What does it mean that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king?Question: "What does it mean that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king?"
Answer: There are three main “offices” spoken of in the Old Testament—prophet, priest, and king. Jesus fulfills all three of these roles.
Jesus as Prophet
Prophets were tasked with speaking God’s Word to people. In the Old Testament, this included both proclaiming God’s truth to others and revealing God’s plans for the future. Some of the prophets also performed miracles and healings.
The people of Jesus’ day referred to Him as a prophet many times, and He took the title upon Himself as well (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John 4:19; Mark 6:4). Both Peter and Stephen spoke of Jesus as being the ultimate fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15—Jesus is the prophet like Moses who must be listened to (Acts 3:17–23; 7:37–38, 51–53).
Jesus taught the Word of God, often speaking in parables. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22).
Much like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus also foretold the future. For example, He told His disciples of His pending death and resurrection (Matthew 17:22–23; 20:17–19), Judas’ betrayal (Matthew 26:20–25; John 13:18–30), and Peter’s denial (Matthew 26:31–35; Mark 14:27–30; Luke 22:61; John 13:31–38). He predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7–15; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–5), the persecution of His followers (John 16:1–4, 33), and the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1–2). Perhaps most encouraging for believers today, Jesus prophesied of His coming return (Matthew 24:30–31; John 14:3).
Like many of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus performed multiple healings and miracles (Matthew 8:1–17; 9:18–33; Mark 1:32–34; 2:1–12; Luke 17:11–19; 18:35–43; John 2:1–11; 6:1–24). He even compared Himself to Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:24–27). The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, just as the people of Israel did not believe Elijah and Elisha.
Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). He does not simply speak the Word of God as a mere human prophet, but is Himself the Word made flesh (John 1:14). He is the final word, the ultimate revelation of God: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1–2).
Jesus as Priest
Old Testament priests served as mediators between humans and God. It was the priests who offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. Jesus is our Mediator and our High Priest: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Hebrews 4–10 details how Jesus is our ultimate High Priest and how His priesthood is far superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews also explains how the Old Testament system of priests served to foreshadow the ministry of Jesus. The Levitical priesthood of Aaron’s line was not intended to continue forever. Jesus’ priesthood is eternal.
Hebrews 4:14–16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” With Jesus as our High Priest, we can go before God boldly, knowing that Jesus has true compassion on us and that, through Him, we will experience the grace and mercy of God (see also Hebrews 10:19–23).
Hebrews 7 shows how Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was both a priest and the “king of Salem” who blessed Abraham (Hebrews 7:2; Genesis 14:18). Likewise, Jesus is not just a “priest forever,” but also a king.
Jesus as King
The office of king in the Old Testament is illustrated well by David. God called David a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). He promised to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in the Messiah, who was also given the title “Son of David.” Jesus is this Son of David and the rightful King (Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16).
The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32–33).
The Son of David would be a ruler of God’s people, and also their deliverer. The Jews of Jesus’ time expected a political king (Matthew 21:1–11). Instead, Jesus conquered sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54–57). He promised He will also return to the earth to rule as a king, first in the Millennial Kingdom and then forever (1 Corinthians 15:24–28).
Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He has “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9–11). Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), and one day He will be king in the earthly, political sense of the word, as the weight of governance is borne on His shoulders, He reigns on Mt. Zion, and the nations bring Him homage (Psalm 2:6; 48:1–2; Isaiah 9:6; 11:10). Even before then, He truly is the ultimate authority. Even though His enemies are not yet made His footstool (Psalm 110:1), Jesus should be reigning fully in our hearts.
Normally, the three offices of prophet, priest, and king were distinct from each other, with no overlap. That is, a king was not a priest or a prophet. A priest did not function as a prophet or a king. And a prophet simply did a prophet’s job without trying to be a either king or a priest. But Jesus Christ perfectly fills all three roles simultaneously: He is the Prophet, Priest, and King, to the great blessing of the world.
Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum
More insights from your Bible study - Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!
Who is Jesus Christ?
What is a prophet in the Bible?
Was Jesus a rabbi?
What was a seer in the Bible?
If Jesus was God, why did He not know when He would return?
Questions about Jesus Christ
What does it mean that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king?