If you had the choice, which would you rather be: a king or a priest? Some say that they would rather be a priest, because they can’t see themselves ruling even one city, much less several. Others look forward to being a king and exercising the authority of government in righteousness. How about you? Do you have a preference?
The Feast of Tabernacles is filled with exciting meaning about the coming of Christ and the establishment of God's government on this earth, replacing darkness with light. It will be a time of healing and hope—the initiation of an era in which the world is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea (Isaiah 11:9). And if we overcome to the end, each of us will have a great part in this grand picture. In his letter to the Church in Corinth, Greece, the Apostle Paul wrote that "we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). But after you are changed, what will you actually do? The Feast of Tabernacles pictures—among other things—your important, vital service. So, it is a big question for each of us personally.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, we meditate on the things that we will do—and be—throughout the first 1,000 years of Jesus Christ's reign.
Revelation 1:6 tells us that Jesus Christ "has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Everyone in God's Kingdom is to be a priest—and is to rule as a king, as well. But how is this possible? Biblically, these roles are generally separate. Prophecy declares that the line of Judah is promised eternal kingship: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet" (Genesis 49:10). And in Israel, only Levites could be priests. So, what about Jesus Christ, our High Priest? He was of Judah, the tribe of the scepter and kingship. He was not of the tribe of Levi.
In the Kingdom of God, how can Christ and the children of God have roles as both kings and priests? Is God inconsistent?
Your Job Description
The Apostle Peter also said that we will be both kings and priests. "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Peter is describing a priesthood consisting of kings.
We know that, when Christ is revealed, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), but does our similarity extend to our future roles, as well? It does! Notice: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:21–22).
Do we both hear and understand that? That is your future!
As we approach the Feast, let's look at what it means to be in a royal priesthood for 1,000 years. What do you imagine that will be like? What will be your priestly order? It will not be of Levi. Today, let's learn some things about your priestly order—the Order of Melchizedek!
Jesus Is Melchizedek
Some history of Melchizedek in the rest of the Bible is helpful in understanding His identity. In Genesis 14, Abram's nephew, Lot, was taken captive when Sodom and Gomorrah fell in a battle (v. 12). Abram went out to free him and did so successfully (vv. 15–16). Then he received a visitor:
"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' And he [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] a tithe of all" (vv. 18–20).
Mainstream Protestant commentaries present Melchizedek as a shadowy, ancient man—a priestly king of some sort—who in some way was a physical type of what Christ would later be. They often see the Father as the angry, harsh God of the Old Testament, while Jesus was His kinder, gentler Son who did away with His Father's harsh old law. For them, Melchizedek must be a metaphor or type. But who is Melchizedek really? It's important to know His identity if we're to know who we will be.
Melchizedek was "King of Salem," and it is interesting to note that the word translated Salem, which means "peace," is where we get the modern words of salaam (Arabic) and shalom (modern Hebrew). Where is this Salem that Melchizedek is king of? King David wrote, "In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion" (Psalm 76:1–2). Salem and Zion are biblically the same.
Biblical commentaries confirm that Salem was an ancient name for Jerusalem. In ancient documents called the "Amarna Letters," Uru-salam (Jerusalem) means, "City of Peace." Melchizedek was King of Salem—or King of Peace. That is an exalted title and an exalted location.
The Land of Moriah
Some very important events occurred at a place called Moriah. It consists of the three low mountains on which the ancient city of Jerusalem was built. Abraham took Isaac to Mt. Moriah to be sacrificed, to a place located somewhere in what later became Jerusalem.
"Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you'" (Genesis 22:1–2).
Solomon built the temple on Mt. Moriah, and one of its three hills is known in modern times as the Temple Mount. "Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite" (2 Chronicles 3:1).
So, the Bible tells us of Melchizedek, a mysterious priest who lived during Abraham's time, located at what would later be Jerusalem and dwelling at or near the site where Solomon's Temple would be built. This remarkable place, Moriah, along with its environs in Jerusalem, is noted in the Bible for several important events.
- Isaac was offered there
- Jesus Christ was sacrificed there.
- In the present day, it is the most highly contested piece of real estate on earth.
- It is where Christ will return to His temple.
- It is where Christ will rule: the earthly Zion!
Remarkable Names and Attributes
This mysterious Melchizedek's name means "King of Righteousness." He is also called King of Salem, or "King of Peace." Who else in the Bible is called such names? Interestingly, the Messiah is also called "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
Of course, Jesus is the King of Righteousness. In Jeremiah 33, He is called "a Branch of righteousness" (v. 15) and His reign in Jerusalem gives the city the name "The Lord our Righteousness" (v. 16).
The Apostle Paul gives these same names when he describes our High Priest in the book of Hebrews, noting that "the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated 'king of righteousness,' and then also king of Salem, meaning 'king of peace'" (Hebrews 6:20–7:2). And Paul testifies that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, whom he blessed: "Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better" (v. 7).
This Melchizedek certainly has an exalted position in the Bible.
- He hails from Jerusalem, where the temple would later be, as well as the future throne of the Kingdom of God.
- He is called the King of Righteousness and King of Peace—names for Jesus Christ.
- He received tithes from Abraham.
- He heads a priestly order that is superior to Aaron's.
- God sent Abraham to Moriah, the land of Melchizedek, to sacrifice Isaac as a type of Christ's own future sacrifice.
Only Jesus is Judge and High Priest. Melchizedek means "King of Righteousness," and what man can be king over God's law? How could a human priest bear such a name? For a man to do so would be presumptuous and blasphemous. Would Abraham give tithes to an unrighteous, blasphemous priest? Of course not.
But this gets even more interesting.
Paul says Melchizedek is "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3). Quoting Psalm 110:4, Paul says of Jesus, "For He testifies: 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'" (v. 17).
Melchizedek is "like unto the Son of God" and is a high priest perpetually, so he cannot be simply "an early king in the region" as some scholars prefer to reason.
The Aaronic priesthood was named for its first High Priest, Aaron, who was the brother of Moses, and those of its order are descended from Aaron. Similarly, Melchizedek, "the King of Righteousness," would be the first of the Order of Melchizedek. The Apostle Paul told the Hebrews that Melchizedek holds His office "continually." The Aaronic High Priesthood passed from one man to another as each High Priest died. But our High Priest, Jesus Christ, lives forever and therefore holds His office forever—or "continually."
Would the Order of Melchizedek have two High Priests, both serving "continually" or "forever"?
The Apostle Paul described the resurrected Christ to Timothy, saying, "He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power" (1 Timothy 6:15–16).
What other biblical figure is described as having "no end of life" and no "beginning of days"? These plain statements do not mean that they couldn't figure out the date of Melchizedek's birthday—rather, they mean exactly what they say. These things can only describe Jesus Christ. When Abraham gave tithes, it was to the One who became Jesus.
Melchizedek is Jesus, the Messiah, the Eternal (YHVH)—the God of the Old Testament. These are different names for the same individual!
Kings or Priests Versus Kings and Priests
As we noted earlier, the kings of Israel, including the Messiah were to come out of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). But the Levites' inheritance was to be the tithe, and they would attend the priesthood: "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting" (Numbers 18:21). Judah had a tribal land, while the Levites were scattered among the tribes.
So, in Israel, the scepter—meaning kingship—went to Judah, while the priesthood went to Levi. How can Jesus, who is of Judah, be our High Priest? He was not of Levi, so certainly not of the Aaronic priesthood. The Apostle Paul recognized this when he wrote, "For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood" (Hebrews 7:14). Yet, the Bible clearly says that the Messiah is both a king and a priest.
This prophecy refers to the Messiah: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, [note: king and priest] and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zechariah 6:12–13). The Messiah is both king and priest.
And what about the Church of God? The Church is composed of people of all ethnicities. How can God's Church, which is spiritually the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15–16), be both kings and priests? Asking the right questions can be important, and here are some right questions and right answers:
On whose throne did David and Solomon sit? They sat on a throne belonging to the Eternal, YHVH, the Lord God of Israel: "Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered" (1 Chronicles 29:23). And the divine ownership of that throne was well known. The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon and said, "Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne to be king for the Lord your God! Because your God has loved Israel, to establish them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness" (2 Chronicles 9:8).
Who is the Son of David and heir to his throne? Jesus, the Messiah, will sit on David's throne when He returns (Isaiah 9:7). And, as we've seen, the throne of David is, in fact, Christ's in the first place. Jesus, who currently sits with the Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21), is coming to reclaim His own. And, when He "became flesh" (John 1:14), He was of the seed of David, as the genealogies of Matthew and Luke demonstrate. So, He is also David's heir in that way.
Who will be heirs together with Him? The Bible answers, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:16–17). This great promise includes everyone in God's Church from all nationalities and ethnicities.
How will the Church be kings, as well? Concerning the Church, Christ said, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21). The Apostle Paul says that those who are Christ's and circumcised in the heart are inwardly Jews, in the Spirit (Romans 2:28–29).
If kings, how then priests? Christ revealed that we have been made "kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10). The saints will be priests after the Order of Melchizedek.
The Eternal—YHVH of the Old Testament—gave David His own throne. When Jesus comes again, He, as the Son of David, regains it. The Eternal, who is High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, also granted the Levites their priesthood. But the Order of Melchizedek remains superior (Hebrews 7:5–10). Christ, as the Eternal, gave Judah the scepter, and His claim to His throne is superior to that of anyone else of the tribe of Judah. The Eternal, Jesus the Messiah, is both king and priest. He is King of kings and High Priest forever. And Christ will give to His saints positions as kings and priests as He chooses.
The fact that Jesus is both a king and high priest can be resolved only in Melchizedek. The fact that the glorified members of the Church of God will serve as both kings and priests can be resolved only in the identity of Melchizedek as Jesus Christ. The Church of God is indeed a royal priesthood.
Your Job Description as a Priest
We often mention how the saints, as kings, "shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10), and we should remember that—especially in the fall Holy Day season. But what will we be doing as priests?
For one thing, we will teach! As mentioned earlier, Isaiah prophesied, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). How will this wonderful outcome be accomplished? If the earth is to be full of that knowledge, someone has to put it there. A whole world must be reeducated with right knowledge. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong used to say that we're called to be teachers in the kingdom. On Pentecost in 1985, not long before his death, Mr. Armstrong said, "We're not called to just be the first ones to get into the Kingdom of God. We're called for a special mission—to become teachers."
Knowledge will not suddenly happen to a world that has been blinded for 6,000 years. Picture a whole society of people coming out of a cave of darkness, having been there all their lives, emerging now—for the first time—into glorious daylight. How will they react? Perhaps they will squint and shield their eyes at first, but their understanding will no longer be blocked by the Adversary. Imagine a world of a deceived people without a deceiver. They will have a long way to go, and they will need teachers. What an opportunity!
"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 [the resurrected Church]; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
That is a job description!
We will also counsel and heal. The resurrected and glorified Church will find a world in shock. It will have endured three and one-half years of terror. People will be traumatized, both physically and psychologically. Millions will be filled with grief and hopelessness from what they have endured. There will be countless injuries, and they will need much healing.
Many in the Church have had sore trials in this life, including the loss of loved ones, severe illness or accidents, physical pain, emotional pain, depression and discouragement. But Christ will help us turn our sufferings into great resources. "For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18, RSV). It will be the same for the glorified kings and priests serving under Him. The trials you are having now will be invaluable in your service to others during the Millennium.
These are just a few of the things that the priests of the Order of Melchizedek will do as members of God's Kingdom.
So why is this priestly Order of Melchizedek so important to each of us, particularly during this Fall Festival season? Because it is your future as a part of the Kingdom of God—your priestly order. Sometimes we tend to think we will be kings or priests in the Kingdom. Not so! We will be kings and priests because we will be a kingdom of priests. A holy nation. A royal priesthood—of the Order of Melchizedek!