The Royal Priesthood and the Holy Nation | Letter No. 5
The Covenant for a Kingdom | The Royal Priesthood
Prior to instituting the New Covenant for the development of a Holy Nation, Jesus instituted what we call the Covenant for a Kingdom. He said to his select apostles:
“However, you are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.”
– Luke 22:28-30
This covenant set the apostles apart as the foundation members of the promised Royal Priesthood. Thus, it would be by means of this Royal Priesthood, as part of the Holy Nation, that the remainder of mankind would bless themselves.
This follows the pattern demonstrated by fleshly Israel, whereas the covenant of Levi preceded the Law covenant with the people, so this Covenant for a Kingdom preceded the New Covenant. Also, as in the typical representation, not all in the Law covenant were in the Covenant of Levi, so also here. Not all in the New Covenant are in the Covenant for a Kingdom.
This is further evident from the Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians:
“I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him, having, not my own righteousness, which results from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that issues from God on the basis of faith, so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and a sharing in his sufferings, submitting myself to a death like his, to see if I may by any means attain to the earlier resurrection from the dead.”
– Philippians 3:8-11
Paul had already received forgiveness of sin by Christ’s ransom as a member of the Holy Nation and beneficiary of the New Covenant, but he sought something more – an earlier resurrection from the dead. This is the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation of which only a limited number of the Holy Nation are a part:
“And I saw, and look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . These were bought from among mankind as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”
– Revelation 14:1, 4
“Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests to God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
– Revelation 20:6
Yes, it appears this first resurrection is for the 144,000 members of the Royal Priesthood. Paul goes on:
“Not that I have already received it or am already made perfect, but I am pursuing to see if I may also lay hold on that for which I have also been laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:12-14
But how would the Royal Priesthood and Holy Nation gain members? Jesus commissioned his prospective underpriests to gather others who could become part of the Holy Nation, some of whom would be selected as member of the Royal Priesthood.
“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 10:34-35
“Symean has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.”
– Acts 15:14
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
The people thus gathered would make up spiritual Israel – the remainder of Abraham’s seed – the Holy Nation as a whole.
“[I]t is not as though the word of God failed. For not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel.’”
– Romans 9:6
“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says not: ‘And to your seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ . . . You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”
– Galatians 3:16, 26, 27, 29
“In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news.”
– Ephesians 3:5-6
Abraham’s seed then is the Christ and those baptized into Christ. One person – one seed – made up of a head (Jesus) and a body (the Holy Nation, including the Royal Priesthood).
At some time in the future, the Royal Priesthood would complete their purpose to “gather all things together again in the Christ” and bring mankind to perfection – pouring out the blessings of Jesus life and death to all obedient mankind.
Hence, even with the arrival of the Christ, this was not yet the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise. We do have a clearer picture of how Jehovah’s promise would be fulfilled, but it is still an incomplete picture.
“For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; but when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will be done away with. For at present we see a hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:9, 10, 12
- Jesus instituted the New Covenant beginning with his apostles for the forgiveness of sin and reconciling to God, creating a Holy Nation;
- Jesus instituted the Covenant for a Kingdom beginning with his apostles for the selecting out of the Holy Nation certain men and women who would serve as the Royal Priesthood;
- The apostles and disciples of Jesus would engage in a worldwide preaching work to invite obedient mankind to be a part of the Holy Nation and be reconciled to God; and
- From among the Holy Nation, 144,000 faithful individuals would be invited into the Covenant for a Kingdom and would achieve the first resurrection.
So, we see that the distinction of “two classes” continues – the Holy Nation, which includes the Royal Priesthood, on the one hand, and mankind as a whole on the other hand. But does this “two-class” arrangement continue on indefinitely? Let’s see in Letter No. 6.