israel (Revelation 22:3) while the so-called “Gentile Church” is in Heaven without God or the Lamb. This is unscriptural and undesirable, but it is the inevitable conclusion of what is being taught in many instances.
If, however, one believes that the new Jerusalem is the glorified Christian Church, the Wife of the Lamb, the eternal Temple of God, the Body of Christ, the eternal priesthood, he is able to find much support for his position in both the Old and New Testaments.
If the new Jerusalem is the glorified Christian Church, then there is one Kingdom, one Son of David who rules with His saints from Jerusalem, one Israel consisting of all who are part of Christ, and the destiny of the Christian Church is described in Isaiah, Chapters 60 and 61. The Church, the Kingdom of God. is born from above and will come down from Heaven in the last days. This is the new Jerusalem. The sixtieth chapter of Isaiah and the twenty-first chapter of Revelation are speaking of the nations of saved people of the earth serving the new Jerusalem.
The coming of the nations of the earth to Christ through the members of the Christian Church (as taught in John 17: 21-23) is described in the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah:
Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea [many people] shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles [nations] shall come to you. (Isaiah 60:5)
First Peter 2:12 speaks of God’s royal priests living a godly life among the nations, and of their godliness being the means by which the nations, will glorify God in the “day of visitation.” It is clear from the context that Peter is speaking of us who are Christians being the royal priesthood of God.
We Christians are the holy city, the Lamb’s Wife, the new Jerusalem—the city that will rule the nations of the earth forever. We are the true Israel. The Christian Church began with Spirit-filled Jews who were called of Christ and will be completed when God once more turns to the physical Jews, fills them with His Spirit, and makes them part of Christ along with us. Flesh and blood never can enter the Kingdom of God—not even Jewish flesh and blood, as Christ declared to Nicodemus (John 3:3-6).
It is because we saints have been called out from the world in order to reveal God to the nations of the earth that it is so very necessary we be separate from the world. We cannot deliver the world by being a part of it. We have to permit the Spirit of God to separate us from the world so we can become a part of God through Christ. It is only as we become part of the Lord that we are able to bring God to mankind.
All the nations of the earth will be blessed through Abraham’s Seed, and we are part of the one true Seed.
A believer who is not separate from the world is useless to God and to men. He is to be cast into the fire and burned (John 15:6). He cannot serve as the light of the world because the darkness of the world is in him.
For two thousand years the Christian churches have attempted to save the world by making friends with it. This is why most of the world remains in darkness. We can deliver the world from death only by obeying God in the matter of separation from the world.
The seventeenth chapter of the Book of John describes the wall (the wall of the new Jerusalem) that exists between the Church and the world. In several passages of the seventeenth chapter the Lord Jesus emphasizes the absolute division between the saints and the world. It is a division that originated in the mind of God before the world was created, because that is when the Church was perfected in the mind of God. The saints, the holy ones, the members of the Body of Christ, were called from the beginning of time:
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)
“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)
“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)
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)
John, Chapter 17 is not saying eleven men were predestined to be saved and go to Heaven while the remainder of mankind is to be cast into the Lake of Fire. Rather, it indicates that specific people have been predestined from before the creation of the world to become a part of God; and when they attain their place in God the world will believe in Christ:
“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 “they” and the “them” of the above verse are the saints, the holy ones, both Jews and Gentiles, whom God has called to be part of Christ. The “world,” of the same verse, is the remainder of mankind. If a member of the world receives Christ and Christ’s saints, that individual will be saved. Remember—he who receives those whom Christ sends is receiving Christ Himself. Whoever receives Christ receives God (compare Matthew 10:40-42; 25:31-46).
If a member of the world signifies his rejection of Christ by rejecting Christ’s true saints he will come under the judgment of God.
The world of today is not having an opportunity to clearly accept or clearly reject Christ. The reason is that the spiritual darkness of the world is in the churches and the light of Christ is not shining clearly and brightly. When the Lord purifies His Church there will be a clear testimony. In that day, people will have a chance to accept or reject Christ.
The ascended Christ gave gifts to His churches. The purpose of the gifts given to men is that the royal priesthood, the Body of Christ, may come to the fullness of the stature of Christ.
As soon as the ministries of the Church have finished their task, and the saints have come to the unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13), God and Christ will fill the completed Tabernacle and the world will believe in Christ.
The best service we can render to the world is to live a holy, separated life in the Presence of the Lord. The more we grow in Christ the more of Christ we can receive. The more of Christ we receive, the more the world can see and be benefited by the Glory of God in us.
The Christian who does not lead a holy, separated life to the Lord is of no value to God or man. He is as salt that has lost its flavor.
The members of the nations of the earth will be judged when they are raised from the dead. Those who have performed wicked deeds will experience the wrath of God and those who have performed righteous deeds will enter eternal life (John 5:28,29).
It is quite different with the person who has been called to be a saint. The issue with him is not merely righteousness of behavior, although God will punish the unrighteous whether or not he or she is called to be a saint.
The issue with him who has been called to be a saint is that of abiding in Christ. He has been called to be a member of the royal priesthood. His death and resurrection take place as part of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He has been called to dwell in Heaven at the right hand of God.
The calling of the saint is not to die and go to live in a luxurious home in Paradise. The calling of the saint is to be a part of Christ, a member of the royal priesthood, a pillar in the eternal Temple of God. He is part of the golden Lampstand of God and is being “hammered into shape” by the Spirit of God.
The Christian saint (holy one) is being prepared to be revealed to the creation and to release the creation. He is the hope of the nations of the earth that they may come to know God. He is the judge of men and angels. If he neglects his calling, which is the highest of all callings, he will experience the wrath of God (Hebrews 2:3).
As soon as the full number of Gentiles who have been called to be a part of Christ have been made a part of the one true olive tree, God will turn once again to the physical Jews, bringing them also into the same Tree, which is Christ. Then it will be time for the nations of the earth to be judged, some entering eternal life and some being led away to the fires of Gehenna. This is what the Scriptures teach (Matthew 25:46).
He who has been called to be a member of the royal priesthood (and it is the formation of the royal priesthood, the Body of Christ, that is the purpose of the Christian Era) is not to consider himself a member of the world. He has no other calling than that of saint. His profession or occupation is only for the purpose of supplying his needs and the needs of others. He has been called to be a holy one. If he gives himself diligently to his calling he will pass into the ranks of the chosen. The royal priesthood is a heavenly calling, established from before the creation of the world.
We must live a separated, holy life before the Lord Jesus. We must offer our physical body as a living sacrifice to the Father. We must abide in Christ by praying often, meditating in the Scriptures, and gathering together with fervent saints of like mind. We are not of the world. We have been called out of the world by Christ and are being trained for service throughout the ages to come. Part of our training consists of ministering to the saints today according to the gifts the Spirit has given us.
As long as we are involved in the world, considering ourselves as part of the world, making ourselves secure and comfortable in the world, we cannot be a part of the royal priesthood of God. The Christian who does not come out from the present age and “live in tents as did Abraham,” so to speak, is not eligible to be a member of the royal priesthood. He is not confessing that he is a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth (Hebrews 11:13).
He is turning away from the very purpose for his having been born into the world. He is forfeiting his birthright, as did Esau. He is not grasping that for which he has been grasped by the Lord (Philippians 3:12). He is destroying the possibility of the fulfillment of his destiny.
Eventually the peoples of the world will throw him out, just as the sailors threw Jonah out of the boat. No matter how hard he tries, “Jonah never can be one of the sailors.” The saint never can be accepted by the world as a member of the world—the world that God loves and intends to bless through His saints. Let the vessel honor the Potter and be what the Potter intends.
Separation from Sin
The Lord’s royal priesthood must be holy. The Bride, the Church, is to be without spot or wrinkle. The new Jerusalem is the holy city.
It is not acceptable to the Lord that there be any sin whatever in His Wife. By one offering the Lord Jesus has perfected forever those who are sanctified, that is, those of mankind whom God has set apart as members of the Bride of the Lamb (Hebrews 10:14).
The saints are to walk in the light of God’s Presence. As they do, the blood of the Lamb cleanses them from all sin and they have fellowship with God. When the true saints sin they immediately confess their sin and repent of it, forsaking it with diligence. God forgives their sin and cleanses them from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).
The true Bride washes her robes continually in the blood of the Lamb.
The Father has given all mankind into the power of His Son, Christ. From the mass of people who compose mankind, God has given certain individuals to Christ so they may have eternal life and be a firstfruits of saved mankind on the earth.
“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)
“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)
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 descendants of Adam are the dust of the ground. They possess no eternal life. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom (I Corinthians 15:50). The race of Adam, while it is the image of God, is to a certain extent an animal creation.
God intends that the race of Adam die and be born again, receiving eternal resurrection life—the Life that His Son Christ is. Flesh-and-blood life is a very inferior form of existence. It is eternal life that is to be desired.
Eternal life is infinitely more than eternal existence. Eternal life is a quality of life, a life conducted in the Presence of God as part of God’s Being and energy. Every member of the Kingdom of God possesses a portion of eternal life and is exhorted to lay hold on it, to sow to it, to have it in ever-greater abundance.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
The goal of the Christian salvation is the fullness of eternal life.
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection [Greek: out-resurrection] from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Because of the transgression of Adam and Eve, Satan has been able to introduce spiritual death into the race of mankind. All sin leads to death. As long as we are sinning, death is abiding in us.
God has determined to release the material creation into eternal life—the Life that God Himself Is. Such release is impossible until sin has been cast out.
God has chosen a royal priesthood—people who are to be a firstfruits of mankind. God will deliver the members of the royal priesthood from their sins through Christ and fill them with His Life—eternal life. These kings and priests of God will rule and serve in the power of endless life, wearing the crown of life. They will impart God’s Life to the dead creation.
The members of the royal priesthood were children of Adam. Now they are becoming life-giving spirits (I Corinthians 15:45). They are being made a part of the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven.
Ezekiel prophesied of the Day of the Lord, of the age when the Lord’s holy ones, His trees of life, bring eternal life to the dead creation:
“And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. (Ezekiel 47:9)
It is imperative that those who would follow their priestly calling achieve victory over sin. Every day, spiritual death and spiritual life battle for control over the Christian. Every day the Christian must, through the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, achieve victory over sin.
If the Christian yields to sin, not gaining the victory that has been offered to him through the grace of Christ, he slays his resurrection as a royal priest. He has been overcome. He does not receive the increments of life and glory offered to the overcomer in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation.
We attain eternal life only as we put to death the sinful deeds of our body:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
Eternal life cannot be imputed (ascribed) to us. Eternal life can be gained only as we overcome Satan. Through Christ we can overcome and attain eternal life. Eternal life is the fruit of sowing to the Spirit, of choosing each day to yield ourselves to righteousness:
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
All human beings must die and then be judged. The members of the royal priesthood die in Christ and are resurrected in Christ. Then they are judged. If they cooperate with God, obeying Him as He leads them through judgment, the Divine judgment serves to deliver them from all sin. Hopefully, the judgment of the Christian can be completed while he yet is alive on the earth.
In any case, the judgment of the Christian must be completed before the appearing of Christ No saint can appear with the Lord as part of His coming until he first has passed through judgment and has been filled with the Father and the Son. One cannot be revealed with Christ and after that be judged and cleansed from sin.
Today we are to purify ourselves from all sin as the Holy Spirit guides and enables us:
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope [of being like Jesus] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:2-3)
We see, then, that the royal priesthood is a firstfruits of mankind. We have been called out of the world so we can become part of the Lord God of Heaven. Now we are to follow the Spirit of God through a process of judgment and deliverance that cleanses us from all sin.
The one offering of Christ has forgiven the guilt of sins of the royal priesthood, and also of the world for all who will receive. The royal priesthood now is being judged and delivered from the power of sin in advance of the judgment of the world.
The judgment of the royal priesthood, but not of the world, is symbolized in the following verses:
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar [of incense], and those who worship there.
“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 11:1,2)
“Measure the temple of God.” “But leave out the court [the world] which is outside the temple, and do not measure it.”
It is time now for God to judge His temple, that is, His Church—especially the firstfruits of the Church. The firstfruits of the Church are those who are worshiping at the Altar of Incense, at the place of sacrificial prayer and praise.
The whole Church is a firstfruits of mankind. Then there is a firstfruits of the Church itself, a “Gideon’s army,” that will achieve victory over sin as an advance guard of the Church. These “mighty men,” to use an expression from the reign of King David, will make it possible for the remainder of the Church to join in the crushing of the enemy—following the type of the victory over the Midianites at the hands of Gideon.
It is a honor to be in the advance guard of the Church:
These are the ones who were not defiled with women [not married to the world], for they are virgins [spirits are pure]. 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.
And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelation 14:4,5)
The “firstfruits of the firstfruits” will have been brought to unity and maturity prior to the appearing of Christ from Heaven and will be part of His glorious appearing to the world. These are the royal priests who are clothed in white raiment (Revelation 19:8—but note Revelation 3:4,5).
The remainder of Israel, of the royal priesthood, the firstfruits of mankind, the new Jerusalem, the Body of Christ, will be perfected during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, as we understand it, so the holy city may be ready for its descent to the new earth.
The promises of life, of authority, of nearness to God, of opportunities for service, of glory, are for those who overcome through Christ every obstacle to their inheritance. The victorious saints shall inherit all things.
The royal priesthood is holy and undefiled. Christ gave us His righteousness before the creation of the world and now is perfecting us in righteousness, in holiness, and in obedience to God.
Let us, who are “partakers of the heavenly calling,” respond to our Lord and follow him through our transformation from the dust of the ground into life-giving spirits. Then we will be ready to serve as the light of the world, the rulers, priests, judges, and teachers of mankind. Through us the Lord will bring righteousness, peace, and joy to the nations of the earth. It is to this end that Christ has chosen us from among the ranks of mankind.
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)
who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14)
Separation from Self-rule
- To be a member of the royal priesthood it is necessary to be separated from the world.
- To be a member of the royal priesthood it is necessary to be separated from sin.
- To be a member of the royal priesthood it is necessary to be separated from self-rule.
We are separated from the world so we may belong to the Lord, being a firstfruits of mankind set aside to know and worship God.
We are separated from sin so we may dwell in the Life that God in Christ Is. Everything that is in our personality must also be in the Personality of God. Whatever is not found in the Personality of God is not holy.
We are separated from self-rule so we may be the Tabernacle of God, so God may find rest in us, so we may serve as the expression of God’s Person and will throughout the creation.
Of the three separations, the most difficult is the separation from self-rule. A believer may be having success in separation from the world and separation from sin but still be filled with self-rule, self-will, self-centeredness, self-love.
For two thousand years the churches of Christ have been characterized by the self-rule of human beings. Now the time has come for the third separation, the third death and resurrection. It is an operation that must be performed by God Himself.
The saints must be ready to love not their lives to the point of death. The death we must die is not the death of physical martyrdom (not that we minimize in any manner the sufferings of the martyrs of the Church). The death we must die is to our motivations, to what we are in personality and behavior. We must change from living our own life to living by and in Christ, and He in us.
The following are some of the devices and considerations involved as God changes us from self-rule to Christ’s rule:
Imprisonment. God confines His rulers by circumstances for protracted periods of time.
He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. (Psalms 105:17-19)
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
It is God’s way to place His kings in various kinds of imprisoning circumstances. He shuts us up so we cannot come forth. We do not understand the reason for such confinement, especially after we, like Joseph, have had visions of our role of rulership in the Kingdom of God.
We cannot break out of God’s prison without breaking God’s law. We are obligated to remain where we are and pray for deliverance. Meanwhile, a change takes place in our soul. We pass from self-rule to Christ’s rule. In our patience we possess our souls by handing over the reins of our life to Christ.
Separation from self-rule is very hard to achieve. It is God alone who performs the separation within us. Great patience on our part is necessary because self-rule is exceedingly difficult to kill.
God will permit no member of the royal priesthood to be guided by his own self-rule. There only is one legitimate will in the universe, and that is the will of God. Every member of the Kingdom of God lives, moves, and has his being according to the will of God. Those who are self-ruled have no part in the royal priesthood.
God’s prisons prevent us from moving forward in our own wisdom and strength. We are forced to wait, wait, wait on God. The waiting kills our self-rule and encourages the development of Christ’s rule in us. It is an intense stretching of us, but such waiting is necessary if we are to be trusted with the powers of the age to come.
God never shall give His glory to another. Being in God’s prison brings us into oneness with God. We become part of Him. Then, when He give us His glory, He in reality is giving it to Himself.
Deferred hope. God gave Abraham the hope of having a multitude of descendants, and also that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Abraham had to wait a quarter of a century before his first son was born, and another four hundred years before his descendants were able to enter Canaan.
We give mental assent to the patience of Abraham until God does something similar to us. Then the suffering of such delay enables us to grasp some measure of what Abraham, Joseph, the Lord Jesus, and other saints have endured. The delay is not too painful until the hope is something that one desires with fervency. Then the delay becomes a cross on which one writhes year after year.
Persisting in patience concerning some intensely-desired object slays our self-rule. The temptation is to plan how to get what we want apart from waiting on the Lord, or to turn aside to something else in our lusts or self-pity, or to grow angry at God for promising us something and then not giving it to us.
Sometimes we have to wait many years. Walking in deferred hope is a grueling experience, but necessary if we are to be separated from self-rule.
Every member of the royal priesthood knows the cross of deferred hope.
Futility. If we are mentally healthy we desire to be performing works that have some significance. We do not enjoy being placed in a position of futility where it appears the world is passing us by, so to speak, and what we are doing is of little importance. Such seasons of futility are necessary in order to slay the self-rule that is in us.
Satan placed Jesus on a gable of Herod’s Temple. Jesus was ready to go forth and meet the spiritual needs of Israel and to interpret the Law that He Himself had given on Mount Sinai and that was being practiced in the Temple on which He stood. Jesus was in a place of futility. Self-rule would have directed Him to jump off in faith in God. The rule of almighty God within Him directed Him to abide in futility.
So it is with us. We must be prepared to spend our life in apparent futility if the Lord should so direct. The only work of true, eternal importance is that we receive Christ and do exactly what He directs us to do. Otherwise we are a well-intentioned religious person going about according to our self-rule.
Confusion. We understand that God is not the author of confusion. Every experienced saint knows there are seasons we must undergo during which we cannot understand what God is doing with us or to us. We are required to wait in the darkness until the way becomes clear. Such trust is necessary if we are to be separated from self-rule—a rule that depends on a measure of certainty concerning our goals and how we are achieving them.
“Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God. (Isaiah 50:10)
The Lord warns us about walking in our own light, our self-rule:
Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:11)
Being a minority. A survey of the Old and New Testaments will reveal immediately that God works with one person or a very few people. The things of God usually have been accomplished through one individual. Consider Noah, or Daniel, or Elijah, or John the Baptist, or the Lord Jesus, or the Apostle Paul. When God sets out to do something He chooses an individual.
People who are self-ruled seek to accomplish their goals by gathering a number of people. It appears to be impossible for self-ruled people to grasp the fact that God and one person constitute a majority. The self-ruled much prefer to be part of a multitude, hoping through strength of numbers of people to accomplish their goals.
God deliberately removes our human support so the self-rule in us will be slain and we will find it necessary to rely on God.
And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ (Judges 7:2)
Counting the number of people who follow our ministry reveals a lack of trust in God. Yet every Christian denomination, it seems, counts the people constantly. It is because the denominations are self-ruled and not Christ-ruled.
Lack of money. The Scriptures teach us clearly that God will supply the material needs of His saints. It is our tendency to trust in money, for money is our power to rule. The members of the wealthy nations desire more and more money, not because they are hungry but to make it possible for them to do what they want apart from God.
The person who puts his trust in money has departed from the Lord. He shall not prosper.
God directs us by controlling the amount of money we have. There is much pleading for money today on the part of the Christian ministry. How much of this is of Christ and how much proceeds from the self-rule of the ministry will be revealed in the Day of Christ. The saint looks to God, not to other people, for money sufficient for the needs at hand.
The love of money is one of the most critical of the arenas in which self-rule fights for its life. Victory over money is an important step forward for the member of the royal priesthood. A study of the holy men of God will reveal that they did not trust in money to accomplish their goals.
Weakness. God has many ways of making us weak. God made Paul weak by sending a physical affliction upon him—a disease of Paul’s eyes, apparently. Paul prayed repeatedly against this physical weakness, and Christ answered him:
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:9)
Soulish believers cannot accept that any form of weakness is from God because weakness prevents their self-rule. But having to live and minister during weakness causes us to trust more in Christ. It is during our weakness, our crucifixion, that the resurrection power and life of Christ flow to others.
We much prefer to minister from the vantage point of personal strength. During the present age, true ministry proceeds from the cross, not from the throne. The throne will come later. There are sufferings of Christ that must be completed. Eternal redemption comes through us to the members of the Body of Christ as we are willing to share His sufferings.
We hope to serve Christ after our problems have been solved. It is true, rather, that it is our problems that enable us to serve Christ correctly. It is our weaknesses that slay our self-rule, causing us to rely on the power and wisdom of the Lord. Christ comes to the world through the crucified saint. Have you found this to be true?
We do not die for the sins of others, as did the Lamb. Rather, we die so Christ may live and rule among men. His enemies must be made His footstool.
Patience in affliction. There is no truer mark of God’s saint than that of patience in affliction. Patience in affliction separates self-rule from us.
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.
Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10,11)
At the beginning of his ministry the Prophet Jeremiah was given great authority by the Lord:
See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)
Anyone who is placed over the nations of the earth must be ruled by the Lord, not by his self-will and self-centeredness. The preparation of Jeremiah for the full exercise of his God-given role as lord over the nations involved patience in affliction:
Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will you surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail? (Jeremiah 15:18)
God is the Ruler of all rulers. Under God is Christ. God has given all authority and power in Heaven and on the earth to the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ demonstrated His absolute obedience to God during the years of His suffering on the earth.
Next in line is the royal priesthood. We are required to suffer many things so our obedience will be demonstrated beyond doubt. The patient endurance of afflictions is a necessary part of our separation from self-rule to the rule of Christ.
Wrestling to integrity. In the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis we read of Jacob wrestling with God.
Jacob was a schemer, a supplanter, and a trickster. He cheated Esau out of his birthright as the firstborn son. He cheated Laban out of much livestock and then sneaked away with his possessions (Genesis 31:20).
Jacob, like all of us, was full of conniving. He ruled by cunning.
There is to be no conniving, no scheming, no trickery, no guile in the members of the royal priesthood. We are to meet God and man in integrity and honesty, letting our yes be yes and our no be no.
The world and the Christian churches are full of conniving and supplanting.
There comes a time in our development when we are forced to wrestle with God for our life. During that wrestling match we begin to see ourselves for what we truly are and God for what He truly is. The trickery flees from us and we find ourselves with our feet on the earth speaking to God in absolute honesty—perhaps for the first time in our life.
God touches the “thigh” of our personal strength and cunning and makes us people of integrity. He changes our name from Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (he struggles with God). Until we contend with God and prevail we are deceitful. We gain our desires by trickery and supplanting.
As we struggle with God we become a person of integrity. We speak honestly with God and man. We change from self-rule to the rule of God in Christ in us. Such Divine rule in men is the Kingdom of God.
Giving back to God. The story of Abraham and Isaac is well known. However we do not appreciate Abraham’s agony of soul until God requires a similar sacrifice from us.
We came naked into this world. During our lifetime we acquire many relationships and things. At any time God may take from us what He has given to us.
Sometimes God prefers we surrender our gift voluntarily. God knows the possession that is the most deeply rooted in our soul. He may ask for that.
The self-ruled individual may attempt to evade God’s request, or may refuse outright.
The true saint is prepared to give to God his very soul. When the time comes, the saint bows his head in agony and cries: “Not my will but Yours be done.”
It is unthinkable for any member of the royal priesthood to deny the Lord anything He asks. It is only the immature believer playing around the edges of salvation who debates whether God will require this idol or that idol.
We have a world full of immature believers. In addition there are some true saints. The true saints are ruled by Christ, not by their emotions. When God asks for something, though it is their very soul, they give it. They endure the cross. They hold back nothing from God. These are God’s ruling priests. The lukewarm, those who debate about obeying God, will be vomited out of Christ’s mouth.
Spiritual darkness is increasing rapidly in the world. Only the strongest will stand. Each person who is walking by faith will be required to give to God the idol of his or her heart. God’s will shall be done among His kings.
Abasement before exaltation. He who exalts himself shall be abased. We must humble ourselves before God can exalt us. God must pierce the self-rule and self-centeredness that are so vital a part of our personality.
Christ Himself is our Example of humility before exaltation:
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:8)
Each member of the royal priesthood has been called to stupendous power and glory—incomprehensible power and glory. Before we are ready for any such exalted position we must be brought very low by the Lord. We must respond well to our discipline.
There is no place for grumblers in the royal priesthood. We are to bear our cross readily and cheerfully, looking forward to the glory that awaits us so we shall be able to persevere through every trial of our faith.
There is no question of our calling. We were called from before the creation of the world. We were not called to a life of ease in the present world. We have been called to a severe discipleship during which every aspect of our personality will be brought down to death and then raised again in Christ.
The part of us that is unworthy of the Kingdom will remain in death—eternally separated from us. The part of us that is to be saved will be brought down to death, judged, and then raised again in Christ. We are being made a new creation. All things of the royal priesthood are of God.
We are separated from the world so we may be the kings and priests of the world, so we may bring deliverance, righteousness, peace, and joy to the world as Christ through us reveals God to people.
We are separated from sin so we may be free from Satan and from death, thus becoming candidates for the fullness of eternal life—the very Life that God Is and Christ Is, an eternal part of God’s Being and energy.
We are separated from self-rule so God in Christ may find His eternal rest in us, so we may never think, speak, or act against God’s will or apart from God. We are the eternal Tabernacle of God. God through us will wipe away the tears of the nations of saved peoples of the earth (Revelation 21:4).
(“The Three Separations of the Royal Priesthood”, 3932-1)