One of the aspects of the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth that believers look forward to the most is being granted the promised roles of king and priest in His Kingdom. But how often have we stopped to examine what specific responsibilities we will have as governors and leaders in God’s Kingdom? What can we learn from scripture about these responsibilities? What will be expected of us if and when God makes us kings and priests? Do we know the answers to these questions? If we do not, I hope by the end of this message we have some idea of what will be expected of us.
Why Do We Expect To Be Kings And Priests Anyway?
Let us begin with an even more basic question. Why do believers think that they will become rulers when Jesus Christ returns anyway? What gives us this expectation in the first place? And what warnings can we learn from other people who have had this expectation but did not do the work necessary themselves to prepare themselves to be kings and priests with God? I would like to address these issues first, before we look specifically at what God requires of those who wish to be kings and priests in His Kingdom.
There are two passages that seem to be most familiar to Christians when they expect to become kings and priests and rulers in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Let us first turn to the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:11-27. This passage tells us about the way that Jesus Christ will determine who rules over how many cities in His Kingdom. Though it is a parable, it is widely seen as referring to the way we will be selected as rulers. Luke 19:11-27 reads as follows: “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authroity over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be ruler over five cities.’ Then another came, saying ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you were an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from he who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.”
This is a very sobering message, and we ought to ponder it seriously. First of all, Jesus is that nobleman who went into the far kingdom of heaven to receive His kingdom and then to eventually return back to earth to establish His rule. The people of the earth, both Jews and many of those who call themselves Christian, do not really want to live under His laws and His authority, which they have rebelled against for nearly two thousand years since His resurrection. Here in this parable, Jesus gives His believers the same amount of money, symbolic of the Holy Spirit and wisdom that God gives us when we are converted and baptized and repent of our sins and have the laying on of hands. Based on the fact that the gift was the same, Jesus then rewards believers with cities to rule in His kingdom based on their trading—their work and development of their God-given natural talents and abilities. The more dilligent a servant in developing their spiritual maturity, the more cities the servant is given to rule. Those who are lazy servants who fail to develop their gifts are not given any cities to rule at all. And those who rebel against the rule of Jesus Christ and God’s law are then killed by God for their rebellion. Let us not be named in the last two of these categories.
Let us look at one other passage that is often used to justify the belief that we will be kings and priests in God’s kingdom. Let us look at 1 Peter 2:9-10. This passage is very straightforward in telling us that we will be kings and priests. 1 Peter 2:9-10 reads as follows: “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; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
We are right to see this passage as promising us that all believers entering into His kingdom are called to become priests and kings in that kingdom. Leadership and rulership are not limited to those who have fancy titles or high positions of authority right now in the Church, but are rather for all believers who develop the spiritual gifts within them that God has given us all. But there is a warning here, because this promise has not only been given to the Church of God. Let us turn to Exodus 19:5-6 to read this promise being given at Mount Sinai to the ancient Israelites as well. Exodus 19:5-6 reads as follows: “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 of the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
This message ought to give us a very serious warning about what God expects of His people. For the Israelites too, including the Jews, were a special people and a chosen nation, but their failure to obey God’s covenant led them to be rejected as His holy nation and chosen priesthood. Even those individual Jews and Israelites who believe do so by being grafted into spiritual Israel, the Church, under the New Covenant established by Christ’s death and resurrection, and not the old covenant. They obey the same commandments of God, but they must recognize Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If God rejected Israel and Judah for their nonperformance of their covenantal duties, might He not do the same with us if we too are found to be unprofitable, wicked, and lazy servants?
The Duties Of A King
What are the duties of a king over several cities ruling under God? Have you have stopped to ponder what it is that a governor would be expected to do? And, by implication, what would He be expected to know about God’s law in order to apply it as a ruler over several cities? Do you know God’s law, and can you apply it and enforce it? If not, are you willing to learn it before Jesus Christ returns? I hope you are, if you expect to be granted rulership by Jesus Christ over people in His Kingdom.
To look at an example of what a governor was expected to know, let us look at the example of Nehemiah. As a governor, Nehemiah had to deal with Jewish citizens who were not very interested in obeying the law, and he was forced to enforce God’s law in the province where he ruled. Let us look at two examples of God’s laws that Nehemiah enforced as the governor of Judah, and let us ask ourselves if we know enough about God’s laws to enforce these laws, and others, ourselves if we were in Nehemiah’s shoes.
First, let us look at Nehemiah 5:1-13, to see how Nehemiah dealt with the problem of the rich exploiting the poor. If we were in Nehemiah’s shoes as a leader, would be be able or willing to enforce those laws of God that prevent the exploitation of the poor by the rich? Would we even realize they existed or still applied? Nehemiah 5:1-13 reads as follows: “And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, “We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” There were also some who said, “We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.” There were also those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been bought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards.” And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.” So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of our reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them.” So they said, “We will restore it, and we will require nothing from them; we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to the promise. Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property who does not perform this promise. Even thus may be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise.”
Let us ask ourselves a few questions. Are we more interested as leaders in hobnobbing with the wealthy and powerful or with enforcing God’s law wherever we have been given authority. Often the wealthy and powerful use their wealth and power to exploit the poor. Here we see that the poor Jews had mortgaged their homes and properties to pay for food and taxes and had even been forced to sell their children into servitude. Nehemiah had no interest in appealing to the wealthy and enjoying their parties and support—he enforced Leviticus 25:36, which forbids the charging of any interest whatsoever to a poor Israelite. Are we familiar with this law and its implications in our societies? Are we prepared to enforce these biblical laws against banks and credit card companies and other businesses that routinely charge interest to the poor? Do we recognize the theft that such companies engage in by profiting off of the want and poverty of others? To their credit, the wealthy Jews, when faced with Nehemiah’s righteous anger, gave back the slaves, property, interest, and grain that they had taken from the poor. Will we be able to show the same passionate defense of the interests of the poor if and when we are placed over cities? Will we be honorable and godly leaders like Nehemiah, more concerned that God’s laws are obeyed than that we receive the adoration of elites? If we are more concerned with pleasing and hobnobbing with the wealthy and powerful than obeying and enforcing God’s law, we will not enter God’s kingdom, much less rule in it. Let us consider that a warning.
Let us look at another example from Nehemiah that shows how a godly governor behaves when confronted with disobedience to God’s laws. Let us now turn to Nehemiah 13:15-22. Here we see how Nehemiah enforced the Sabbath in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 13:15-22 reads as follows: “In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem in the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions. Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath day to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What evil thing is this tha tyou do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath. So it was, at the gates of the Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day. Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. Then I warned them, and said to them, “Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you!” From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy.”
What was the problem here? There were several problems that Nehemiah was dealing with, actually. For one, people in Judah were working on the Sabbath. This is unacceptable under biblical law, namely the Ten Commandments, which require everyone, whether a servant or even a stranger within the gates of a believer, to rest on the Sabbath from their labors. Only the priests and Levites, who were commanded here to guard the gates of Jerusalem to keep out merchants from the city of Jerusalem, were to work on this day to do God’s work. Not only was it a sin for the Jews to work on the Sabbath, but it was also a sin for the nobles to profit from the work of anyone else on the Sabbath. It is also a sin for believers to purchase goods and services, even to go to the market and buy some fried chicken, on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is to be free from our business interests and our laboring, or the forcing of others to labor on our behalf and for our profit. Even the men of Tyre were forbidden from selling to believers on the Sabbath day. And, as Hebrews 4:9 reminds us, the seventh Day Sabbath remains for the people of God, as interpreted and enforced by Nehemiah. Are we willing and able to enforce such Sabbath laws in our own domains, where we have the authority? Do we even know what the godly standard of Sabbath observance is? If not, we will not be governors in God’s kingdom, because only those who know and obey God’s laws will be given the authority to enforce them on others.
The Duties of a Priest
Hopefully our detailed examination of the duties of a governor (or king) in God’s Kingdom has opened our eyes as to how much more knowledge of God’s law is required than is typically understood by the average believer. And truly the responsibilities of a ruler of five or ten cities in God’s kingdom are great. But the responsibilities that we read in Nehemiah only cover the duties of a civil ruler. We still have yet to discuss the duties of a priest, a religious leader, in the Kingdom of God. Let us do so briefly next.
2 Chronicles 19:4-11 tells us the duties of a priest as a judge of the sins of the people. This passage makes it clear what sort of difficult responsibilities a priest in the Kingdom of God faces. 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 reads as follows: “So Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem; and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the mountains of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord God of their fathers. Then he set judges throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.” Moreover, in Jerusalem, for the judgment of the Lord and for controversies, Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the chief fathers of Israel, when they returned to Jerusalem. And he commanded them, saying, “Thus you shall act in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and with a loyal heart: whatever case comes to you from your brethren who dwell in their cities, whether of bloodshed or offenses against law or commandment, against statues or ordinances, you shall warn them, lest they trespass against the Lord and wrath come upon you and your brethren. Do this, and you will not be guilty. And take notice: Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king’s matters; also the Levites will be officials before you. Behave courageously, and the Lord will be with the good.”
This passage tells us some of the responsibilities of a priest of God who serves a godly king. The priests and Levites were sent out as judges into the towns, and some of them remained to handle the difficult cases that were appealed to Jerusalem. The judges were to be fair judges, not showing partiality to poor or rich, to male or female, to one people or tribe over another, nor taking bribes from anyone. They were also commanded to judge offenses to the law, between degrees of guilt, as well as the judgment of whether people obeyed all of God’s laws. Do we know the difference between murder and manslaughter? Do we know the difference between the penalties for theft and kidnapping, or even the theft of different animals? If we do not know the law of God, we cannot be judges of the law, for those who do not understand the law cannot judge according to it. And without a knowledge of God’s law we cannot teach that law to others as was the responsibility of the priests and Levites.
The task of a king or a priest is a difficult one. Civil leaders, such as kings and governors, enforce the law of God with the power of the sword, punishing evildoers and making sure that the law is obeyed, by force if necessary. This is what Nehemiah did, after all. Religious leaders, the priest and Levites, are responsible for teaching the law to the people and for judging obedience to the law as well as the degrees of disobedience, from disobeying through ignorance or weakness to presumptuous and high-handed rebellion against God. If we do not know God’s law well enough to apply it or interpret it or enforce it, God will not make us rulers in His kingdom. We must first rule ourselves before we will be given rule over others, and we must know God’s law before we can teach it. Therefore, if we are not yet qualified to rule as a godly leader, let us take the time we have remaining on this earth to prepare ourselves for our God-given task, so that we may be the wise and faithful servant who is given ten cities to rule, and not the foolish and lazy servant who is given none at all. For God will only give rule to those who are ready to fulfill those responsibilities. Let us not delay in making ourselves ready, with the help of godly ministers as well as the scriptures to help us to understand God’s laws and ways. May we all be kings and priests together when Jesus Christ returns to set up His kingdom. I hope to see you and rule with you there.