From Slaves to Kings
From the beginning, it was God’s purpose to share with man His dominion over the earth. In Genesis 1:26, the initial purpose of man’s creation is stated: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them [the human race] have dominion … over all the earth.” Because of disobedience, Adam and his descendants forfeited their position of dominion. Instead of reigning in obedience as kings, they were subjugated as slaves to sin and to Satan.
However, the dominion that was lost to the whole race through Adam is restored to the believer in Christ. “For if by one man’s offense [that is, the offense of Adam] death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). The consequences of Adam’s disobedience and of Christ’s obedience are both already manifested in this present life. Death reigns now over unbelievers. Likewise, believers reign now in life by Christ. Through our union with Christ, we have already been raised up to share the throne with Him, and we are reigning there with Him now.
God’s purpose in man’s redemption reflects His original purpose in man’s creation. God’s redeeming grace lifts man from his position of slavery and restores him to his position of dominion. In the Old Testament, this is demonstrated in the deliverance of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. In Exodus 19:6, God declared to Israel the purpose for which He has redeemed them: “And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” “A kingdom of priests” speaks of dominion restored – kingship in place of slavery. God offered Israel a double privilege: to minister as priests and to reign as kings. As we will see in later chapters of this book, some of the great saints of Israel, such as Daniel, entered into this high calling. For the most part, however, the nation failed to accept God’s gracious promises.
In the New Testament, to those redeemed by faith in Christ, God renews the calling that He originally gave to Israel. In 1 Peter 2:5, Christians are called “a holy priesthood.” As priests of the new covenant, their ministry is “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” The “spiritual sacrifices” offered up by Christians are the various forms of prayer – particularly worship and intercession. Then, in 1 Peter 2:9, Christians are further called “a royal [or kingly] priesthood.” The phrase “a royal priesthood” exactly corresponds to “a kingdom of priests” in Exodus 19:6.
In the book of Revelation, the same phrase is again applied twice to those redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ. In Revelation 1:5-6, we read: “To him [Christ] that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father.” And again in Revelation 5:9-10: “[You] have redeemed us to God by your blood … and have made us to our God kings and priests.” In all, God’s purpose to make His redeemed people “a kingdom of priests” is stated four times in Scripture – once in the Old Testament and three times in the New Testament. In all three instances in the New Testament, God’s purpose is presented not as something yet to take place in the future, but as a fact already accomplished for us as Christians through our position in Christ.
We Rule by Prayer
In Psalm 110:1-4, David painted a picture of Christ reigning as King and Priest together with His believing people. Every detail of the scene is significant and merits our careful attention. The inspired language and imagery David uses must be interpreted by reference to other related passages of Scripture.
In the first verse, we have the revelation of Christ as King, enthroned at the Father’s right hand: “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” No other verse of the Old Testament is quoted more often in the New Testament than this. In three of the gospels, Jesus quoted the words of David and applied them to Himself (Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43). They were likewise applied to Jesus by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:34-35). The truth of Christ’s kingship is similarly presented by David in Psalm 2:6, where the Father declares: “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”
In verse 4 of Psalm 110, David’s picture is completed by the revelation of Christ as Priest: “The LORD has sworn, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after ‘he order of Melchizedek.”
The whole teaching of the epistle to the Hebrews concerning Christ’s high priesthood is based on this verse of Psalm 110. The writer of Hebrews stressed that in Melchizedek there was the union of the two functions of kingship and priesthood. Melchizedek was “priest of the most high God.” In addition, he was, by the very meaning of his name, “King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace” (Hebrews 7:1-2). Such is the double ministry that Christ now exercises at the Father’s right hand. As King, He rules. As Priest, He intercedes: “He ever lives to make intercession” (Hebrews 7:25).
Verse 2 of Psalm 110 describes the way in which Christ’s kingly authority is exercised: “The LORD shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion: rule in the midst of your enemies.” This is the situation in the world today. The enemies of Christ have not been finally subdued, but are still actively at work, opposing His rule and His kingdom. However, Christ has been exalted and given authority over them all. Thus He rules now “in the midst of [His] enemies.”
David spoke of “the rod of your strength.” It is by this that Christ rules. The “rod” in Scripture is the mark of a ruler’s authority. When Moses stretched out his rod, the plagues of God came upon Egypt, and later the waters of the Red Sea parted before Israel. (See Exodus 7-14.) high priest and head over the tribe of Levi, Aaron had a rod on which his name was inscribed. (See Numbers 17:3.) The same applies to Christ. His authority is made effective by the use of His name.
In the scene painted by David, the rod is not etched forth by Christ’s own hand, but is sent forth “out of Zion.” All through Scripture, Zion denotes the place of assembly of God’s people. Speaking to Christians, the writer of Hebrews says: “But you have come to Mount Sion … to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are [enrolled] in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22—23). By right of our heavenly citizenship, we take our place in this assembly that is gathered in Zion.
Here we play our part in the double ministry of Christ. As kings, we rule with Him. As priests, we share His ministry of prayer and intercession. We must never seek to separate these two functions from each other. If we would rule as kings, we must serve as priests. The practice of our priestly ministry is the key to the exercise of our kingly authority. It is through prayer and intercession that we administer the authority that is ours in the name of Jesus.
How wonderfully David’s picture illustrates the church’s ministry of prayer! In the world, the forces of evil are rampant on every hand, rejecting the authority of Christ and opposing the work of His kingdom. But “in the midst” (Psalm 110:2), the Christians assemble in divine order as kings and priests. Out of their assembly, the rod of Christ’s authority, exercised in His name, is sent forth through their prayers. In every direction that the rod is extended, the forces of evil are compelled to yield, and Christ in turn is exalted and His kingdom advanced.
All Christians look forward to the day when Christ’s enemies will have been finally and completely subdued, and He will be openly manifested and universally acknowledged as King. The Bible promises that that day will come. But we must not let the promised glory of the future blind us to the reality of Christ’s present position at God’s right hand. Christ rules even now “in the midst of [His] enemies” (v. 2), and we rule with Him. It is our responsibility to exercise the authority that is ours through His name, and in face of all the forces of evil to demonstrate that Christ is already “Lord of lords, and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).
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.
- See Part One: We Rule by Prayer – Part 1: A Kingdom of Priests, by Derek Prince
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.