The Royal Priesthood
“Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6, NW.
1. Who make up the royal priesthood, and what benefits come as a result of its establishment and functioning?
MEMBERS of this royal priesthood are the officiating ministers of Jehovah in all has matters concerning his universal organization, and one great service will be to rule as kings with Christ Jesus for a thousand years. This rulership will be from heaven and over the inhabitants of earth, who will then live under the kingdom of God. It is the establishment and functioning of this royal priesthood that give the hope to people of all nations that Jehovah is their God and that there is hope of reconciliation with him. The royal priesthood is made up of Christ Jesus, the great High Priest, and underpriests numbering 144,000. It is to be an everlasting priesthood “after the likeness of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:6, NW) Happiness and holiness belong to those having part in this order of priests, for they share in the “first resurrection,” and over them “the second death has no authority.” During the rulership of this kingdom of priests peace, happiness and life will come to all those of humankind who are blessed with being subjects of Jehovah’s New World King-Priest.
2. What should be the mental attitude of those knowing about the royal priesthood?
2 The scripture at Revelation 20:6 indicates two classes: the rulers, and those ruled. Regardless of the class to which you hope to belong, obedience and faithfulness toward the truth are constant requirements. The prospective members of the royal priesthood need to keep their vision clear and their hope bright, and completely do the will of God. Those hoping for everlasting life on earth in the theocratic new world are eager to learn of the requirements and faithfulness of the royal body of priests that is to rule for the thousand years, and learn to be faithful. Those of the anointed are happy to learn of Jehovah’s purpose to bless and give life to millions of humans. So also those who look forward to living on earth forever will be happy to know about the royal priesthood, to which they will be subject.
3. When did Jehovah first state his purpose to have a royal priesthood, and how was it a theocracy?
3 Jehovah’s purpose to have a kingdom of priests was expressed to his typical people Israel at Mount Sinai. Moses was inspired to inform them: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:5, 6, NW) Israel was to be a sacred kingdom under Jehovah, a real theocracy, a royal nation, living under the rules and rites of the Most High. The word “kingdom” as used in this verse has the meaning of royalty, dynasty, sovereignty. It meant that Jehovah purposed a royal, priestly race, a dynasty of priests, each member having the qualifications and attributes of kings and priests.
4. By Israel’s asking for a king, what were they actually doing? How did they treat Jehovah’s King-Son’?
4 The people of Israel grew discontented, and asked Judge Gideon to rule over them as king. Gideon replied, “I myself shall not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. Jehovah is the one who will rule over you.” (Judg. 8:23, NW) In Samuel’s day the elders of Israel said to him: “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel. . . . And Jehovah said unto Samuel, . . . they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me.” (1 Sam. 8:5-7, AS) Typically Israel was the kingdom of Jehovah, but they were unfaithful and disobedient. Later, when Jehovah sent his Son, Christ Jesus, the Kingdom heir, to them, they rejected him, the Stone of Zion. This typical house of Israel had lost sight of the purpose of Jehovah, and was building in opposition to God’s will. Jesus said to them: “‘The stone that the builders rejected is the one that has become the chief cornerstone. From Jehovah this has come to pass and it is marvelous in our eyes.’ This is why I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.”—Matt. 21:42, 43, NW.
GOOD NEWS TO THE NATIONS
5. How did the apostles Peter and Paul explain the purpose of Jehovah in sending the good news of the Kingdom to the Gentiles?
5 Jehovah’s rejection of the nation of Israel and taking the Kingdom from them opened the door for people of the nations to have the great privilege of becoming a part of the priestly nation. Cornelius of the uncircumcised Gentiles was the first, and Peter said when visiting him: “‘You well know how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to or approach a man of another race; and yet God has shown me I should call no man defiled or unclean.’ . . . ‘For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.’” (Acts 10:28-35, NW) Paul was commissioned to go to the nations, as Jesus said of him: “This man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” Again, to the Jews, “Paul and Barnabas said: ‘It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken first to you. Since you are thrusting it away from you and do not judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, look! we turn to the nations. In fact, Jehovah has laid commandment upon us in these words, “I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the most distant part of the earth.”’”—Acts 9:15; 13:46, 47, NW.
6. In what manner was Jehovah beginning to fulfill his promises to Abraham?
6 Stressing nations, Paul wrote: “It is written: ‘That is why I will openly acknowledge you [Jehovah] among the nations and will sing praise to your name.’ And again he says: ‘Be glad, you nations, with his people.’ And again: ‘Praise Jehovah, all you nations.’” To the Colossians Paul said: “Not being shifted away from the hope of that good news which you heard, and which was preached in all creation that is under heaven. Of this good news I Paul became a minister.” (Rom. 15:9-11; Col. 1:23, NW) “Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’” Again, “The blessing of Abraham might come to be by means of Jesus Christ for the nations.” (Gal. 3:8, 9, 14, NW) Jehovah was using the prospective royal priest Paul to work out his grand purpose concerning the great news’ being turned to people in nations other than Israel after the flesh.
7. Receiving the “good news” means what? Mention some of the benefits.
7 To these ‘called’ ones comes union with Christ, the Royal Priest. Paul wrote: “Formerly you were people of the nations as to flesh; ‘uncircumcision’ . . . without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and you had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ.” And again he says: “For you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” (Eph. 2:11-13; Gal. 3:28, 29, NW) The good news to the nations means being brought into harmony with Jehovah God and blessed with the assurance of his promises. This is true service by God’s great High Priest, Christ Jesus, for not only does he bring the people of the nations near to God but brings God near to them. Pure and holy fellowship results. This good news was released to all nations, but not all the people accept. Toward those who do Jehovah is fulfilling his promise that “all the nations will be blessed” because of Abraham and his seed. This good news is still being declared. In fact, today it is being proclaimed in a more comprehensive, widespread manner than ever before. At the present time the good news calls another class out from among the nations, but the work is still being performed by the royal priesthood.
THE SPIRITUAL ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
8. Explain how God’s purpose to have a royal priesthood is accomplished, though natural Israel failed.
8 Jehovah’s purpose to have a royal priesthood is accomplished, though natural Israel failed. Paul writes: “For not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel’. Neither because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children. . . . It is as he says also in Hosea: ‘Those not my people I will call “my people”, . . . they will be called “sons of the living God”.’” “God did not reject his people, whom he first recognized. . . . The very thing Israel is earnestly seeking he did not obtain, but the ones chosen obtained it. The rest had their sensibilities blunted.” (Rom. 9:6, 7, 25, 26; 11:2, 7, NW) Rejection of Jews brought riches to others, for although some of the true royal priesthood were chosen from natural Israel, the majority were to be chosen from the nations. It is in this manner that Jehovah’s original purpose to have a royal nation of priests is accomplished. Concerning them Paul wrote: “God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; because those whom he gave his first recognition he also foreordained to be patterned after the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Moreover, . . . those whom he called are the ones he also declared to be righteous. Finally those whom he declared righteous are the ones he also glorified.” “If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”—Rom. 8:28-30, 17, NW.
9. How does the apostle Peter identify the royal priesthood?
9 The apostle Peter writes “to the ones chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” and says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.” Peter further says to them: “Coming to him [Christ] as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, you yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture: ‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and he that rests his faith on it will by no means come to disappointment.’” (1 Pet. 1:3-5; 2:4-6, NW) This spiritual building is the royal house because it is built upon the true foundation, Jehovah’s anointed King, the royal Son, the Heir of God. The apostle is here identifying the royal nation of priests, God’s royal priesthood, to be Christ Jesus and his body members, a priesthood of the heavens.
10. Show by scriptures how anyone gets the hope of being part of the heavenly royal priesthood?
10 Such a marvelous hope is far beyond the human imagination. It could only be Jehovah-inspired and made possible by the power of holy spirit. It is this spirit from the Creator that quickens the mind, making it alive to heavenly hopes. Hence it is written to those having such hope: “It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” “If, however, you were raised up with Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God,” and “because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens.” Those enjoying this hope are a spiritual temple in Christ: “In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. . . . a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” The holy, heavenly temple is the royal priesthood.—Eph. 2:1; Col. 3:1; 1:5; Eph. 2:21, 22, NW.
11. Why should all Jehovah’s people be very grateful for the completion of the Kingdom? And what will be its position in the universe?
11 All those of this class yet on earth, together with the hundreds of thousands of the Lord’s other sheep, are deeply grateful for this marvelous provision of God’s workmanship, namely, the kingdom of the heavens. It means a habitation for Jehovah by spirit, and this is something the Most High has not possessed before. Yes, beyond our imagination though it may be, yet it is true. It is the holy heavenly temple. The kingdom of priests is the temple and will be the highest place in the universe, for it is written concerning Christ that God seated him “far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come. He also subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation, which is his body.” The Bible therefore calls him “The Ruler of the kings of the earth.” The apostle John speaks of him as one “that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood—and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” Note particularly the expression “and he made us to be a kingdom,” actually a kingdom of priests. These regal and sacred dignities are the two highest that can possibly exist among men and clearly indicate the superlatively high estate that will belong to the sons of God.—Eph. 1:21-23; Rev. 1:5, 6, NW.
12. How do we know Jehovah’s praise will be sung in heaven and on earth; and does this make us happy, and why?
12 The prospective members of the royal priesthood have a consuming zeal to see the building of God in the heavens completed with themselves a part of it. For it will be the permanent sanctuary of Jehovah, the temple, where his name shall be praised forevermore, and is seen to be a holy array of 144,000 priests under Jesus Christ singing praises to Jehovah. All heaven will hear their glad and grateful song and all the inhabitants of the earth will learn of this the sweetest melody of the universe, for all will be led by the sweetest singer in heavenly Zion, the Lord Jesus, the Royal Priest. That will truly be a choir of choirs, worshiping Jehovah in holy array, in the beauty of holiness, even in the holiness of his sanctuary! In that happy day everything will be in its right place, for the theocratic rule will permeate everything. All created things will speak of the glory and majesty of the Holy One, the Most High God, Jehovah. The day is now so near for all unholiness to be done away with, for every form and expression of iniquity to cease, when no evil thing will be in existence! In that delightful day peace, serenity and happiness will be the portion of all living. “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”—Rev. 4:11, NW.
13. (a) What did the psalmist mean when he desired to find a “tabernacle for the might one of Jacob”? (b) How is this prophetic picture fulfilled, and what are the holy desires of Jehovah’s people?
13 Members of the royal priesthood desire to see these miraculous things take place, and so they work diligently toward that end. There will be no satisfaction, no rest, until everything that lives speaks Jehovah’s praise, until “every creature that is in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them [say]: ‘To the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might for ever and ever.’” (Rev. 5:13, NW) The ancient king of Zion, David, who typified the great Royal Priest, had similar desires and they were recorded for our benefit. He desired and longed to see the ark of God, representing the divine presence, safely deposited and at rest in the sanctuary. Listen to his utterances: “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids; until I find out a place for Jehovah, a tabernacle for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Ps. 132:3-5, AS) Yes, a rest for Jehovah! What a marvelously elevating and inspiring thought! Jehovah’s spirit causes these desires to spring up in the mind and heart. The psalmist continues: “Arise, O Jehovah, into thy resting-place; thou, and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; . . . For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my resting-place for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Ps. 132:8, 9, 13, 14, AS) Zion is the royal city, the “capital” of the universe, made up of the King Christ Jesus and the 144,000 “living stones,” and is Jehovah’s chosen, permanent and dearly beloved dwelling place. It has taken thousands of years to prepare and build his own settlement or temple. Through the royal priesthood he will hold communion with all his creatures. He makes the royal priesthood of Zion an institution of salvation, for he clothes her priests with salvation. Their whole appearance proclaims salvation. The members remaining on earth today publish salvation to thousands upon thousands. “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be Jehovah’s.”—Obadiah 21, AS.
REQUIREMENTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
14. State the first requirement of Jehovah for his people. Should we serve just because of reward? Explain.
14 The first requirement was and still is obedience. When the royal priesthood was first mentioned to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, Jehovah said: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:5, 6, AS) Jehovah said to Israel’s first high priest, Aaron, “Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any portion among them: I am thy portion and thine inheritance.” (Num. 18:20, AS) Those of the faithful, royal priesthood may not serve merely for the heavenly reward, though their hearts must be set on it. But the great heavenly reward will be theirs only if they serve Jehovah in complete obedience and make Him their inheritance.
15. Regarding the typical priesthood, what were some blemishes that would disqualify? Do physical blemishes disqualify now? If not, what kind of blemishes or unholiness does?
15 In the typical priesthood the whole appearance of the priest reflected the highest purity and exclusive devotion to Jehovah. The law was specific regarding the bodily condition and regulation of life. Physical defects such as blindness, lameness, flat nose, broken feet, being dwarfed, blemish of eyes, etc., rendered a man unfit for the priesthood. (Lev. 21:16-24) It has been said that there were one hundred and twenty blemishes that disqualified a priest. Then, if such strict requirements were made for the typical priesthood, how much more for the antitypical? True it is that physical blemishes do not disqualify one for membership in the heavenly royal priesthood, but other blemishes will, for nothing defiled will ever enter into heaven. “The Christ also loved the congregation . . . cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” “No fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.” “Pursue peace with all people, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord.”—Eph. 5:25-27; 5:5; Heb. 12:14, NW.
16. How do Jehovah’s people remain in a cleansed condition?
16 It is a fearful, awesome thought to even contemplate the possibility of disqualification from membership in the royal priesthood. Therefore prospective members must give earnest, prayerful and proper consideration to Jehovah’s requirements. All must remain in a cleansed condition, in a purified state by the preciousness of the blood of Christ Jesus and his available righteousness. Also by the undeserved kindness of our heavenly Father, those in line for the royal priesthood should remember this: “Since we have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, which he inaugurated for us as a new and living way through the curtain, that is, his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with sincere hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience and our bodies washed with clean water.” (Heb. 10:19-22, NW) The great Royal Priest, Christ Jesus, is our protection.
17. Explain Paul’s words at Hebrews 5:1 and their application to Christ Jesus.
17 Some of the chief responsibilities are now mentioned. Paul writes: “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in behalf of men over the things pertaining to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” (Heb. 5:1, NW) This description shows a divine appointment of the priesthood, the essential idea being that of serving in behalf of God and for fallen men, and this is the very essence of the priesthood. It is further stated: “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.” “When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come to pass through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place and obtained an everlasting release for us.” “Christ entered . . . heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” (Heb. 8:3; 9:11, 12; 9:24; 10:12, NW) The sacrifice he offered was his own life given up voluntarily, and the value of the perfect human life he presented to his heavenly Father, and all this to the praise of Jehovah and that we might be the recipients of divine favor.
18. Show how the “priest’s lips keep knowledge.”
18 Those of the royal priesthood must be teachers and guardians of the law of God. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts.” “And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which Jehovah hath spoken unto them by Moses.” (Mal. 2:7; Lev. 10:11, AS; Deut. 33:10; 17:9-11) These appointed teachers must teach theocratically, for tremendous responsibility lay on their shoulders, and God held them to this responsibility. They were administering Jehovah’s law; hence he was the real judge in Israel. Faithful priests taught the law and kept the people of Jehovah in the right paths. They really cared for the “sheep.”
19. Show how the priesthood has law-instruction duties for God’s holy nation.
19 The high priest had the law-instructor duties in God’s holy nation by virtue of the principle of theocracy, for all the powers of the state are united in Jehovah. Even when the congregation acts, it is in the name of Jehovah. He is the Lawgiver. “For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our king; he will save us.” (Isa. 33:22, AS) Just as the legislative power was exercised through Moses and only the fundamental law was valid, so in the development of the theocracy the Prophet greater than Moses, Christ Jesus, dispenses the law of Jehovah. “You must listen to him according to all the things he speaks to you. Indeed, any soul that does not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:22, 23, NW) Joyful obedience is required today.
20. Mention some of the qualifications of the priesthood and why we should consider them.
20 Consider carefully the qualifications and duties of the great King-Priest, who sets the pattern for his underpriests. He was “able to deal moderately with the ignorant and erring ones”; “able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them. For such a high priest as this was suitable for us, one of loving-kindness, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners”; one always available for service because “every priest takes his station from day to day to render public service.” His underpriests, too, are required to offer sacrifices: “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name. Moreover, do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Heb. 5:2; 7:24-26; 10:11; 13:15, 16, NW.