A Kingdom of Priests
God has vested in us – His believing people on earth – authority by which we may determine the destinies of nations and governments. He expects us to use our authority both for His glory and for our own good. If we fail to do so, we are answerable for the consequences. Such is the message of Scripture, unfolded both by precept and by pattern. It is confirmed by the personal experience of many believers and is written across the pages of the history of whole nations. . .
God’s Words in Man’s Mouth
An outstanding example is provided by the career of the prophet Jeremiah. In the opening ten verses of the first chapter of Jeremiah, God declared that He had set Jeremiah apart as “a prophet to the nations” (1:5). Jeremiah, in response, protested his inability to fulfill this role, saying, “I cannot speak: for I am [only a youth]” (v. 6). However, God reaffirmed His call in stronger terms and concluded by saying, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (v. 10).
What an exalted position for a young man, to be “set … over the is nations and over the kingdoms.” This is authority on a higher plane than the normal forces that shape secular politics. To judge by outward appearances, the subsequent career of Jeremiah gave little indication of such authority. On the contrary, his message was almost universally rejected, and he himself was continually subjected to indignity and persecution. For several months, he languished in prison, and at various times, he was at the point of death, either by execution or by starvation.
Yet, the course of history has vindicated the authority of Jeremiah and his message. His prophetic messages unfolded the destinies of Israel and of nearly all the surrounding nations in the Middle East, as well as those of nations in other areas of the earth. Twenty-five hundred years have passed. In the light of history, it is now possible to make an objective evaluation. Throughout all the intervening centuries, the destiny of every one of those nations has followed precisely the course foretold by Jeremiah. The more closely we compare their subsequent histories with the prophecies of Jeremiah, the more exactly do we find them to correspond. Thus Jeremiah was in very fact “set over those nations and over the kingdoms,” and by the prophecies that he uttered, he became the actual arbiter of their destinies.
What was the basis of such tremendous authority? The answer is found in Jeremiah 1:9: “And the LORD said to me, Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” The authority lay in God’s words, imparted to Jeremiah. Because the words that Jeremiah uttered were not his own, but those that God gave him, they were just as effective in Jeremiah’s mouth as they would have been in the mouth of God Himself. In all earth’s affairs, the last word is with God. At times, however, God causes this word to be spoken through the lips of a human believer. Such a word may be spoken publicly in prophecy or in the authoritative exposition of Scripture. More often, perhaps, it is spoken within a prayer closet, in petition or in intercession.
It is important to observe that Jeremiah stood in a twofold relationship to the secular government of his day. On the natural plane, as a citizen of Judah, he was in subjection to the government of his nation, represented by the king and the princes. In no sense did he preach or practice political subversion or anarchy. Nor did he ever seek to evade or to resist decrees made by the government concerning him, even though these were at times arbitrary and unjust. Yet on the spiritual plane to which God elevated him through his prophetic ministry, Jeremiah exercised authority over the very rulers to whom he was in subjection on the natural plane.
Sharing the Throne with Christ
Jeremiah’s career illustrates a principle that is more fully unfolded in the New Testament: Every Christian has dual citizenship. By natural birth, he is a citizen of an earthly nation, and he is subject to all the ordinances and requirements of his nation’s lawful government. But by spiritual rebirth, through faith in Christ, he is also a citizen of God’s heavenly kingdom. This is the basis of Paul’s statement, already referred to in our previous chapter: “We … are citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20 NEB).
As a citizen of heaven, the Christian is subject to the laws of the heavenly kingdom, but he is also entitled to share in its authority. This is the kingdom of which David spoke in Psalm 103:19: “The LORD has prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom rules over all.” God’s kingdom is supreme over all other kingdoms and over all other forces at work on earth. It is God’s purpose to share the authority of His kingdom with His believing people. In Luke 12:32, Jesus assured His disciples, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The comfort of this assurance does not depend upon the strength or numbers of the flock, for it is a “little flock,” a company of “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16). The certainty that the kingdom belongs to us as believers is founded on the “good pleasure” of the Father, “the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).
As Christians, our position in God’s kingdom is determined by our relationship to Christ. Paul explained this in Ephesians 2:4-6, which is rendered in The New English Bible:
But God, rich in mercy, for the great love he bore us, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our sins; it is by his grace you are saved. And in union with Christ Jesus he raised us up and enthroned us with him in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 2:4-6
God’s grace identifies us with Christ in three successive phases. First, we are “brought … to life,” or made alive. We share Christ’s life. Second, we are “raised … up,” as Christ was raised up, from the tomb. We share Christ’s resurrection. Third, we are “enthroned” in the heavenly kingdom. We share Christ’s kingly authority on the throne. None of this is in the future. It is all stated in the past tense, as a fact already accomplished. Each of these three phases is made possible, not by our own efforts or merits, but solely by accepting in faith our union with Christ.
In Ephesians 1:20-21, Paul described the position of supreme authority to which Christ has been exalted by the Father: “When he raised him from the dead, when he enthroned him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all government and authority, all power and dominion, and any title of sovereignty that can be named” (NEB). Christ’s authority at God’s right hand does not necessarily set aside all other forms of authority or government, but it takes preeminence over them. The same truth is expressed by the title twice given to Christ in the book of Revelation: “Lord of lords, and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14; see 19:16). Christ is the Supreme Ruler over all rulers and Governor over all governments. This is the position on the throne that He shares with His believing people.
How shall we comprehend the magnitude of what is thus made available to us? The answer is given in Paul’s prayer in the preceding verses of Ephesians chapter 1:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places.Ephesians 1:17-20 RSV
This revelation cannot come by natural reasoning or by sense knowledge. It comes only by the Holy Spirit. He is the One who enlightens the eyes of our hearts and shows us two interwoven truths: first, that Christ’s authority is now supreme over the universe; second, that the same power that raised Christ to that position of authority now works also “in us who believe.”
In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul further explained these truths that are revealed to Christians only by the Holy Spirit. He said, “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (vv. 7-8 RSV). This “secret and hidden wisdom” reveals Christ as “Lord of glory.” It is “for our glorification,” for it shows us that in our union with Him we share His glory. Paul continued, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (vv. 9-10 RSV). Paul again emphasized that knowledge of this kind is not imparted through the senses, nor is it forthcoming out of the inner resources of man’s reason or imagination, except as these are illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
In verse 12, Paul summed this up: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” One of the things thus given to us is our position in Christ at God’s right hand. Paul here contrasted two sources of knowledge. “The spirit of the world” shows us the things of this world. Through this we understand our earthly citizenship, with all its rights and responsibilities. But “the spirit which is of God” reveals to us the kingdom of Christ and our place in it. Through this we understand our rights and responsibilities as citizens of heaven.
If, at times, our position with Christ on the throne seems remote or unreal, the reason is simple: we have not received the revelation that the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, makes available to us. Without this revelation, we can neither understand nor enjoy the benefits of our heavenly citizenship. Instead of reigning as kings, we find ourselves still toiling as slaves.
- See Part Two: Sharing in Christ’s Kingly Authority, by Derek Prince
This article is excerpted from Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, Chapter 2 A Kingdom of Priests, (c) 1973 by Derek Prince, first published by Fleming H. Revell Company in association with Derek Prince Ministries.
Top image credit: Hands raised in prayer with an opened Bible, from Bigstock.com, © Kalina Vova, stock photo ID: 19540097. Used with permission.
Derek Prince (1915–2003) was born in India of British parents. Educated as a scholar of Greek and Latin at Eton College and Cambridge University, England, he held a Fellowship in Ancient and Modern Philosophy at King’s College. He also studied Hebrew and Aramaic, at Cambridge University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While serving with the British army in World War II, he began to study the Bible and experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Out of this encounter he formed two conclusions: first, that Jesus Christ is alive; second, that the Bible is a true, relevant, up-to-date book. These conclusions altered the whole course of his life, which he then devoted to studying and teaching the Bible.