Kingdom of Priests
I have written in the past of my renewed vision of our Lord Jesus Christ whose eternal Kingdom is now, but also not yet. Christ is already reigning but has not yet been fully revealed to the world. This renewed vision leads me now to a fresh realization of my role and my purpose here and now. I had seen glimpses here and there in the past of what this role was but I did not fully grasp its meaning. My understanding of my calling was stunted and therefore lacked motivation. There were many times I would read the gospels and the difficult teachings of Jesus confused me. If my soul was saved by faith in Christ alone then why did he ask of me such difficult things? Surely he isn’t actually asking me to give away all my possessions or to hate my family? That’s too much. But now, with a greater understanding of the Kingdom of God, this tension has vanished. Christ did not sacrifice himself just to save me from the bondage of sin. No, his sacrifice was so much more than that.
For those of us who live post-Enlightenment era, understanding what kingdom means has its difficulties. Aren’t we trained to think democracy is better than monarchy? History does seem to show that monarchy is just another tyranny. But the days are now upon us that we must acknowledge the failings of all human systems, tyrants are not always visible in the face of one man alone. Truly, monarchy wouldn’t be so bad, so long as the king was good. But who among us is good? From the time of the fall in Genesis, evil has had its way among the hearts of men. All the kingdoms of the world were birthed by violence and died in violence. Therefore when Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, most were expecting a great revolution which would be manifested through great power and more violence against the empire of the day. And though Jesus had the power to carry this out he demonstrated the only way God’s true Kingdom could ever come into being. He turned the world on its head. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20.16) He knew the only way to defeat evil was to allow it to exhaust all its power upon himself.
Therefore those of us who have placed our hope in this perfect Kingdom must recognize our call. When we follow Christ it becomes our claim that we are to inherit the Kingdom of God. What a glorious picture. To be rulers in a perfect Kingdom. But this thought should also cause us to pause, to remember whose footsteps we follow into this glorious future. “They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10.37-38) Remember, this is a Kingdom turned on its head. A Kingdom implemented through complete sacrifice and not a display of strength. Therefore we who claim to be the ones who are to inherit it must prepare ourselves for the journey there. We must be willing to give ourselves up completely and cling only to Christ. (Matthew 16.24-26) Our hard human hearts cannot accept this message but thanks be to God, Christ has solved the problem of our hard hearts (Mark 10.5, Ezekiel 36.26).
Once we wrap our heads around the complete vision that we hope for, taking the difficult steps of obedience aren’t quite so difficult. Hard yes, but no longer impossible. And with the gift of God’s Spirit to help us (John 15.26) we are more than conquerors (Romans 8.37). Every day, put the old man to death and put on the robes of new creation. “You are a Kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2.9) Today, we citizens of heaven are the bridgehead of God’s Kingdom into a dark world still roiling in turmoil. Hold fast to all that you hope for, shrug off all your selfish ambitions and petty jealousies and give yourself entirely into the hands of our good King.
After You Believe by N. T. Wright