by Tad Lindley
Maybe you did not realize that the priests were missing, but they were. Fortunately, the apostle, Peter, found them. If you have been losing sleep chronically worrying about their whereabouts, you can now look forward to peaceful rest.
Priests have been around for a long time. Before Judaism even existed there were priests. The pagan worshippers of the ancient world had priests. Joseph married the Priest of On’s daughter (Genesis 41:45). Paul and Silas had a run in with the Priest of Jupiter, who wanted to worship them believing that they were gods (Acts 14:13). And of course, when God met Moses on Mount Sinai, He established the role of priest in the lives of the chosen people.
Moses’ brother, Aaron, was the first Jewish high priest. All men descended from Aaron were eligible to become high priest. Modern Jewish people with the last name of Cohen, or some other derivative of it, are descended from Aaron. These men actually have a genetic marker on their Y chromosome that identifies them as descendents of Aaron.
In addition to the high priests, there was a group of men called the Levites. They were from the tribe of Levi. The Levitical priests did much of the work involved with the tabernacle, the temple, and the sacrifices. They did not have the privilege of entering the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. That privilege was reserved to the high priests.
The job of the priest
The priests were chosen to be the intermediary between the children of Israel and the Lord. The average person could not simply perform his own sacrifices, let alone enter the holy presence of God. They needed the priests and the Levites.
The strange disappearance of the priests
Oddly, the priests disappear in Christianity. In the Bible, the only record we have of priests and the church is the Jewish priests who sought to destroy Jesus, and later stamp out Christianity (Luke 24:20, Acts 5:17-28). We know that many of the Jewish priests converted to Christianity (Acts 6:7). Beyond that, the priesthood appears to have completely vanished. The New Testament speaks of pastors, apostles, evangelists, teachers and prophets in the church, but not priests (Ephesians 4:11). There are bishops and deacons, but no mention of priests (I Timothy 3).
The disappearance of priests in the New Testament church is not a mystery. The priesthood was replaced by something so much more perfect. When Jesus allowed his own blood to be shed for many, he was actually stepping into the role of the high priest. Remember, the priests were the ones who went before God on behalf of men. In the New Testament, Jesus fills this roll, for there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2:5). Furthermore, when Jesus hung on the cross, the veil in the temple between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). This signified a new relationship between God and man. No longer were priests necessary; all people now have access directly to the Lord!
Missing priests discovered
In the Old Testament the approach to God was through a priest, since we now have the ability to come before the throne of grace, we are all effectively priests. In fact the Bible teaches that those in the church are a royal priesthood. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (I Peter 2:9). And speaking of Jesus the Bible says, 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)
The beauty of Calvary is that Jesus abolished the priesthood as a class of men, and opened the door for every one of us to call upon his name and thereby present ourselves before him. Regardless of who you are or where you are, you can have instant and direct contact with Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, because in the New Testament, we have become the priests.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.