KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
studies in end-time revelation
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
QUALIFICATIONS FOR PRIESTHOOD
"Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first Tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect...which stood only in MEATS AND DRINKS, AND DIVERS WASHINGS, AND CARNAL ORDINANCES, imposed on them until the time of reformation" (Heb. 9:6,9-10).
The priesthood of Aaron foreshadows Christ and the Royal Priesthood in a very striking way. The services of the Aaronic priesthood were carnal ceremonies dealing with the outward manifestations of the flesh - gifts and sacrifices and divers washings, "...the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the PURIFYING OF THE FLESH' (Heb. 9:13). The numerous external rituals performed by the priests all pointed to various aspects of the PROGRESSIVE WORK of salvation, sanctification, and perfection wrought out in the life of the believer. The sacrifice slain by the priest at the Tabernacle gate typified our justification by the blood of Jesus Christ. The brazen laver, wherein the priests washed their hands and feet, represented the cleansing of our walk from the sins of the flesh by the washing of water by the Word. The golden candlestick in the Holy Place, by whose light the priests ministered, bespoke the Holy Spirit of Truth which illumines our lives as we "walk in the Spirit." The table of shewbread, of which the priests partook, symbolized the communion of the body of Christ as we minister HIM one to another, for "...the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (I Cor. 10:16-17). The golden altar of incense stood for the prayer and praise ascending day and night from the consecrated hearts and sanctified lips of God's people. The birth, anointing, consecration, ministry, and garments of the priesthood all foreshadowed the spiritual development of the Royal Priesthood.
All of this sets forth the PROCESS of redemption whereby God's chosen ones are progressively changed from Adam's carnal nature into the image of the Son of God. Thus, the priesthood of Aaron IN NO WAY PREFIGURES THE GLORY OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE CHRIST AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK. The Aaronic priesthood typifies the long and tedious PROCESS by which men BECOME PRIESTS, while Melchizedek is the PATTERN of the HEAVENLY PRIESTHOOD when the process is complete. Melchizedek points toward the ULTIMATE GOAL of priesthood - the glory that is now Christ's; whereas the Aaronic priesthood characterizes the MEANS to that goal - the dealings, purgings, changes, transformations, furnishing, and equipping that bring us finally to the Melchizedekian glory. The Aaronic priesthood reveals the qualifications which must be met, and the prescribed order by which they can be met, while Melchizedek reveals the majesty of the FINISHED PRODUCT. Aaron signifies PROCESS; Melchizedek signifies ORDER. If you want to know how to become a priest, give yourself to a reverent and prayerful study of the Aaronic priesthood, following on to experience all it signifies. If you want to know what is the glory of the priesthood once all the qualifications have been met, look unto Jesus the High Priest of the heavens after the order of Melchizedek.
"Thou art a priest forever after the ORDER of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:17). Melchizedek is a priesthood of order! Jesus Christ was made a priest forever after the ORDER of Melchizedek. The word "order" in this passage is from the Greek word TAXIS meaning "regular arrangement; fixed succession of rank and character; official dignity." The verse can well be paraphrased: "Thou art a priest forever according to the arrangement rank, character, dignity, and order of Melchizedek." The word "order" is something like the word "order" we use when we speak of various religious orders, such as the Franciscans or the Dominicans within the Roman Catholic Church. Well, the Bible says that Jesus Christ is a priest of the MELCHIZEDEKIAN ORDER. And that was a very startling statement when it was first made. It was startling because the people who heard it first, knew of only one order of priests. Those were the Levitical priests of Israel and they were of the Aaronic order.
"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest. Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For He testifieth, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:11-17).
Perfection could not be obtained under the Levitical priesthood, for under it the people received the law, and "the law made nothing perfect", rather it was to serve to bring the people into the knowledge of sin - "that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful" (Rom. 7:13). The knowledge of sin then brought the people under the sentence of death, for the soul that sinneth, it shall die - and sin is the transgression of the law. Thus this ministry of law, under the Levitical priesthood, was a ministration of condemnation leading into death.
This is why Jesus had to be a different and higher kind of priest. He had to have the MELCHIZEDEK CONNECTION. It is not my purpose here to explore in detail the glories of the Melchizedek priesthood - I must save that for another time. But having established that the Melchizedek priesthood is an order, let us also know that the order of Melchizedek is THE ORDER OF THE SON OF GOD. Melchizedek was himself "made like unto the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3). And of Jesus it is written, "He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee...saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:5-6). If you, dear reader, would know the glories and grandeur of this great order of Melchizedek, then look directly unto Jesus THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. The order of Melchizedek is the PRIESTHOOD OF SONSHIP. The one "made like unto the Son of God" bears the name of this wonderful order, and the firstborn Son of God is Himself OUR FORERUNNER into that order, He went first, and where He went we are to go, praise His name! All who come into sonship through the ages shall come into that same wonderful image of Jesus Christ and shall reign with Him as priests in the order of Melchizedek. Ah, precious friend of mine, would you learn how to become a priest? Meditate deeply upon the ministry of the order of Aaron - for therein is contained in symbol, type, and shadow the mystery of the path to priesthood with all its processings and qualifications. Would you know the glory which lies ahead when the processings are complete? Look unto Jesus the prototype - the first sample and pattern of the FINISHED PRODUCT!
PRIESTS AND LEVITES
With the ever-deepening desire within us to be filled with HIS fullness, that the realm of the "in part" be swallowed up into "that which is perfect," there is this continual reaching out for the realms beyond. Glimpses of revelation touch our spirit, and we thrill to that which He has prepared for them that follow on to know Him. And how we yearn to have it all RIGHT NOW! Yet we realize that it is a PROCESS, a going"from strength to strength" and "from faith to faith" and "from experience to experience" while we are being "changed from glory to glory." So by His grace we settle down to walk it out day by day, yielding to Him that He might bring us to that prepared place and position where we are truly His Royal Priesthood in all that that means.
"At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord TO MINISTER UNTO HIM, and to bless His name, unto this day" (Deut. 10:8). I would point out that God chose the ENTIRE TRIBE of Levi to be His ministers. As God moved through the camp of Israel, He selected the tribe of Levi to become His ministers, not only to minister FOR Him to the people, but also to minister directly TO HIM. Because of this separation from his brethren, we read in the next verse that "therefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren, THE LORD IS HIS INHERITANCE, according as thy God bath promised him." When Israel finally arrived in the "promised land" there was divided out to each tribe their portion, but Levi was not given a natural possession, for in the Lord alone he was to find his inheritance Levi was to minister to the Lord, and the Lord in turn would make sure all his needs were met.
While the whole tribe of Levi was chosen to be the ministers of God, only one family of Levites (the house of Aaron) was chosen to the priesthood. I would draw your attention to the important fact that all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. The Mosaic legislation made a sharp distinction between the priests and non-priests or ordinary Levites. The priests must belong to Aaron's family; the Levites belong to the larger family of Levi. Priests were consecrated; Levites were purified. Levites were considered a gift to Aaron and his sons. The fundamental difference consisted of this: ONLY THE PRIEST HAD THE RIGHT TO MINISTER AT THE ALTAR AND ENTER THE MOST HOLY PLACE. The rebellion of Korah, a Kohathite, against the uniqueness of Aaron's priesthood illustrated, in the way the rebellion was subdued, the heinous nature of attempting to enter the priesthood without the necessary prerequisites. Priestly duties were confined to the male members of Aaron's family, with the Levites, the rest of the tribe, acting as their assistants. This arrangement began with the setting up of the Tabernacle, as before this no particular family or tribe was assigned to minister in the things of God.
The children of Israel pictured the dealings of God with mankind in a very striking way. In the wilderness the whole camp of Israel lay totally OUTSIDE of the Tabernacle, OUTSIDE of the place of sacrifice, OUTSIDE of the ministry of the priesthood, OUTSIDE of the presence and glory of God, separated by the white curtain of Christ's righteousness from all that lay within. Thus "the camp" was separated from all holy things by the curtain of white linen surrounding the Tabernacle, representing to those within a wall of righteousness by faith, but to those without a wall of unbelief which hindered their view of and access to the holy things within. Israel, in its relationship to the Tabernacle, represents the WHOLE WORLD OF LOST MEN who are outside of Christ, excluded from His promises, separated from His presence, barred from His glory, having no hope, and without God in the world.
As Israel typified the world, so the Levites typified the "'household of faith," or all believers who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. All Christians today, irrespective of denominational affiliation or the lack thereof, who truly know Christ in the forgiveness of sins and the washing of regeneration, are prefigured by the Levites who were the ministers of the Lord, His inheritance. But the house of Aaron, the priesthood, one body under one Chief or High Priest, was typical of the "little flock" which follows on to know the Lord in all His glorious and eternal reality, the overcomers, gathered out of all ages, who through faith, patience, and obedience qualify to sit with Christ upon His throne as a Kingdom of Priests unto God. This company with its Head, or High Priest, is a Royal Priesthood, the members of which, after the present time of processing and preparation, shall be kings and priests unto God reigning over the earth. These constitute the government of God for the ages to come, destined to bless all the families of the earth and restore creation back into union with God again.
How obvious it should be to every thinking saint that all Christians, while spiritual Levites, are not part of the elect company of the Royal Priesthood. That is because the vast majority of believers live in the Outer Court of spiritual experience in their relationship to God. In spite of all their noisy profession, and constant flurry of religious activities, they inhabit that realm where the natural man understandeth not the things of the Spirit of God. Deep spiritual things are foolishness unto them; neither can they know them, for they are spiritually discerned. These are comfortably at home with the lifeless forms, static doctrines, empty ceremonies and repetitious activities of Outer Court religion, and have not the foggiest notion of what the Royal Priesthood is about. The harlot system has sapped and sucked away their spiritual life and left them in spiritual poverty, void of understanding of the high and holy purposes of God, and like little children they wait expectantly for the thrills that await them in that far-away Disney World in the sky with its mansions and harps and wings!
I must emphasize again that in the type of the Levites and Priests, all Priests were Levites, but not all Levites were Priests. So in the antitype all members of the Royal Priesthood are redeemed men, but not all redeemed men are part of the Royal Priesthood. To deny this would mean the destruction of all the typology of the Old Testament. In Israel there were Priests who were of the Aaronic order, and anointed, serving in the Tabernacle; and the Levites, the whole tribe of Levi, not anointed, and serving in the Outer Court as assistants to the Priests. In all these respects there was a difference between Israel and the tribe of Levi; between the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron; and finally, between an ordinary Priest and the High Priest, who most fully typified our Great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God. My earnest prayer is that the Holy Spirit of Truth will take these things and make them wonderfully and gloriously real to your heart!
AARON AND HIS SONS
As we proceed with our study, we will observe that when Aaron is considered alone, he represents the High Priestly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Aaron with his sons typifies the priestly ministry of the Royal Priesthood - the Kingdom of Priests - while Aaron and his tribe (Levites) illustrate the ministry of the whole household of faith, the Church of God. It is inspiring to meditate upon the thought given us in Ex. 28:1: "And take thou unto thee AARON THY BROTHER, AND HIS SONS with him from among the children of Israel, that HE may minister unto Me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons." God chose five men, Aaron and his four sons, and then referred to them in the singular pronoun "that HE may minister." The ministries of these five men were inseparably wrapped up in each other, so that God saw them as ONE. Aaron did not minister without the priests (except on the Day of Atonement), and the priests could not minister without the High Priest. This is all very wonderful, for the Christ does not minister alone. God has called us to be priests that we might share in the ministry of reconciliation. We, too, like the priests of old, cannot minister apart from our great High Priest upon whom we depend at all times. The Father has called us unto sonship that we might stand with Him and cry, "OUR VERY OWN Father!" He is apprehending many for the authority of kingship that He might be "the King of kings." He is making many to be priests after the order of Melchizedek that He and they may stand in ONE MINISTRY unto the Father - satisfying the heart of the Father for the fellowship of Sons through whom He may reveal His glorious Person unto the whole creation. The Christ now has no identity APART FROM US, His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. The Father looks at His Son AND His Sons, His High Priest AND His Priests, and says, "that HE may minister unto Me!"
QUALIFICATIONS FOR PRIESTHOOD
There were three primary qualifications for priesthood in the order of Aaron: (1) birth (2) freedom from blemish (3) maturity. The very first requirement was that one must be A SON OF THE HIGH PRIEST. A man might be the brightest and most capable Levite, but if he was not the offspring of Aaron he was prohibited from serving in the office of the priesthood. One could be the son of the High Priest, however, and still not be qualified for the priesthood IF THERE WAS SOME BLEMISH IN HIM - any kind of disease, deformity, or physical impairment. Furthermore, one might be the son of Aaron, and a perfect physical specimen, at that, and yet, he could not assume the office of priest until he reached the age of maturity. Priesthood was not for babes, nor for children, nor for adolescents - maturity being the ultimate requirement. With all the reverence and respect of my ransomed soul I must tell you that these are the same requirements laid upon all who aspire to be a part of God's wonderful Royal Priesthood!
God's people make a serious and fatal mistake when they cling to the tradition taught them at the beginning of their walk with God. When they do this, they shut the door for God to teach them anything. Their tradition is at best but a fragment of the whole. The life of a Christian should be a continual progression in God, but he cannot progress without spiritual revelation, and revelation will greatly modify and often times completely break the chains of human tradition. While the boast of some men may be that they already possess by faith, and as part of their limited experiencing of God, all that God intends for them upon this earth, let us rather glory in the fact that as the light of His love grows brighter, we are being CHANGED INTO THAT SAME IMAGE from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. And let us with the great apostle Paul bask in the sunlight of the hope of THE PRIZE which he called THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS, and like him, not settling for our present "in part" attainment in Christ, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before...press toward the mark for the PRIZE of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
One of the most damning errors ever taught God's people is the senseless notion that simply by virtue of the new birth ALL BELIEVERS ARE MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD and automatically rule and reign with Christ. This error is believed and taught by countless millions, but it is nevertheless an untruth. The Bible nowhere teaches that. To the contrary, the burning and challenging word of Christ to the Churches is: "To him that OVERCOMETH will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, as I also OVERCAME, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21).
The twenty-four Elders in Rev. 4:4 are beheld seated upon priestly thrones and they have on their heads CROWNS of gold. The most common term rendered "crown" in the New Testament is the Greek word STEPHANOS. The popular name "Stephen" is derived from this word, and this crown was usually a laurel wreath woven of fragrant branches, or the like. It was granted to winners in the Panhellenic games and also as a token of public honor for distinguished service - especially of military leaders who had been victorious over their enemies on the battlefield. It was also given at marriage feasts, especially in royal families, to celebrate the joy of the bridegroom in having "won" the maiden for his bride. This crown always denotes a VICTOR'S CROWN - the crown of an OVERCOMER!
How appropriate that we should read of the Royal Priesthood: "And round about the throne were...four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads CROWNS (stephanos) OF GOLD" (Rev. 4:4). Golden Stephanos! Golden Victor's Crowns! Gold is a symbol for the divine nature. And how true that we are only able to fully overcome by being made partakers of HIS DIVINE NATURE! To be "crowned" means to be given kingly authority. As the kingly authority and dominion of God's divine nature ascends the throne of our lives to rule within us - we are CROWNED, RULED OVER by God, but more than this, MADE RULERS, not after the carnal concepts of the flesh, but in the love, justice, and glory of God's own character!
Of course the crowns of fragrant branches won by the Greeks in their athletic contests were short lived, for they soon wilted and became dead and brittle. In contrast to this OUR STEPHANOS are incorruptible crowns which will never fade away - for the Royal Priesthood is of the MELCHIZEDEKIAN ORDER - after the power of an endless life. In the Theatre of Ephesus there was found an inscription which read: "He fought three bouts, and was crowned two times." In like manner the Sons of God will soon be rewarded for their bouts with "principalities and powers" which have their rule in the darkness of the carnal mind. God is even now bringing forth an INCORRUPTIBLE people. OVERCOMERS! Who shall overcome ALL THINGS. And of them, finally, it shall be said: "They fought many, many bouts, and were crowned EVERY TIME!" No more weakness and failure. No more flunking two tests and winning one. Overcoming ALL THINGS! A Royal Priesthood. Priests reigning in God's own nature, love, and power. Reconciling the world. Subduing all things. As kings they are seated IN THE THRONE; as priests they sit ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE: from this intermediate position becoming the bond between the God of the throne and the creation desperately needing HIS LIFE. Hallelujah!
AARON AND HIS SONS
Priesthood BEGINS with the new birth. But being born again no more makes one a priest than being born into Aaron's house made one a priest. Right birth was the first requisite - but merely the first step down a long path of preparation. The story goes that a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village saw an old man sitting by a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one of the visitors asked, "Were any great men born in this village?" Without looking up the old man replied, "No, only babies." The greatest men were once babies. The greatest saints were once toddlers in the things of the Spirit. Priests are not born. Saints are born to be priests, but become such only after the divine process has been completed.
Aaron was High Priest. Aaron's sons were priests under, and in association with him. Aaron and his sons constituted a priestly family. One of the greatest books about the priesthood is the book of Exodus. Everything in the book of Exodus is presented in a progressive way. From the starting point of enjoying Christ as the Passover lamb, the children of Israel went on until one day the Tabernacle was reared up among them. It was then that they experienced Christ as the testimony of God, and at that stage some among them could take responsibility for God as priests. This is the book of Exodus. Following Exodus, we come to Leviticus, where Christ is seen as so many offerings to be enjoyed and experienced. God's people may thus enjoy Christ in a much fuller way than before. They can then bear the full responsibility of the priesthood and realize all the regulations concerning the priestly life. The thought or line of the Holy Spirit in the record of the Holy Scriptures is always progressive, always improving. From the first to the second, to the third, there is a steady improving, expanding, increasing, solidifying, and deepening. Not many of the Lord's people ever follow on to realize the priesthood. Is priesthood being wrought out in your life? Take time to consider the three qualifications one by one. Then you will know where you are!
The first qualification for priesthood is birth. You must be the son of the High Priest, the offspring of His priestly nature. To qualify everyone must give his pedigree, his genealogy. We must have a spiritual genealogy. The priests of Israel had to state their pedigree. They had to declare their father and to what family and tribe they belonged. If they could not make such a declaration, if they could not give their pedigree, they must stand back; they could not enter the priesthood (Neh. 7:64). You must have spiritual life. You must be born of a priestly nature. Have you been born with a priestly heart? Then give us your pedigree. At least you must tell the name of your father. This means you must check your rebirth. Are you a real priest? Or are you merely a proselyting agent of Mystery Babylon, trying to drum up a few more members for your Sunday School class, denomination, movement, or ministry? We must be assured that we are the offspring of the Great High Priest of the heavens who is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
If we were to live a thousand years twice told, and spent all that time working, we could not work ourselves into the position of holy priests; but the moment we be lieve in Jesus - the moment we come to Him in simple faith - the moment we give Him the full confidence of our hearts, we are born anew into the family of holy priests, and are then privileged to grow in grace and stature that we may draw nigh and do the priestly ministry. How could anyone, of old, have constituted himself a son of Aaron? Impossible! But being born of Aaron, he was thereby made a member of the priestly house. I speak not now of capacity, but simply of the position and the potential. This latter was reached not by effort, but by birth.
Since we inherit our priesthood from God the Father, we take on His character and traits. God has a priestly nature and we inherit this spirit from Him. Someone will surely ask, "But if we must be the offspring of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, how then are we born of God, who is our Father? How can both the Father and the Son be OUR FATHER?" To which I ask another question: "Who is Jesus Christ?" The Scripture says of Him: "And when even was come, they brought unto Him many possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with a word" (Mat. 8:16). That word was not Christ's word at all. I do not believe that Christ ever cast out a devil. I do not believe that Christ ever healed anybody. I believe what Christ Himself said: "The words that I say unto you I speak not from Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, HE doeth His works" (Jn. 14: 10). Who did the works? The Father! Did Jesus do them? No! He never said He did. He said: "My Father worketh even until now, and I work" (Jn. 5:17). He gave the glory to the Father. The words which came from the Christ's lips were not the words of Christ at all. It was the Word of the Father. Christ never said to a sufferer, "Brother, be of good cheer." ALL CHRIST'S WORDS AND WORKS WERE THE WORDS AND WORKS OF THE FATHER. He always said, "Son, be of good cheer." Was that not the Father's Word? Was it not the Father talking in Him? He said to that woman, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole." Did He say "sister"? No! Was it our Brother or our Father, who was talking? I do not hesitate to tell you that it was our Father, as the prophet said, "His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, the Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). Remember that it is our Father who works; that He sends forth His Son; that He sends forth His Spirit. I do not hesitate to say that the words Christ spoke were the words of His Father, His Father speaking in and through Him.
The Father was IN the Son; Deity was IN humanity. Paul clarifies the matter by writing, "But unto us there is but one God the Father..." (I Cor. 8:6). Not one God the Father, and another God the Son, and yet a third God the Holy Spirit! God IS SPIRIT and invisible, without flesh and blood. Therefore, He robed Himself in human flesh (I Tim. 3:16) in order to have blood to shed for the sins of the world. And this Man Emmanuel, God with us - the Son of God - who is He? Jesus Himself answered the question when He spoke these immortal words: "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and HAVE SEEN HIM. Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not KNOWN ME, Philip? HE THAT HATH SEEN ME HATH SEEN THE FATHER; and how sayest thou then, show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, HE doeth the works" (Jn. 14:7-10). Oh! my brother, if you have seen the Christ you have seen the Father and, if you have been born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God which is the Christ, you have also been born of the Father.
We hear of the new birth and we think we understand it. Faintly we hear the truths of sonship and imagine we are already Sons of God. We have seen through a glass darkly, but face to face we behold all things as they are. The mists that have hung like shrouds upon the distant majestic peaks are fleeing away before the rising sun of righteousness that we may know as we are known. In the true and eloquent words of another: "Believers of all ages have sold themselves woefully short on all the great promises of God. We have been content to say that every believer was born again and needed but to wait until some distant day when he would fly away to heaven either by death or by rapture. I remember seeing this sign vividly portrayed by the public highway: Except a man be born again, he CANNOT GO TO HEAVEN. That statement, I fear, has been the sum and substance of Christian belief, but we have missed the true meaning of the truth given to Nicodemus so long ago. To be born from above is to be BORN FROM A HIGHER REALM. Spirit is higher than flesh even though both should grow together in one body. To be born of the flesh is one thing, for there you are born into a NATURAL REALM capable only of partaking of NATURAL THINGS. But to be BORN OF THE SPIRIT is to be born into a new and higher realm where the ETERNAL THINGS are CLEARLY SEEN before us even as natural things are seen by the natural man. Without the birth from above it is IMPOSSIBLE to see the kingdom of God, for NATURAL MEN have not been given the power to see spiritual things.
"The realm of the new birth is the REALM OF SONSHIP. It is the realm where Jesus Christ, the Son of God, LIVED AND MOVED and HAD HIS BEING. Not that He was born again, for He had never sinned nor died and needed not the regeneration of ordinary men. But He lived and moved in the REALM OF SONSHIP full and complete. He lived and moved in the REALM OF THE KINGDOM which He came to proclaim and which for three years or more He demonstrated in small part. As Moses led Israel to Kadesh Barnea where they could actually see the promised land but through unbelief turned back to the wilderness, so Jesus led the whole world to a sort of spiritual Kadesh Barnea where the glory of the Kingdom came into full view only to be lost sight of in a spiritual wilderness in which we have wandered for almost two thousand years. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived in a realm above and beyond the realm of ordinary men, for while we have lived as sons of men, He lived as the Son of God. While we have been FROM BENEATH, He was FROM ABOVE. While our kingdoms have been of the earth, He was not from hence. While all this is undeniably true to any honest man, yet, praise be to the eternal purpose of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became the Son of man that we who were born sons of men might become Sons of God" end quote.
Regeneration, new birth, sons of God - these are all terms with which most Christians are familiar. The beautiful ANALOGY is accepted by everyone. But all this means to the average Christian is that he conjures up the nice spiritual feeling of thinking of himself "as if" he were a "real" Son of God, as Jesus is. The average Christian has absolutely no idea of the transcendental implications of this new birth into the family of God. Most think of being a child of God as sort of an "honorary" title conferred on them by an indulgent God who accepts them as "little adopted human children" to whom He plans to give as their reward for accepting His gift of eternal life, a beautiful park, a celestial playground called "heaven." This heaven is designed for them to enjoy for eternity, playing, loafing, running, shouting, rejoicing, visiting, playing harps, waving palm branches, and doing what ever other sinless thing their hearts may desire.
But let us understand what it really means to actually be BORN into the very family of GOD. I like to turn the phrase "the family of God" around, in order to better catch its significance. Instead of saying that we are born into the family of God, it is just as correct to say that we are born into the GOD FAMILY! I may say, by way of illustration, that I was born by natural birth into the family of Eby. But this also means that I was born into the EBY FAMILY. I am of the EBY KIND. I AM EBY. Not only are men born into the family of God, but they are born into the GOD FAMILY. Not only are we birthed into the Kingdom of God, but we are birthed into the GOD KINGDOM. We are of the GOD KIND. And startling as it may be, this GOD KINGDOM, or GOD FAMILY, is the ELOHIM of the Scriptures! And to be born into THIS FAMILY means that we have the potential to become ALL THAT HE IS!
The new birth is nothing less than the birth of a God-being, the birth of a Christ creature, who becomes "Christ IN YOU the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). There is no new birth outside of the actual birth of an actual Spirit Being, who becomes the "inner man,' the new "me." It is MY SPIRIT quickened by HIS SPIRIT, God birthing of His own divine life into me thus making me alive from the dead, a new creature on the Celestial Plane. So many Christians glibly talk about a born again "experience," or a "change of heart," being wholly ignorant as to what must transpire to produce this change, to implement this experience. Our Lord said, "Ye must be BORN," not now of the flesh, but of the Spirit. Religionists, both then and now, are incapable of grasping this greatest of all truths and its astounding implications. And so they fail to understand that as a woman gives birth to a son, bringing an actual child into the world as a living, breathing, personality with an individual identity, nature, mind, and will, so does GOD GIVE BIRTH, delivering out of His own loins the offspring of Himself, of His own kind, of the GOD SPECIES, to grow up into the fullness of His own divine Being. The new birth is nothing less than the birth of an actual divine, heavenly Being, a Son of the Father, who is as ageless and deathless as is his immortal Parent, a brother by birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; like Him in every phase of His Being, differing only in development and rank
How wonderful are these things! They are far beyond our expression or the ability of the most eloquent to describe! It is a marvelous fact that the very life of God is communicated to the believing heart via the new birth. But what is the life of God? It is the content of God and God Himself. All that is in God and all that God Himself is are in the life of God. All the fullness of the Godhead is hidden in the life of God. The nature of God is contained in the life of God, and His wisdom, knowledge, will, power, and glory. Every facet of what God is and can do, is included in the life of God. With any kind of living thing, all that it is rests within its life. All its capabilities and functions issue out of its life, and all of its outward activities and expressions originate from its life. It is that kind of living thing because it has that kind of life. Its being rests in its life. God is the supreme living Being, and all that He is, of course, is in His life. All that HE IS - whether truth, holiness, light or love - is derived from His life. All His expressions - whether goodness, righteousness, mercy or forgiveness - are derived from His life. His life causes Him to have such divine capabilities and functions inwardly and such divine actions and expressions outwardly as well. The reason that He is such a glorious and powerful God is that He has such a glorious and powerful life. Hence His being God rests in His life.
Armed with this knowledge can we not now see that it is in the new birth that the PRIESTLY SPIRIT of our Father is first imparted as a divine seed into our lives? Jesus Christ is the KING-PRIEST SEED! The harvest is always just exactly what was planted! Priests, by reason of SONSHIP, inheriting God's nature, inherit all the varied virtues of that nature. Obviously the very basis of the receiving of this priesthood begins with being BORN FROM ABOVE. There is a begettal, fullness of birth from above, of those "which are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD" (Jn. 1:13). For 'of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of His creatures (literally, the creatures of Himself)" (James 1:18). These are a chosen race, a kingly, royal priesthood, developed, processed, trained until they fully OVERCOME, and then at His appointed time, are received into Himself, to share His throne.
In closing this article I am impressed to share from the writings of the late Douglas Wilson:
Not long ago we were reading from chapter twelve of Hebrews concerning the true sons and the bastard. We had often meditated on the fact that the child known as a bastard child COULD IN NO WISE help or change the circumstances of his birth. We knew well there was a stigma attached to the child, under the Old Testament especially. We were never quite able to reconcile all that we were told concerning such children, until just recently the Lord put a thought in our minds that settled the whole question. We quote now the passage from Heb. 12:5-10. "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh to you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement whereof all (sons) are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of SPIRITS and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He FOR OUR PROFIT, that we MIGHT BE PARTAKERS OF HIS HOLINESS."
In the above quotation we find two kinds of sons. At least in one sense of the word they are sons. There is the son that receives chastening of the Lord, and there is the bastard son who does not. In one sense of the word, the bastard or as some translations put it, the spurious son, is as much a son as the true son. It can make no difference whether the spurious son knows who his father is or not, HE HAS ONE, just the same as the legitimate son. We have come to see there is something in this and related passages that we would like you to consider. May we first of all examine some reasons why children are brought into the world. Let us remember always that the child itself has absolutely nothing to say about being brought into this life. It has nothing to say about its color, nationality, birth place, sex, or anything else. We may say that at least some of these things are determined by the laws of nature, but we would rather say they are determined by the laws of God working ALL things according to the counsel of His own will, and that applies to all people.
The first and basic reason for the birth of children is for the preservation and increase of humanity. Humanity has no other way of preserving itself except through the birth of children. Whatever other reasons there may be, and there are several, they will all rest upon this basic one, the inherent instinct for self-preservation in humans. The savage in the jungle, or the highly educated and refined person in the highest strata of society, must return to this basic principle in order to perpetuate himself and the rest of the human race.
We suppose that the greatest NATURAL reason for bringing children into the world is because they are desired and wanted for themselves. The love of husband and wife, combined with the father and mother nature, is designed and given to humanity to cause them to want and desire to bring children into being, simply because they DO LOVE AND DESIRE THEM. The principle and greatest desire in the lives of such parents is to have a family, to provide well for that family, and to see that each member of that family is started into his or her life with the best possible advantage and preparation that the family can provide. Some children are very, very fortunate and blessed of God, for they enter into a loving family circle and have parents who desire the best for them. The atmosphere is conducive to the best development of the children, and in that love and care there runs the vein of discipline, given to cause the children to develop into the men and women that the parents have in mind they are to be.
Another group of children are brought into the world through ignorance. Many of these children are unwanted and the care they receive is minimal. Sometimes they are abandoned or given away. In yet another group of children we find those who are born into this world only because of the sexual desire of the parents, married or unmarried, and these children are unplanned for and unwanted. These are illegitimate children, humanly speaking, the children without a father and many times deserted by the mother. Many of them are absolutely not wanted and they become the shame of the family into which they are born. The stigma of their illegitimate birth follows them continually. These children are the victims of the uncontrolled passions of their parents and these are children that are born entirely WITHOUT A PURPOSE. They are merely the result or the effect of two people fulfilling their uncontrolled desires. These children are looked down upon by society and yet, they CAN IN NO WISE HELP THEIR CONDITION OR THEIR BIRTH.
But now let us look at the group that we are most concerned with. In this last group we want to consider those children who ARE BORN FOR A PURPOSE. Their birth is not in any sense "accidental.'' The conception and birth are the result of planning by the parents to bring a child into the world to accomplish a certain purpose. There is the knowledge of a need, a work that must be done, and the child is deliberately brought into the world to do that specific thing. Even before the birth, the child may be given by the parent over to that work, as Samuel was given to the Lord by Hannah, and all efforts are made to bring that child to the very highest capabilities to accomplish this purpose. THIS IS A CHILD BORN FOR A PURPOSE and trained for it. SUCH HAVE BEEN THE KINGS OF NATIONS AND THE PRIESTS OF THE ORDER OF AARON. Such ones stand out from others and their lives are different than the lives of their fellows. Some know from their early childhood that they are destined for a major role in the life of this world. These are children BORN FOR A PURPOSE even in the flesh.
But let us see something about the CHILDREN OF GOD. How loosely we have used that term! Any church member, or church attendant calls himself a child of God. Yet we can observe that there is ABSOLUTELY NO SPIRITUAL PURPOSE IN THEIR LIVES. We find multitudes of religious children, brought forth in one manner or another, filling the churches, but we can discern no spiritual purpose or destiny in their lives.They believe they are saved from hell and the devil and someday will fly away to have nothing to do but go to church and wait for the coming of the Lord,and in heaven they will have nothing to do, no responsibility, no constructive ministry, just eternity to dance, sing, and shout. Yet these have no conception of eternity,nor yet of the great and wonderful plans and purposes of God for His creation. They are children BORN ENTIRELY WITHOUT A PURPOSE, or in the language of this article, they are bastard children.
These children cannot help their condition, neither can they do anything about it. The church system that was responsible for bringing them forth, took no forethought as to why they would bring these children into being. In all probability it was to increase the population of the church and benefit the church budget. But for the most part they "just happened." What we haven't seen in the past, but are now beginning to see, is that the true child of God IS A CHILD BORN FOR A PURPOSE, and trained to the highest degree of ability to fulfill that purpose. We emphasize again that even the bastard has a father, but he is a child born without a "father purpose." He is just brought into the world to make out as best he car.. He receives no chastening (training) for any specific purpose, but just grows up in whatever may come his way. But behold the wonder, the glory, the thrill, the expectancy of a CHILD BORN TO FULFILL A PURPOSE! A true son, fulfilling the purpose of the Father in the great work that is yet to be done throughout the ages to come.
We think of Jesus the Christ in this particular. Surely none will deny that JESUS WAS A SON BORN FOR A PURPOSE. He was the Lamb of God SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. He gave Himself BY THE ETERNAL SPIRIT to fulfill the purpose of God in the work of redemption and recreation of the world. God has a plan. He always has had a plan, even from before the beginning. And just as God had a Lamb, a Firstborn, a Captain of our salvation, from the beginning, BORN FOR THE PURPOSE of fulfilling His mission on our behalf, so does God have other sons BORN FOR THE PURPOSE OF GOD in their mission and work. Just as Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered, so will all the other sons learn obedience by the same means, for there is a world to come that will be under the jurisdiction of those sons as Kings and Priests, and they must be trained.
Now we can begin to see this passage about bastards and sons in a far different light than ever before. Now we see the bastard, not as one condemned forever from the presence of God, but simply as one BORN WITHOUT PURPOSE, yet one who in due time will be cared for by those sons BORN FOR A PURPOSE. Surely this makes a division in God's people, it elevates some above the rest, but ALL CANNOT AND WILL NOT BE KINGS AND PRIESTS. But there does rest upon the Kings and Priests a great and awesome responsibility, and for that responsibility the sons MUST BE CHASTENED, having already been BORN FOR A PURPOSE. Please keep always in mind that this chastening is training for the place prepared for the son. - end quote.
Ah, beloved, do you not sense in the depths of your ransomed spirit a sense of divine destiny - that you were indeed BORN FOR A PURPOSE? Have you heard the sound of the trumpet thundering out the message: YE SHALL BE UNTO ME A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS! truly we have received the call to sonship, to kingship, to priesthood, and the plan of God overwhelms my spirit and my soul rejoices in His unfailing purpose!
. J. PRESTON EBY
P O BOX 371240
El Paso Texas
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