Priestly Slaves

The man who decides to follow Jesus joins his “Kingdom of Priests,” and as one of his priestly representatives, the new disciple rules with him, both now and in the future. This understanding raises the question: How, exactly, does a believer participate in the sovereignty of his Lord and exercise his authority? Fortunately, Jesus and Paul have provided us with straightforward answers.

When James and John asked Jesus for high positions in his Kingdom, he responded: “You know not what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am drinking, and be baptized with the baptism with which I am being baptized?” – (Mark 10:35-40).

Cross Following - Photo by Luis Georg Müller on Unsplash
[Photo by Luis Georg Müller on Unsplash]

The image of the “
cup” symbolizes something given by God, and most often in the negative sense of judicial punishment. When Jesus “drank” from this cup, he endured the wrath of God on account of the sins of others. His metaphorical use of “baptism” in the passage coveys the same idea - (Psalm 11:6, 16:5, Isaiah 57:17-22, Jeremiah 25:15-28).

When James and John declared that they were prepared to drink this bitter brew, they had no idea what they were saying. The other disciples became indignant, but Jesus used the opportunity to teach them what “greatness” truly means in his Priestly Kingdom:

  • Whoever would become great among you will be your SERVANT, and whoever would be first among you will be SLAVE of allnot to be served, but to serve and give his soul as a ransom instead of many - (Mark 10:41-45).

The English term “servant” in the passage translates the Greek noun ‘diakonos’, a general term for “servant” or “minister,” for one who serves, and the word translated as “slave” (‘doulos’) means exactly that. Jesus illustrated this principle by declaring that he came to pour out his soul as a “ransom.” Greatness is not achieved through power over others but by self-sacrificial service to them.

Unlike the political rulers of this age, his disciples must not become overlords and taskmasters. Reigning in his Kingdom means being the “slave of all” as Jesus did when he laid down his life for his people. His saying in Mark alludes to the ‘Suffering Servant of Yahweh’ in the Book of Isaiah:

  • Yet Yahweh purposed to bruise him…  Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, and the strong shall he apportion as spoil because he poured out to death his soul, and with transgressors let himself be numbered, Yea, HE THE SIN OF MANY BARE, AND FOR TRANSGRESSORS INTERPOSES” - (Isaiah 53:10-12).

The term “many” on his lips is a verbal link to the passage in Isaiah. The many” are the “transgressors” for whom the “Servant” made atonement. Just as he “poured out his soul” for them, so the “Son of Man gave his soul” to ransom the “many,” including his disciples.

In Greco-Roman society, “ransom” money was paid to purchase the freedom of a slave. Christ’s statement was a declaration of his mission - To give his life as the ransom price for freeing others from slavery to sin and death, and he summoned his disciples to do likewise by expending their lives in service to his Kingdom and people.

Paul made a similar argument in the Letter to the Philippians, also by alluding to the passage in Isaiah when he exhorted the Assembly to exercise the same “mind” that Christ did when he “counted others better than himself.”

Unlike Adam, Jesus did not consider the “being like God” as something to be seized. Instead, he “poured himself out, taking the form of a slave… and he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death.” For that very reason, God exalted him to rule over all things – (Philippians 2:1-11).

Paul also provided two real-world examples of what he meant. First, Epaphroditus, his “fellow worker” and “servant to my need,” who became seriously ill, even “nigh unto death.” He “hazarded his life to supply” what was lacking in the Philippians’ service to the Apostle, thus Epaphroditus “poured himself out” for the sake of others – (Philippians 2:25-30).

Second, himself. For the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” Paul experienced the “loss of all things” that he previously valued to serve Jesus and his Kingdom. Considering what he gained by pursuing Christ, he came to value his past achievements as little more than “refuse” in comparison – (Philippians 3:4-11).

In the Book of Revelation, all those who are redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb” become “Priests” in his Kingdom, and they reign with him on the Earth. However, they do so in the same paradoxical manner that he did:

  • He that overcomes, I will give to him to take his seat with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” - (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21, 5:10).

His disciple is a citizen of this Priestly Kingdom in the present tense, which means he participates in its political order and sovereignty over the nations. Unlike the governmental institutions of this age, the follower of Jesus does not become a tyrant, but instead, a “priest” who engages in service for others.

Sunset mountains - Photo by Marco Meyer on Unsplash
[Photo by Marco Meyer on Unsplash]

Revelation declares, the “brethren” of Jesus “overcame” or “conquered” (‘nikaô’) the Devil “because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even unto death.” His “Priests” reign on the Earth by bearing witness and mediating his light in a very dark world - (Revelation 12:11).

To change the imagery, anyone who wishes to become his disciple and reign with him must first “deny himself, take up his cross,” and follow Jesus “wherever he goes,” even when doing so leads to humbling situations and perhaps very unpleasant places.

  • Reign of the Saints - (During the Thousand Years, Satan is imprisoned, and the victorious saints reign as priests)
  • Priestly Kingdom - (Disciples reign with Jesus as priests who render service in his Tabernacle and mediate his light and Word in the World)
  • The Redeemed of the Earth - (Revelation applies several terms to the saints. They form a united company that transcends national, social, and cultural boundaries)


Destruction of Babylon

Gog and Magog