The Offices Of The Lord Jesus Christ

Prophet, Priest And King

By Alfred Bouter

When “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4 NKJV) had come, after 4,000 years of human history, God sent His Son into this world. He entered it through His mother Mary’s virgin womb, in which He had been conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:18-25). When Mary gave birth to her first-born Son, He was the Baby born as others, yet how different (read Lk. 1-2)! He knew no sin and in Him was no sin – in contrast to all of Adam’s other descendants, who do have a sin nature. Jesus, however, never committed any sin, for He was apart from sin even though surrounded by it and many sinners.

He was King at the very moment He was born (Mt. 2:2). When a baby boy is born into a royal family, he is a prince first and becomes king later. However, the Lord Jesus came as King, yet He was laid in a manger (Lk. 2:7), for He humbled Himself taking a human form of Bondman. He will always keep this form – without losing any of His divinity. Marked by perfect obedience, He was obedient even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

The angel’s message to the shepherds declared Him to be “Christ [Messiah or Anointed One] the Lord”1 and “Savior” (Lk. 2:11). He was born in “the city of David”2 (v.11) because He was a direct descendant of King David (Mt. 1:6; Ruth 4:17-22; Lk. 3:23-31), as well as of Adam and God (v.38; Mic. 5:2). At the same time He was and is “over all, the eternally blessed God” (Rom. 9:5), “Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:23).

Paul summarized the unfathomable mystery of His person: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich [literally, “being rich”], yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). The expression “being rich” indicates that He did not stop being rich – being God – when He made Himself poor, coming in flesh at His incarnation (Jn. 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16). This amazing event fulfilled many prophecies about Messiah’s coming, including God’s words to Eve about the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) and others “in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Lk. 24:44).

When He came He was not recognized or honored, except by the shepherds who had been in the fields and later by a few individuals in the temple (2:16-38). We commend the many details about the first coming of the King to your study and meditation, including how He grew up in a despised part of the country, Galilee. Jesus lived in Nazareth, a town not held with honor, and He was known as the son of the carpenter (vv.39-52; Mk. 6:3; Jn. 1:46, 7:52).

The Start Of Jesus’ Public Ministry
Around the time that Jesus was 30 years old (Lk. 3:23), God sent “a witness”: John the Baptist (Jn. 1:6-8). Having been brought up in the priestly3 family of Zacharias and being about 30 years old, it would have been time for John to begin his ministry in the temple. Instead, he was in the wilderness as a prophet proclaiming a special message. This was about 400 years after the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi (Mal. 3:1).

John was called the greatest born of women (Mt. 11:11; Lk. 7:26-28) because he had the privilege of introducing the Messiah to His people. Therefore he was also the greatest prophet, apart from the Lord of course. At the very moment that this remarkable prophet baptized4 Jesus, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove to remain on Him (Jn. 1:33-34), for He was infinitely greater than John (vv.26-27). The Father’s voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I have found My delight” (Mt. 3:17 JND).

After this, as God’s unique Servant-Son, He was led by God as the:

  • King, for the Holy Spirit carried Him up into the desert (Mt. 4:1);
  • Servant, as He was “driven” (literally, “pushed”) into the wilderness (Mk. 1:12);
  • Perfect Man, who the Holy Spirit led into the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-14).

As Son of God, Jesus did not need to be tested, therefore the Gospel of John does not include His temptation. However, this gospel describes other aspects, as led by the Holy Spirit, which the other writers did not mention.

The Story Develops Further: A Great Prophet
As King-Servant-Son of Man, Jesus called 12 men to be with Him, learn from Him, and then be sent out later by Him. It is worthy to consider this band of His disciples further by reading passages such as Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13-17 and Matthew 9:37-10:42. There were also several faithful women5who served Him (Lk. 8:2-3, 10:38-42). Luke summarized the first part of the Lord’s ministry in Galilee with the following words, “Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us’ and ‘God has visited His people’” (7:16 NKJV; see Jn. 6:14). Indeed, Jesus the Messiah was greater than all the prophets, including John the Baptist (read 1:19-37).

A prophet (Hebrew, nabi) means a “forth-teller” because he is God’s spokesperson, sent by Him with the purpose of bringing His failing and deviating people back to Himself. A striking example is Samuel (1 Sam. 1-12), who was privileged to anoint David and introduce him among God’s people (16:1-13). God also used women for prophetic service, such as Miriam (Ex. 15:20) and Deborah (Jud. 4-5). The enemy, however, sent false prophets and prophetesses who claimed to speak in the name of the Lord; as an example of this, read 1 Kings 22.

Important Considerations
David was anointed king, but he was also called a prophet (Acts 2:30) and sometimes functioned as a priest. In fact, God used him to organize the services of the priests and Levites in relation to the temple that Solomon would build (1 Chr. 22-29).

Before David, Moses had been “king” (Dt. 33:4-5 JND) in Jeshurun – one of Israel’s names – and he functioned as a priest at several occasions and a prophet often. In this last capacity Moses spoke about the coming Prophet like him to whom the people should listen (18:15-19).

Shortly after Pentecost, Peter explained that Jesus of Nazareth was that Prophet (Acts 3:22-23) to whom the Jews should have listened, for He had been speaking to them on God’s behalf on earth. Yet, they still had the opportunity to listen to Him as He was now speaking from heaven (v.26). Later, Paul explained the same to the Jews in the synagogue (Acts 13:26-47; see Heb. 3:1-5). Both Moses and David were remarkable types of the Lord Jesus, who unites, or will unite, the three offices in His person.

Seen in a chronological order and in a dispensational sense, we suggest that Jesus is firstly the Prophet who came to proclaim God’s thoughts and rights where the people had failed. As Priest, He became Mediator between God and man, first on earth (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:17-18) in connection with His work on the cross and then as Minister of the sanctuary (8:1-2) as the true High Priest in heaven. Being from the tribe of Judah, as David’s Descendant, the Lord Jesus was also King.

Not being from Levi or descended from Aaron, He was not allowed to function as Priest on earth in any official capacity (7:13-14), even though He acted as Priest, especially in Luke’s gospel. Because of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross and His resurrection, God introduced a new covenant, with a new set of rules and a change of law. Under this new law the Lord Jesus is Priest, not only in the similitude of Aaron’s service, but also after the order of Melchisedec, a king and priest (7:15-8:2). Understanding this comes through maturity and the Holy Spirit (5:11-14, 6:1).

The Prophet Rejected
Let’s go back to the Lord’s ministry on earth. From a human perspective His ministry seemed to have been a failure when He died on the cross outside Jerusalem, but it was not. God had foreseen and predicted this in Isaiah 49:1-7 and elsewhere. The Lord Jesus, of course, was in full agreement with God’s plan and ways (Mt. 11:25-26), and He knew from the beginning what would happen.

The problem was not on His side. Rather, His people rejected Him despite all the evidence He had given that He was their promised Messiah (Jn. 1:9-11, 20:31). In His life He had glorified God, who accepted His person and work, confirming this several times. His death, resurrection and exaltation were for the glory of God, in contrast to Israel’s behavior.

Stephen summarized Israel’s history of hardening and their resisting of the Holy Spirit: “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52 NKJV). Stephen’s solemn indictment summed up Israel’s history and condition, as he reviewed Christ’s ministry as God’s great Prophet.

Just before Stephen’s testimony and death (6:8-8:2), Peter had spoken to the Jewish leaders about Israel’s responsibility as to “those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (3:18). “Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORDyour God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (vv.22-24).

Two things are obvious: Christ’s ministry as God’s Prophet fulfilled God’s plans (Acts 2:22-24), and God’s earthly people had completely failed. Sadly, this will lead to Israel’s acceptance of a false prophet (Jn. 5:43; 2 Th. 2:3-12; Rev. 13:11-18), as predicted in many examples and types. This man – who must and will be Jewish – will be the counterfeit prophet-priest-king allowed by God, just as was King Saul in the Old Testament.

However, in the world to come – “the millennium” – God will use many young and old among His earthly people to be His prophets (Acts 2:17-18). Obviously these individuals will repent and believe – which is a point of similarity in the various periods in God’s ways, or dispensations, despite great differences between them. The coming “great tribulation” will take place after the true Church is raptured into heaven (1 Th. 4:14-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52) and many other changes have taken place.

The True King Will Reign
Israel will then finally repent and return to God: the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin first (Zech. 12:10, 13:6-9), followed by the ten tribes (Hos. 6:1-2; Isa. 49:25; Dan. 7:14, 25-27; Ezek. 20:33-42, 34:11-31, 37:15-28; Jer. 31-33). Afterward the Lord Jesus – the Messiah – will reign as King over Israel (Ps. 2, 72) and the nations (Ps. 8; Mt. 25:31-46) to the glory of God.

A careful study of Revelation 21-22 shows certain differences between the millennial reign, in which righteousness will reign (Rev. 21:9-22:6), and the eternal state of the new creation (21:1-8) where righteousness will dwell (2 Pet. 3:13). The Lord’s reign is eternal, yet a difference exists between the enforcement aspect of righteousness during the millennium – with the rod of iron (Ps. 2:9) – and the dwelling aspect of righteousness in the eternal state.

Similarly, there will be a difference between the Church, the heavenly city, the Holy Jerusalem of the millennium (Rev. 21:10), and the Church as the New Jerusalem of the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-2). In the eternal state Christ will be all and in all, according to God’s eternal counsel (Col. 3:10-11; Eph. 3:10-11).

Christ, Only Christ
As the Prophet, using many prophets and various means, the Lord Jesus will bring His earthly people Israel back to God and Himself (see Zech. 4). As Priest, He will sustain them throughout the millennial age and have priests among His own people, whereas others will be taken from the nations to serve as priests under Him (Isa. 66:21). Christ will have a people of priests (vv.2,8-10,20-23). This is the case also today – although in a different setting and context – with us, believers taken from Jews and Gentiles linked with Him in the glory (Heb. 4:16). As the King (Ps. 45) He will reign in righteousness (Isa. 32:1) over Israel and the nations (Zech. 14:9).

In “replacement theology” it is said that the Church has taken the glorious place God intends to give to Israel in the world to come. Because of this wrong theology, Christ is robbed, God is robbed, His earthly people are robbed, and the true Church is reduced to earthly blessings. This is not God’s idea at all!

Closing Remarks
The above lessons and instructions about Israel’s past and future have applications and lessons for us today (1 Cor. 10:1-13). As true believers taken from among the Jewish people and the Gentiles, we are priests (1 Pet. 2:5) and kings (vv.9-10), now and forever (Rev. 1:6, 5:10). Today, God gives prophets in the local assembly; every exercised brother can be used by the Spirit of God to utter a word for the consolation and encouragement of the saints (see the instructions in 1 Cor. 14). In private, children’s ministry or other settings, God’s Spirit may use sisters too as His mouthpiece.

The above thoughts may seem a bit confusing, but trying to grasp God’s thoughts with the Spirit’s help we will start to understand that God has a moral testimony before He publicly introduces the actual thing. This was the case with Christ’s testimony to Israel as the true Prophet, yet He was rejected. Still, the day will come when His testimony will be fulfilled under His reign as King.

Today the Church conveys God’s thoughts so people may repent and be saved, becoming part of the body of believers taken from among Jews and Gentiles as God’s present testimony (see 1 Cor. 1-2). This takes place before the Church’s coming glorious manifestation. Furthermore, what will be literally true of Israel during the millennium as a people in tune with God, should be morally true of the believers today. Above all, these things were seen in perfection in our Lord’s testimony on earth and are so in His present testimony from heaven, before He will reign as King in absolute supremacy.

Israel failed to listen to God’s testimony through His Prophet and therefore they were not able to function according to His plan. Yet His plans will be fulfilled! He wanted His people to function as His prophets, as Peter had quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-21). This will be the case in the millennium. Then, the King will have a company of kings and priests in heaven as well as on earth, all for the glory of God and for the true joy and satisfaction of the Lord Jesus and of His own. As prophets they will proclaim His rights, as kings they will maintain those rights and rule with Him, and as priests His earthly people bring Him everlasting glory and praise. In the eternal state all rebellion will have been eliminated and eternal thanksgiving and praise will rise to our God, from heaven and earth. Praise God!

1. This statement implies that Jesus is LORD Jehovah, or Yahweh. The Greek text here has no definite article before “Lord” (Kurios), which indicates Jesus to be God: an unfathomable mystery, yet a reality.
2. In the New American Standard Bible this term occurs 42 times (6×7): 40 times in the Old Testament and 2 times in Luke.
3. It is fascinating, at least to me, that the Hebrew root of the word priest (chn) translated as “priest,” “priesthood” and “to serve as priest” occurs 777 times in the Hebrew Bible.
4. John preached repentance, and those who repented were baptized confessing their sins. The Lord Jesus had no need to repent, but He was baptized to identify with those who had repented. Those believers were baptized anew after Christ’s work on the cross, resurrection and ascension, identifying with the Messiah whom His people rejected.
5. This was also the case in Moses’ days when he set up the tabernacle according to God’s instructions (Ex. 38:8). Believing women have important roles, but these are distinct from the tasks believing men have in public service, even though there is no difference as to the position both have “in Christ” (Gal. 3:28).