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You Are a Priest in God's Kingdom
Our roles as priests today, and how the roles will change at the Rapture
Since the Reformation, the Protestant Christian Church has highlighted the idea that all believers are priests in God’s kingdom. Unlike what the Catholic Church taught for centuries, all believers have the right and authority to approach God for themselves and others, and to interpret Scripture for themselves.
We tend to think of pastors as our “resident holy people,” but the truth is that God calls all of us to be holy. Professional ministry is indeed a calling, but all of us, as believers, have a priestly calling. Every occupation is a form of ministry, and God has given all of us work to do.
The concept of the Priesthood of All Believers has its basis in Scripture—just look at Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6, or 1 Peter 2:5—which has significant implications for how Christians live before God and with each other. I write about this a great deal in Look Up!.
The concept that every believer is a priest, regardless of any other occupation, revolutionized the Church as we know it today. It has great implications for our personal and public lives, as well as for our roles in the church and in our occupations.
In my book, I walk through Adam as a priest, the role of priests in Israel, and the role of Jesus as our High Priest. Adam was God’s first human priest, but he did not obey God, so the priesthood was corrupted. God’s royal priesthood was then recovered by Jesus Christ. However, Jesus’s priesthood alone is not the end of the story. God’s plan all along was to reproduce priests—you and me—through His Son.
When Jesus ascended to His Father’s right hand, He sent the Holy Spirit to anoint every believer for priestly service. In the same way that special offices like prophet or priest were recognized by anointing in the Old Testament, now all believers have been set apart for priestly service. The Holy Spirit has made the Church a holy nation and all believers a royal priesthood. Jesus now has a whole family of royal priests. He cleansed us by sacrificing His own blood and anointed us by His Holy Spirit.
Our Four Roles as Priests
Many Bible scholars believe the book of Hebrews was originally delivered as a lengthy sermon. If that is the case, then the preacher began by declaring that Jesus is God’s royal, priestly Son. When he gets to the close of his sermon, the author/preacher of Hebrews returns to the same theme by telling his listeners that those of us who came into union with Christ by faith were adopted as sons of God (Hebrews 12:1-18) and heirs of God’s Kingdom (Hebrews 12:19-29), and now we are qualified to offer sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13).
Thus, all believers are part of Jesus Christ’s royal priesthood. While we are here on earth, He has given us special authority in our priestly role.
What are the four elements of our role as priests?
1. We declare God’s glory.
Of course, there are individuals who will be given the unique calling to be preachers and teachers, but all believer-priests are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ until He returns. We will need the Holy Spirit to empower us for proclamation in whatever career God calls us to serve.
This role will not change when Jesus returns. We will declare God’s glory for all eternity.
2. We are God’s ambassadors of reconciliation.
Priests in the Old Testament served as agents of reconciliation between God and the people. Now, through Jesus Christ, we are called to intercede to God on behalf of others. One of the greatest corrections made by the Protestant Reformers was that official priests alone should not have the prerogative to go to God on behalf of the people—because all believers are part of the priesthood.
However, many Christians have taken the Reformers’ concerns to mean, “I can go to God for myself, and I have no need for anyone else.” That claim is only partially true. We are called to be priests to each other. Paul wrote this to Timothy:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.—1 Timothy 2:1–4
James wrote that the earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power (James 5:16). We may not need to find a person with the official title of “priest” to confess our sins, but we do need other believers as we walk with Christ. God may have started the process of reconciliation in our lives, but He involves all believers in that process.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes that we are to be His ambassadors who help turn sinners from the errors of their ways. One translation says, “We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
This role will change when Jesus returns. In the Rapture, all sin will cease, so forgiveness will be unnecessary. We will no longer need to be ministers of reconciliation. Jesus’ blood covers our sin once and for all time.
3. We Have Direct Access to God
In the Old Testament, both the Tabernacle and the Temple had a special room called the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter that room and only once per year. Inside the Holy of Holies rested the Ark of the Covenant. This special holy box contained various artifacts from Israel’s beginning, including Aaron’s rod, some manna, and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. God’s manifest presence rested upon the Ark’s top, called the Mercy Seat.
The moment Jesus died, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies was torn by God’s own hand from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Now every believer has direct access to God through Jesus Christ. We no longer need the High Priest to serve as an intermediary. Each of us can approach God’s throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16) and enter God’s presence with confidence (Ephesians 3:12).
Nevertheless, we still live in a world tainted by sin, and our own hearts and minds often keep us from approaching God without fear. We know that prayer works, but sometimes we lose confidence in our own access to God. We know the Lord has won many victories before us, but when times get difficult, we forget that God’s power is available to us.
But when Jesus returns, you will never forget that truth again. Your access to God will be so real and evident that you will never again shrink away from Him. You will not fear His wrath or disapproval. We live much of our lives right now without prayer, even when we know it is the key to our power. We may be weak and frail today, but when Jesus comes again, we will talk with God like old friends. We will never again forget or neglect the privilege we have to connect with our Father.
4. We Offer Spiritual Sacrifices
Jesus sacrificed His own life and shed His own blood to bring us back to God. Why, then, would we ever need to sacrifice again? It is true that no more blood will ever be shed to bring us into a relationship with God, but we are still to offer sacrifices.
So what type of sacrifices do we offer? There are no longer animals offered on the altar. Instead, we are to offer prayers, praise, thanksgiving, love, and kindness.
We are God’s royal priesthood forever. For all eternity we will offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God because of Jesus Christ. The New Testament tells us the kinds of spiritual sacrifices we should offer:
We offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1)
We give sacrificial “offerings of faith” (Philippians 2:17)
We give sacrifices of “praise and thanksgiving” (Hebrews 13:15)
When Jesus returns, our spiritual sacrifices will forever and always be acceptable to God. Jesus’s blood cleanses us and makes our sacrifices pleasing to God the Father.
If you are a Christian, then God has made you a priest forever. I am a priest. You are a priest. Our identity as priests is powerful now, and it will become even more powerful when Jesus returns.