Priesthood: Are there people today who are Priests?
There are people in every generation who are regarded as “priests.” There are others today who speak of “the priesthood of the believer.” It is said by some that every believer today is a “priest.” But, as I often say, what do the Scriptures tell us about all this? I learned many years ago that “church tradition” alone cannot be trusted. It must always be verified. Of course, many of the people who believe in a present-day priesthood will take you to Scripture that seems to support their belief. In fact, here’s where they will often go to document their beliefs.
I Peter 2:9-10
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. [Emphasis added]
But to whom is this passage addressed? Does that make any difference? Of course, as it always has! Note what the apostle Peter says about this whole epistle of his.
I Peter 1:1
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, [Emphasis added]
Are we today these “strangers”? Who are these scattered “strangers” mentioned here? Answer: They are Jews, not Gentiles, but Jews who were dispersed in the first century because of their acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah. The leadership and most of Israel had rejected Jesus Christ as their Savior and long-promised Messiah. Peter writes them to help them understand many of the things that had recently transpired.
But people may also take you to another passage that may seem to justify their beliefs about priesthood.
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]
It is completely agreed that these people are not short of verses in the Bible they can refer you to as a means to justify their beliefs.
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. [Emphasis added]
But, again, who is the “us” mentioned here? It is certainly not us as members of the Body of Christ. It is Israel! And there’s no evidence at all that we are what some call “spiritual Israel.” We have not been made either kings or priests. All the book of Revelation is specifically addressed to Israel. There’s not one word in it that is addressed to Gentiles. Even the “churches” of Revelation 2 & 3 speak of Jewish assemblies [churches] that will exist in the coming seven-year Tribulation period that follows the Rapture of the present-day Body of Christ church. People commonly make the mistake of believing that everything in what is often spoken of as “the New Testament” [Matthew to Revelation] is to us today. But to whom was this “New Testament” addressed? Also, in what ways is it beneficial to us today? Those are very important questions that demand a correct answer. The apostle Paul answers this last question for us.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [Emphasis added]
The apostle Paul also speaks of us today as ministers of the New Testament.
II Corinthians 3:6
6 [God] Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. [Emphasis added]
The Mosaic Law has a place today, as we just noted in Romans 15:4, but not at all as some people think. Today we have people who have come to believe in what many refer to as “replacement theology.” This belief represents the idea that the church of today is the “replacement” for the people of Israel of Old Testament times. But I’m afraid this is what we might rightly call the “wrong division” of Scripture instead of the truly biblical principle of the “right division” of Scripture.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
People have wrongly assumed that everything from Matthew to Revelation is addressed to us today. If that’s the case, then we need to be living under the dictates of the Mosaic Law as Israel was in the Matthew to John and the Hebrews to Revelation timeframe, and even a large portion of people in the period of the book of Acts. It is precisely because of such a belief that we have so many church denominations today. There’s division every which way you turn as to what we’re to be applying and not applying from the Scriptures in our time. Often people who investigate this are led only to a lot of frustration. Hopefully this document will dispel that for you. It certainly should.
First, let’s look at all the titles that are given in these passages. Actually, not even one of them relates to who we are today. Just look at this list.
“A Royal Priesthood” – I Peter 2:9
“A Kingdom of Priests” – Exodus 19:6
“A Peculiar People” – I Peter 2:9
“Kings and Priests” – Revelation 1:6; 5:10
“An Holy Nation” – I Peter 2:9
First, let’s notice that there’s good reason to believe that the passages of I Peter and Revelation given above do not relate or apply to us in our time. Today we are in this which is called the Dispensation of the Grace of God. We are living in a time when what is called the Body of Christ is being formed as people believe the gospel about Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection [I Corinthians 15:1-4]. We need to note that just as believers today aren’t “kings,” “a peculiar people,” or “an holy nation,” they are also not “a royal priesthood.” NONE of these terms apply to us today.
Please note I Peter 2:9 again.
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; [Emphasis added]
Just as we do not have a priesthood today, we are not “an holy nation.” Furthermore, we are not “kings” as per the Revelation 1:6 verse. Who are we then? Answer: Again, we are members of what is called in Scripture the Body of Christ. So, what’s so important about all this? First, it helps us understand that we are not to claim promises that were not addressed to us. Second, it helps us understand and appreciate the promises that have been given to us. Therefore, let’s first notice a couple of the many promises that have not been given to us.
- We have not been promised a kingdom on Earth in which to reside.
Acts 3:19-21 tells us what Peter had to say about this.
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when [HOPOS = so that] the times of refreshing shall come [His earthly kingdom shall be established] from the presence of the Lord.
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ [speaking of His second coming], which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things [the times when Christ’s kingdom on Earth shall be established], which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. [Emphasis added]
- We have not been promised that we’ll receive all our prayer requests.
Matthew 21:22 says ALL things, not some.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye [believers of Israel] shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. [Emphasis added]
Now let’s notice a couple of promises that have been given to us. Please note that our knowledge of all these comes to us through the writings of the apostle Paul.
- We have been promised an eternal home in Heaven, not a Kingdom on Earth.
20 For our conversation [POLITEUMA = citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]
- We have been promised that whatever our circumstances, God will work it all out for our good. That’s, of course, quite different from getting everything we ask in prayer.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis added]
From this [among other things] you should see how important it is to rightly divide the Scriptures. At the heart of this is understanding what has been promised to us and what has not.
In order to rightly understand and apply any topic of Scripture, we must first understand the principle of rightly dividing the Scriptures. Apart from that we make ourselves and others subject to confusion and disappointment. We’ll also find ourselves being prone to working at obeying commands that are not directed to us and failing to comply with others that are. Every time we look at a passage of Scripture, context is to be considered. We must always consider WHO wrote the passage and TO WHOM it was written.
All the passages we’ve seen about priesthood were written by authors who were writing to the people of Israel, not us today as members of what is called the Body of Christ. Because these passages were not addressed to us, they are not for our compliance and application. Furthermore, the authors were apostles to Israel. They did not have a ministry to the Gentiles in their writings except to show us what was given to Israel. It is the apostle Paul who is our apostle and of all the Gentiles. And just as Paul drew attention to his teaching, so should we.
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I [Paul] am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]
Just as God worked mightily in Peter to Israel, Paul was used mightily in his ministry to us, the Gentiles.
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision [Israel], the same was mighty in me [Paul] toward the Gentiles🙂 [Emphasis added]
God’s message to us is found in Paul’s thirteen epistles—Romans to Philemon. The remainder of the Bible focuses on God’s purpose and program for the nation of Israel. It is in Paul’s epistles that you’ll find God’s doctrine, duty, and destiny for us. These are all things the prophets of old knew and wrote nothing about. It is through the writings of Paul that Christ speaks these things to us today.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [Emphasis added]
The promises God gave to Israel regarding their priesthood, and more was given long ago.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant [the Mosaic law and things related], then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. [Emphasis added]
The apostle Peter quotes from all this later, thinking it was then all about to be completely fulfilled.
I Peter 2:5,9
“Ye also,…a spiritual house, an holy priesthood,…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” [Emphasis added]
But, instead of being completely fulfilled, the program was interrupted because of Israel’s continued rejection of her Messiah. It was then that our time, this Dispensation of the Grace of God, began to be introduced through the apostle Paul.
Again, is the Church, the Body of Christ, a nation? No, but Israel is a nation! The Bible makes perfect sense if we use it God’s way. From the time of Abraham to the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, Israel had been God’s chosen people. When Israel killed her Messiah [Jesus Christ] and refused to have a change of mind and accept His identity, that change, and the establishment of the earthly kingdom was about to begin. But ultimately there was the stoning of Stephen and Israel’s blaspheming against the Holy Spirit in Acts 7. Then in Acts 9 we have the salvation of the man Saul of Tarsus who later came to be known as the apostle Paul. It was then that a change of dispensations began. Things went from Law to Grace. Instead of judgment, God interrupted things and dispensed grace. And that’s what He’s been doing ever since. How long it will last is not known by anyone. But it will end with what is called the Rapture of the church. The old program of Israel will then pick right back up with where things left off. There will then be seven years of tribulation on Earth, ending with Christ’s return and the establishment of His earthly kingdom.
In our time, Israel has been spiritually blinded.
11 I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall [be utterly cast down]? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [Emphasis added]
Rarely does a Jew nowadays get saved. But when it happens, that Jew becomes a member of the Body of Christ where there’s no difference between Jew or Gentile.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek [a Gentile]: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. [Emphasis added]
Up to this time Israel has never been a “kingdom of priests.” But God is not through with Israel. The passages of 1 Peter 2:5,9,10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:10 all belong to a future period, beyond our present day. Even though two thousand years have elapsed, there’s coming a day when the people of Israel will acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah. It is then that they will become a kingdom of priests with the mission of evangelizing the world.
26 And so all Israel [all true or believing Israel—Romans 9:6] shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes [the sake of the Gentiles]: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance [meaning God keeps His promises]. [Emphasis added]
Even though Israel has never been a “kingdom of priests,” the day is coming when they will. But in this present time Israel has been temporarily set aside. In this 2,000-year timeframe they have not enjoyed that privileged status they once held and will again hold in the future. Their present-day spiritual blindness will finally at some point in the future come to an end. That’s a promise they can count on. The “New Covenant” God made with them will finally be completely fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to the Earth [Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:26-29; Hebrews 8:8-13; 10:15-17].
When the last member of the Body of Christ has been added, this great assembly of God’s people will be raptured from the Earth and taken into heaven. It is then that this present Dispensation of the Grace of God will end [I Corinthians 15:51-58; I Thessalonians 4:13-18]. After the Rapture, there will be a seven-year period of divine wrath that is known as the Tribulation. Jesus Christ will then return to the Earth to establish His long-promised kingdom on Earth. It is then that Israel will become a “kingdom of priests.”
As we draw near to a conclusion of this study, let’s look at an important prophetic passage that relates to all this. All these things mentioned in this passage will finally come into fulfillment.
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. [Emphasis added]
According to Luke 4:16-21, Isaiah 61:1 and the first one-third of verse 2 were fulfilled during Christ’s earthly ministry [His first coming]. The remainder of verse 2 down through verse 6 has yet to come to pass. It hasn’t come to pass but it certainly will at some point yet future. His “day of vengeance” is still future and certain to come. All that is fulfilled in the coming time of Tribulation and Christ’s return to the Earth. The time when He will comfort all that mourn occurs then and during the following Millennial Kingdom which He will establish on Earth. The curse on all nature will have then been removed and Israel will dwell in peace and prosperity. Isaiah 6:3-6 describe Christ’s Millennial reign. It is then that He will be acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of all lords. It is also in this time of His earthly reign that Israel will serve as a kingdom of priests. It is then that this next passage will be completely fulfilled.
6 Blessed and holy is he [all believers] that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death [for all unbelievers] hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. [Emphasis added]
Again, Israel will not enjoy this position of being a kingdom of priests until Christ establishes His Millennial Kingdom at the time of His return to the Earth. In the time that follows, life will go on. Children will be born. The Earth will be repopulated. With people again living for hundreds of years, as they did before the flood of Noah’s day, it won’t take long for there to be many people on Earth again. It is for these people that these Israelites will serve as a kingdom of priests.
In this future kingdom, lost Gentiles will seek God [JEHOVAH], but the only way they can approach Him is through Israel and her priesthood. These Jews will be the mediators between Gentiles and God [See Zechariah 8:20-23, Isaiah 42:1-6, Isaiah 60:1-3, and Matthew 28:18-20]. Contrary to popular opinion, none of these Scriptures relate to us today because we are not the nation Israel and we are not living in her prophetic program.
Therefore, as members of the Church, the Body of Christ, we are not “priests.” What are we then? We only find the answer to that in the writings of the apostle Paul. As we’ve seen, it is Paul who is “the apostle of the Gentiles,” so he is God’s spokesman to us as Moses, Peter and others were to Israel [Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11]. Have you ever noticed that the apostle Paul NEVER uses the term “priests” to describe us today? In none of his thirteen epistles does he even use the term once. Again, not even once! But please note that SOME modern Bible translations have inserted it once in Romans 15:16 [NIV, NASB, NRSV, ESV]. Why have they made this insertion? Answer: For no good reason! I won’t even comment beyond saying that. The point is, there are NO priests today. All that is not a part of God’s program for us as members of the Body of Christ. But who are we then? The apostle Paul answers that question for us.
II Corinthians 5:20
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [Emphasis added]
Our eternal home is in Heaven, not a restored Earth.
Again, Philippians 3:20
20 For our conversation [POLITEUMA = citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]
Therefore, with such an honorable position, let us honor Him well by representing Him well. By the orientation and application of God’s Word rightly divided you’ll position yourself to be able to do that with excellence. And by doing so, you’ll have great reward in Heaven to eagerly anticipate enjoying forever.
II Corinthians 5:10
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. [Emphasis added]
If you were to die today, for what would Jesus Christ wish to reward you? Answer: It would be for the things you did serving well as one of His ambassadors rightly dividing and applying His Word.