The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. (Psalm 110:1-2)
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘
If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matt 22: 41-46)
It’s pretty clear that both the Lord and the Pharisees he was addressing believed that Psalm 110 referred to the Messiah and that the Holy Spirit had inspired King David to write it. Where they differed was in their understanding of the Messiah’s origins. The Pharisees believed he would be a human descendant of King David. Nothing more. The Lord knew He was also God in the flesh, and quoted Psalm 110 to remind them that David knew this too.
Many translations show the first appearance of Lord in Psalm 110 all in caps (LORD) and the second one in lower case except for the first letter (Lord). This is to show that David was writing of a conversation he overheard, through the power of the Holy Spirit, between the Father and the Son.
We know this first because Lord is a title one uses in addressing a superior, and only two were superior to the King. One was God the Father, represented by LORD and the other was God the Son, called Lord. In effect Jesus reminded the Pharisees that David would have referred to a merely human descendant as his son, not as his Lord.
Also, in Hebrew the “word” translated LORD is YHWH, the four initials of the un-pronounceable name of God, and used only of Him, while the one translated Lord is a different word, Adonai.
Responding truthfully to the Lord’s question would have forced the Pharisees to agree with David, something they weren’t prepared to do. Not then, not ever. At His trial before the Sanhedrin, the Lord’s declaration that He was the Messiah and that they would all see Him seated at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of Heaven is what stirred them to convict Him of blasphemy, a capital crime. (Matt. 26:64)
Pilate wasn’t concerned about the charge of blasphemy. That was an internal matter among the Jews. But in admitting that He had called Himself a King, Jesus was confessing to treason under Roman law, also a capital crime (Matt.27:11).
King Jesus, Our High Priest
David had written that the Messiah would be both king and priest just like Melchizedek had been. From Genesis 14:18 we learn that Melchizedek, whose name means King of Righteousness, was both a priest of the Most High God and the King of Salem, a Jebusite city that became known as Jerusalem following Abraham’s interrupted sacrifice of Isaac there. (In honor of the prophecy he was acting out, Abraham symbolically re-named Mount Moriah as Jehovah Jira, which means in the Mount of the Lord it shall be seen. He was referring to a future time when another Father would offer His only Son as a sacrifice for sin. When David conquered the Jebusites he made Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and purchased the land on Mount Moriah where Abraham had stood for the Temple location.)
Never since the founding of Israel had one man been both King and Priest. It was forbidden. Kings came from the tribe of Judah, while priests were descended from Levi. A king who tried to function as a priest earned the Lord’s immediate displeasure, and serves to illustrate the point. Daring to offer incense in the Temple, King Uzziah immediately contracted leprosy and was quarantined till his dying day. (2 Chron. 26:16-26) Some prophets were also priests, Ezekiel and Zechariah for example, and David was a King and a prophet. But no one was ever both King and Priest in Israel.
There are prophecies in Ezekiel and Zechariah that say the two offices will be united when Messiah comes and that He will be both King and Priest. (Ezek. 21:25-27, Zech. 6:9-13) And of course in the Book of Hebrews Jesus is called our King (Hebr. 1:8) and Our High Priest (Hebr. 4:14). This is possible because Jesus is not a priest in the Levitical sense but in the higher order of Melchizedek. All of Hebrews 7 is devoted to this topic.
I know I Am But What Are You?
In Exodus 19:6 Israel is called a kingdom of priests but in 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” He’s speaking to the Church, calling us a royal priesthood. Only Kings are considered royalty.
And in Revelation 1:5-6 it’s even clearer. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (KJV)
Some of the modern translations prefer the word kingdom over kings in the passage above, and it’s true, the Greek word there can be translated either way. They try to compare the Revelation passage with Exodus 19:6 to bolster their replacement theology bias, making the church look like Israel. But to most conservative scholars it’s clear that both the context and the grammatical structure of the passage require that the Greek word be translated kings. (The same is true in Revelation 5:10.)
Kings Of What?
Some have asked, “But if we’re all kings and priests, who’s left for us to rule over?” It reminds me of the old Honeymooners episode where Ralph yells at Alice, “I’m the King. Ya hear that Alice? I’m the King! And you’re nobody!” Alice calmly responds, “Big deal. King over nobody.” Was Alice unknowingly describing us, too?
The Bible doesn’t have a specific answer for this, but there are a couple of hints. First, there will be other nations beside Israel inhabiting Earth during the Millennium. They will need some form of government. Also, in Ephesians 2:6-7, Paul wrote And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. The “coming ages” alludes to multiple periods of time beyond the Millennium where we’ll serve as living examples of the incomparable riches of God’s grace. (Don’t forget we’re here for eternity, not just a thousand years.) This could easily include making us rulers of some sort in some yet to be disclosed ages.
And the universe is a huge place, all of it created by God. The Bible only speaks of Earth, but if it’s the only planet of consequence to the Lord why are there so many other galaxies out there? He’s not wasteful, and He doesn’t do things just for show. Nor was any of the universe created by accident. Maybe the rest of it is waiting for us to be revealed so its purpose can be fulfilled. Maybe we’re each going to be ruling part of it. Not as gods, like my Mormon friends would have us believe, but as kings and priests of the One True God.
Does all this tax the limits of your imagination? Of course it does. That’s why Paul called it “the incomparable riches of His grace.” But don’t try to make God small enough to fit into your minds. If you do you’ll make Him too small to solve your problems. He’s promised us eternal bliss and that means a lot more than sitting on a cloud with a harp in an endless worship service. Like sheep, humans are high maintenance and require a lot of stimulation to keep them from wandering off. Remember, Paul also said, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Try to imagine what it will take to keep us stimulated for eternity.
The old saying goes, “The sky’s the limit,” but maybe in our case it’s the entire universe. I can hardly wait to find out, and based on the current world situation it looks like the wait is just about over.