Veiled within the mystery of the kingdom of God there exists a "royal priesthood." And although Jesus did not speak of a kingdom of priests during His ministry on earth, we did hear from Paul.
"But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:15, 16
Through John and Peter we are introduced to the vital, living kinship between Jesus as High Priest and those who are being built up into a spiritual house in Him, "a royal priesthood" to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
"I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice well-pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.
A broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving..."
"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me..."
"Do not neglect doing good and sharing for with such sacrifices God is pleased."
"Tremble (I.e. with anger or fear) and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And trust in the Lord."
Psalm 4: 4, 5
How do I know if I have truly presented myself to God as a holy sacrifice? The following words should resound in my mind and heart.
"I am Thy bondservant, let it be done to me according to Thy word."
And the following should be the constant expression of my whole being.
"I pray Thee, Lord, perfect Thy plan and purpose in me."
"Gather My godly ones to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
"Thy people will volunteer freely (will be freewill offerings) in the day of Thy power..."
A Look Back at the History of the Priesthood
In the earliest known social pattern of ancient Israel, priests as a special group did not exist. The Bible records many presenting offerings to God, beginning with Abel. Others who offered, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob...
Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in the Bible. He is called a priest of God Most High and king of Salem. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and served him wine and bread. Abraham gave Melchizedek a material offering of one-tenth of captured booty. Hebrews 5 and 7 tell us more about him although he seems hidden like the kingdom, a mystery.
When God led the sons of Israel out of Egypt it was He purpose for all of them to be a kingdom of priests. God announced this to them in the wilderness of Sinai, just three months after they had left Egypt.
"...God called to Moses from the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell to the sons of Israel...
"Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own special treasure among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." These are the words you shall speak to the sons of Israel.'"
Exodus 19:3, 5, 6
And the people answered, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."
The next Scripture relevant to the subject of the priesthood is Exodus 20:22.
"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, "You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold. You shall make an altar of earth for me and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings... in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you."'"
And again the people replied, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."
Then Moses built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offering to the Lord.
Suddenly now there is a change in the order of the priesthood. The Bible does not explicitly explain the reason for Aaron and his sons and others from the tribe of Levi being designated to be priests to the Lord rather than men from all the tribes. But the following event has a bearing.
At this time God called Moses to ascend the mountain to receive the law on stone tablets. When the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, they assembled around Aaron and said to him, "Make us gods who will go before us. As for Moses we do not know what has become of him."
And Aaron fashioned a molten calf and the people said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt."
When Moses returned he called for those who were on God's side to come and stand by him. All the sons of Levi came. They were then commanded to go back and forth from gate to gate and kill - every man, his brother, and every man, his friend, and every man, his neighbor. From that time on until the time of Christ, only the members of the tribe of Levi had the privilege of being priests. But the Jewish priesthood vanished from the earth in the time of the destruction of Herod's temple and the scattering of the people to far reaches of the world.
But John is told in visions in Revelation that God's purpose still includes a kingdom of priests; and who the royal priesthood will include is recorded in a new song to the Lamb.
"Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break it seals;
For Thou wast slain, and did purchase for God with Thy blood
Men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priest to our God
And they shall reign on the earth."
Revelation 5:9, 10
And how did the knowledge of this purpose of God's to have a kingdom of priests get lost, swallowed up almost to the point of obliteration, in the years after Jesus ascension to the present generation?
"...there came in terrible distortions from which we are suffering greatly today. The popular thinking fastened upon the building as the identifying symbol of the church and great emphasis was put upon structures and massive cathedrals.
Along with this came a gradual transfer of responsibility from the people to what was termed 'the clergy', which is a term derived from the Latin clericus meaning priest... and a special body immerged and came to be termed 'the ministry.'"
And the church on earth created two specified groups: a ruling class in the pulpit and a "laity" seated in the pews They had forgotten, if they ever knew, that the kingdom of God and the gospel which they claim to preach to the ends of the earth, has both a king and a high priest on the throne.
The Order of Melchizedek
Jesus was born to be King but He was chosen to be High Priest.
"And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when He is called by God, even as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, 'Thou art My Son. Today I have begotten Thee...' just as He says also in another passage, 'Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'"
"The Lord says to My Lord: 'Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.'
The Lord will stretch forth Thy strong scepter from Zion, saying,
'Rule then in the midst of Thy enemies...'
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
'Thou art a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.'
He has shattered kings in the day of His wrath,
He will judge among the nations.
He has filled them with corpses,
He has shattered the chief men over a broad country.
He will drink from the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He will lift up His head."
Psalm 110:1, 2, 4, 6, 7
Abraham Meets Melchizedek
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said,
'Blessed be God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.'
And he gave him a tenth of all."
"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom Abraham apportioned a tenth of all the spoils, was first by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually.
For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of the law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken, belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of the law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.
For it is witnessed of Him,
'Thou art a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.'
...because He abides forever, (He) holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever (or completely) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was fitting that we should have a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens... For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever."
Hebrews 7:1-4, 12-17, 24-26, 28