Christian Churches of God
Introduction to the Priesthood of Eloah over time
(Edition 1.0 20071120-20071120)
In this series we will provide a brief introduction into the organization of the priesthood over time and the function and symbolism of the priesthood, and conclude with the physical priesthood from Adam to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
Introduction to the Priesthood of Eloah over time
What is our calling?
From both the Old and New Testaments we see the nature of our calling. Eloah (the One True God) has called us to be priests and kings unto Him.
Exodus 19:5,6 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." (RSV)
Revelation 1:5,6 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (KJV)
Revelation 5:9,10 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (KJV)
1Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (RSV)
We can clearly see that our spiritual calling points towards us becoming a holy priesthood.
Let’s now briefly look at an overview of the priesthood from Adam right through to the Great White Throne Judgment.
The Priesthood then and now
God’s Law is a reflection of His nature. Both God and His Law in Scripture are expressed as holy, righteous, good, perfect and true. Since God has always existed, so too has His Law.
God prepared the position and function of a priesthood so that man would be equipped with the necessary knowledge and guidance needed to worship God correctly in spirit and in truth. It also shows us proper outward love and concern to our fellow man.
God did not create man and leave him without any guidance or instruction as to how He was to be worshipped or how to treat his fellow man. From the first man Adam, God gave him His Laws and with it established the priesthood for the protection, understanding and teaching of His Laws.
Orders of the Priesthood
There is more than just one order or category of priesthood mentioned in the Bible.
We find there is:
The Book of Ezekiel gives us a glimpse into the structure of the Temple worship in the Millennium under Messiah. We find that the sons of Zadok will be the physical priests assisted by Levi in the Millennium, when a physical Temple will again be built (Ezek. 40:46).
Before we start going into detail of the above orders let us briefly review what priests are to be an example of.
The physical High Priest looked forward to Jesus Christ as our spiritual High Priest.
Christ’s first Advent, or coming, was that of a priest Messiah. He offered up himself as an offering under the direction and will of His God. He is the means by which we are sanctified and all of creation, including the fallen Host, will be reconciled and restored back to God the Father.
Jesus, the son of God, now sits at the right hand of the Eternal God as High Priest in the heavenly Temple.
Hebrews 4:14-16 We have a great high priest, who has gone into heaven, and he is Jesus the Son of God. That is why we must hold on to what we have said about him. Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help. (CEV)
Hebrews 10:10-14 So we are made holy because Christ obeyed God and offered himself once for all. The priests do their work each day, and they keep on offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. But Christ offered himself as a sacrifice that is good forever. Now he is sitting at God's right side, and he will stay there until his enemies are put under his power. By his one sacrifice he has forever set free from sin the people he brings to God. (CEV)
Christ’s sacrifice is acceptable and good forever. Christ has restored mankind back into a relationship with God the Father and in doing so gives us an opportunity to be made perfect and holy, as he has been.
Those of us who follow Christ now become living sacrifices.
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (RSV)
We see that our obligation to become living sacrifices does in no way diminish or remove our obligation to keeping God’s Law, but actually amplifies it. By obeying God’s Commandments we become acceptable sacrifices in His sight. We now offer spiritual offerings of prayers, praise and worship to Eloah and we are to preach His Gospel to all nations.
For more information about Jesus the Christ and how to be like him, see the paper Who is Jesus? (No. CB2).
Saints are people who are called by God, who know their God (Jn. 17:3), been given God’s Spirit, and keep the Commandments of God and the faith or testimony of Jesus.
Revelation 14:12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (RSV)
It is these saints who keep the Commandments of God, who will receive the Kingdom and possess it forever (Dan. 7:18). To be a saint, one does not necessarily have to be dead as is taught in mainstream Christianity. All those who make up the Church are saints (Eph. 3:8; 4:12; Phil. 1:1; 1Tim. 5:10).
Isaiah goes on to explain we will be called the ministers of God and shows us what the duties of the elect or called-out ones are.
Isaiah 61:1-7 The Spirit of the LORD God has taken control of me! The LORD has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news, to heal the brokenhearted, and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives. This is the (acceptable year of the Lord, KJV) year when the LORD God will show kindness to us and punish our enemies. The LORD has sent me to comfort those who mourn, especially in Jerusalem. He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts. They will be called "Trees of Justice," planted by the LORD to honor his name. Then they will rebuild cities that have been in ruins for many generations. They will hire foreigners to take care of their sheep and their vineyards. But they themselves will be priests and servants of the LORD our God. The treasures of the nations will belong to them, and they will be famous. They were terribly insulted and horribly mistreated; now they will be greatly blessed and joyful forever. (CEV)
In Isaiah, we see not only are we to be ministers, but we are also portrayed as trees of justice, or righteousness. From Lesson: Moses and The Israelites Move on to Sinai (No. CB40_2), we learn that trees can be representative of spirit beings.
Those who are alive and take part in the First Resurrection, which takes place at Christ’s return, will be changed in a twinkling of an eye into spirit beings (1Cor. 15:52).
To ensure we take part in the First Resurrection, and thereby become spirit beings, we need to be doing the work of the elect or called-out ones listed in Isaiah 61:1ff. This work requires us to:
The function or job of a Priest
The priest is to preserve or keep the knowledge of Eloah and should be able to guide others to the proper observance of His Law.
Malachi 2:7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. (RSV)
The priests are to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes that the Lord had given unto Moses (Lev. 10:11). They are to explain the Law of God (Neh. 8:7). They are to judge and administer according to the Law, neither turning to the right or the left (Deut. 17:8-11: 21:5).
Numerous other scriptures tell us how the priests are to administer the Law of Eloah. Their duties were varied and explained in Exodus 27:20,21; 29:38-44; Lev. 6:12; 10:11; 24:8; Numbers 10:1-10; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; 33:10; and Malachi 2:7.
In summary, priests are required to:
· Live by the Law of Eloah
· Explain the Law of Eloah
· Teach the Law of Eloah
· Keep or preserve the Law of Eloah
· Judge by the Law of Eloah
This is how we become “Trees of Righteousness and Justice” – when we live by the Laws of Eloah.
Meaning of the word Priest
Priests serve as intermediaries – someone who helps us in times of trouble. The Hebrew word for priest is cohen (SHD 3548).
Cohen denotes in this root-meaning ‘one who stands up for another and mediates in his cause’ For this purpose God chose the tribe of Levi and out of it again Aaron on whom He bestowed the priests office as a gift. (The Temple Its Ministry and Services, updated edition, Alfred Edersheim, 1996, p. 57.)
The title or position of priest can apply to a physical priesthood, like that of Aaron and his sons and to those who now make up the Church, the House of the Living God, His saints.
The term "priest" is applied to believers (1Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:10; Rev. 20:6). All true believers are now “kings and priests unto God”.
As priests of the Living God we now are able to draw near to the Throne of God, which we come to know and understand as a throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (RSV)
The role of the Priesthood in the reconciliation and mediation process
Another function of the priesthood was to assist in the reconciliation of mankind back to the Father. Reconcile means bring together, reunite.
Christ, who is our High Priest, is the mediator of a new covenant – not a different covenant as some now teach.
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. (RSV)
The saints of the Living God assist Christ now in reconciling the creation back to the Father. One way this reconciliation is achieved now is by participation in the fast for the Simple and Erroneous. See also the paper Sanctification of the Simple and Erroneous (No. 291).
Christ’s perfect sacrifice reconciled all of creation so that the relationship that the fallen Host and man had polluted and destroyed because of sin is now able to be re-established once again. There was no other acceptable sacrifice that could have restored both the fallen Host (angels) and mankind other than one of the sons (elohim) of God laying down his spiritual existence and becoming a son of man and in so doing lay down his very existence as a sacrifice.
That may help explain why Numbers 18:7 refers to the priest’s office as a gift.
Numbers 18:7 And you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any one else who comes near shall be put to death. (RSV)
The priesthood focuses on the service/worship to God administered by the High Priest. This service provides for the people to be reconciled or brought back to the Father. Anciently, it was the physical sacrifices for the sins committed. Now, we rely on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his acceptance and qualification as our High Priest.
The priestly system focuses on the spiritual aspects of the Law, all the while keeping the physical requirements of the Law such as keeping the food laws, Sabbaths, Feasts etc.
The Bible tells us, it is God (Heb. 5:4) that calls each one of us to be a king and priest.
Hebrews 5:4 But no one can have the honor of being a high priest simply by wanting to be one. Only God can choose a priest, and God is the one who chose Aaron. (CEV)
By our actions we can sanctify or make the nations holy so they can know the truth and repent. We will talk of the sanctification process later on.
God has had a continuous priesthood on this planet, up to and including Abraham. There was never at any time when this planet was without the Law of God or without a priest or priesthood.
From the beginning, the heads of families acted as priests. The Bible doesn’t refer to them specifically as priests; however, there are a lot of examples of the patriarchs performing priestly duties such as presenting offerings, sacrifices, and teaching God’s Law.
From Genesis 4, we know the story of Adam’s first two sons, Cain and Abel. God did not have regard or accept Cain’s offering; yet Abel’s offering was clearly accepted by God.
Genesis 4:3-5 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. (RSV)
Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock and of their fat portions, which simply means he offered up the best that he had.
Though Cain knew to present an offering, he presented an offering in vain (Isa. 1:13). Cain’s heart and thinking were wrong. By not offering the best he had was in part a reflection of his level of commitment and devotion towards God and how he viewed living according to God’s way. It showed where he placed God in his priorities.
God’s First Commandment is that we shall have no other God before Him (Ex. 20:3). By offering just ordinary fruit of the ground Cain had taken the Lord’s name in vain (Ex. 20:7). By holding back what he should have offered Cain created an idol in his heart and breached the Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4).
Not putting God first seems to always lead a person to hold on to anger towards one’s brother. This is what happened with Cain causing him to murder his brother Abel.
Failure to worship the One True God and obey His Law only brings violence and death and destroys any chance of lasting peace.
Cain went on to marry one of his sisters, and they had children (Gen. 4:16-17). The generations of Cain went on but none of these offspring of Adam obeyed God’s Laws. For more information about Cain and Abel see Cain and Abel: Sons of Adam (No. CB7).
Seth is the third son of Adam and Eve. He, too, took a sister for his wife, and they had children and many grandchildren. The generations of Adam under the line of Seth called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 4:25-26). This line of Adam did have men and woman that obeyed God.
Genesis 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him." (RSV)
Seth (SHD 8352, Shêth) means substituted and comes from shîyth (SHD 7896) meaning to place.
From this time, men began to call on the name of Yahovah; therefore, they knew who God was. The Law was given to the world from the beginning and Yahovah was part of the plan that taught God’s Law to mankind. For more details see the papers Doctrine of Original Sin Part 2 The Generations of Adam (No. 248); Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (No. CB6); and Cain and Abel: Sons of Adam (No. CB7).
As we read about the generations of Seth, we see another important person being born. His name was Noah and God was going to use him in a very important way. After Noah was 500 years old he became the father of three sons called Shem, Ham and Japheth.
We see many examples of Noah performing the duties of a priest. He built an altar to God and offered sacrifices (Gen. 8:20). Noah was called by God and served God through his obedience.
The birthright was passed to Shem, the youngest of Noah’s three sons, as priest of God in the Order of Melchisedek. On the death of Shem, the priesthood passed to the sons of Isaac from Abraham. There was a priest of the Most High God without genealogy. That priesthood was through the sons of Noah and Abraham who qualified to take over from that priesthood (see also the papers Abraham and Sodom (No. 91) and Tithing (No. 161)).
We know from the story that Abraham went to rescue or save his nephew Lot when Lot was taken captive. The king of Sodom came with his remaining men to honour Abraham for what he had done to the enemy. This meeting took place at a spot near the city of Salem, which later was called Jerusalem.
Melchisedek, king of Salem, also came out to meet Abram. Melchisedek’s servants brought out bread and wine to Abram and his weary men (Gen. 14:13-16). Melchisedek blessed Abram for rescuing the people who had been taken captive. Melchisedek was not only a king but also a priest of God Most High (Heb. 7:1).
It is interesting to note that Messiah was to become a priest forever after the Order of Melchisedek. He is a High Priest forever, but he was not that Melchisedek who met Abram. He was another priest after that Order (Heb. 7:11, RSV). Jesus went as a forerunner on our behalf. This means that we also are to become priests of that Order with Jesus Christ as our High Priest. The priesthood of Melchisedek is part of a promise of God (Heb. 6:17-20).
Psalm 110:4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You [Messiah] are a priest forever, In the order of Melchizedek.
The significance of the bread and wine being given to Abram, related directly to the bread and wine established by Messiah at the Lord’s Supper. This event looked forward to the giving of the Holy Spirit under the new priesthood of the Order of Melchisedek, as introduced by Messiah.
Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods that had been left behind by the attackers who had fled, even though Abram kept none of it for himself (Gen. 14:20-24). This was to show us that Abram’s descendants would give tithes to the priests. God's tithing Law states that anyone who fails to give a tenth of his earnings to God's priests is robbing God (Mal. 3:8). All possessions are God's. Giving back a tenth is one of the right ways to honour Him.
The king of Sodom offered to reward Abram for all he had done, but Abram refused to accept anything. He preferred God's blessings to the wealth an earthly king could provide. It is interesting to note that the people of Sodom were blessed here because of Abram, even though they were living contrary to God’s Law. For more information see Abraham and Sarah (No. CB10).
The priesthood prior to the setting up of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness
At the time of Moses we know there was a priest of Midian that knew the One True God. He is referred to as Jethro or Hobab (Jdg. 4:11), who was the son of Reuel or Raguel (Num. 10:29). He became Moses’ father-in-law.
Although there is much confusion over these names, it seems that Hobab was also known as Jethro (meaning his excellence).
Jethro was one of the sons of Keturah. Keturah was a concubine of Abraham. Abraham would have taught all his sons the laws. Though Jacob/Israel went into Egypt, Keturah’s sons did not; therefore, some of her sons did not learn the false systems of worship and other sons of Abraham did. Jethro was the priest of Midian who sacrificed to the Lord and knew the Lord was greater than all. Jethro remained loyal to the One True God (Ex. 18:12). See the paper Pentecost at Sinai (No. 115) for more details.
The Qur’an is the book that the Arabs use to learn about God. The Qur’an is a commentary on the Old and New Testaments. In the Bible the information is grouped in verses and chapters. The Qur’an is set out in similar manner, but instead of calling them Chapters they are known as Surahs.
The people of Midian are mentioned many times in the Qur’an. The person Shu’eyb is Jethro priest of Midian and Moses’ father-in-law. Midian is mentioned in the following Surahs: 9:70,71; 11:84; cf. 26:175; 15:78; 28:45; 50:14; et al.
We see here that those inhabiting Midian had been given the true teachings of God at one time. Jethro was one of Abraham’s descendants who remained obedient to the One True God, and who appears to have been directly commissioned by God. See the paper Descendants of Abraham Part IV: Sons of Keturah (No. 212D).
Israel went into Egypt at the time of the famine. While in Egypt they “lost the Laws of God” and had to be re-taught the laws their forefathers knew. This is what God did through the Angel of Yahovah or the Angel of the Presence. This Angel or Messenger later became Jesus Christ. With time, God explained how Levi would be the priestly line of Israel.
We see there was always a priest of the One True God on the Planet. After the Exodus, Moses was told the plans for the Tabernacle and the organization of the priesthood when he was on the mountain fasting for 40 days the first time. In the next lesson we look at selection, ordination/consecration of the priesthood, dress or garments of the priesthood and look at one week in the life of a priest to help us learn more about the priestly duties.
In closing, let us review the main things priests or the elect of God should do.
We see that God and His Law are holy, righteous, goodness, perfect and truth. God and His Law have always existed.
God’s perfect plan involved a priesthood. Messiah qualified to be our High Priest and is currently functioning in that capacity.
As Christ was appointed a priest, so too are we appointed to follow him in that priesthood. He was made perfect as we are to be made perfect. We are required to work in the Faith. We have a duty and responsibility to work towards these major points:
· Live by the Law of Eloah
· Preserve the Law of Eloah
· Teach the Law of Eloah
· Judge by the Law of Eloah.
Let us all do our part so that the word of God is greatly increased and many become obedient to the Faith.
Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (RSV)
May we all continue to move forward in doing the work of the living God, so we can be called "Trees of Justice” unto the Lord, standing firm in the Faith as we wait to rule with Christ as kings and priests.