How do we understand the reign of the saints? I think to adequately understand this passage we have to find the biblical roots to the idea of a “kingdom of priests.” The earliest place I can find that contains this idea is in the founding of the old covenant between Yahweh and Israel at Mt. Sinai: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:4-6). This is what Israel was supposed to be before God to the world. In a long history highlighting the fallen nature of humanity, we see the continued failure to be this sort of people before God to the world. So Jesus, the true Israel, comes to be what His Father intended for His people. Now, in Christ, we are part of the true Israel, the Church.
Numerous passages point to our reign:
- “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, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood - 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 1:4-6).
- “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10).
- “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).
So, how do we reign?
- KINGS PROCLAIM - we reign by proclaiming the salvation found in Jesus alone: “…you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
- KINGS TEACH - we reign by proclaiming the truth of God: “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).
- KINGS SUFFER - we reign by suffering for Christ: “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5).
- KINGS ARE THANKFUL - we reign by offering sacrifices of thankfulness to God: “…since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28,29).
- KINGS ARE APPOINTED BY GOD – we do not choose, gain, or earn our thrones, for we cannot: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:10,11).
- KINGS ARE SERVANTS OF THE LOWEST OF THE KINGDOM – we serve the brothers of Christ in their struggles: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:34-40).
It is not a call to a worldly throne, but an everlasting throne, and it brings the King of the universe joy to give us this reign: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
I don’t desire the throne of the world; it is destined to crumble to dust. The priestly kingdom of which this rat is a part will never be destroyed. Reigning here may not bring the prestige that so feeds our prideful desires for power, comfort, and domination, but it makes us more like Christ, which is the goal of all existence.