A royal priesthood
In the 7th of his 15 arguments against the idea that Christ reigns upon the throne of David now, in this article, George Zeller raises the question of God’s perpetual covenant with the Levites. Taking this literally, Zeller argues that the prophecy requires the restoration of both David’s throne and the Levitical priesthood in a millennial temple. He wrote:
“Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually….Then may also My covenant be broken with DAVID My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon HIS THRONE; and WITH THE LEVITES the priests, My ministers (Jeremiah 33:18,21).
The throne of David is here associated with Levitical priests. Christ cannot be upon the throne of David apart from an association with Levitical priests. During this present age there are no functioning Levitical priests. During the millennium Levitical/Zadokian priests will be associated with Christ and serving in the millennial temple (Ezekiel 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11).
Jesus identified himself with the temple of God, and the Spirit was given to him beyond measure. [John 3:34] He said God’s temple is to be a house of prayer for all people. [Luke 19:46, citing Isaiah 56:7] He said, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:19] Since Jesus was raised up from the grave, and ascended to heaven, the temple of God was also raised up. The temple was called mount Zion, and after Jesus ascended to his throne in heaven, prophecies that mention mount Zion and Jerusalem apply to the church that he is building, rather than the earthly city of Jerusalem. When Jesus ascended to heaven, the mountain of the Lord’s house was “established in the tops of the mountains,” fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 2:2.
Jesus taught that the days are past, when people need to go to the earthly Jerusalem to worship God, [John 4:21] but apparently, dispensationalism disagrees. George Zeller certainly has a contrary opinion.
According to Paul, every believer is a temple of God. [1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19] The church, consisting of those who are “in Christ,” is depicted as a temple, [Ephesians 2:20-22] and the saints “sit together in heavenly places.” [Ephesians 2:5-6]
The apostle Peter described believers as stones built up into a spiritual house, or temple, and they are also a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices. [1 Peter 2:5] Because Jesus is our high priest, and because he also reigns as king on the throne of David, the saints are a royal priesthood, being part of the house of David, by their connection to Jesus. The church is Christ’s body.
Living holy lives, acceptable unto God, is “our reasonable service,” Paul said. [Romans 12:1] He encouraged believers to be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” [Romans 12:11-12] He wrote: “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God… therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” [Romans 14:17-19] It seems incredible that in the light of Paul’s statements about the kingdom as a present reality, some dispensationalists continue to deny that Jesus reigns in David’s throne. They are in the dark! Peter said:
1 Peter 2:8-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
The history of Israel’s possession of the land, dwelling there for a few centuries, and their ultimate loss of the land, is the theme of the Old Testament. The whole account is a metaphor. The prophets foretold a future restoration, which is fulfilled by those who come to Christ; in the New Testament, a better country is revealed for the saints.
In Hebrews 3:18-19, entering the rest represented by the promised land requires belief. Exile in other countries corresponds to ignorance, superstition, and delusions. See Sheep, green pastures, and the promised land.
There is no line of ethnically pure Levite priests, and neither is it possible to restore such a priesthood, because of centuries of intermarriage of Jews among the twelve tribes and with Gentiles. Only an ideal interpretation of the prophecies about the Levites makes any sense. Those who serve the earthly tabernacle have no right to come to the heavenly altar where the saints offer acceptable sacrifices. [Hebrews 13:10]
The spiritual temple described in Ezekiel 40-46 is located in the promised land, but it is not an earthly, literal one. The land of the prophecy corresponds to the “better country” of Hebrews 11:16, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” It is the “place” Jesus said he would prepare for his saints. [John 14:1-3]
Frederic Gardiner discussed several reasons why Ezekiel’s description of the temple, the river flowing from it, and the division of the land, should be understood figuratively, and why insisting on a literal approach leads to contradictions. See Gardiner’s Preliminary note on Ezekiel 40-48.
In the assignment of land to the various tribes described in Ezekiel 48, there are certain areas, in the oblation, for the priests and Levites. But they were not supposed to receive any land, because “the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance.” The privilege of service to God, and possessing the knowledge of God, was in lieu of possessing land. This illustrates how significant the land was, in the Old Testament. The land in Ezekiel’s prophecy must be symbolic; the things said of the land allude to the spiritual things that the land represents. See: The inheritance of the priests and Levites in Ezekiel 48.
Moses associated the promised land, which the Israelites sought to enter after they were delivered from Egypt, with milk and honey. [Exodus 16:31] David compared the words of God with honey; he wrote: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” [Psalm 119:103]
In one of Ezekiel’s visions, he was given a scroll to eat, and he said it tasted sweet like honey. [Ezekiel 3:3] In Revelation, John described a similar experience. [Revelation 10:8-10] The symbols of milk and honey connect the promised land with the Scriptures. See: Milk and honey and believing the gospel.