REAL CHRISTIANS ARE NOT “KINGS AND PRIESTS”
This erroneous idea, with serious implications, is due to an incorrect translation in the KJV.
Yes, I know this may be shocking for some. There are errors in the Bible? Well, let’s call this particular one a transmission error. Here are the two verses in question in the King James Version:
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. [Revelation 1:6]
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. [Revelation 5:10]
Here are the same verses in the New American Standard 1995:
And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. [Revelation 1:6]
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” [Revelation 5:10]
I could go farther into this using the Greek words but the NASB95 is the correct translation (along with other versions). You may ask, “Why is this important?” Well, for one thing, the New Testament consistently states that the Lord Jesus is the only King. Nowhere else does it say He has sub-kings under His authority. This would otherwise be a common sense issue. Secondly, these are the only two verses in the KJV in which both words occur. Third, there are no other verses stating that believers are kings.
And then there is a fourth issue. You see, this verse and others like it in the KJV along with this Bible version’s strong authoritative bias, assisted in giving rise several decades ago to Dominion Theology. If you have not heard of this or know it by a different name I suggest you do some minor research. I happened to be in the thick of it when it came to the fore in the 1980s and am well aware of its harmful effect and deceit. It is just one more false notion that Christians accept wholeheartedly because they trust their church or pastor and are often not even aware of such things. I will not get into it here in this brief post but again, a better understanding and greater knowledge of New Testament Scripture will keep a believer much better informed and prepared for such false notions and deceptions.
Now, in Colossians 4:18 the apostle Paul uses the term “kings” in this regard also but in a sarcastic manner. He proves my point. Why don’t we let him explain this issue which also existed in his time and broke out among Colossian believers? In the following passage Paul also reveals what real ministry is about as opposed to that of the highbrow clergyites who deem themselves superior (sound familiar?) and by it lead people astray:
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.
For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. [Colossians 4:6-13]
THE ORIGINAL NEW TESTAMENT LITERATURE
The written Word of God as originally delivered was accurate. It correctly communicated the truth of the writer. We know this in part because of the powerful impact the New Covenant writings had on the first-century world. These writings changed the course of history, as it were, as no other literature had ever done before or since. Millions of lives were changed for the better in dramatic fashion. The salvation of souls spread far and wide. People were transformed spiritually and received great otherwise impossible promises coming true in their lives exactly as the Lord Jesus had promised.
Much of this Good News in the early going, however, was not due to the written word but the spoken word. People received the Gospel message primarily through the oral transmission of highly anointed witnesses sent forth by God into a dark world straining under a great burden of sin and depravity. Most people were wearing the yoke of slavery, were under the heavy hand of dictators and evil authoritarians, and were struggling to survive. The Good News arrived as a shining beacon of hope. The message was different than any other preceding it and proved its legitimacy and genuineness by actually working and bringing forth exactly what it decreed.
Remember, the Lord spoke of “spiritual words.” He claimed there was “life” in the words He spoke. He said His words, or Word, had the power to overcome evil, break bonds, and greatly transform lives for the better. No other words had this power or inherent ability:
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” [John 6:63-65]
We see by this passage, however, that though His Word was potentially spiritually transformative, it must be activated by belief. His Word does not work otherwise.
What follows is the definition of the original NT Greek word translated into English as “believe” which, if properly and wholly applied, activates the ever-present fruitful Word of God:
Strong’s Greek #4100: πιστεύω pisteúō (pist-yoo’-o); from G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):—believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
Intransitive, to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in;
Universally: The thing believed being evident from the preceding context,
Specifically, in a moral and religious reference, “the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul”; thus it stands:
Absolutely to trust in Jesus or in God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something:
Of the credence given to God’s messengers and their words, with a dative of the person or thing used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah — the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ.
We see then, that though the Lord Jesus is the most powerful Person in the entire Universe (no contest), has all authority in heaven and earth, is the greatest Champion of all time who has defeated all of His evil enemies (who are deathly afraid of Him), and that His holy Word is powerful, spiritually beneficial to the nth degree, and potentially greatly transformative, He presents Himself in His initial interaction with people as a gentle humble Man speaking an appealing message of love, life, and hope:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30]
In essence, the Lord Jesus is the antithesis of a jacked-up duded-up Pharisaic empty suit authoritarian as illustrated by any number of religious or secular potentates who major on externals and personal accoutrements and have little effective regard for those over which they rule, much like the false apostles Paul referred to. Don’t ever forget that humility is a giant spiritual door while pride and arrogance is a concrete wall.
RULING AND REIGNING?
Many years ago I was doing my usual Biblical research and came across an in-depth study article, quite long as I remember, regarding the King James Version of the Bible. The author claimed this Bible version held a very strong authoritative bias. I was not surprised but certainly intrigued. The KJV was commissioned by the king of England, the translators were working for the king among the trappings of the court, and they made ample use of William Tyndale’s initial English translation of roughly eighty years before (for which he was burned at the stake by the English king, somewhat ironic, no?). King James had made sure that this new translation would be one that “properly” conveyed respect for authority in general and specifically for kingly and clerical rule. It was his intention to further the cause of the new hybrid Anglican Church and the supreme religious authority thereof. This high handed attitude of the Church of England is what drove the persecuted Bible believing Separatists from the country. The good news is that they eventually landed in America and established Plymouth Colony in 1620. You know the rest of that story.
PRIESTS YES BUT KINGS NO
In truth, the Lord’s people are priests but not kings. There is only one King in His Kingdom—the Lord Jesus. This misunderstanding is derived from our fore-mentioned bad translation in the KJV. Also, we must be careful of the encroachment and excesses of gross authoritarianism. There is no verse in the New Testament that claims the Lord’s people are to “rule and reign.” His people certainly have a level of spiritual authority and must exercise it, but their authority is always subject to the Lord’s highest authority. One cannot “reign” in life over spiritual death unless one is fully subjected to the one who has defeated sin and death (Romans 5:17). One can only “reign” with Him, that is, because of Him, by Him, or through Him, but never as a king and only as His subjects.
The Lord grants to His people spiritual authority over His enemies but His people must always be cognizant of what this actually entails. It has nothing to do with kingly honor or ruling over physical, material, or geographic kingdoms. It has nothing to do with the usual trappings of such in which sinful people lord it over others. This evil spirit and attitude came to power centuries ago within certain denominations and transformed willing impersonators into religious authoritarians ruling over people. There is no such rule in real Christianity except the rule of the Lord Jesus. Under His authority each and every one of His people are exactly equal. Some obviously have greater spiritual maturity. Some are developing into such and will get there in time. Those who are spiritually mature and have the evidence of it should be respected as elders but must never be seen as anything more than a fellow sibling.
It is the same regarding the priesthood of the believer. All real Christians are certainly priests but the Lord Jesus is the only High Priest.
He is also the only King of kings and Lord of lords.
© 2023 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Posted on February 2, 2023, in Teaching and tagged America, Apostle Paul, Bible, Christian Pharisees, Discipleship, Faith and Unbelief, King of kings and Lord of lords, Kingdom of the Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus, One Gospel, Pilgrim Separatists, Real Christianity The Nature of the Church, Spiritual Humility, The Golden Rule, The Great Awakening, The Living Word, The New Testament, Unreal Christianity, William Tyndale. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
As always, a clear and well-supported explanation of the “priests and kings” issue. Without looking into it myself, I have to wonder how much the King James translators were influenced by their fear of losing their own heads if James became offended by their work. He believed in the “divine right of kings” and didn’t react well whenever that belief was challenged. Kind of unfortunate, really, that this translation bears his name. Many people think of King James as having been a highly spiritual, godly man. He wasn’t. He was all about having his own way, all the time.
Thank you Linda. I appreciate your comment and content. Regarding kings, aren’t they all pretty much that way? This is not necessarily a total knock against monarchy in that it comes in handy to keep a country unified when the people thereof fail in their duty as mature responsible citizens. Yet we know what happens when real Christians are confronted with such a system and the inevitable arrogant types who rise to the top, whether in the secular sense as kings/queens or the religious sense as (insert voluminous religious titles here). However, those in charge who are wise learn how to put forth a faux front to disguise who and what they are and who they actually represent. They cannot hide this managed duplicity, however, when confronted with the Lord Jesus or His mature disciples.
We see this, clearly, by what the Lord faced in His time. We see it by what His disciples faced. We see it later when so many were imprisoned and murdered by such secular and religious authoritarians, even centuries later in so-called Christian countries like England. Queen Elizabeth I was a terror against the wave of spiritual freedom arising in England in the mid to late 1500s. She was a scourge (as were the other Tudor monarchs in general). Many dissenting Christians who stood for the Lord Jesus and Biblical truth were imprisoned and executed by her authority.
The Stuart kings, a line beginning with James I (1603-1625), who was previously James VI of Scotland, was not much better though times had changed and the monarchy was forced to go along and attempt to co-opt the spiritual freedom movement in the realm at that time (since they failed to stop it), which had continued its spread since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation almost a century before. One excellent co-opting method was to make largely unrecognized subtle changes to the text of New Testament Scripture in the attempt to insure monarchial and ecclesiastical authority and power. They did a good job with this, so good that Christians still do not perceive it over four centuries later.
This highly authoritative context has now become entrenched tradition and Christians in general have lost the potential blessing of spiritual freedom as granted by the Lord. Christians must never place themselves under any absolute unconditional authority that is not subjected to the authority of the Lord Jesus. Peter and John demonstrated exactly how to handle such a conflict early on in the very beginning of the Church:
And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them)… [Acts 4:18-21]
Primarily, of course, we have the Lord’s perfect example in this regard in His constant battle with false authority. It must be noted that it was they who were constantly bringing the battle to Him and it was almost always coming from the false religion realm. It is interesting that the Roman government generally had little problem with Him or His ministry. That is, until segments of it had been blackmailed to do the bidding of the covert money kings and overt religious kings.
We are confronted with a burgeoning of this dynamic at present.
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Yes. And it shouldn’t shock me that so many, even professing believers, fail to recognize it.
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Good one RJ, I still read a NKJV primarily. Somewhere along the way I came to understand the “kings and priests” as those who have the authority (kings) to serve (priests) God. God can guide us even with the version we have.
Yes, that’s true. Great to hear from you Al. That’s a good explanation.
After my born again experience decades ago I read only the KJV. The same dear friend who initially witnessed to me gave me a used KJV and I immediately began reading. Later, though money was tight, I bought a new leather bound KJV Thompson chain reference. I read it cover to cover, studied it, used it for all my work, and was greatly blessed by it. Took it everywhere. Still have it. From there I branched out to the Amplified which is a great study version and pretty much devoured that. Like you, I also then used the NKJV for a while, which is a good version. Then I discovered the New American Standard 1995 when it came out and have used it pretty much exclusively since. They say it’s the most literal version. A new 2020 model came out also.
The Lord can use and work through any version but some are better than others. We must strive to find the versions that are most accurate with reference to the original writings and that contain no hidden agendas.
Blessings to you brother
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A good word — it is troubling how translations are causing so much confusion. May His Truth prevail.
Amen. Thank you. Truth must be sought out. It can be a challenging search in this fallen world.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” [Luke 11:9-10]
The gist of what the Lord is saying here is that we must keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking, and it must be in accordance with His will. We must stay at it with a right spirit until at last we are given what we have been asking for, find what we have been seeking, and see the door opened that we have been knocking upon. This denotes the necessity of persistence, of never giving up. The Lord has designed things this way so that only the true seekers of Truth, those who will accept nothing less than the full Truth and are willing to do the work, will ever find it. Whoever is not in it with their entire heart will never get there.
He even says the same thing about Himself. He is not easy to find. In fact, without His help, the Lord Jesus is impossible to find. Only those who give their entire hearts to the pursuit of the Lord will ever find Him, and this will only happen because He notes the hungry heart dedicated to the pursuit and allows Himself to be found:
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” [Jeremiah 29:13]
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. [Hebrews 11:6]
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [John 14:6]
Regarding Bible Versions, we must apply the same dynamic. We must seek truth through as many versions as necessary or all versions. In this process we will discover the nuances of the various translations. We can even arrive at a composite of sorts in our understanding in order to correctly perceive the truth of the original signatures. We will also avoid any hidden agendas that take us off the trail. The only agenda must be finding the truth.
There are a couple of passages in Proverbs which reflect the wisdom of this process:
Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed.
A man has joy in an apt answer,
And how delightful is a timely word! [Proverbs 15:22-23]
Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory. [Proverbs 11:14]
We must consider the various Bible versions as an abundance of counselors.
Blessings to you Susan
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Yes, I am frequently researching various translations, including the Complete Jewish Bible — I will be interested to hear more from you on this topic of translations. God keep us in His Way, Truth and Life.
Amen. Yeah, I really like that translation. I purchased David Stern’s Jewish New Testament decades ago and it has helped a lot. There is a book I would like you to check out which I hope is still available that gives a great understanding of the Jewish perspective in the New Testament. It was written by a couple of scholars at the forefront of the Jewish roots movement in the early 1980s, Roy Blizzard and David Bivin. It is called Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. You can find Bivin and his work at Jerusalem Perspective.
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