(Rev 1:4-6 ESV) 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(Rev 5:9-10 ESV) 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
(Rev 20:6 ESV) 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
(Rev 22:3-5 ESV) 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
It’s actually hard to miss the idea that one goal God seeks to accomplish through Jesus — and throughout his history of dealing with mankind — is to transform mankind into priests and into holy people who will reign with God.
This is almost entirely foreign to most Protestant thinking, and yet we see it throughout the Scriptures, and it’s a major theme of Revelation. Why?
Well, in part, because it indicates a return to Eden, that is, to the Creation as God built it prior to corruption by sin.
(Rev 22:3 NIV) 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
The afterlife is pictured as the end of the curse of Genesis 3 — sin will no longer pollute and corrupt the Creation –
(Rom 8:19-21 NIV) the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Thus, man’s failure to be the priests and kings that God intended affect far more than their ability to go to heaven when they die. Sin affects the entirety of the Creation — all of which will be redeemed at the end of time.
Now, quite obviously, the problem hasn’t been the failure of mankind to seek domination over other men and over the Creation. History is filled with stories of dominion. Rather, the problem is a failure of mankind to be kings and priests like God — the God who is love.
Therefore, to truly understand the meaning of our intended kingship and priesthood, we need to better understand the character and intentions of God.