God’s Saints Appointed to be Kings and Priests


Three Categories of Saints

The word saints, is used throughout the Bible to refer to people that have accepted the rule of God in their lives, and is a common word for believers of all ages. There are three groups of saints, divided by when they lived. The first group are the Old Testament saints or godly ones who believe in God and who lived before the Day of Pentecost (Psalm 85:8).

Christ and the Penitent Sinners by Gerard Seghers Cir. 1640

The second are the Church age saints, also today called “born-again” believers and consists only of those saved people who live between the Day of Pentecost of Acts 2 and the Rapture of the Church from the earth (1 Corinthians 1:2). Saints who died before the Day of Pentecost and people who become saved after the Rapture of the Church are never part of the Church. Thus, the Church consists of a distinctive group of saints who live during one particular period of history—namely, those saints who are baptized with the Spirit and are “born again”. This causes some folks confusion and they tend to incorrectly apply the term “Church” to those saints who lived and died before the era of the Church (Acts 2 – The Rapture), or after the Church era (Post Rapture). 

The third category are the Great Tribulation saints (Revelation 13:7) who accept Christ during the seven year span of the Great Tribulation. Even though the word “saints” is used several times during the Great Tribulation, it does not refer to those who were believers in Christ before the Great Tribulation began. Within the Great Tribulation saints, there is the group that are killed before the 3.5 year mid-point and those that die after the mid-point. The saints during the 7 year Great Tribulation include the 144,000 saved Jewish evangelists and the myriad of others converted mostly through their efforts (Revelation 7:3-17). They will also be resurrected after the Great Tribulation and during that Seventy-five-day Interval that comes between the end of the Great Tribulation and the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom.

This distinction is brought out in Revelation chapter twenty:

 Revelation 20:4–6

4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years (ASV, 1901).

Heavens opened – Artist Unknown

In verse 4, John describes who are to co-reign with the Lord Jesus in the Messianic Kingdom, and in this passage, they are the Church age saints and the Great Tribulation saints. 

The first group are those who have died during the Church age, and who in verse 4a are those to whom “judgment was given”. This is a direct reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ that they endured. This refers to the Church saints who were raptured at some time preceding the Great Tribulation. The Rapture will include only the Church saints and it will occur before the Great Tribulation. They are referred to as “kings and priests” in John’s introductory verse of Revelation 1:6 (KJV). The judgment that these saints have already had the apostle John is referring to is the Judgment Seat of the Messiah, also known as known as the Bema Seat judgment (I Corinthians 3:13; Romans 14:10). This judgement is an evaluation of how well, or how poorly, each believer exercised their spiritual gifts while still alive in their natural bodies. In fact, it is the outcome of this judgment that will determine the position of each Church saint in the Kingdom. 

The second group are the saints who accept Christ as their savior during the Great Tribulation. The first group in verse 4b are those who “had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus”are the believers who will be martyred during the first half of the Great Tribulation, and are mentioned at the time of the fifth seal opening (Revelation 6:9–11). The rest of the Great Tribulation saints are covered in verse 4c, and are those who “had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand”. Since the image of the beast, and the marking of worshippers of him with a mark on their forehead or arm are things initiated only at the middle of the Great Tribulation, this group of saints will be those martyred during the second half of the Great Tribulation. Both the Church saints and the Great Tribulation saints then will co- reign with the King for one thousand years. The Messianic Kingdom will cover the entire earth. But the land give to the Sons of Jacob will be what was promised to Abraham.

https://chart.bonlacfoods.com/detail/map-of-israel-promised-land-18.html

What happens to the Old Testament Saints?

After the second coming, we know Old Testament saints will be resurrected. This is stated by three Old Testament passages: 

Resurrection of the Flesh by Luca Signorelli Cir 1500

Isaiah 26:19

Your dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth the dead (ASV, 1901

Daniel 12:2

2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (ASV, 1901).

Hosea 13:14

14I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? repentance shall be hid from mine eyes (ASV, 1901).

With this resurrection, the unfulfilled covenantal promises will finally be fulfilled to them. One of these is the promise to become a “kingdom of priests”:

Exodus 19:5–6

5Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: 6and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (ASV, 1901).

In the Messianic Kingdom the nation of Israel will be ruled by the Old Testament saints in the implied role of kings:

Deuteronomy 28:1

1And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that Jehovah thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth (ASV, 1901).

Finally, there is one particular passage where the Lord Jesus is speaking to the Jews before the Church was founded. In parable form, Jesus tells them that they can expect to become “kings” and “priests” and “rulers” in the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Luke 19:11-27). This passage tells us how Jesus Christ will determine who rules over how many cities in His Kingdom. Though it is a parable, it is widely viewed as referring to the way we will be selected as rulers, or kings.

King David – Artist Unknown

The Organization of the Messianic Kingdom

Are all three groups of saints are going to be kings and priests in the Messianic Kingdom? The answer is yes, but in differing roles, and in different geographical places. Jesus, as the absolute ruler on earth, will govern the Messianic Kingdom. His throne will be in Jerusalem. The government will be split into two branches, a Jewish branch and a Gentile branch. It is quite clear from both Testaments that Jesus will sit upon David’s Throne in Jerusalem ruling the Jews and Gentiles. The Lord Jesus will be both King of Israel and the king of the world. Under His absolute authority He will rule with a “rod of iron.” The “rod of iron” that will characterize the rule of the government in the Kingdom will be implemented through various spheres and positions of authority.

The ruling hierarchy of the Gentile branch of government will be from Messiah, to the Church and the Great Tribulation saints, to the kings of the Gentile nations. The ruling hierarchy of the Jewish branch of government will be from the Messiah to David, to the Twelve Apostles, to the princes, to the judges and counselors, over all Israel. 

Messianic Kingdom Org Chart by Daniel E Woodhead

David described this arrangement in Psalm 72: 

Psalm 72

1Give the king thy judgments, O God, And thy righteousness unto the king’s son. 2He will judge thy people with righteousness, And thy poor with justice. 3The mountains shall bring peace to the people, And the hills, in righteousness. 4He will judge the poor of the people, He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor. 5They shall fear thee while the sun endureth, And so long as the moon, throughout all generations. 6He will come down like rain upon the mown grass, As showers that water the earth. 7In his days shall the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace, till the moon be no more. 8He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River unto the ends of the earth. 9They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; And his enemies shall lick the dust. 10The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render tribute: The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. 11Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; All nations shall serve him. 12For he will deliver the needy when he crieth, And the poor, that hath no helper. 13He will have pity on the poor and needy, And the souls of the needy he will save. 14He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence; And precious will their blood be in his sight: 15And they shall live; and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: And men shall pray for him continually; They shall bless him all the day long. 16There shall be abundance of grain in the earth upon the top of the mountains; The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. 17His name shall endure for ever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun: And men shall be blessed in him; All nations shall call him happy. 18Blessed be Jehovah God, the God of Israel, Who only doeth wondrous things: 19And blessed be his glorious name for ever; And let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen. 20The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended (ASV, 1901).

As we can see, in Psalm 72, the different Gentile nations will have “kings” over them. These kings will have their natural bodies, while the saints who will be over them will have their spiritual, resurrected, and glorified bodies. The individual kings will be the supreme rulers over their own nations, but they themselves will be under the authority of the Church and Great Tribulation saints who will be essentially kings over the lesser kings.

In conclusion, saints in all three of the categories of the Old Testament, the Church, and the Great Tribulation will all in some manner be “priests” and “kings” in the Messianic Kingdom.

One Point of Confusion

One point of the confusion is the misapplication of the term “church” by Covenant Theology, which has called Israel of the Old Testament the “church of the Old Testament”. This is simply not true. In contrast with the Covenant Theology view of the nature of the Church, Dispensational Theology asserts that the Church consists only of those saved people, both Gentile and Jew, who lived between the Day of Pentecost of Acts 2 and the Rapture of the Church from the earth. Saints who died before the Day of Pentecost and people who become saved after the Rapture of the Church are never part of the Church. Thus, the Church consists of a distinctive group of saints who live during one particular period of history—namely, those saints who are baptized with the Spirit.

It is essential to note that the Dispensational Theology view of the nature of the Church also leads logically to several conclusions. Israel and the Church are not the same because there is something distinctive about the relationship of the Holy Spirit to saints between the Day of Pentecost and the Rapture of the Church.  There are distinctions between groups of saints throughout history, (Old Testament saints, Church saints, Great Tribulation saints). The fact that saints will be on earth during the Great Tribulation period does not require the Church to be on earth during the Great Tribulation, and there will be more than one resurrection of dead saints at different times of history, not just one general resurrection of saints.

Daniel E. Woodhead

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Jesus’ Path From Hades to Heaven

FROM HADES TO HEAVEN

By Dr. Thomas S. McCall

What happened to the saints of the Old Testament when they died? What happened when Christ died and “descended in to Hades”? What happened between the time the risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene and the time He appeared to the disciples later that Sunday evening? What does the Scripture mean that Christ led “captivity captive?” Where do believers go today when they die? The purpose of this article is to find the answer to these questions in the Word of God.

When Christ died, His body was in the tomb, but His soul went to Sheol (Hades); He then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven

The Lamentation by Ciotto de Bondone Cir 1304-06

The Lamentation by Ciotto de Bondone Cir 1304-06

 

Psalm 16:8-11

8 I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever (NASB).

David prophesied that his descendant, the Messiah, would die and his body would lie in a tomb but it would not decay. This means that the body would have to be raised from the dead within a few days. Furthermore, the Messiah’s soul would go to Sheol (Hades), but would not remain there. Sheol was the netherworld place of the dead both good and bad went after death in the Old Testament. This is called Hades in the New Testament. Instead He would be shown eternal life. Thus, His soul would be reunited with His body and be resurrected from the dead.

Acts 2:23-35

23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 25 “For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; 27Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 28 ‘Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.’ 29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet”‘ (NASB).

The Apostle Peter in his inaugural address of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost quotes the prophecy by David in Psalm 16, and said that David was not speaking of himself being raised from the dead. After all, David died a thousand years before, and his tomb was visible as a great monument described by Josephus. Rather, David was prophesying about his descendant, the Messiah, whose flesh did not decay nor was His soul left in Hades. Indeed, David further prophesied that the Messiah would ascend into Heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father. It should be noted that Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father is not the same as Christ sitting on His own throne, also known as the throne of David. Christ will sit on His own throne when He returns to earth after the Rapture of the Church and after the Tribulation to establish the Millennial Kingdom.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Anthony Van Dyck Cir.1618-1620

The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Anthony Van Dyck Cir.1618-1620

Revelation 3:21

21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (NASB).

Before the Cross, the dead souls went to Sheol (Hades), the righteous

to the Bosom of Abraham, and the unrighteous to the Place of Torment

Luke 16:19-31

19 “Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead'” (NASB).

Jesus reveals that throughout the ages before the Cross-, the souls of the dead went to Sheol (Hades), but there were two major divisions in Hades: the Bosom of Abraham and the Place of Torment, with an impassable gulf between them. The righteous saints went to the Bosom of Abraham, while the unrighteous unbelievers went to the Place of Torment. The righteous believed in and looked forward to the redemptive sacrifice of the Messiah, but the unrighteous spurned the revelation of God through Moses and the prophets. The believers were comforted in the Bosom of Abraham, but they were not permitted to go to Heaven yet, because the penalty for their sins had not been paid. They could not enter into the presence of the Living God.   Jesus proclaimed when He died “Tetelestai!” it is finished, the debt had been paid, and then His soul descended into Hades. He could then announce to the righteous souls that the time had come for them to be released from Hades and ascend with Him to Heaven and the presence of the Father. Before He could do that, He first had to demonstrate that He had risen from the dead. So His soul went back to earth, reunited and transformed His body and came forth from the grave victorious over death.

When Jesus arose from the dead on Resurrection Day, He told Mary Magdalene not to cling to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father.

John 20:15-17

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God'” (NASB).

The resurrected Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Ivanov 1806-1858

The resurrected Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Ivanov 1806-1858

After Jesus was complete with His resurrection body, the implication was that He descended again to Hades to gather the Old Testament saints and transport them from Hades to Heaven.

When Christ ascended to the Father, He took Captivity Captive. He took the righteous saints from the Bosom of Abraham to Heaven. This apparently was done on the Resurrection Day.

Psalm 68:18

18 Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men, (NASB).

Ephesians 4:8-11

8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (NASB).

The Old Testament saints were captives in the sense that they were not permitted to go to the presence of the Lord before the Cross. Now, however, Christ led their souls in a great procession as a conquering general, to present them to the Father in Heaven as fully redeemed saints awaiting their own resurrection from the dead.

When Christ went to Hades what did He say? Peter says He proclaimed a message to the spirits in prison who were disobedient before the Flood, but He probably also announced to the Old Testament saints that it was now time for them to go with Him to Heaven. The debt for sin had now been fully paid.

1 Peter 3:18-20

18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water (NASB).

Peter says that Christ died and preached to the spirits in prison. The ones he mentions were certain ones who were disobedient at the time of the Flood of Noah. However, it also seems clear that He had a great message for the Old Testament saints about their coming elevation to Heaven. The unrighteous souls, however, were destined to remain in the Place of Torment in Hades until they face the Judge at the Great White Throne and the Lake of Fire.

After a very busy day of travel from Hades to earth to Hades to Heaven and back to earth, Christ appeared to the disciples later to inspect His wounds.

John 20:19-20

19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord (NASB).

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03

No longer was there any reticence about being touched as there was earlier that day with Mary Magdalene. He had accomplished His unique mission of transporting the saints from Hades to Heaven and presenting to the Father the evidence of His sacrifice on the Cross. Now He was ready to present to His disciples many infallible proofs that He had indeed risen from the dead so that they could go out to Israel and the world with the truth of the Gospel.

When believers in Christ die today, we do not go to Hades, but we go directly to Heaven to be in the presence of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8

8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (NASB).

Believers in Christ today wonder what happens to us when we die. We do not descend into Hades like the Old Testament saints, but our souls go directly into the presence of the Lord. We look back to the Cross-, where the penalty for our sins was paid for in full. We will know each other and have some kind of recognizable form, as did the souls of the Old Testament saints, such as Samuel, Moses and Elijah. We will also be waiting for the time of the Rapture of the Church, when we will receive our Resurrection Bodies. Then we will wait in Heaven to join Christ as He descends again to earth at His Second Coming.

From Hades to Heaven by Thomas McCall and Daniel Woodhead Cir. 2014

From Hades to Heaven by Thomas McCall and Daniel Woodhead Cir. 2014

Written by Thomas S. McCall, Th.D.

Edited by Daniel E. WoodheadShare on Facebook