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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Building the Kingdom." To view all parts, click the link below.
There are many layers of inheritance in the Kingdom of God, but to truly “inherit” the kingdom in the fullest sense, one must have a glorified body. Our bodies were made of the dust from the ground (Genesis 2:7), and so our land inheritance starts with our own bodies.
Others may inherit a piece of property on which to build a house or business. This is pictured in Micah 4:4,
4 Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
This is good, but without a glorified body, one’s enjoyment and satisfaction is limited. In fact, this type of land inheritance will be for the citizens of the Kingdom. The rulers (overcomers) will inherit the glorified body and will have no need of a land inheritance. The overcomers will be like Christ after His resurrection, having the ability to go back and forth at will between heaven and earth. Like Christ, the overcomers will have authority in both heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), because they have a heavenly Father and an earthly mother.
After Jesus’ resurrection, no one seemed to recognize Him until He spoke or when He did something unusual. He appeared to more than 500 people after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6), each time in a body of flesh and bone that could be touched. Luke 24:36-39 says,
36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you” [i.e., “Shalom!”]. 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
He could also disappear, going to heaven, shedding His flesh and taking upon Himself a body that was pure spirit. This is seen in Luke 24:31,
31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
It is clear that Jesus had entered a new estate, where He was no longer limited to the earthly realm. When He appeared in earth, He was dressed in “flesh and bones,” though nothing is said about blood. But when He disappeared, He ceased to be flesh and bones, because, as He explained, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.”
All of this was foreshadowed in types and shadows throughout the Old Testament era, especially in the garments of the priests.
The Priestly Garments
The Apostle Paul spoke of a heavenly body and an earthly body in terms of living in tents and wearing clothing. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.
It is clear that tents, houses, and clothing are all synonymous and that they were of two kinds: earthly and heavenly. The earthly garment is “mortal,” while the heavenly is immortal. The fact that we are “longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven” shows that we have not yet received it. Yet there is no doubt that Jesus received that heavenly garment when He was raised from the dead and that His experience sets the pattern for the day that we too receive our heavenly garment.
These heavenly garments are foreshadowed by the high priestly garments of fine linen that are described in Exodus 28:2-5,
2 You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty… 4 These are the garments which they shall make… 5 They shall take the gold and the blue and the purple and the scarlet material and the fine linen.
The high priest’s sons were also to be dressed in linen “for glory and for beauty,” as we read in Exodus 28:40, 41,
40 For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics; you shall also make sashes for them, and you shall make caps for them, for glory and for beauty. 41 You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests.
We know from Revelation 19:8 that “the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” These acts are the glory and beauty of the divine nature, which is a requirement to “serve Me as priests.” No one was allowed to enter the sanctuary without being dressed in linen. The common people—that is, the citizens of the Kingdom—were not priests and had to remain in the outer court along with the Levites who assisted the priests. In those days all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests.
These distinctions are important when studying the qualifications of the “priests of God and of Christ” who “reign with Him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). The Melchizedek priests need not be descended from Aaron, but they are required to be descended spiritually from our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. In other words, one must be begotten by the Spirit with incorruptible, immortal seed of the word that “endures forever” (1 Peter 1:23-25).
Melchizedek priests must be clothed with “the righteous acts of the saints,” which is the meaning of fine linen. The only way to do “righteous acts” in a way that is acceptable to God is for those acts to emanate from the divine nature and be implemented by the Holy Spirit. That, of course, is through New Covenant faith. Furthermore, those garments signify glory and beauty, that is, the glorified body that God currently holds for us in heaven, as Paul tells us.
Without these garments, then, we cannot say that we have received our inheritance, at least not in the full sense of the word. We may receive lesser forms of our inheritance, such as land, children, ministries, or callings, but only when we are “clothed with our dwelling from heaven” can it be said that we have attained our final inheritance. That glorified state is a glorified body on the order of what Jesus Himself received at His resurrection.
The inheritance, then, is not purely spiritual. It is body that is the product of our heavenly Father and our earthly mother. We all have two parents, and both are vital. Fathers beget; mothers give birth; children have two parents. In the Kingdom of God, the inheritors, like Isaac, are children of Abraham and Sarah, so to speak. In other words, they have Abrahamic faith and are brought forth by the New Covenant (Galatians 4:22-24).
A Change of Priesthood
The priesthood of Eli was characterized by a combination of faith and corruption. Eli had faith in God, but he also refused to correct his corrupt sons (1 Samuel 2:22, 29). So a man of God was sent to tell Eli that “I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul” (1 Samuel 2:35). The implication is that Eli was not a “faithful priest,” and that he was not clothed with “the righteous acts of the saints.”
In other words, Eli had a lower level of faith than was required of a high priest—or even a regular priest. In vain did he wear the garments for glory and for beauty. Therefore, he was disqualified from being a high priest, and God raised up the Philistines to kill his sons. When Eli heard the news, he fell over backward and broke his neck (1 Samuel 4:18). At that time, he was replaced by Samuel, who (I believe) was called as a Melchizedek high priest in his day, later replaced by Zadok. Ultimately, the “faithful priest” was Jesus Christ Himself.
After his death, Eli’s dynasty of high priests came to an end three generations later in the early days of Solomon’s reign. 1 Kings 2:27, 35 says,
27 So Solomon dismissed Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord, which He had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh… 35 … the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.
Zadok represented a change of priesthood long before Jesus replaced the Aaronic Order with that of Melchizedek. Yet the change from Abiathar (Eli’s grandson) to Zadok was a prophetic type and shadow of the greater change that Jesus instituted. Zadok’s name itself was linked to Melchizedek. Zedek and Zadok are the same.
Zadok himself was a descendant of Aaron, so this was only a change of dynasty but not a change from the Aaronic Order to the Melchizedek Order. However, this change prophesied of that greater change of priesthood that was yet to come.
Ezekiel’s Prophetic Interpretation
The prophet Ezekiel gives us revelatory significance of this change of priesthood from Eli to Zadok. We see this in Ezekiel 44 in his description of the two types of priests that were to be seen in the latter days. There were corrupt priests and righteous priests (sons of Zadok). The priests “who went astray,” though unnamed, refer to Eli and his sons. The righteous priests are named “the sons of Zadok.” Hence, his prophecy is a takeoff on the change from the house of Eli to the house of Zadok. Ezekiel 44:10-14 says of this corrupt line of priests,
10 But the Levites who went far from Me when Israel went astray, who went astray from Me after their idols, shall bear the punishment for their iniquity. 11 Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the house and ministering in the house; they shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them… 13 And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy, but they will bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. 14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the house, of all its service and of all that shall be done in it.
These priests are not fired but demoted. They are not allowed to draw near to God in the sanctuary itself, but were consigned to the outer court, where their duties were to “slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people.”
This sounds very much like the distinction between the regular Levites and the priests who were of the sons of Aaron. Non-Aaronic Levites were barred from entering the sanctuary itself, but they were called to assist with the sacrifices in the outer court. It is most remarkable that God would find use for priests “who went astray” and that they would be allowed to minister to the house. Such is the mercy of God. It shows too that they were believers who strayed, yet they did not receive the same reward that the sons of Zadok received.
The Sons of Zadok (Melchizedek)
As for the sons of Zadok, we read in Ezekiel 44:15, 16,
15 But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,” declares the Lord God. 16 They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table [of showbread] to minister to Me and keep My charge.
The corrupt (idolatrous) priests had to remain in the outer court, ministering to the house, while the righteous priests, the sons of Zadok, were given the privilege of ministering to God Himself in the sanctuary.
Secondly, we should understand that this prophecy is couched in Old Testament terminology but that it is a prophecy of the future, where the greater change of priesthood was yet to occur (Hebrews 7:12). We cannot apply the same literal activities pictured here to the type of worship in the Melchizedek Order of priests. Hebrews 9:11, 12 says,
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
In the past 150 years, many in the Church have been taught (through Darby and Scofield) that animal sacrifices will be reinstituted in the Age to come. They base their views largely on these prophecies of Ezekiel and applying them literally. Likewise, to be consistent they teach that the original Aaronic Order will also be re-established in a physical temple in Jerusalem.
But those things were temporary, as were all things pertaining to the Old Covenant order. When the Old Covenant was replaced by a better covenant, the old became “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13). The New Covenant order forms the basis of the Kingdom, and it is permanent. The blood of Christ and its effectiveness for justification from sin will endure forever and cannot be said to be a temporary accommodation.
Those who strayed from the truth, those who have led the church back into the mindset of the obsolete Old Covenant belief, are disqualified from the new Melchizedek Order. They will not be given the right to minister to God in His sanctuary in heaven but will be limited to the outer court—that is, the earthly realm.
Finally, Ezekiel’s prophecy, seen in the light of the better covenant, distinguishes between believers themselves. Those who had been unfaithful to God, though they repent, will not have the same privileges given to the faithful priests.
In other words, when Christ returns, some will be raised from the dead and some of the living will be “changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). But the majority of people—including the majority of the believers, or citizens of the Kingdom, will remain in their present bodily condition. They will remain in the outer court, so to speak, during the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
It is clear from Revelation 20:5, 6 that the first resurrection is limited to the few who are “priests of God and of Christ.” The general resurrection, a thousand years later, described in Revelation 20:11, 12, is for the rest of humanity, including both believers and unbelievers. Jesus made this clear in John 5:28, 29 and Paul confirms it in Acts 24:14, 15 in his testimony before Felix.
Both Jesus and Paul affirm that there will be a resurrection that includes both the righteous and the wicked. This is obviously not the first resurrection, which includes only righteous people. For further details, see my book, The Purpose of Resurrection.
Essentially Jesus, John, and Paul all interpret Ezekiel’s prophecy of the two types of priests represented by Eli and Zadok. As we see next, at the second coming of Christ, only the Zadok priests will be given the garments that are currently being stored for them in heaven. Only the Zadok priests will receive their “land” inheritance, the glorified body that is “clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Building the Kingdom." To view all parts, click the link below.