There are three main “offices” spoken of in the Old Testament—prophet, priest, and king. To make the strongest distinction in these offices, we will look at Jesus the Christ who fulfills all three of these roles.
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. “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.”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: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” Hebrews 1:1–2
Old Testament priests served as mediators between humans and God. It was the priests who offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. As for Jesus, He is mans Mediator and 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 the 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.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14–16
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.
The office of king in the Old Testament is illustrated 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).
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 the Christ perfectly fills all three roles simultaneously: He is the Prophet, Priest, and King, to the great blessing of the world.