By Karen Thompson Second in a Four-Part Series
In last week’s post, we talked about how Jesus’ two-fold calling to both offices of priest and king would be impossible in Israel because of the way in which they selected their kings and priests. Kings only came from the tribe of Judah, and priests only came from the tribe of Levi. Because Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, He could never have been a Levitical priest. But in this post, we’ll see that Jesus was never called to be a Levitical priest. Rather, He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek!
Jesus’ two-fold calling as both king and priest is a fascinating subject. And the way it’s revealed in scripture is fascinating as well. In this post, we’re going to look at the two-fold calling of Jesus in Psalms chapter 110.
The Lord (Father) says to my Lord (the Messiah, His Son), “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet subjugating them into complete submission].” The Lord will send the scepter of Your strength from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will offer themselves willingly [to participate in Your battle] in the day of Your power; in the splendor of holiness, from the womb of the dawn, Your young men are to You as the dew. The Lord has sworn [an oath] and will not change His mind: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:1–4 Amp.).
This psalm was written by King David in which he prophesied about Messiah’s two-fold calling as king and priest. It’s a small psalm, only seven verses long. The period of time this prophecy addresses is right after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Its message, in simplified form, is God the Father telling Jesus, the Son, to sit at His side while He takes care of His enemies. And after the Father takes care of His enemies on the earth, He will send the Son to rule and reign as king at His Second Coming.
Christ Sits at the Right Hand of the Father
The very first verse is one of the most quoted verses in the New Testament: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (KJV). In just one quick scan, I found no less than 20 verses in the New Testament that quote this very verse. This verse was fulfilled when Jesus ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection and was seated at the right hand of God the Father.
When Jesus was on the earth, He knew this verse referred to Him. He quoted it to the high priest when they arrested Him and brought Him before the high priest. When the chief priests and the Sanhedrin looked for a crime of which they could accuse Jesus, they couldn’t find anything. So they brought forth a parade of false witnesses to tell lies. After the liars made their accusations, Jesus said nothing to defend Himself. The chief priest said, “Do You answer nothing?” Jesus remained silent. The high priest then asked Him outright, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus responded honestly. Quoting Psalms 110, He said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:60–62 NKJV)
God the Father Subjugates His Enemies on the Earth
Now let’s look at the last part of that sentence: “…until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet subjugating them into complete submission.” This phrase is referring to the Great Day of the Lord when God pours out His wrath on the nations as prophesied in Revelation. God the Father will subjugate His enemies through the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments and all manner of wrath poured out by the two witnesses.
His Calling as King
Verse two prophesies Jesus’ calling as King: “The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (KJV) The Amplified Bible translates the word “rod” as scepter. A scepter in the hand is a symbol of royal or imperial power. Only a king holds a scepter. With His scepter, Messiah will rule as king in the midst of His enemies. His rod, or scepter, corresponds with Revelation 19:15: “he shall rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron…” (KJV). Also, notice the phrase “out of Zion”: that means Jesus’ headquarters will be in Jerusalem.
He Returns With His Army
Verse three prophesies Jesus Second Coming when He returns with His army: “Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb” (NIV). Revelation chapter 19 gives us a more descriptive picture of Jesus returning with His army to defeat Antichrist:
“I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. … And the armies of heaven … were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron… On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (vv. 11–16 NRS).
Did you notice the inscription on His robe? “King of kings and Lord of lords.” At His Second Coming, He comes back with his army to defeat Antichrist and fulfill His calling as king. As king, He will rule with a rod, or scepter, of iron. Describing the rod as made of iron means He will rule from a place of strength.
His Calling as Priest
Now we come to verse five which speaks of Jesus’ calling as priest: “The Lord has sworn [an oath] and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” God is saying to Jesus He will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. That means He will not be a priest after the Levitical order. How interesting!
First of all, who is Melchizedek? The first time we read about Melchizedek is in Genesis chapter 14; it tells us how Abraham encountered Melchizedek after returning from battle:
“After his [Abram’s] return from the defeat and slaying of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him … Melchizedek king of Salem [later called Jerusalem] brought out bread and wine [for their nourishment]; he was the priest of God Most High, and he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor and Maker of heaven and earth, and blessed, praised, and glorified be God Most High, Who has given your foes into your hand! And [Abram] gave him a tenth of all [he had taken]” (Gen. 14:17–20).
The writer of Hebrews also refers to this portion of scripture in Genesis concerning Melchizedek:
“Where Jesus has entered in for us [in advance], a Forerunner having become a High Priest forever after the order (with the rank) of Melchizedek. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem [and] priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he returned from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave to him a tenth portion of all [the spoil]. He is primarily, as his name when translated indicates, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, which means king of peace. Without [record of] father or mother or ancestral line, neither with beginning of days nor ending of life, but, resembling the Son of God, he continues to be a priest without interruption and without successor” (Heb. 6:20, 7:1–3 Amp.).
Melchizedek Was Both King and Priest
There are a couple things to point out about Melchizedek. Right away, the first thing that pops out is that Melchizedek also ministered in a two-fold calling as both king and priest. As already stated, the way Israel was set up, no king or priest could ever function in this dual capacity. Israel’s lineage for kings and priests made it impossible for anyone to be a king and priest at the same time. Priests only came from the tribe of Levi. Kings only came from the tribe of Judah.
No Time Limit to His Service
Another thing about Melchizedek’s service as priest is that there was no time limit on how long he could serve as priest, and he didn’t have to prove his lineage. We see that in verse three: “Without [record of] father or mother or ancestral line, neither with beginning of days nor ending of life, but, resembling the Son of God, he continues to be a priest without interruption and without successor.” This is saying there was no record of Melchizedek’s birth or his parents so there was no record of his lineage. There was no known time when his life began or ended. So Melchizedek served as priest without interruption. There was no successor after him.
That is a stark difference to the Levitical priesthood. First of all, no one could serve as a priest unless they came from the tribe of Levi (Exo. 28–29). A man’s lineage had to be proved. It wasn’t enough for him to say he was from the tribe of Levi. He had to offer proof of his family lineage that he was, indeed, from the tribe of Levi. Even if everybody that knew him all said he was from the tribe of Levi, if he couldn’t prove it with documentation, he was not eligible to serve. There is an example of this in Ezra chapter two; certain men were excluded from the priesthood because they could not prove their lineage: “And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; … these sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood” (Ezra 2:61–62; see also Neh. 7:63–64).
Another thing about the Levitical priesthood is that there was a time limit for service. A man had to be 25 years old to be eligible to serve, and when he became 50, he had to retire (Num. 8:24–25). They could not be a priest forever.
So what does Psalms 110 mean when it says Jesus will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek? He didn’t have anything restricting him from serving in both offices of king and priest. Melchizedek didn’t have to prove his lineage. It didn’t matter who his parents were. And there was no time limit to his serving as priest. Because there was no time limit to his service, no one succeeded him making his priesthood without end. In this same way, Jesus also will serve as both king and priest at the same time. There is no time limit to His priesthood; there will be no need for a successor to His priesthood as He will be a priest forever: “…Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 6:20).
King of the Same City: Jerusalem
Genesis says Melchizedek was king of Salem. In a parenthetical phrase, the Amplified Bible provides us with a fun fact about Salem: “Melchizedek king of Salem [later called Jerusalem]…” (Gen. 14:18). How interesting! The ancient city of Salem would one day be known as Jerusalem. Students of history know that ancient cities frequently changed hands through conquest. The new occupants usually changed the city’s name. For instance, the ancient city of Salem would one day be occupied by the Jebusites, who named the city Jebus. When David conquered Jebus, he renamed it Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 11) Like Melchizedek, Messiah will be king over the same city—Salem/Jerusalem.
A Reign of Peace and Righteousness
There are interesting observations with regard to the names of Melchizedek and Salem. For instance, the passage in Hebrews says Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness” and the name Salem means “king of peace” (Heb. 7:2). The meaning of both these names, righteousness and peace, are epithets of the Messiah. It is repeatedly prophesied that His reign will be one of righteousness and peace. For instance, Isaiah 32:1 says, “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness….” And Isaiah 9:6 calls Messiah the “prince of peace.” Also, Psalms 92 tells us about Messiah’s reign: “In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more” (v. 7 NIV). This is only one of several verses that describe Messiah’s reign as righteous and filled with peace.
There you have it! That is how Jesus the Messiah will be able to fulfill both callings of king and priest, something not possible under the Levitical priesthood. As prophesied, He is not a priest after the Levitical order; rather, He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek! Like Melchizedek, he will be a king and priest forever with no successor! There will be no end to His service. And like Melchizedek, His seat of rule will be out of Jerusalem! So fascinating!
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