Continuing our series looking at fulfillment, we’ll next put our attention on the priesthood. Following our spiritual application of prophecy, we would expect to find a “spiritual” priesthood under the New Covenant. The priesthood of the Law paradigm was temporal in work and nature, with the priests being dressed in robes of distinction. For a complete description of the Levitical priesthood, see Exodus 28-30. Since we have a spiritual tabernacle under Christ in the New Covenant, it is only reasonable to look for a spiritual priesthood, as a temporal priesthood would be out of place in a spiritual tabernacle. We find this spiritual priesthood in 1 Peter:
You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
There is a spiritual house built of living stones, in which spiritual sacrifices are offered by a spiritual priesthood (called “a royal priesthood” in 1 Peter 2:9). What greater proof is needed in order to see that the change from the law paradigm to the fulfillment paradigm is a change from flesh to spirit? The priesthood today is not dressed in robes of distinction for the purpose of offering fleshly sacrifices and ministering in temporal ordinances, nor is there any Old Testament prophecy of such a priesthood to come at some future time. There is prophecy of a prosperous priesthood to come, but this priesthood shares a spiritual nature with the New Covenant in which fulfillment takes place. It is not, and was not intended to be, a mere copy or replacement of the Old Covenant priesthood.
The writer of Hebrews clearly points out the need for a change in the Levitical priesthood, and therefore a change in the law or the covenant. There is a New Covenant for the very reason that there is a new priesthood, and the nature of the new is spiritual. Therefore all prophecy of the new priesthood to come may well be expected to have a fulfillment that corresponds to the nature of the new law under which such changes have been made (Hebrews 7:11-12).
One such prophecy of a new and prosperous priesthood is found in Jeremiah 33:
‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’
For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;
Nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually’ (Jeremiah 33:15-18).
There are several things stated in this prophecy that identify it with the work of Christ under the New Covenant. First, Christ is the branch that was to grow up unto David (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1, 2; Zechariah 6:12). Second, Christ was given the power to execute judgment and righteousness in the land (John 5:27). Third, in Christ, the need for a continuous kingship and priesthood is supplied. “But he (Christ), because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Not only does he have an abiding priesthood, but he also is a king as well as a priest, “…forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 7:21) He is King and Priest, having a throne that “is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8), and “an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Thus, the kingdom and priesthood are united in Christ in fulfillment of Zechariah 6:
… Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From his place he shall branch out, and he shall build the temple of the Lord;
Yes, he shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on his throne; so he shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zechariah 6:12-13).
Christ could not be both a King and a Priest if these prophecies were to have their fulfillment in the temporal paradigm. In the first place:
For he of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
For this reason the author stated, “For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest…” (Hebrews 8:4). But he is a priest upon his throne, which shows that this prophecy was not to be fulfilled in a literal context here upon this earth. Being in the heavens, Christ can be both priest and king after the order of Melchizedek, who was priest and king of Salem (Hebrews 7:1). So, according to the prophecy of Zechariah 6:12-13, the man whose name is “The Branch” would build the temple, rule upon his throne, and be a priest upon his throne. That Christ built this fulfilled temple is clear from Ephesians 2:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
This is the spiritual house made of the living stones that Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 2:5. As for the uniting of the kingdom and priesthood in Christ, this is affirmed in Hebrews:
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. (Hebrews 8:1-2).
So the prophecies of Jeremiah 33:15-18 and Zechariah 6:12-13 are fulfilled in Christ under the spiritual paradigm of the New Covenant. This is the only place where such a fulfillment was possible. Scripture says it cannot be fulfilled in a temporal way (Hebrews 7:13-14; 8:4), and that should settle the matter of literal versus symbolic interpretation. The spiritual tabernacle and priesthood in the spiritual temple are the offspring of the temporal or fleshly types and shadows of the Law. They are in harmony with the nature of the New Covenant and produce children born after the spirit and not after the flesh. Those who fail to see the spiritual significance and application of Old Testament prophecies are not “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll begin looking at the metamorphosis of the elements of sacrifice and temple as we move from shadow to fulfillment.