THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD AND THE HOLY NATION
A Hazy Outline as Through a Mirror
By the time Jesus arrived on the earthly scene, the entire nation of Israel had apostatized, with the exception of a small remnant. As a group, the nation was disqualified to eventually be the promised Holy Nation through whom “all nations of the earth would certainly bless themselves.” The time had come to institute the new covenants spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet. (Jeremiah 31:31) How did Jehovah work this out?
Using the pattern of his prototype, the Levitical priesthood, Jehovah set up a new priesthood, but this time, “according to the manner of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:20)
Melchizedek was both king of ancient Salem and a priest of the Most High God. (Hebrews 7:1) Because of this, his was indeed a royal priesthood, and in this way, a fitting representation of the Royal Priesthood to come. The Apostle Paul explained why Jehovah needed this new priesthood.
“If, then, perfection were really through the Levitical priesthood, (for with it as a feature the people were given the Law), what further need would there be for another priest to arise according to the manner of Melchizedek and not said to be according to the manner of Aaron?”
– Hebrews 7:11
Yes, Jehovah’s purpose was for man to become perfect and the Levitical priesthood, as only a shadow of the things to come, could not effect perfection. More than a mere priesthood was needed – a Royal Priesthood must be developed.
As with the typical representation, Jehovah first selected as His high priest “Jesus, who has become a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever.” (Hebrews 6:20)
“Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret), ‘You are a priest forever,’ to that extent also Jesus has become the one given in pledge of a better covenant.”
– Hebrews 7:21-22
But, in order to be according to the manner of Melchizedek, Jesus would have to be a king in addition to being a priest. This qualification as also met. He was a priest by Jehovah’s appointment, and a king by descent of the tribe of Judah:
“For the man respecting whom these things are said has been a member of another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is quite plain that our Lord has sprung up out of Judah, a tribe about which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.”
– Hebrews 7:13-14
In the typical representation, Aaron was appointed high priest along with his sons who were to succeed him after his death. But, in Jesus case, successors are not necessary.
“Furthermore, many had to become priests in succession because of being prevented by death from continuing as such, but he because of continuing alive forever has his priesthood without any successors. Consequently, he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.”
– Hebrews 7:23-25
Then, as with the typical arrangement, Jehovah appointed a limited group of “given ones” to Jesus:
“I make request concerning them; I make request, not concerning the world, but concerning those you have given me because they are yours.”
– John 17:9
These “given one” were to serve with Jesus as royal underpriests:
“[Y]ou 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. But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
– 1 Peter 2:5, 9
Finally, the arrival of the anticipated Royal Priesthood whose priests would also be kings! Next, following the typical pattern, Jehovah prescribed an appropriate sacrifice. This time, the sacrifice would be complete.
“For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, men can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect. Otherwise, would the sacrifices not have stopped being offered, because those rendering sacred service who had been cleansed once for all time would have no consciousness of sins anymore? To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away. Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me.’”
– Hebrews 10:1-5
According to Paul, Jehovah’s prescribed sacrifice for sins under the New Covenant was Jesus’ own body.
Finally, as with the typical representation, the priesthood has responsibilities: “to offer up spiritual sacrifices” and to “declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
“But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Jesus, as Jehovah’s high priest, began personally selecting the foundation members of this Royal Priesthood from the remnant of faithful Israelites. These, called “Apostles,” met together with the Christ on Nisan 14 in 33 C.E. for what is called the Memorial of Christ’s Death, the Lord’s Evening Meal or the Last Supper.
At this meal, Jesus instituted two covenants. Let’s consider the second one first:
“As they continued eating, Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: “Take eat. This means my body.’ Also, he took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my “blood of the covenant,” which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.”
– Matthew 26:26-28
This New Covenant is for the development of the Holy Nation. Once Jesus’ blood had been poured out, this covenant would bring about forgiveness of sin and would provide the means for creating a nation of people who would be in a covenant relationship with Jehovah as a Holy Nation. The apostles were included within the New Covenant, as they, too, would be in need of forgiveness of sin.
But Jesus also instituted another covenant that night that preceded the New Covenant. This earlier covenant singled out a small group within the Holy Nation for a different purpose. Let’s now examine the first covenant in Letter No. 5.