The overcomers who are raised in the first resurrection are called "priests of God and of Christ." There are two priesthoods in the Bible: Levi (Aaron) and Melchisedec. The Levitical priesthood was chosen to administer the terms of the Old Covenant; the Melchisedec priesthood was chosen to administer the terms of the New Covenant.
The contrast between the two is great. Levi was violent and cruel (Gen. 49:5-7) and, along with Simeon, came under the curse of Jacob. That curse would eventually catch up with them when this priesthood offered up their final Sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ. Yes, they were called to do this, but even so, they came under judgment for their heart attitude in which they did it. At that point, Levi was replaced by Melchisedec, even as the Old Covenant was replaced by the New.
Thus, the sons of God are priests after the order of Melchisedec, not priests after the order of Levi. Melchisedec was the King of Salem (i.e., "King of Peace"), as opposed to Levi, who was king of violence and cruelty.
Melchisedec's calling was not tied to his genealogy (Heb. 7:6). By contrast, Levitical priests had to be a descended from Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. David and Jesus were both of the tribe of Judah, rather than Levi. Thus, they were Melchizedek priests (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 7:17) ministering to God. And the overcomers, too, who may have no genealogical connection to Levi, are called out of every people, tongue and nation.
One of the key characteristics of priests is the fact that they have no inheritance in the land, as we read in Num. 18:20,
20 Then the Lord said to Aaron, You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor own any portion among them; I AM YOUR PORTION AND YOUR INHERIT-ANCE among the sons of Israel.
To inherit God is to inherit the glorified body as a son of God. As a son, these are priests who have the duty toward God to minister to Him and to the people. Intercession between God and men was the duty of priesthood under God. Levi failed to live up to its administrative duty and was replaced by Melchisedec. This simply means that the Order of Melchisedec has now taken over the duties that were first given to Levi. The duties no longer include blood sacrifices, because they have a "better" Sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. They have a new temple in a New Jerusalem and a new Mount Sion, as the book of Hebrews tells us. Yet the provision of Num. 18:20 still stands. God is their inheritance, in contrast to the rest of the believers who will be given real estate when the meek inherit the earth.
This change from Levi to Melchisedec is foreshadowed in the story of Eli and how his lineage was replaced by Zadok in the days of Solomon. Although Zadok was still a Levitical priest, his name means "righteousness," and is part of the Melchisedec (Zadok) name, "King of Righteousness" (Heb. 7:2). Because this replacement was done during the Old Testament times, God used an Aaronic priest, Zadok, as a type of the Melchisedec Order.
In that the replacement was done in the days of Solomon, the "Prince of Peace," it speaks of the real change in the days of Jesus, the true Prince of Peace. The story of this change in priesthood begins in 1 Samuel 2:27-36. Because Eli's sons were corrupt, stealing the offerings and having sex with the women, God sent a prophet to Eli and told him in verses 30 and 35,
30 . . . I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever; but NOW the Lord declares, “Be it far from Me--for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. . . 35 But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.”
Eli was replaced by Eleazar (1 Sam. 7:1), who was replaced by Abiathar. Solomon replaced Abiathar. Of course, ultimately, this was a prophecy of Jesus Christ and the Melchisedec Order that replaced the old Order of Levi. But Zadok was the type of Christ as High Priest. 1 Kings 2:27, 28 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. . . 28 And the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar."
Ezekiel comments upon this replacement in Ezekiel 44, relating it prophetically to two types of priesthoods in the Age of Tabernacles to come. In 44:10-14 the prophet speaks of the Order of Eli, representing the corrupted priesthood:
10 But the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray. . . 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 . . . 13 And they shall NOT come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me. . .
It is strange that God would continue to allow a corrupted priesthood to have any job at all in the temple. It is presumed, however, that such corrupted ministers have repented by the time this is fulfilled. But the downside is that they are disqualified from ministering to God directly. In the context of temple worship, they will not be able to approach God in the Sanctuary (in heaven) itself, but will be limited to ministering in the outer court (earthly realm). In other words, they are Christian believers and even ministers, but they were unable to progress past the Passover or Pentecostal experiences. They did not allow the law to be written on their hearts, which was the purpose of Pentecost. They fell short of the promises, because they had no vision of the feast of Tabernacles or what it meant to enter the Promised Land--the glorified body. By way of contrast, we read in verses 15-19,
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 offer the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. 16 They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge."
Bible teachers often take these passages too literally, thinking that God is going to set up an other temple in Jerusalem on the temple mount, complete with Jewish Levites and animal sacrifices. They say that the Age of Grace is soon completed, and then we are all going back under animal sacrifices once again. To me, that is utter blasphemy. It is as if they never read the book of Hebrews. The blood of bulls and goats can never remove sin. "But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction" (Heb. 10:39).
Ezekiel's prophecy is set forth in Old Testament terms, like all the types and shadows do. But we are to interpret them in a New Testament context. This new priesthood is not really Zadok's line per se, because Zadok himself was still of Levi, and so ultimately, he could not remove himself from Jacob's curse.
Neither are we to suppose that Jesus' blood will be set aside in favor of renewed animal sacrifices. Nor will the New Jerusalem be replaced by the Old Jerusalem, nor will the living temple (Eph. 2:21) be replaced by a dead temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. I do not buy into such re-replacement theology. The Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant. I do not believe the New Covenant will be replaced by the Old in the future.
Although Ezekiel 44 uses the story of Eli and Zadok as the backdrop for the prophecy, it is really about a New Testament priesthood in the Age of Tabernacles that is soon to come. In the past 2,000 years there has been a Christian priesthood under Pentecost—the leavened feast—that became as corrupt as the priesthood of Eli. Many of them, though they steal offerings and have sex with the women parishioners, do have a genuine belief in Jesus Christ. In the age of the Prince of Peace, they will be allowed to minister in the outer court (that is, the physical body). But they will not be allowed to minister to God in His Sanctuary in heaven. In other words, they will not receive that glorified body that can go back and forth between heaven and earth--the kind of body that Jesus had after His resurrection.
Ezekiel describes this body in 44:17-19, putting it in Old Testament terms, but prophesying of New Testament things:
17 And it shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with LINEN GARMENTS; and WOOL shall not be upon them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house.
Linen is made from plants; wool is an animal product. Rev. 19:8 says, "fine linen is the righteousness [i.e., ZADOK] of the saints." Linen represents the spiritual body, even as wool represents the fleshly, physical body.
And so, when these "priests of God and of Christ" are given glorified bodies, like Jesus had, they will be able to go back and forth between heaven and earth, ministering to God in Sanctuary in their "linens" and then returning to earth dressed in "wool" to minister to the people in the outer court.
19 And when they go out into the outer court [earthly realm of the people]. . . they shall put off their [linen, spiritual body] garments in which they have been ministering, and lay them in the holy chambers; then they shall put on other [wool, fleshly body] garments. . .
This is why, after Jesus' resurrection, He always appeared to His disciples in a body of "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39). In fact, he spent considerable time in Luke 24 convincing the disciples that He was NOT A SPIRIT. He even ate with them to prove it. Why? In order to manifest to us the glorified body. It is the inheritance of the sons of God as well. They have to be able to "change clothes,” because Ezekiel 44:19 makes it unlawful to minister to the people in their linen clothes—that is, as spirits. For this reason Jesus did not appear to people as a spirit but took on a body at those times.
Even so, this glorified body clearly is not confined to the limitations of the flesh as we know it in this mortal body.
In Paul's day, skeptics asked in 1 Cor. 15:35, "with what kind of body do they come?" While we do not know the full answer to this, the simple answer is this: "They will come with the kind of body that Jesus had after His resurrection." This is what it means for the sons of God to be priests after the Order of Melchisedec, as described in Ezekiel 44.