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"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE
FOUR LIVING CREATURES AND THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS
“And round about the throne
were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four
and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their
heads crowns of gold” (Rev. 4:4).
“Twenty-four other thrones surrounded
the throne and seated on these thrones were twenty-four
Elders, arrayed in white clothing, with Crowns of Gold upon their heads”
The Greek word for elders is presbuteros.
By the way, the word “presbyterian” comes from that, and I am
reminded of the story about the little girl who came home from her
Presbyterian Sunday School, and her mother asked her what they had talked
about. “We talked about
heaven,” the little girl replied. “Well,
what did they say about it?” her mother asked.
“The teacher said that there were only twenty-four Presbyterians
there!” Seriously, elders were
representatives. We know that
Israel had elders and that elders were ordained in the early churches to rule
and to represent the entire church.
The twenty-four Elders in the book of Revelation bear a special
signification for they are represented as distinct from both the four Living
Creatures “in the midst” of the throne and the great multitude
“before” the throne. These
Elders occupy a unique position described as “round about” the throne —
yet UPON THRONES! In order to
fully appreciate the scenery here drawn by the Spirit, we need to go back and
examine one particular of the order established by God among the people of
Israel after they came up out of the land of Egypt.
It is important that we get a clear idea, not only of the structure of
the tabernacle of Moses, but also of the arrangement of both the people and
the priesthood in relation to it. On
page two of this article I give you a diagram of that arrangement.
What do we see then? In
the second chapter of Numbers we find the order given for the encampment of
Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness.
The camp of Israel as it was established in Sinai formed a hollow
square. In the center of the
hollow was the tabernacle of Moses. Around
the tabernacle Israel was divided into four camps: one camp of three tribes on
the east side, another camp of three tribes on the south side, another camp of
three tribes on the west side, and the last camp of three tribes on the north
side. There was to be one ensign
for each camp of three tribes. Judah
was to be the head tribe of the first encampment, and they were to camp “on
the east side toward the rising of the sun” (Num. 2:3-9).
The tribes of Issachar and Zebulon were to camp with Judah around his
standard or ensign, which ensign was the lion.
Therefore, the flag of the tribe of Judah with a lion of gold on a
background of scarlet was erected in front of the camp of Judah, Issachar, and
Next in order was the camp of Reuben on the south side along with the
tribes of Simeon and Gad. These
three tribes were to camp around the ensign of Reuben, which ensign was the
man. On this flag a man was
represented against a background of gold.
The third camp was made up of the tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin, with
Ephraim as the head tribe to camp
on the west side of the tabernacle. The
ensign of the tribe of Ephraim was the ox.
The flag of Ephraim had a black ox with a background of gold.
The final camp was the camp of Dan together with the tribes of Asher
and Naphtali. History shows that
the ensign of the tribe of Dan was the eagle.
This flag had an eagle of gold on a background of blue.
The tabernacle with its courts set “in the midst” of so many
thousands of saved and happy Israel, must have been an imposing sight — an
all-absorbing scene of wonder to the whole nation, as well as to each one of
the mighty host. In this
arrangement we see the same typical picture, under different symbols, as that
presented to us in chapters four and five of the Revelation.
The Most Holy Place was the abode of the God of Israel among His
people. When the tabernacle was
set up as described in Exodus chapter forty, then the Shekinah, the Cloud of
God’s Glorious Presence, covered the whole tabernacle, and the glory of the
Lord filled the tabernacle. It is
interesting to observe that while the Cloud of God’s Glory rested upon the
entire tabernacle complex, the glory of the Lord also “filled the
tabernacle,” thus designating the Most Holy Place as the dwelling place or
the tabernacle of God.
Later God said to Moses, “Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come
not at all times into the Most Holy Place within the veil before the mercy
seat…that he die not: for I WILL APPEAR IN THE CLOUD UPON THE MERCY SEAT”
(Lev. 16:2). Isaiah testified,
“O Lord of hosts, God of
Israel, that DWELLEST BETWEEN THE CHERUBIM, Thou art God” (Isa. 37:16).
God was in the cloud, He appeared
in the cloud, He spoke out of the
cloud, He led Israel by the cloud,
and in the cloud He dwelt
in the Most Holy Place, over the ark with its mercy-seat or throne of grace.
The tabernacle, and especially the throne upon the Ark, was in very
THRONE among Israel from which, by His word and His power, He ruled
The “Mercy-Seat” was a slab of solid gold, in fact a lid, with
cherubim, one at each end facing each other, all made of one piece.
The tables of the law of Yahweh were to be put in the Ark and the
Mercy-Seat placed above it. The
mercy-seat, or Throne, was to be put upon the Ark of the Covenant within the
veil, in the Most Holy Place. That
was the only piece of furniture in the Most Holy Place.
It was indeed the THRONE ROOM! It
was there, upon the mercy-seat, that the glory of the God of Israel dwelt, and
from there God communed with His people and set judgment and mercy in the
midst. “And thou shalt put the
mercy-seat above the Ark…and there I will meet with thee, and I will commune
with thee from above the mercy-seat…” (Ex. 25:21-22).
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel…Thou that dwellest between the
cherubim, shine forth” (Ps. 80:1).
The covering of the Ark of the Covenant was the place of the
judgment-of-mercy for Israel’s sins. It
was the Judgment Throne of the Invisible One, Israel’s King.
It was the Throne of Mercy! Everything
in the law of Moses centered in that Mercy-Throne.
All the sacrifices had to do with that Mercy-Throne within the veil.
All the shedding of blood of offerings had to do with that one chief
sprinkling of blood upon the Mercy-Throne.
The Mercy-Throne was, in the arrangement of things, the center of all!
The tabernacle was in the center of the camp.
The Most Holy Place was in the center of the white linen curtains or
outer wall which marked off the tabernacle territory.
The Mercy-Throne was in the center of the Most Holy Place.
So the Mercy-Throne was in the center
— or midst — of everything! The
Mercy-Throne was what the Most Holy Place was made for!
The mercy-seat, as the King James Bible calls it, was not a “seat”
as we know a seat; the old English word means the “origin” or
“center,” just as when you speak of the “seat of pain” or the “seat
of government” as the point of origin of it.
The mercy-seat was the place where MERCY ORIGINATED!
This is the description of something supreme — M-E-R-C-Y!
The writer to the Hebrews calls it “the throne of grace.”
The mercy-seat is an absolute picture of Jesus Christ.
There was no wood in it at all. It
was made of pure gold. It speaks
of God and all that is the nature of God as revealed in Christ.
The word for mercy-seat in the Greek language is hilasterion.
In the New Testament there are only four verses that use this word, as
follows: “And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy
seat” (Heb. 9:5). “Whom
God hath set forth to be a propitiation
through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of
sins that are past” (Rom. 3:25). “God…sent
His Son to be the propitiation for
our sins” (I Jn. 4:10). “And
He is the propitiation for our
sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn.
From these four verses you will see that the Greek word hilasterion
has been translated both as mercy seat
Christ, we are told, is the propitiation for our sins.
But the word is MERCY SEAT! It
simply means that Jesus Christ BECAME OUR MERCY SEAT, He became the origin or
center of God’s mercy and goodness toward us, and it is He from whom that
So now, blessed be God! we have a faithful and merciful
high priest who is also the seat, the center, the origin, and the powerful
of EVERLASTING AND INFINITE MERCY! I
do not hesitate to tell you that God is not dismantling His Mercy Throne, He
is not evacuating His body off of this planet, He is not taking His Holy
Spirit out of the earth, the day of grace is not, as the preachers so
ridiculously proclaim, about to end; indeed, it is barely beginning!
God is even now forming a body, a son company, kings and priests after
the order of Melchizedek, to display and reveal His mercy and power unto
creation throughout the age and the ages to come, making all things new.
Therefore, though we have but tasted of His mercies, through vast ages
yet unborn He will continue to unfold the riches of His grace, manifesting it
through His vessels of mercy, until the fullness thereof is revealed, and God
becomes, finally, ALL-IN-ALL!
The Most Holy Place is, then, an earthly picture of the throne of God
— the realm of God’s manifestation in power and dominion.
The Most Holy Place prefigured Christ the King
together with all those holy sons of God who reign with Him in the
authority of the Spirit. It is
the glory of KINGSHIP! Armed with
the understanding that the tabernacle constituted God’s throne among His
people, let us remember that there is “before” that throne a “great
multitude” of people receiving the blessings and benefits of His kingdom
ministered through the typical sacrifices and ministrations of the temple
service and the priesthood. As
you will note in the diagram, the arrangement of the tabernacle, the
priesthood, and the camp of Israel in three distinct divisions (tabernacle,
priesthood, camp of Israel), sets forth the three-fold economy of God in His
redemptive and restorative processes.
The tabernacle is the dwelling place of God — His throne, His sphere
of activity, the center of His power, glory, and goodness.
The camp of Israel, the great multitude “before” the throne, is the
whole world of mankind outside of God, estranged from His life, yet redeemed,
blessed, and brought nigh. But
there is a third company — the CAMP OF THE PRIESTS — situated, as it were,
“round about the throne,” directly between
the “throne” and the “great multitude”!
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “The Israelites shall encamp each
by his own tribal standard or banner, with the ensign of their fathers’
houses, opposite the tent of meeting (tabernacle) and facing it on every side.
Then the tent of meeting (tabernacle) shall set out, with the CAMP
OF THE LEVITES IN THE MIDST OF THE CAMPS” (Num. 2:2,17).
The tribe of Levi was not counted among the tribes of Israel, therefore
they were not camped with the other tribes, for they were the Lord’s
priests, ordained to be camped in the center of the encampment near the
tabernacle. Divine infinite
purpose lies behind this whole arrangement and the moment the wonderful
significance of this dawns upon our spiritual understanding, we see that God
has placed a PRIESTHOOD COMPANY between
Himself and the world of mankind!
A priest or priesthood infers that there is a reason why such
has been raised up by God. It
denotes that there has been in the minds of men an estrangement between God
and His creatures and the priest ministers to bridge that gulf and bring about
peace and at-one-ment. Deep in
the heart of every man there is a strong and instinctive demand for a priest,
to be a mediator, to lay one hand on man, and the other on God, and standing
between both to bring the two together into unification.
Webster’s dictionary defines priest as: A mediatory agent between
God and man. In the Old Testament
the word priest is translated from the Hebrew word cohen,
the root meaning of which is “one who stands up and draws nigh for
another.” The Greek word, in
its root, means “to minister.” Thus, a priest is one who draws nigh and
ministers in two directions —
drawing nigh to God on behalf of the people and drawing nigh to the people on
behalf of God! The priest stands
between. The ministry of
the priest is an intermediate or go-between ministry.
He reaches forth with one hand and takes hold of God; he reaches out
with the other hand and takes hold of humanity; and brings the two together by
the power of his priestly ministration. Can
we not see that this is the very reason God placed the priesthood of Israel in
an encampment directly between the
tabernacle throne and the great multitude of the people.
That is the picture! Most
people miss this great truth, and I don’t remember ever seeing a drawing of
the tabernacle and the camp of Israel in the wilderness with the tribe of Levi
correctly positioned in the open area of the hollow square between the
tabernacle and the camps of the tribes. It
is abundantly evident that they correspond precisely to the twenty-four Elders
that John beheld “round about the throne.”
Isn’t it wonderful!
In the book of Hebrews we read that our great High Priest, even Jesus, is set on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens where He is minister of the sanctuary, the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man (Heb. 8:1-2). In ancient times there was in every temple a god, an unseen god, among the pagans an idol god, concealed in the Holy of holies, to whom the temple was devoted. Religion is as old as the human race and religious systems and observances pre-date the oldest empires of antiquity such as the empires of Sumer, Egypt, and Babylon. As these religions spread over the world they developed into an expression in all lands and kingdoms with only a slight change in the names of the gods and slight variations in the rituals. The almost identical knowledge, stories, myths, gods, temples, priesthoods, sacrifices, and belief systems and observances of all kinds had their origins very early in human history. The question is, of course, where did all this come from? Was religion merely an “invention” of superstitious savages, or did it originate somehow as an integral part of man’s constitution, revelation, and experience from his very beginning?
evidence certainly suggests that religion had its origin from the dawn of
history. Every religion shared
similar characteristics — even among the indigenous cultures of the
Americas. The Mayan temples of
Central America and the Aztec temples of South America were constructed, even
to their “holy of holies,” along lines similar to those in Egypt and
evidence points to the fact that behind them all there was some ancient
historical reality. There are
no traces of evolution from simple to sophisticated.
All theological systems stemmed from some common but exceedingly
ancient source. This raises the
question — what was that common but exceedingly ancient source?
The evidence unquestionably points to some meaningful design right from
the earliest time of man’s appearance upon earth.
This type of uniformity suggests a guiding hand at work.
Oh, yes! There is the same
supernatural design throughout
practically all the ancient religious systems — God, temple worship,
sacrifice, priesthood, after-life, redemption, eternal life, resurrection,
judgment, etc. Design
from the beginning!
The Bible affirms that the worship of God originated with an original
truth revealed to man by His Creator.
Adam and Eve stepped forth from the garden with this original truth
implanted firmly in their hearts. They
knew of the tree of life, which was Christ as life.
“In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In Him was life; and the life
was the light (illumination,
inspiration, revelation) of men” (Jn. 1:1,4).
They experienced the presence of God and the glory of God, for the Lord
God Himself walked with them in the Garden in the cool
(Hebrew: spirit) of the day.
They knew what it was to walk in
the Spirit! They conversed
with God and understood His will, His word, and His ways.
The only government they knew was the life, spirit, and word of
God! But then they came to know
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which indicates a living after
human reasoning and law, instead of life.
They knew about sin and death, for they both sinned and died.
They understood conscience,
for after partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they
perceived that they were naked and were ashamed, hiding from God because of
their shame. They tried the
impotent route of religion by works,
symbolized by them sewing their own flimsy aprons of fig leaves in a futile
effort to cover their shame. They received the divine revelation of redemption
by sacrifice, for God Himself slew a lamb (the Lamb slain from the foundation
of the world!) and with it covered their nakedness.
To be naked means to have your flesh
exposed, that is your own carnal
mind, will, and nature revealed for what it is, and this was covered by the
life of the Lamb! They thus
received the revelation of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ!
They had the promise of a redeemer, and a restoration to life and
glory. They were instructed that
this redeemer would be known as “the seed of the woman” a manchild,
Christ, Head and body, and that He would bruise the serpent’s head.
They had been introduced to the “god of this
world,” the serpent, who cunningly allured them into the living out of
the natural intellect, reason, human conscience, and man’s own perverted
sense of man-made law, instead of out of the living Spirit of Christ
as Life. Let us now acquaint
ourselves with the following important fact: All the so-called wisdom
of this present world, yes, all the
vaunted wisdom of the worlds of science, philosophy, education, politics,
government, psychology, astrology, economics, religion, and a thousand more
things that shape our world systems are one and all brought
forth out of the illumination of the serpent-mind.
For this reason we are admonished, “Love not the world, neither the
things that are in the world. If
any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life, is not of
the Father, but is of the world. And
the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth
the will of God abideth for ever” (I Jn. 2:15-17).
In that long ago beginning our first parents were given the promise of
redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of all things to God!
They saw afar off their regained dominion by the wisdom, spirit, and
power of God. Their first
offspring knew about worship,
sacrifice, offering, redemption, and living in the presence of God, and by the
revelation of God, for Cain and Able brought their sacrifices out of a
knowledge of the plan and purpose of God.
But what happened was that as man moved farther and farther from Eden
and the presence, life, and glory of God, that original
truth was passed through the polluted corridors of time and human
nature, becoming distorted, contorted, embellished, misconstrued, disfigured,
and mutilated. This is what the
scriptures call apostasy!
We see examples of what apostasy does to an original truth in our own
age, the church age. Jesus and
His apostles came and brought an original truth — redemption and
transformation of mankind through the death, burial, and resurrection of our
Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His kingdom in and by the Spirit.
Now consider what happened to that original truth as it was filtered
through time and human imagination! Look
at the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other ancient disciplines with
their cathedrals, priests, vestments, traditions, holy water, candles,
incense, altars, statues, icons, shrines, holy relics, ceremonies,
confessionals, rituals, masses, rules, celibacy, monastic orders, and on and
on. Do any of these even faintly resemble
the original truth and the power and glory and experience of the early church?
Not at all! The church
world today is but a grotesque caricature of the gospel of Jesus!
Yet — the essence of that
original truth is still present on some level in
all of them! They all
acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who came and died for the salvation
of mankind! And all their
carnal-minded procedures seek in some way to illustrate that truth.
What I am saying is that the similarities in all ancient religions reveal
an original truth from which they stemmed — God, worship, temples,
priesthoods, altars, sacrifices, forgiveness, prayers, salvation,
resurrection, eternal life, judgment, future life, paradise — all of this
and more, though convoluted, twisted, distorted, misfigured, embellished, and
even demonized — still reflected something of that original truth!
What becomes evident is that the Sumerians did one thing with that
original truth, the Babylonians did another, the Egyptians another, and so on
through all the pagan systems. All
had temples, priests, altars, incense, sacrifices, gods, saviours, worship,
prayers, etc. In the most powerful and enduring myths that man inherited from
his beginning, the human race had retained a confused and perverted memory of the
Some years ago Lorain and I were privileged to take a tour of Egypt.
At the many temples of Egypt I stood in several “Holy of holies”
including the one in the temple of Luxor.
There is no denying that Moses’ tabernacle in the wilderness was
fashioned somewhat after the model of the temples in Egypt.
The Egyptian temples each had their “Holy of holies” in which the
only item present was the idol god. Superficial
thinking might reason and conclude that since Moses was from Egypt, and
learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, he simply modeled his tabernacle
after the order of the Egyptian temples.
But such reasoning misses the
point altogether! All the
ancient temples reflected the original
truth of God tabernacling among men.
Therefore, that Moses’ tabernacle would be similar should be
self-evident! It would have been
a blunder and an absurdity of momentous proportions if his tabernacle would
have been completely different. Here
is what happened. Religion, from
the time Adam and Eve left the garden, had been on a steady decline,
apostatizing into wretched forms and gross misrepresentations of the original
truth. False and hideous
portrayals of God sat in their temples — grotesque idols of imaginary beings
and animal gods. In the land of
Egypt this pagan stupidity had sunk as low as man’s serpent-inspired
imagination could carry it.
Oh that the darkening veils of ignorance might be torn from our minds
that we might see that just at that point in history GOD GLORIOUSLY
INTERVENED! The great difference
between Moses’ tabernacle and the Egyptian temples was just this — the
Holy of holies of Moses’ tabernacle, for the first time since its type in
Eden and its archetype in the heavenlies of God’s Spirit, now held THE
LIVING PRESENCE, GLORY, AND POWER OF THE TRUE AND LIVING GOD — not
an idol! The bottom had been
reached, religion had sunk as low as it could go, the point of return had
arrived, and the ascendancy of the original truth back to its purity,
fulfillment, and consummation had
begun! The Exodus and Moses’
tabernacle was the turning point
for God’s purpose among men in the history of the human race!
That, precious friend of mine, is historical
fact. God manifested Himself
as a living reality in the midst of His called and chosen people there in the
wilderness and eventually in the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
And now — isn’t it interesting that temple worship survived only
until Jesus came!
The ascendancy of the original truth came about this way.
God manifested His presence and power in the midst of His people in
Moses’ tabernacle. He
established His throne there in the midst of Israel.
Later His presence, power, and rule in the midst of His people was intensified
when Israel possessed their land, through the prophets, judges, kings, and the
temple of Solomon. Then the
presence, power, and rule of God was intensified
again even more as out of that nation God came in Jesus Christ and
tabernacled among men! The
ascendancy of the original truth reached a higher level yet when on the day of
Pentecost the Holy Spirit was outpoured from on high and God came and dwelt
and walked and talked in men.
Is it not significant that within that very same
generation when the true tabernacle,
the body of Christ, was raised up in the earth, the Jewish temple was
violently and completely destroyed, never
to rise again! And within a
few generations all the temples of the ancient gods would stand empty and
silent. The turning point came
with the tabernacle of Moses! There
is no idol god in the temple of Luxor today — only because Moses came on the
scene by the intervention of God to change the course of human history,
beginning the ascendance of the original truth revealed in Eden, and the
eventual consummation of God’s purpose in man.
THIS IS THE TRUE MEANING OF HISTORY.
All God’s holy prophets since the world began prophesied
that the coming One, the
redeemer of the world, would banish all the gods of the nations, that He was
the hope of all creation, that all nations would come and worship before Him,
that all things and all men would be reconciled unto Him, and that all
principalities and powers would be made subject to Him.
Oh, yes! And history
clearly records that in relation to all the mystery religions and the ancient
gods of all the great empires of antiquity, THESE PROPHECIES WERE EXPLICITLY
FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST! Of all
the religions of earth only Jesus
triumphed over the ancient gods! There
are no temples or altars to Zeus today, nor to Athena, nor to Baal, nor to
Diana, nor to any other of the ancient gods and goddesses.
And He triumphed not only because those gods, by man’s imagination
and manipulation, had become false gods, perverted representations of the original
truth, but truly because HE BECAME AT LAST THE VERY EMBODIMENT AND
FULFILLMENT OF THAT ORIGINAL TRUTH SO FAINTLY SHADOWED IN THEM!
Jesus appeared right on schedule, by divine destiny, and accomplished
all that the prophets had foretold and that the myths of all religions pointed
to! Thus He is the fulfillment
not only of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament, but even of the
figures still set forth in all the pagan religions of antiquity!
Oh, the wonder of it!
us return now to the encampment of Israel in the wilderness.
In every temple there was a priest, the priest of that temple, who was
to receive the petitions and the sacrifices of the worshipper and to get the
answer back from God. So it was
with Aaron in the Old Testament. It
was said of him and of the priesthood of Israel, “They shall stand in my
presence to minister,” and “they shall go out and bless in my name.”
This great truth reveals why God placed the camp of the priests
Himself and the people of Israel. It
should be clear to any thinking mind that the priesthood camped “round
about” the tabernacle-throne corresponds precisely to the twenty-four Elders
seated “round about” the throne in Revelation chapter four!
I would remind the reader of the account in I Chronicles chapter
twenty-four of how, under king David, the Levitical priesthood was divided
into TWENTY-FOUR COURSES under the headship of TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS!
The twenty-four courses or orders of the priesthood were chosen by
families — according to the twenty-four grandsons of Aaron the high priest.
Each course was named for one of these twenty-four grandsons and the
male descendants of each grandson constituted one of the twenty-four courses
throughout their generations. We
are inclined to lightly pass over many profound statements of holy scripture.
The priesthood was divided into twenty-four orders for this stated
purpose: “This was their order for coming on duty to serve in the house of
the Lord, according to the procedure ordered for them by their grandfather
Aaron, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded him” (I Chron. 24:19,
The priesthood numbered, in the time of David, some 18,000 who lived in
the countryside of Galilee and Judea. Of
course, all those priests could not go into the temple at one time, so they
were divided into courses and assigned to work shifts, each “course” of
priests and Levites came on duty for a week, from one Sabbath to another.
When a “course” was on duty, all its members were bound to appear
in the temple, and the service of the week was subdivided among the various
families which constituted a “course.”
This order continued until Jesus came.
We read about Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, in these
words, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest
named Zacharias, of the course of Abia:
and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth” (Lk.
1:5). The point I wish to
emphasize here is this: It took all
twenty-four courses to MAKE
UP THE ENTIRE PRIESTHOOD OF GOD!
As the Father unfolds these truths to the inner man, we become
convinced that as the four Living Creatures “in the midst of the throne”
reveal the glory of KINGSHIP, so the twenty-four Elders “round about the
throne” reveal the glory of PRIESTHOOD.
KINGS AND PRIESTS! A
KINGDOM OF PRIESTS! PRIESTS THAT
SIT UPON THRONES! REIGNING
This is the great truth revealed in the four Living Creatures and the
twenty-four Elders. John the
Revelator summed up in three short verses the wonderful truth of which I now
write: “And when He had taken the book, the four
Living Creatures and the four and
twenty Elders fell down before the Lamb, every one of them having harps,
and golden vials full of odours,
which are the prayers of the saints. And
they (the four Living Creatures and
the twenty-four Elders) 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” (Rev. 5:8-9).
That is the mystery!
The twenty-four Elders represent the whole priesthood of God, of which
Jesus is the Head, our great High Priest.
The priesthood of God ministers from the Holiest of all, from the
Mercy-Throne in the heart of the Father.
It is written of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Forasmuch then as the
children (of God) are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise
took part of the same. For verily
He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of
Abraham. Wherefore in all things
it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a MERCIFUL
AND FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation
for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:14-18).
When the Word of God consented to be made flesh, to strip Himself of
the glory He had before the world was, and become a man, a human being, to
live among the vileness of the sinful, rebellious, and dying, to be touched by
the same infirmities, weaknesses, and feelings that touch us, to suffer being
tempted in all points like as we are, to be rejected and suffer the agony of
false accusation and the humiliation of ridicule, the pain of the stripes
received from the Roman lashes, and the trauma of the cross itself — why did
He submit to all this? The stock
answer is that He had to become a man and suffer and die in order to purchase
our redemption. That is true!
That is certainly part of the reason He became a man, but
only part of it; there is much more to the reason He became a man, much
In the passage quoted above we see that Jesus became a man and suffered
all that mankind suffers, not merely to die on the cross for our sins, for He
could have died without all the lifetime of suffering, pain, temptation,
sorrow, weakness, rejection, and infirmity.
He suffered so that after having redeemed us to God He might become a
High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, a faithful High Priest and
a MERCIFUL HIGH PRIEST. Ah, Jesus
could be the eternal King without
having been so completely compassed about with infirmity.
But He could never be a Merciful
High Priest without it! He
might have been perfect in character and desirous to help us; but, if He had
never tasted death, how could He allay our fears as we walk through the
dreadful quagmire of this death realm?
If He had never been sorely tempted, if He had never encountered
the allurement of the flesh and the almost irresistible drawing power of sin
and the world, how could He succor those who are tempted?
If He had never wept, how could He soothe and dry our tears?
If He had never suffered, hungered, wearied on the hill of difficulty,
or threaded His way through the swamplands of grief, how could He be a merciful
and faithful High Priest, full of understanding, compassion, and kindness?
My purpose in writing of these mysteries is that all who read might see
that the nature of the firstborn Son of God, the High Priest of our
Profession, must be the nature of every member of the house
of sons who are also the body of
the High Priest — the Priests and
the Priesthood of the most high God!
This company of priests, reigning priests, are the twenty-four Elders
“round about” the throne! “And
they sung a new song, saying, Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests:
and we shall reign on the earth.” “And
I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and…they shall be priests
of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years”
The wonderful book of Hebrews is literally packed full of mysteries,
types, shadows, and allegories, all pointing to the ministry of the sons
of God who are God’s Royal
(Kingly) Priesthood. These
are only unfolded by the Spirit as we are able to bear it.
Hebrews chapter five sets forth the qualifications of that typical High
Priest under the law, and therefore the qualifications that Christ Jesus, the
anti-typical High Priest of the new order of the Kingdom, must possess.
All the members of the Royal Priesthood, the Kings and Priests of the
Kingdom who are, with Him, “partakers of the heavenly calling,” must also
have the same qualifications, for they are the body
of the High Priest.
“For every High Priest taken from among men is ordained for men in
things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for
sins: who can have compassion on
the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, for that he
himself is compassed about with infirmity” (Heb. 5:1-2).
Here we have defined the intrinsic nature of the priestly office!
First, he must be “taken from among men,” that is, he must partake
of both the nature and circumstances of those on whose behalf he acts.
Second, he acts not as a private individual, but as a public official:
“is ordained for men.” Third,
he came not empty-handed before God, but furnished with “gifts and
sacrifices for sins (errors, missing the mark).”
Finally, he himself must not be exempt from infirmity, so that he might
the more readily succor the distressed and distraught.
All this is important for it points to Jesus’ qualifications to be
our great High Priest, the Head of the priesthood company.
A High Priest must know and experientially understand the problems and
limitations of those he represents. “Who
can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for
that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.”
On three different occasions Matthew tells us that our Lord was
“moved with compassion” on the multitudes.
Frankly, when you read the Gospels you read of Jesus doing miracles,
healings, mighty signs and wonders; but Jesus never went around looking for a
miracle to perform! HE WENT ABOUT
DOING THE FATHER’S WILL. The
Father brought Him to a place where His heart could be moved with compassion.
It was not a gift of
compassion that that came to Him by a spiritual experience; it was the
compassion wrought out in His life by His many sorrows, sufferings, and
testings. He had suffered loss,
He had suffered pain, He had suffered reproach.
Coming to a town He sees a funeral procession and as a Son, having
suffered the loss of Joseph and friends and family members, and shared in the
sorrow of His mother at the loss, thereby developing the nature of a priest,
He is filled with compassion when he sees the widow and her dead son.
There was no Social Security in those days, and the boy was the only
person to look after the widow, so He stops the procession, raises the boy,
hands him over to the mother, and goes about the Father’s business.
I find that the basis of Jesus’ sonship ministry was not
power — IT WAS COMPASSION!
When He saw the multitude He was moved with compassion.
They were hungry, and He had known knawing hunger, so He said, “Let
us feed them.” When He met the
leper He was moved with compassion, for He had experienced pain and shame, and
He laid His hands upon him and healed him.
He could have spoken a word to heal him, but the man needed the touch
of somebody’s hand on him, he had been separated from people so long, he
needed more than to be healed from his leprosy, he needed the sense of the
hand of God upon him. When Jesus
looked upon the careworn faces of the toiling, tax-ridden multitudes — taxed
by cruel priests; taxed by Herod; taxed by Pilate; taxed by their own sins and
sorrows; wearily burdened, wounded at heart, and heavy laden — He was not
looking for a chance to show off His power — He was moved with compassion.
“Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of
the way; FOR THAT HE HIMSELF ALSO IS COMPASSED ABOUT WITH INFIRMITY.”
Ah, the condition which develops compassion in us, is that we
ourselves get compassed — surrounded, hedged in — by the problems, the
difficulties, the needs that are going to be represented in the people to whom
we minister. So many of us are
intolerant in certain areas of our lives because we have not gone through the
pressure, we have not been drawn by that insidious temptation, we have not
been compassed by that particular infirmity, weakness, sorrow, or need.
Priesthood demands suffering, trial, testing, tribulation, and
demands relationship with God. He
sends the spirit of the Son into our hearts and we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Now God intends that all of us who have been called should be sons of
God, and that all of us should be a Kingdom of Priests, a Royal Priesthood
unto God. But you may be a son
and still not be a priest!
John the Revelator said, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them,
and judgment was given unto them…and they shall be priests
of God and of Christ, and shall reign
with Him a thousand years.” Here
you see that it is not the sons who are reigning — it is the PRIESTS!
What about the sons? “He
that overcometh shall inherit all
things; and I will be his God, and he
shall be my son.” The sons
inherit, for they are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
Who, then, is destined to reign? THE
SONS WHO ARE PRIESTS!
Christ was a Son before He was a Priest.
He was not a Priest during His years in the flesh, although He was
qualifying to be one, but He was a Son. Christ
in His ministry from the heavens today is not merely the Son of God.
As a Son He is “heir of all things.”
But to become the great High Priest and provide the priestly ministry
on our behalf the Son had, as a Son, to go through the experience that was
necessary to perfect Him for the understanding heart of the Priesthood.
“We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings
of our infirmities; BUT WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE…” (Heb.
4:15). “Though He were a Son,
yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made
perfect (for the Priesthood), He became…AN
HIGH PRIEST AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK” (Heb. 5:8-10).
Ah, Jesus could have been a son
without being so totally compassed with infirmity, BUT HE COULD NEVER HAVE
BEEN A PRIEST WITHOUT IT!
There have been those precious folk who have said to me, “Brother
Eby, I don’t understand. Since
I came into this kingdom message things have gotten worse — all hell has
broken loose.” That is just
what you need — IF YOU WOULD BE A PRIEST! Have
you not known some beautiful saints to whom you naturally betake yourself in
time of trial and sorrow? They
always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing
for; you do not realize, however, the cost they have had to pay ere they
became so skillful in binding up gaping wounds and drying tears.
But if you were to investigate their past you would find that they have
suffered more than most. They
have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life
hung. They have seen the golden
bowl of joy dashed at their feet, and its contents spilt.
They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping flowers, and darkened
skies; but all this has been necessary to make them comforters and healers, the
priests of men. The reason
our blessed Lord is touched with the
feeling of our infirmities is that He knoweth
our frame. He remembereth
that we are dust. He knows this
not by revelation or by divine omniscience, but He Himself was a “man of
sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
Aren’t you glad!
Merciful priests! The
priestly heart is above all things a caring, sympathetic, compassionate,
merciful heart in which the love of Christ constrains us to express His
goodness unto men. The
Bible-waving preacher on the street corner, screaming at the passersby that
they must repent or burn in hell, knows nothing at all about being a priest of
God. If a vicious serial killer
is caught and put to death, or some homosexual activist is murdered or dies of
aids, there is that deceitful self-righteous spirit within us which silently
judges, saying, “Good…there is one less murderer and one less pervert in
the world.” As righteously
moral as that appears, I tell you earnestly that it is not the Spirit of God,
and it is not the judgment of a Priest of God!
priestly heart! Oh,
Spirit of God, write upon my heart with indelible letters the merciful heart
of my High Priest!
is my deep conviction that it is more important to express the tender,
forgiving, compassionate nature of Christ in meeting a person’s need, than
in witnessing to people about the “plan of salvation.”
Christians have become so conditioned to the idea that they aren’t
“doing anything for God” unless they go out and witness, skillfully using
the sword of the word of God. But,
my precious brother, my dear sister, when you are unconditionally loving and
merciful and encourage and speak life to people in their desperate need, you become
a living word to them that says, “I care and God cares for you!”
Jesus said that He did not come into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved.
Priests are not condemners; priests
Jesus speaks His word through us in actions, we become a word that
is alive to men, not a dead doctrinal word, or religious word, but a Living
Word. This is a life to be lived,
as Jesus did, and it is more important than quoting scripture, witnessing,
teaching or preaching. Instead of
witnessing, we BECOME THE WITNESS of what our Father is really
who are called to the high calling of sonship to God are the kings and priests
who shall reign on the earth and restore all things back into God again.
There is both a Godward and a manward work in redemption,
reconciliation, and restoration. As
I mentioned earlier, there was this Godward and manward ministry expressed
through the priesthood of Aaron in the tabernacle in the wilderness.
It is written of him and the priests of Israel, “They shall stand in
my presence to minister,” and “they shall go out and bless in my name.”
And so our great High Priest, Jesus, stands in the heavens of God’s
Spirit as the “minister of the sanctuary,” as the priest of the tabernacle
which the Lord has pitched, and not man, and He ministers in this dual way.
He both carries us to the Father and brings the Father into us.
In and by His blood He Himself brings us nigh to God.
But He does more! Without
interruption there flows back from the Father to the Son, in whom He delights,
a stream of blessing to impart to His people on earth.
And in Him, the entire priesthood, the body of the High Priest, so
ministers both unto God and unto men. Anything
short of this is not priesthood!
High Priest was thus the mediator between God and the people.
He carried into the presence of God the sins and needs of the people,
and carried the people in him. The
people drew nigh to God in the person of the High Priest, identified in him as
he entered into the Holiest of all by the blood.
He obtained from God the power to declare remission of sin and the
right of blessing the people. Then
when the High Priest came out of the Most Holy Place, God drew nigh unto the
people in the person of the High Priest.
Oh, we see it so clearly in these instructive words, “And Moses and
Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out,
and BLESSED THE PEOPLE: and THE GLORY
OF THE LORD APPEARED UNTO ALL THE PEOPLE” (Lev. 9:23).
The service of the priesthood is thus clear, FIRST TO MINISTER TO THE
LORD, then to stand between the Creator and His creation, to minister the life
of Christ to those who sit in darkness, in the region of the shadow of death,
until all are fully reconciled to God again, and behold the glory of the Lord!
The body of Christ, like its glorious Head, is a kingdom
of priests, a people for a purpose.
I cannot emphasize too strongly the important truth that all
priesthood has a double outreach — ministry to both God and man.
Notice how Jesus often spent the whole night in prayer communing with
the Father; then He came down from the mountain, from the high place in the
Spirit, to touch and bless and deliver the multitudes of the helpless and
needy. It could not be otherwise,
for a priest is one who “stands between” the throne and the great
multitude, and the moment a priest ceases to touch both God and man, unifying
the two, he simply ceases to be a priest.
He may be a worshipper who speaks to
God, or a king who rules for God,
or a prophet who speaks on behalf of
God, but no man can have a one-sided ministry and be a priest!
The priest ministers unto God on behalf of men and unto men on behalf
of God. The priest touches God
with one hand and mankind with the other hand, bringing the two together by
his priestly ministration. That
is priesthood! Anything less
or different than this is not priesthood at all.
Let us then stand assured of this marvelous truth: the four Living
Creatures represent kingship, for
they dwell in the midst of the throne.
The twenty-four Elders reveal within themselves the ministry of priesthood,
for they are round about the throne,
standing between the God of the throne and the vast multitude “before” the
throne. These are not two
separate companies; these are rather two
aspects of ministry that have their source and power in the throne.
This is the KING-PRIEST MINISTRY OF THE MANIFEST SONS OF GOD!
These are all sons of God in the power and outflow of life and glory
from the throne. God is raising
up within each of His called and chosen elect the spirit
and nature of sonship, the spirit
and nature of kingship, and the spirit
and nature of priesthood. These
are the realities John saw in the throne room!
Oh, the mystery of it!
To be continued… J.
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