Adam as Prophet, Priest and King, and the Bible as the Story of ‘Three Sons’

leviticusWhat has been the best book you have read in 2018? For me, it has been a 300+ page study on Leviticus. Yes, Leviticus!

In Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord? A biblical theology of the book of Leviticus, Michael L. Morales gives the reader a biblical feast. From considering the literary shape of the Pentateuch to the goal of the Yom Kippur (The Day of the Lord), from considering the typology of the tabernacle to the priestly role of Adam, Morales’ book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the system of mediation outlined in the books of Moses.

Even more, the whole book helps the Bible student to learn how to read the Bible and to understand God’s covenantal purposes for bringing his people into his presence. For these reasons, I would highly recommend this book. For now, let me share a quotation that demonstrates the richness of his study.

Adam as Prophet, Priest and King, and the Bible as the Story of Three Sons

Making a bevy of intra-biblical connections, Morales explains how Adam functioned as a prophet, priest, and king. Moreover, he explains how the whole story of the Bible can be explained along the lines of God’s Son—from Adam to Israel to Christ.

Without comment, I will share his words. I pray they stir up your affections for God as much as they did me.

Davidic kingship, then, is (1) rooted in YHWH’s kingship and (2) an inheritance of Adam’s roles as son of God. In reality, all three offices of anointing (prophets, priests, and kings) possess an Adamic role, and are oriented by the mountain of God. Indeed, as to the Adamic role, it is possible to comprehend the progress of redemptive history according to what we may call ‘God’s three sons’:

  • Adam was the first firstborn, who functioned as prophet, priest, and king.
  • Secondly, God created a corporate firstborn son, Israel. (Due to humanity’s estate of sin and misery there was a separation of powers, as it were, with the distribution of the offices of prophet, priest and king among the members of Israel distinctly.)
  • Finally, as the last Adam and true Israel, the Son of God dawned, as prophet, priest and king, now conforming humanity to himself as the image and likeness of God.

As to the offices being oriented by the mountain of God, we have already observed in a previous chapter how the high priest’s office is focused upon and validated by his annual entrance into the summit of the architectural mountain of God, the holy of holies, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). Similarly, kings were enthroned upon God’s holy mountain, and prophets were sent from it. The king, at his coronation, was installed upon God’s holy mountain, reigning from the earthly Zion as a reflection of YHWH’s reign from the heavenly Zion (Ps. 2). And to become a servant of YHWH, a prophet had first to encounter him at the mountain of God and then be sent forth from it as a messenger (Isa. 6; Exod. 3:1-10). Since all three offices are cultic, functioning distinctly for the same divine goal, one may see how kingship in ancient Israel accorded with what I have argued to be the Pentateuch’s major theme: the Davidic king reigned to shepherd humanity to the house of God upon the mountain of God. (Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord?, 235–36. Bullet points mine.)

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Putrefied Priesthood of Jesus’ Day, or Why Mark’s Gospel Calls for a New Priest

karsten-wurth-inf1783-65075-unsplash.jpgIn his excellent book The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, Peter Bolt shows how religion in Jesus day had soured. In one footnote, he surveys the whole Gospel to show repeated instances of religion gone bad.

I share the note in full because it helps us to see what false religion looks like, what Jesus had to contend against in his day, and what we should avoid as new creatures in Christ. As Bolt puts it, “Mark exposes religion as having multiple faults.” He then lists more than fifteen different evidences of priestly malpractice:cross Continue reading

Starting with Adam: Seeing How the Priesthood Begins in Genesis 1–2

gateEarlier this year, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology published my article on typology. In it I argued for a “covenantal topography,” i.e., a semi-predictable pattern which all biblical types follow as they develop through the covenant history of the Bible. In that article, I focused on the priesthood as an example of how types develop from creation through the patriarchs, the law, and prophets. Ultimately, they culminate in Jesus Christ and by extension apply to those in Christ. At least, that’s the argument I made.

If you are interested in typology and how the Bible fits together, this article (“From Beelines to Plotlines: Typology That Follows the Covenantal Topography of Scripture“) may be worth considering (or critiquing, or I hope considering and improving). For today, I share the first phase of the priesthood, to show how priestly themes begin in Genesis with the creation of Adam as the first royal priest. Continue reading

The Garden of Eden: A Biblical-Theological Framework

gardenGod’s people dwelling in God’s place under God’s rule: This tripartite division, outlined by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book According to Plan, well articulates the relationship of Adam and Eve to God in the Garden. Yet, often when Christians read the creation account in Genesis 1–2 they miss the royal and priestly themes in those two chapters. In fact, in teaching this section of Scripture, I have often had veteran saints question the validity of calling Adam a royal priest and the garden of Eden a royal sanctuary.

So, in what follows, I hope to provide a brief summary of the biblical evidence for seeing the first image-bearers (imago Dei) as royal priests commissioned by God to have priestly dominion over the earth—a commission later restored in type to Israel (see Exodus 19:5–6), fulfilled in Christ (see, e.g., Hebrews 5), and shared with all those who are in Christ (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10). In these sections, we will focus on the temple and by extension to the purpose and work of mankind in that original garden-sanctuary. (Much of this research stems from my dissertation, which considered in depth the details of the priesthood in Scripture).

Gardens in the Bible

The Garden in Eden

Easily missed by a casual reading of Genesis 2, the “Garden of Eden” (2:15; 3:23, 24; cf. Ezek 36:35; Joel 2:3) is actually the “Garden in Eden” (2:8; cf. 2:10)—meaning that the Garden is a subsection of the land of Eden itself. Confirming this, John Walton writes, “Technically speaking, Genesis 2:10 indicates that the garden should be understood as adjoining Eden because the water flows from Eden and waters the garden.”[1]  Further support for this view, that the garden is in Eden, is the fact that the man was created outside the Garden (2:7) and then brought to work the garden (2:8).

The Garden of God

Genesis 2 is the account of the Garden of God (cf. Isa 51:3; Ezek 28:13; 31:9), and the man Adam who is placed in the Garden as a servant of the Lord. Describing the literary framework of Genesis 2:8ff, Peter Gentry states, “Genesis 2:8–17 portrays the first man as a kind of priest in the garden sanctuary. In terms of literary structure, 2:8a describes the creation of the garden and 2:8b the placing of the man there. In what follows, 2:9–15 elaborates on 2:8a [the place] and 2:16–17 elaborates on 2:8b [the priest].”[2] Thus, in light of Moses later writing, we should see this Garden as a sacred sanctuary, the place where God walked in the presence of his people (cf. Leviticus 26:12). Continue reading

The Biblical Story of Priestly Glory

priesthoodOn Monday, I made the case that we should understand the imago dei in priestly terms. To develop that idea a bit, let me show how the biblical story line can be understood through the lens of the priesthood, as well.

Creation

In creation Adam was made to be a royal priest. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Or it could be translated “to serve it and guard it.” In other words, the man in the Garden was more than a prehistoric gardener. He was a royal priest. And we know he was a priest because the language used in Genesis 2:15 is used repeatedly of priests in Numbers 3. Moses, the author of both books, is making the point that Adam was stationed in the Garden as a priest—to serve the Lord by cultivating the Garden (even expanding its borders) and to guard the Garden from unclean intruders (a key work of the priest and one he failed to do in Genesis 3). In short, redemptive history begins with a priest in the Garden, one whose righteous appearance and holy vocation was breathtaking, as Ezekiel 28:12–14 describes,

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub [A better translation is the NET: “I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub]; I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

Sadly, this glorious beginning did not last long. Continue reading

The Priestly Aspect of the Imago Dei

priestIn The Christian FaithMichael Horton suggests four aspects of the Imago Dei, what it means to be made in God’s image. He enumerates them as

  1. Sonship/Royal Dominion
  2. Representation
  3. Glory
  4. Prophetic Witness

For each there is solid biblical evidence. Genesis 1:26–31; Psalm 8; and Hebrews 2:5–9 all testify to humanity’s royal sonship. Likewise, the whole creation narrative (Genesis 1–2) invites us to see man and woman as God’s creatures representing him on the earth. First Corinthians 11:7 speaks of mankind as the “glory of God.” Horton rightly distinguishes, “The Son and the Spirit are the uncreated Glory of God . . . human beings are the created reflectors of divine majesty” (401). They are, in other words, God’s “created glory,” which in time will be inhabited by the “uncreated glory” of God in the person of Jesus Christ. And last, as creatures made by the Word of God, in covenant relation with him, every human is a prophetic witness. In the fall, this prophetic witness is distorted. Humans are now ensnared to an innumerable cadre of idols (see Rom 1:18–32), but the formal purpose remains—to be made in the image of God is to be a prophetic witness.

Horton’s articulation is compelling, biblical, and beautiful. But it seems, in my estimation, to stress royal and prophetic tasks without giving equal attention to the priestly nature of humanity. To be fair, Horton refers to humanity’s priestly vocation under the headings of “representation” and “glory.” But because these are supporting the vocational idea of representation and the abstract idea of glory, we miss a key idea—the imago dei is by definition a priestly office. Or better, the imago dei is a royal priest who bears witness to the God of creation. Let’s consider. Continue reading

The Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus Christ

The kingdom of Christ and the kingship of Christ have received most scholarly attention in recent years.  (In truth, the kingdom of Christ has rightly received great emphasis since the Christ declared that the kingdom of God was drawing near).  Comparatively, the priesthood of Jesus Christ has often been slighted, misrepresented, or put in second (or third) place behind Christ’s status as king or prophet.  However, this ought not be so.

The New Testament frequently displays Christ doing priestly activities (atonement, intercession, teaching, etc.), and in places like Hebrews, the author displays him as the high priest par excellence.  On this important role, John Murray provided an insightful reflection on the “inter-permeation” between Christ’s priesthood and kingship.  While Christ’s kingship is often affirmed, it is often disfigured because of its separation from Christ’s kingdom.  Murray nicely unites the two.

In context, he points to 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 8:34; and Heb 7:24-25 as places where Christ’s ongoing priesthood is explicitly mentioned.  He argues that Christ’s priesthood should be recaptured if we are to fully appreciate the exalted work of Christ. Here is his main argument.

Truly Christ executes his kingly office as head over all things to his body the church. But Christ is a priest upon his throne, and we must not allow the consideration of his kingly office to eclipse that aspect of Christ’s heavenly activity with which we are now concerned. There is here an inter-permeation of the various offices. What we are concerned with now is to recognize that his specifically high priestly ministrations are more operative and pervasive in the church upon earth than we are frequently disposed to to appreciate. And when his specifically priestly function is duly appreciated, new perspectives are opened up in the interpretation of the activity of our exalted Lord. . . . This adds new richness to our conception of the relation he sustains to his people and enhances our understanding of the significance for us, as individual believers and as members of the body which is the church, of the activity which Christ in heaven continues to exercise in reference to God on behalf of those whom he has purchased with his blood (John Murray, “The Heavenly, Priestly Activity of Christ,” in Collected Works of John Murray, vol. 1 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976], 47).

In light of the attention given to the papal election of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church’s confused understanding of priesthood (and kingdom), it is vital that Protestants recapture a biblical understanding of priesthood.  It begins with understanding what Murray has argued.  We must understand how the ongoing priesthood of Christ, the priesthood of believers continue to this day and how those two realities are related.  Murray’s article is a helpful starting place.  Hopefully, in the days ahead, Protestants will be better equipped to affirm the finished work of Christ’s atonement and the ongoing work of his intercession and royal-priestly session.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss