The Levites—Servants of God

THE CHILDREN OF Levi constituted one of the twelve tribes of Israel. They had a historical background in the nation which was not true of any of the other tribes, in that they were chosen by the Lord as substitutes for the firstborn of all Israel. The Lord claimed the firstborn of Israel as his, and instructed Moses that they were to be sanctified unto him. (Exod. 13:1,2) The Lord said further on this matter, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord.”—Num. 3:12,13

The Levites had been chosen to be the servants of the Lord because they proved their worthiness of this high honor in a time of great crisis. It was on the occasion when Moses came down from Mount Sinai bearing the tables of the Law, and found that the Israelites had built a golden calf, were worshiping it, and were partaking in a naked revelry of sin in voicing their rejection of Moses. “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.” The Levites were ordered by Moses to put down the rebellion, which they did, and then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.”

Moses and Aaron themselves were Levites; and Aaron was chosen by the Lord, together with his four sons, to be the original priesthood in Israel. Thereafter all the priests were chosen from among the Levites. The priests, as we know, were committed to the work of offering sacrifices in connection with the services of the Tabernacle. The Levites, on the other hand, served the Tabernacle in less honorable positions; and this was true of both the priests and the non-priestly Levites in connection with the Temple when that magnificent building transcended the Tabernacle as representing the presence of God.

From God’s standpoint, the tribe of Levi were the firstborn of Israel. This tribe was given no inheritance in the land when it was conquered and divided among the various tribes under Joshua. The people of this tribe depended upon the goodwill of the other tribes for their sustenance. All of this is, of course, an interesting story; but to us it is more than a story, because, without doubt, it was among those things of ancient Israel that Paul later referred to as being “shadows of good things to come.”—Heb. 1:1

The Church of the Firstborn

In Hebrews 12:23 the Apostle Paul refers to the church of this Gospel Age as “the church of the firstborn,” thus taking our minds back to that wonderful typical lesson of the Old Testament. In describing this church of the firstborn Paul added, “which are written in heaven.” In other words, those who make up the church of the firstborn are chosen by the Lord ultimately to become his heavenly or spiritual group of servants.

Two Groups

Going back to the Old Testament pattern we observe again that there were two groups of God’s servants among the Levites, some serving as priests, others as caretakers of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Projecting that pattern into the Book of Revelation we find that there also are two groups of God’s servants in the spiritual phase of the kingdom—one group serving him as priests and kings (Rev. 20:6), and another group whose work is outlined as serving God day and night in his Temple.—Rev. 7:15

Both of these groups in the present life, even as the Levites of old, declared themselves to be on the Lord’s side, and indeed they were. While there is an abundance of information given us concerning the priests of Israel, the Levites who served God in less honorable ways are only incidentally mentioned. The same is true with respect to the antitypical Levites, although we do have enough information concerning those who ultimately serve God in his Temple to identify them clearly.

In Revelation 7:9 this latter group of antitypical Levites is described as “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” The thought here is not that this great multitude is so enormous in size that it was impossible to know how many there were. It is simply God’s way of stating that the number is, and would be, indefinite. This was true of the less-honored group of Levites in the type, for the Lord gave instructions to Moses, saying, “Thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel.”—Num. 1:49

The identification of the ‘great multitude’ class in this text is very revealing, for it says that they are of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. If this phrase was intended to describe the whole world of mankind, it would simply say that these are all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. But it does not say that. It says that they are of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. In other words, it is a group in which is represented the people of all nations. It is the same thought which we have in the text which informs us that God visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name. He did not intend to take all the Gentiles for his name, but only some of them. So the great multitude class will not be the whole world of mankind, but a group made up of representatives of all nations.

This great multitude class is brought to our attention in Revelation following the account of the sealing of the 144,000, prior to the blowing of the four winds from the four corners of the earth. The great multitude are represented as crying with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever.”—Rev. 7:10-12

One of the elders, pictured so prominently in the Book of Revelation, inquired who these were which were arrayed in white robes, “and whence came they?”(vs. 13) It is almost as though the elder were saying that here was an unexpected development in the plan of God—a group of his servants ostensibly enjoying his favor, but not of the 144,000. The answer to this question was, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”—vss. 14,15

Many students of the Bible believe that this great multitude is a heavenly class which will be associated with the priests and kings who reign with Christ a thousand years, but serving in less honorable positions. However, attention has been called to the fact that verse 16 and 17 of Revelation 7 seem to be a quotation from Isaiah 49:8-10, which has always been considered by Bible Students as a restitution promise to the world of mankind.

First let us look at the promise, and then compare it with the alleged quotation. In verse 8 of the promise we read, “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.” This was quoted by the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 6:2, and applied to the followers of Jesus. The promise shows that these, together with Jesus, accomplished that great phase of the divine plan which the Bible describes as the resurrection of the dead.

In the resurrection of the dead, in addition to “the first resurrection,” (Rev. 20:6 there are three classes—the world of mankind, who are brought forth in the general resurrection; the Ancient Worthies, who are brought forth in the “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35); and the great multitude. The world of mankind are brought forth and caused to inherit the “desolate heritages.” (Isa. 49:8) This is very descriptive of mankind to their restoration of human life, and to their inheritance here upon the earth before it has been returned to perfection.

But all the prisoners of death are affected by the fulfillment of this promise. They are all bidden to go forth, and those that are in darkness to “show themselves.” (vs. 9) And then the promise is, “They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.” (vs. 10) This is symbolic language, but nonetheless descriptive of the method by which the restitution class is provided with life, and sustenance, and all their needs.

Now let us turn back to Revelation 7 where it says, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (vss. 16,17) We suggest that it is a far cry from enjoying pastures in all high places to the thought that “the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them.” In other words, this is not a quotation at all, in so far as the food supply is concerned.

True, the great multitude are brought forth from the tomb by Christ and his church, but from then on, as Revelation 7:16,17 indicates, they are separated from the others and given entirely different treatment. The Lamb feeds them. The thought that they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, simply reminds us that the great multitude, although exalted to a spiritual plane, will not be immortal beings and will need to have their lives sustained; and by a special dispensation, the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of water.

It has been suggested that the last sentence in this chapter—“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17)—is exactly the same as in Rev. 21:4, where it promises to the restitution class that God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. However, this is a very general expression, and is as true of the great multitude as of the world of mankind. We think, furthermore, that it is especially appropriate here, because the record concerning the great multitude reminds us that they passed through the great tribulation at the end of the age, while the church class was completed and had received their reward before this time. (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 6:11; Rev. 7:9,14,15) This suggests that their suffering was beyond that of the church in some respects. Then too, since they did pass through the great tribulation they were aware that they had not attained the reward of being part of the bride class. And how comforting the thought would be to them that even under such circumstances God will be able to wipe away their tears!

Verse 16 of the chapter under discussion assures us that the sun will no longer light on the great multitude class, nor any heat. In Jesus’ parable of the sower he says, concerning the seed that fell upon stony places, that while it sprang up and grew, when the sun was up they were scorched “and because they had no root they withered away.” (Mark 4:6) We quote this merely to indicate that under certain circumstances the sun and its heat is used to represent persecution; and we think it may well be that the great multitude class might have felt this heat, and the assurance that ‘the sun would no more light on them, nor any heat’, would be very comforting indeed. How this assurance would help to wipe away all tears from their eyes!

Servants of God

One of the definite proofs that the great multitude class is not composed of those who are restored to life on the earth during the times of restitution is the fact that they serve God day and night in his temple. A glance at the many restitution promises of the Bible will indicate that while the Lord surely has rich blessings in store for those who gain life on the earth in that final life-giving phase of the plan of God, nothing is said to indicate that mankind is given any special assignment of service—especially not in the Lord’s temple.

One of the well-known restitution promises is contained in Isaiah, chapter 35. We quote, beginning with verse 3: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.” (vss. 3,4) Note that nothing is said here except that God will save those involved. They are not placed in any position of service.

We quote further: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” (vss. 5-7) Note again that there is no reference here to serving God in his temple, or anywhere else.

We continue the quote: “An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”—vss. 8-10

We rejoice that sorrow and suffering will flee away in the lifestyle of the restitution class. This is true also of the great multitude class. Indeed, it is true of those who will live and reign with Christ a thousand years. This is one of the universal blessings which comes to all the ransomed of the Lord. But in addition to this, the priestly segment of the antitypical Levites will reign with Christ as priests and kings, and in keeping with the type, the other antitypical Levites will serve God in his temple.

New Covenant Blessings

Another wonderful promise of restitution blessings for Israel and the whole world is given in Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is the promise of the New Covenant, by means of which the world will be reconciled to God and brought back into covenant relationship with him. We quote this promise:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Note the fact that this promise distinctly does away with the need of the service of others. The Lord makes the covenant through his own agencies—Christ and the church—and when that covenant is made no one will have to teach his neighbor concerning the Lord, for all shall know him from the least even unto the greatest. There is no room in this promise to suppose that those who receive its blessings will be made special servants of the Lord in his temple.

Judgment Day Blessings

One of the New Testament promises of restitution is presented in the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matt. 25:31-46) The sheep of this parable are those who will be restored to life under the restitution phase of God’s plan. Of these it is written, reading from verse 34-36: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

Here was a group who had entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the work which was going on around them. This, of course, is symbolic language. And these righteous people inquired of the Lord, “When saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”—vss. 44-46

These had, indeed, been serving—not because they had been assigned some special duties such as serving God in his temple, but because they caught the spirit of the occasion and wanted to be helpful. And the Lord explained to them that because of this they had proved themselves worthy of receiving the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Certainly those who qualify for restitution blessings will not be a selfish class of people. They will be interested in the wellbeing and prosperity of others. Otherwise they could not have God’s blessing at all. But there is a vast difference between this and the fact of being in a class that is given specially assigned service, as is true of the great multitude.

The Holy City

The Apostle John wrote, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first [former] heaven and the first [former] earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, and I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them.”—Rev. 21:1-3

In typical Israel, the Tabernacle symbolized the presence of God; and this symbolism is utilized in this wonderful promise of restitution. Restitution blessings themselves will be a clear indication that God is with mankind and blessing them. But let us remember that in the type the non-priestly Levites served God in the Tabernacle. This was their assignment. So in the antitypical tabernacle, the same thing is true. In manifesting his presence to the people through this antitypical tabernacle, he will do so through the agencies of Christ and his church, and through those who are the antitype of those who also served God in the typical Tabernacle.

We continue to quote from Revelation 21: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (vss. 4,5) They are not only true and faithful, but they are beautiful and reassuring! But notice that the class who receives these wonderful blessings of restitution is not assigned to serve God in his temple.

Later in this chapter (vs. 22), describing the details of the holy city that comes down from God out of heaven, John says, “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” This is an important statement; and it emphasizes that so far as literal buildings such as tabernacles and temples are concerned, they will be a thing of the past when the kingdom is established. But that which is symbolized by the temple, nevertheless, is here shown to be “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.”

And what an exalted position this will be for the great multitude class who are assigned to serve God in his temple! They will serve in close association with him and with the Lamb. Surely in this exalted position of glory and service they will be able to rejoice abundantly despite the fact that they did not attain to the highest position which they had been offered in the divine plan—that of the bride of Christ.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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