Tuesday, 18 August 2020
…and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6
As is the case throughout Revelation, and which will be noted from time to time, various Greek manuscripts will read somewhat differently. It is hard to be dogmatic over which reading is correct, but normally the variations are not too great.
An example of this is found here. Some manuscripts say, “and has made us kings and priests.” Others say, “and has made us a kingdom of priests.” In this case, the latter is more likely. Vincent’s Word Studies notes that the term “king” is never applied in the New Testament to individuals Christians. That is, obviously, an argument from silence, but it is at least worthy of note. Vincent’s goes on to say that –
“Kingdom describes the body of the redeemed collectively. Priests indicates their individual position. Peter observes the same distinction (1 Peter 2:5) in the phrases living stones (individuals) and a spiritual house (the body collectively), and combines both kings and priests in another collective term, royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). The priesthood of believers grows out of the priesthood of Christ (Psalm 60:4; Zechariah 6:13; Hebrews 7-10).”
There have already been several such differences in the first five verses of Revelation which have not been highlighted. This commentary follows the texts from which the NKJV is derived, but it is still worthy to note such differences from time to time. With this understanding, the words of this verse – words which continue the doxology that began in verse 5 – now state, “and has made us kings [a kingdom] and priests.”
One of the errors of the heretical doctrine of hyperdispensationalism is the claim that the terminology here, and throughout the letters to the seven churches, cannot apply to the church due to its “Jewish” symbolism. That will continue to be addressed as the commentaries continue, but one of such terms is claimed to be right here in this verse. It is argued that it is the Jews, not the Gentiles, who are labeled as “priests.” Further, it is argued that the “kingdom” terminology applies only to Jews. They say that Paul refers to neither in his writings, but rather Peter, the apostle to the Jews, does. For example –
“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 quoting the book of Exodus –
“‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Exodus 19:5, 6
Hyperdispensationalism claims there are two gospels, one to the Jews and one to the Gentiles, and they use these verses as an attempt to show that there are also two bodies based on their heretical teachings. But both of these claims are false. The idea of being kings or a kingdom permeates Paul’s writings, the term “kingdom” being applied to believers almost fifteen times. It would be rather inane to have a kingdom without a King.
Further, the idea of being priests is not limited to the Jewish people and a Jewish kingdom. Paul uses the term in the book of Romans, saying –
“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, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:15, 16 (NASB)
Paul shows that preaching the gospel is a priestly duty in the New Covenant. He then says this to those at Corinth –
“Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:13
Again, Paul directly equates preachers of the gospel to the priests who ministered in the temple under the Old Covenant, demonstrating that they were only types of what would come in the New Covenant. The word “serve” in that quote (Greek: hieros) signifies the sacred duty of a priest.
The sources of the problems with these heretical teachings are many, including 1) using only one translation of the Bible (normally the highly inaccurate KJV) to support the incorrect interpretations, 2) a failure to know and understand the purpose of the Old Testament symbolism and how it points to both Christ and the church, and 3) simple antisemitism.
These are but a few of the reasons for the incorrect theology. Understanding this, John’s words are, in fact, based on the quote (above) from Exodus 19. The Lord said that Israel would be a special treasure unto Him. The term Hebrew word translated as “special treasure” is segulah. It denotes personal property. That is now said of those in the church.
What is happening here is that the Gentiles who were once excluded from the covenant promises “have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (See Ephesians 2:11-13). Together, the believers of all ages are built into a spiritual temple, and our duties and offices come from God’s selection of us, not from genealogy or family inheritance. Rather, it is because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
This body, the kingdom of priests, is said to be “to His God and Father.” Christ is the King (1 Timothy 1:17) of His people, and He is also the High Priest (Hebrews 2:17, etc.) of His people. It is Christ who performs the priestly mediatorial duty between His people and His Father (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the fulfillment of all of the types and shadows of those things found under the Old Covenant, and His work extends beyond the Jewish people to include the Gentiles who have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12,1 13).
Understanding this, and the majestic implications for the people of the world, John continues with, “to Him be glory.” The same phrase is ascribed to God the Father and to Jesus elsewhere in the New Testament. Here, it is applied to Jesus, demonstrating that John is equating Jesus with God. This is because in Isaiah, the Lord (Yehovah) says, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8).
For John to ascribe this to Jesus, if He were not God, would be blasphemy. Understanding this, John’s words indicate that all things came from God, all things belong to God, and all things are to bring glory to God. It is He who accomplished all the work necessary for our salvation, and it is He who has then guaranteed that the saints will rise and live forever in His presence. He alone is sovereign over all things, and it is right that all things are to be done by us to bring Him all of the glory that He is due.
The verse finishes with, “and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This same dominion terminology is used in 1 Peter 4:11 and 1 Peter 5:11. It is Jesus Christ to whom the praises shall never end. In Him, the marvel shall never cease. And because of Him, the awe at beholding the incomprehensible greatness of God will never get old.
From Him flows an eternal stream of delight and majesty. In the new heavens and the new earth, we shall behold this with our eyes, and the praises of God will know no end. And it was all made possible by His own wisdom and splendor, displayed in the most amazing way of all –
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Colossians 1:15-18
Life application: God is taking for Himself a collection of humans to be for His praise and glory. We serve Him as a kingdom of priests. Now, through the blood of Christ, all have access “through the veil” and into the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 10:19).
Jesus Christ is both our King (a kingdom without a king makes no sense) and our High Priest. We will serve under Him as a kingdom of “kings and priests to His God and Father.” Understanding the terminology and how it applies to both Jews and Gentiles, it is obvious that hyperdispensationalism is a heretical teaching. Be careful not to get pulled into such erroneous doctrine. There is one gospel to both Jew and Gentile.
Understanding this, and because we have been so chosen as a kingdom of priests, let us forever ascribe to the Lord His worth and let us forever praise His glorious name. Amen!
Lord God, it is beyond our comprehension that You would look at us and find us worthy to serve in Your kingdom. We know that it is only through Jesus and His work that this is possible. And so, may we rise each day in praise of what You have done, giving You glory, honor, and adoration for Your gracious hand upon us. You alone who are worthy. Amen.