A Royal Priesthood to Benefit All Mankind
“You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.’”—1 PETER 2:9.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
When did Jehovah first promise a royal priesthood?
How do members of the new covenant become a royal priesthood?
How will the royal priesthood benefit mankind?
1. Why is “the Lord’s evening meal” also called the Memorial? What is the purpose of this observance?
DURING the evening of Nisan 14 in the year 33, Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles observed the Jewish Passover for the last time. Then, Jesus told Judas Iscariot, who was about to betray him, to leave. Next, Jesus introduced a different observance. This observance was later called “the Lord’s evening meal.” (1 Corinthians 11:20) Jesus twice said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” This occasion is also known as the Memorial. It is a special occasion when we remember what Christ did, especially that he died for us. (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25) Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the world obey this command by holding the Memorial every year. In 2012, Nisan 14 of the Bible calendar begins at sunset, Thursday, April 5.
2. What did Jesus say about the bread and the wine?
2 The disciple Luke tells us in a simple way what Jesus did and said on that occasion: “He took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: ‘This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ Also, the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, he saying: ‘This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.’” (Luke 22:19, 20) How did the apostles understand these words?
3. How did the apostles understand Jesus’ words about the bread and the wine?
3 The apostles were familiar with the animal sacrifices that priests offered to God at the temple in Jerusalem. These sacrifices were made to gain Jehovah’s approval, and many were sacrifices for forgiveness of sins. (Leviticus 1:4; 22:17-29) So when Jesus said that his body would be given in their behalf and his blood would be poured out in their behalf, the apostles understood that he would give his own perfect life as a sacrifice. His sacrifice would have much more value than animal sacrifices.
4. What did Jesus mean when he said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood”?
4 What did Jesus mean when he said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood”? The apostles knew Jeremiah’s prophecy about that new covenant. (Read Jeremiah 31:31-33.) Jesus’ words showed that he was now introducing that new covenant. This new covenant would replace the Law covenant that Jehovah had made with Israel through Moses. Were these two covenants connected?
5. What opportunities did the Law covenant give Israel?
5 Yes, their purposes were closely connected. When Jehovah introduced the Law covenant to Israel, he said: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) How did the Israelites understand these words?
THE PROMISE OF “A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD”
6. What promise did the Law covenant help to fulfill?
6 The Israelites knew what a “covenant,” or serious agreement, was because Jehovah had made covenants before with Noah and Abraham. (Genesis 6:18; 9:8-17; 15:18; 17:1-9) As part of his covenant with Abraham, Jehovah had promised: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18) Jehovah made the Law covenant to help fulfill this promise. Based on this covenant, Israel could become Jehovah’s “special property out of all other peoples.” For what purpose would Israel become a special property? So that they could become “a kingdom of priests” to Jehovah.
7. What did the Scriptures mean by “a kingdom of priests”?
7 The Israelites were familiar with kings and priests. But there was only one man of ancient times who had been both king and priest at the same time with Jehovah’s approval. That was Melchizedek. (Genesis 14:18) Through the Law covenant, Jehovah gave the Israelites the opportunity of having “a kingdom of priests” chosen from their nation. The Scriptures later speak of these chosen ones as “a royal priesthood,” that is, kings who would also be priests.—1 Peter 2:9.
8. What do priests appointed by God do?
8 A king, of course, rules. But what does a priest do? Hebrews 5:1 explains: “Every high priest taken from among men is appointed in behalf of men over the things pertaining to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” A priest appointed by Jehovah represents the people before God. He begs Jehovah to forgive the sins of the people by offering Jehovah sacrifices. Also, a priest represents Jehovah before the people by teaching them God’s law. (Leviticus 10:8-11; Malachi 2:7) In these ways, the priest helps sinful people to be reconciled to God, that is, to have a friendship with God again.
9. (a) What did Israelites need to do to have the opportunity to be “a kingdom of priests”? (b) Why did Jehovah appoint some as priests within Israel? (c) Why could the Israelites not be “a kingdom of priests” under the Law covenant?
9 The Law covenant gave Israelites the opportunity to become kings and priests to benefit “all other peoples.” But there was something that the Israelites needed to do to have this wonderful opportunity. God said: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant.” Could they “strictly obey” Jehovah? Yes, but not perfectly. (Romans 3:19, 20) It is for this reason that Jehovah appointed some as priests within Israel. These priests did not serve as kings. They made animal sacrifices for the sins of the people. (Leviticus 4:1–6:7) These sins also included the sins of the priests themselves. (Hebrews 5:1-3; 8:3) Even though Jehovah accepted these sacrifices, they could not completely remove sin from the Israelites. The priesthood under the Law covenant could not completely reconcile even sincere Israelites to God. It is as the apostle Paul said: “It is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away.” (Hebrews 10:1-4) Because the Israelites did not obey all the things in the Law, they came under a curse. (Galatians 3:10) In that condition, they could not serve all other peoples as a royal priesthood.
10. What was the purpose of the Law covenant?
10 This does not mean that Israelites could never become part of “a kingdom of priests” as Jehovah had promised. If they sincerely tried to obey Jehovah, they would have this opportunity, but not while they were under the Law. Why not? (Read Galatians 3: 19-25.) To understand this, we need to know what the purpose of the Law covenant was. The Law protected obedient Israelites from false worship. It also helped them to understand that they were sinners and needed a greater sacrifice than their high priest could offer. The Law was a “tutor” that would prepare them to accept the Christ, or Messiah. These names mean “Anointed One.” However, when the Messiah arrived, he would introduce the new covenant that Jeremiah prophesied about. Those who accepted the Christ became part of the new covenant and would actually become “a kingdom of priests.” Let us talk about how.
MEMBERS OF THE NEW COVENANT BECOME A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
11. How did Jesus become the foundation of a royal priesthood?
11 In the year 29, Jesus of Nazareth became the Messiah. He was about 30 years old when he got baptized. His baptism showed that he was willing to do Jehovah’s special will for him. Jehovah then said about him: “This is my Son, the beloved.” And Jehovah anointed him, not with oil, but with holy spirit. (Matthew 3:13-17; Acts 10:38) God anointed Jesus so that he could be High Priest and future King for the benefit of everyone who believes in him. (Hebrews 1:8, 9; 5:5, 6) He would then make it possible for others to become part of a truly royal priesthood.
12. What did Jesus’ sacrifice make possible?
12 As High Priest, what sacrifice could Jesus offer that would make it possible for the inherited sin of those who believe in him to be completely forgiven? What Jesus said when he introduced the Memorial of his death helps us to understand that the sacrifice was his own perfect human life. (Read Hebrews 9:11, 12.) After Jesus was anointed to be High Priest, he allowed himself to be tested and trained until his death. (Hebrews 4:15; 5:7-10) After he was resurrected, he went to heaven and offered the value of his sacrifice to Jehovah. (Hebrews 9:24) From that time on, Jesus could “plead” with Jehovah for those who exercise faith in his sacrifice. He could help them to serve God with the hope of receiving everlasting life. (Hebrews 7:25) His sacrifice also made the new covenant valid.—Hebrews 8:6; 9:15.
13. What would happen to those in the new covenant?
13 Those in the new covenant would also be anointed with holy spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:21) Faithful Jews and then Gentiles were included. (Ephesians 3:5, 6) What would happen to those in the new covenant? Their sins would be completely forgiven. Jehovah had promised: “I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) Now that Jehovah had forgiven their sins, they could become “a kingdom of priests.” Peter told the anointed Christians: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) The apostle Peter quoted the words that Jehovah used when He introduced the Law to Israel. Peter here repeats these words and applies them to Christians in the new covenant.—Exodus 19:5, 6.
A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD THAT BENEFITS ALL MANKIND
14. Where does the royal priesthood serve?
14 Where do those in the new covenant serve? They serve on earth. As a group, they are a priesthood. They represent Jehovah to people by preaching about “the excellencies” of Jehovah and by giving spiritual food, or instruction. (Matthew 24:45; 1 Peter 2:4, 5) After their death and resurrection, they are completely able to do the work of both kings and priests with Christ in heaven. (Luke 22:29; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 1:6) In a vision, the apostle John saw many spirit creatures near Jehovah’s throne in heaven. They are singing “a new song” to “the Lamb.” They sing: “With your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 5:8-10) In another vision, John said about these kings: “They will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6) These kings, together with Christ, form a royal priesthood that benefits all mankind.
15, 16. In what ways will the royal priesthood benefit mankind?
15 How will the 144,000 benefit people on earth? Revelation chapter 21 describes these priests as a heavenly city, New Jerusalem, called “the Lamb’s wife.” (Revelation 21:9) Verses 2 to 4 say: “I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.’” These are wonderful blessings! There will be no more tears, grief, pain, or cries of sorrow because death will no longer exist. Mankind will then become perfect and be completely reconciled to God.
16 Revelation 22:1, 2 tells us more about the blessings that come from this royal priesthood. It says: “He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” This vision shows us how “the nations,” or family groups of mankind, will be completely cured of the imperfection inherited from Adam. Truly, the former things will have passed away.
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD COMPLETES ITS WORK
17. What will the royal priesthood have done by the end of 1,000 years?
17 By the end of 1,000 years of service, the royal priesthood will have helped mankind to become perfect. The High Priest and King, Jesus Christ, will then present the perfect human family to Jehovah. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:22-26.) The royal priesthood will have completed its work.
18. After the members of the royal priesthood have completed their work, how will Jehovah use them?
18 How will Jehovah use the members of the royal priesthood after that? Revelation 22:5 says: “They will rule as kings forever and ever.” Whom will they rule over? The Bible does not say. But they will continue to have great value to Jehovah. They will have immortal and incorruptible life and experience in helping imperfect mankind. So they will continue to be kings and to be used by Jehovah to fulfill his purposes forever.
19. Of what will all those who attend the Memorial be reminded?
19 We will be reminded of these Bible teachings when we observe the Memorial of Jesus’ death on Thursday, April 5, 2012. The anointed Christians still on earth will show that they are part of the new covenant by partaking of the unleavened bread and the red wine. This will remind them of their wonderful privileges and responsibilities in God’s eternal purpose. All of us who attend want to show deep gratitude for the royal priesthood that Jehovah God has chosen to benefit all mankind.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
The royal priesthood that will benefit all mankind is formed by Jesus Christ and 144,000 anointed Christians who will be both kings and priests over mankind for 1,000 years
Sinful people need to be reconciled to God, that is, to have their sins forgiven so that they can have God’s approval and friendship again
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The Israelites had the opportunity to become “a kingdom of priests”
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Jesus made it possible for others to be part of a royal priesthood
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The royal priesthood will benefit mankind forever