THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD AND THE NATIONS (EXCERPT OF THE THEOLOGY OF ROBERT B. THOMPSON)
Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
“The Royal Priesthood and the Nations” is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
The Royal Priesthood
Perhaps we have not given much thought to the training that must be given to each member of the Royal Priesthood if he or she is to serve God successfully in the role of a governing priest. Each of us Christians, if he is to serve as a member of the Royal Priesthood, will have to experience long, thorough training if he is to fulfill his role properly throughout the coming ages.
The basic design of the Kingdom of God is easy to understand, but it appears it is not preached very often. The Kingdom of God is in two primary parts: the Royal Priesthood, of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the High Priest. Then the multitude of saved people who are the inheritance of the elect and whom God will save into the new world of righteousness.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 3:9—NIV)
It is impossible to understand the Kingdom of God unless one realizes that the Christian Church, which is the Royal Priesthood, has been called out of the world to govern and bless the multitudes of saved mankind.
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5—NIV)
Many passages of the Old Testament refer to the rule of God’s saints over the saved peoples of the earth. The saints are neither Jewish nor Gentile as such. Rather, they are the members of Christ’s Church, whether Jewish or Gentile by natural birth.
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. (Isaiah 60:12—NIV)
The nation and the kingdom of the above passage are the peoples of the earth who have survived but who are not members of the Church, God’s elect. “You” are the members of the Church, the Royal Priesthood.
And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. (Isaiah 61:6—NIV)
The “priests of the Lord,” the “ministers of our God,” again are the Church, the members of the Body of Christ. The saved of the nations will contribute their wealth to the saints.
This is a simple, easy to understand model, but it does not seem clear to numerous church people. They envision their future to be that of sitting in a mansion doing nothing of significance. It is no wonder they become confused when God begins to chasten them in order to prepare them for their eternal role as his priests.
In the present hour there are two kinds of saved people: God’s ruling priests, and then people from the nations who have believed in Christ and been baptized in water. The purpose of the present age, the Church Age, is to call out the elect from the people of the world, and to prepare them for their role as ruling priests who will represent God to people and people to God. They are as a ladder reaching from earth to Heaven, one might say.
It is easy to see that God has his hand on certain people, and that the Gospel of the Kingdom is first to them. Notice the following passage, for example:
“For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9,10—NIV)
God is saying to Paul, “Spend time in Corinth because many of my elect are living here.”
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9—NIV)
But then we have the following:
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15,16—NIV)
The above passage is just as much God’s Word as the preceding passages, which emphasize election.
What is going on here? On the one hand we have the Lord pointing out that He is concerned about his elect. On the other hand, He is telling us that He wants his Gospel preached “to all creation.”
The answer is simple. We are in the Church Age, when God’s purpose is to select and train the members of the Royal Priesthood. At the same time, everyone is to hear the Gospel; and whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, meaning, preserved in the Day of Judgment and brought into the new world of righteousness when it appears.
But the emphasis during the Church Age is on the elect. God will select his elect from among all who hear the Gospel, believe, and are baptized. He will give gifts to them that they may come to unity in the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Preparing to serve as a ruling priest requires an almost total overhaul of our personality. Some suffering is involved, as necessary. We must be willing to serve the Lord when we do not know what is happening. God will give us a strong love for those to whom He will be bringing to Himself. There will be long periods when we are just waiting on Christ and putting one foot in front of the other.
We will be serving God as a priest for eternity. Right now we are in the process of preparation for this awesome responsibility. This means we must draw close to Jesus and listen for his guidance at every moment.
How about those who are not of the elect? God will save them, as He stated. However, it is when the Church becomes one in Christ in God that multitudes of the peoples of the earth will believe that it is God who has sent Jesus to save those who believe in him.
Am I saying that the great ingathering of those who are saved but not of God’s elect will come at the end of the Church Age? Yes, this is exactly what I am saying.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:3—NIV)
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21—NIV)
What is my purpose in pointing out that multitudes will be brought to God through the Church once the Church is filled with God’s Glory? It is so we will know what we are doing; what we should emphasize.
Today the emphasis of many Christian denominations is to “go forth and save the world.” But the Spirit of God is emphasizing that the Christian people need to come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. They must confess and turn away from their worldliness, the lusts and passions of their flesh and soul, and their determination to pursue their own life in their own way without opening the door to Jesus so He can guide their decisions.
If we are not emphasizing what the Spirit is emphasizing, how can we expect God to bless us? We are as the blind leading the blind, which often is the case with religious people.
I don’t know if you have ever noticed what the Apostle Paul stated when he presented the goal toward which he was striving.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14—NIV)
Does the above passage sound like “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved”?
No, it does not. Toward what was Paul “straining”? To be saved? To go to Heaven? To avoid Hell?
Paul says, rather, he was striving to attain to the resurrection from the dead. We of today, many of us, do not have any idea what Paul was talking about. Is that true?
Paul was pressing toward the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when Jesus returns, the giving back of their bodies to the blessed and holy members of the Royal Priesthood.
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the (second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.) (Revelation 20:6—NASB)
There is a practical course of action here. We need to begin to describe to God’s people what is at stake. Each of us must adopt the determination of the Apostle Paul and press forward in order to lay hold on that for which God has grasped us. If we do not, it is highly likely that we will not be raised from the dead when the Lord returns, much less be carried up to Heaven.
Why will we not be resurrected when Jesus next appears? It is because we have not followed the Holy Spirit in putting to death the sinful deeds of our body. We, although we profess faith in Christ, are dead spiritually because we have been living in the uncleannesses of our flesh and spirit.
Any experienced Christian can see how far off we have gotten with the modern preaching of sovereign grace, an any-moment “rapture,” and eternal residence in Heaven with no responsibilities.
If the Apostle Paul was pressing forward with all his might to grasp that for which God has grasped him, exactly what are we doing?
Recently a person with a true gift of prophecy addressed a fundamental Christian denomination. He represented the Spirit of God as saying that the denomination had internal problems that needed to be resolved.
The response of the leadership was, “Now we must go out and save souls.” Can you believe that this actually took place?
I think what is needed today is Christian leaders who are able to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. When they do hear, I doubt seriously it will be that we are to go out and save souls. I think it will be that we Christians need to get closer to the Lord Jesus as the Holy Spirit points out the areas in which we need to be reconciled to God.
It is time now to prepare the members of the Royal Priesthood so they will be ready to bring God to the saved people of the nations.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 3:9—NIV)
The Book of Isaiah has a lot to say about the Royal Priesthood. The Royal Priesthood is the Body of Christ. All of the elect are members, all whom God has chosen to be part of the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The term “Israel” is employed. “Israel” refers to the Seed of Abraham. All who are descended from Abraham are not the “Israel” who compose the Royal Priesthood, as it is written: “Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.” Both Jacob and Esau were in the bloodline of Abraham, being descended from Isaac. But true Israel, the Royal Priesthood, the elect of God, the Body of Christ, is only by God’s calling of the individual.
Is God going to turn once more to the physical nation of Israel? Yes, He is. He is going to save many Israelis according to the Scripture. “All Israel shall be saved.” But again, not “all Israel” are of “Israel,” the Royal Priesthood. Only those whom God calls to be in Christ. He or she is the one Seed of Abraham, the one true Olive Tree.
So when we are referring to the Kingdom prophecies found in Isaiah, we are not speaking of all who are born Jews. We are speaking of the one new Man, Christ, and those who are of his Body, God’s elect, the one true Church. Some of these are Jewish by natural birth; some, Gentile.
In the last days, when the full number of Gentiles who have been called to be part of the Royal Priesthood are “in Christ,” God will pour out his Spirit on the physical Israel. Then a multitude of Jews will be made part of Christ, just as Joseph, after having married the Gentile, Asenath, revealed himself to his family.
For so many centuries the Christian people have viewed eternal residence in Heaven as their destiny, as the goal of salvation. One wonders how long it will be before they discover their destiny in the Book of Isaiah as members of the Royal Priesthood. Perhaps this understanding will come suddenly during the seemingly chaotic years of the closing days of the Church Era.
The forty-second chapter of the Book of Isaiah announces the Servant of the Lord. The Servant of the Lord is Christ, Head and Body. The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints, in the members of the Royal Priesthood, in true Israel. This kingdom is destined to govern for eternity the new world of righteousness.
One of the destructive results of the unscriptural model of Bible interpretation termed “Dispensationalism” is to cut off the very prophecies that tell us of God’s plan for his Church. By referring to a “Jewish Church” and a “Gentile Church,” total confusion as to our role and destiny is hidden from the believers.
It is time now that we abandon this man-made scheme of interpretation and adopt the “one new Man” of whom Paul spoke. The “one new Man” is Christ, the one Seed of Abraham, and all who are part of Christ, whether they are Jew or Gentile by natural birth.
The term “Christ” (“Messiah, Anointed One”) comes from the following passage:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; (Isaiah 61:1—NASB)
“Christ” (“Messiah”) is the One whom God has anointed with his Spirit to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth. We Christians are members of the Body of the Anointed One, and this is why we have been given the Spirit of God—it is so we can bring the Kingdom of God to the earth. This is our eternal role.
Notice our responsibility: “to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”
The passage above is speaking of those who are anointed with the Spirit of God ministering to their fellow members of the Body of Christ that they might become “oaks of righteousness.” Only then can they serve the saved of the nations as God’s priests.
Because we are saints, holy ones, members of the Royal Priesthood, we are being trained throughout our lifetime on the earth that we might be competent to minister to those people of the nations whom God has chosen to save to the new world of righteousness.
Therefore do not be surprised when the Lord chastens you. He is making you a partaker of his holiness so you may serve Him effectively.
Compare this destiny with sitting in your mansion and doing nothing for eternity. For myself, I think it is a better future. How about you?
Christ may use some of us in the present hour to help people in the manner set forth in Isaiah. But it is obvious that the fulfillment of our ministry will be throughout the ages to come. The important task right now is to follow Christ as He prepares us through the Spirit for our ministry that will begin when He returns to the earth.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:3—NASB)
Continuing in Isaiah, Chapter 61:
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, (Isaiah 61:2—NASB)
When the Lord Jesus, in his home synagogue in Nazareth, read Isaiah 61:2 from the scroll, He stopped short of “the day of vengeance of our God.” He did not read this phrase because the day of vengeance had not arrived as yet. It has arrived now!
Now the Spirit of God is bringing judgment on the sin in his Kingdom. It has begun with his disciples, with those living close to him. Yet it is not a judgment on them as such but upon the sin that is dwelling in them.
If we will be faithful to confess the sins we are committing, Christ will be faithful to forgive these sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. We must confess them specifically; denounce them as evil; renounce them, turning away from them as Christ helps us. Our actions in doing this constitute an eternal judgment on these spirits. They will not be mentioned to us when we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
God is beginning to put the enemies of Christ under his feet, as He has promised. The judgment has begun with us.
To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3—NASB)
We notice, in the verse above, that one of the ministries of Christ and his Body is to Zion, that is, to his Church. This is telling us that there will be a firstfruits of the Church who will minister to the remainder of the Church. The strong will assist the weak, which is pleasing to God.
The firstfruits will be given their new bodies when the Lord returns. The remaining members of God’s elect will be given their new bodies at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, as I understand it, so that the entire Church, the new Jerusalem, may descend from Heaven through the new sky and be established forever on the new earth as the ruling Kingdom of God.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6—NIV)
The firstfruits, those who participate in the first resurrection, will rule with Christ over the nations of the earth, during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and also will have access to the Zion in Heaven so they may contribute to the growth of God’s elect in preparation for their role as the new Jerusalem.
We have a young sister, and her breasts are not yet grown. What shall we do for our sister for the day she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:8,9—NIV)
There are many today who “grieve in Zion.” The stronger members of the elect will provide them with a crown of beauty and a garment of praise until they are “oaks of righteousness.” They were saved by means of imputed righteousness. Now they are in the image of Christ, sturdy in righteous behavior that God may be glorified. They are the result of the ministry of the stronger saints.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:4—NASB)
When Christ returns and sets up his Kingdom on the earth, He first will conquer Antichrist and his armies. Then will take place the cleansing of the earth of the institutions of man-directed civilization. It is my point of view that this cleansing is described in the second chapter of the Book of Joel.
Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste—nothing escapes them. (Joel 2:3—NASB)
Now it will be the task of Christ and his firstfruits, during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, to rebuild the earth in a manner pleasing to God. There will be nations of people on the earth at this time who were not destroyed when the Lord appeared and conquered Antichrist and his armies. These nations will give of their wealth to Christ and his saints.
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3—NIV)
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. (Isaiah 60:12—NIV)
It is my hope that what I have written will serve as a key that some can use in order to understand the passages in Isaiah that have to do with Israel—the Servant of the Lord, and with the coming Kingdom of God.
When you stop and think about it, preparing ourselves to be a part of Christ’s firstfruits so we may receive our new body and work with Him as He establishes the Kingdom of God on the earth, is much more desirable than waiting during our lifetime so one day we can sit in a mansion in Heaven doing nothing of significance. It may not be desirable to you but it sure is to me.
Anyway, I think a search of the Scriptures will confirm what I have written here.
These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4—NASB)
(“The Royal Priesthood and the Nations”, 3955-1)