Munus Triplex: Jesus is the Prophet, Priest and King

            How can we describe all that Jesus has done? This seems like an impossible task, but the munus triplex has been a helpful way of summarizing all that Jesus has done. The munus triplex refers to Jesus’ work as Prophet, Priest, and King. The Old Testament sets up these Messianic expectations for the Messiah and the history of Israel points out the necessity of these three offices.

            The ancient Israelites were familiar with these three major offices. They had great prophets like Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2). They had great priests like Abiathar (1 Samuel 30:7). They had great kings like David (2 Samuel 5:3).[1] Jesus fulfilled all these expectations and perfectly functions as the Prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:14-22, the Priest foreshadowed in Psalm 110:1-4, and the King presented in Psalm 2.

            Eusebeius described the doctrine this way: “And we have been told also that certain of the prophets themselves became, by the act of anointing, Christs in type, so that all these have reference to the true Christ, the divinely inspired and heavenly Word, who is the only high priest of all, and the only King of every creature, and the Father’s only supreme prophet of prophets.”[2] John Calvin wrote, “Therefore, in order that faith may find a firm basis for salvation in Christ, and thus rest in him, this principle must be laid down: the office enjoined upon Christ by the Father consists of three parts. For he was given to be prophet, king, and priest.”[3]

            It is difficult for us to find a better way to describe the work of Christ. We can effectively place everything Jesus has done and continues to do in one of these areas. Everything we see Christ doing falls under that categories of his Prophetic, Priestly, or Kingly office.

Christ the Prophet

            In Deuteronomy 18:15-18 Moses revealed God’s promise to raise up a prophet like him that would supersede him. Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed—just as you desired of the Lord your God…and the Lord said to me…”I will raise up from them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:15-18). In Acts 3:22-24, Peter preached that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus is the Prophet promised in the Old Testament.

            As the perfect Prophet, Jesus delivered God’s message. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”  Just like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus was rejected because of his message (Luke 13:33).

            Jesus is better than all the Old Testament prophets. Jesus is the one whom the Old Testament prophets foretold. Jesus has the better message—the message about himself. Jesus, with the Father, is the source of the message. Jesus is the also the messenger sent from God which all the other prophets foreshadowed.

Christ the Priest

            As the perfect Priest, Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice to God on behalf of the people. Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:24-28 says,

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus’ priestly service was not based on the sacrifice of animals. Instead, it was the perfect sacrifice of himself which was necessary for the atonement. Only the unmixed combination of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ was valuable enough to accomplish the exchange of the Just for the unjust and bear the burden of divine wrath.

            As Priest, Jesus continues to bring us to God. Jesus leads us into God’s presence. As our High Priest, Jesus is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” The writer of Hebrews said that this High Priestly work was what Jesus did on the ultimate Day of Atonement as he “has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20). This priestly service is why Luke 23:45 records that the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died.

            With Christ as our High Priest, Christians “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20). Jesus’ priestly service blesses us, cleanses us, and enables us to serve as his priests for God’s glory.

            Our relationship with God is dependent upon Jesus’ priestly service. Jesus, as our High Priest, continues to make intercession for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Tim. 2:5). Our lives, our worship, and our prayers are always accompanied by our Great High Priest. Jesus’ High Priestly representation and service is the only reason we are acceptable before God and the only reason our service is acceptable to God.

Christ the King

            Jesus is also our King. Jesus’ kingship was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, “Behold, your king is coming to you: righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This was fulfilled as Jesus entered Jerusalem in Matthew 21:5. The majestic prophecies of the Messiah in Isaiah 7-9 record that “the government would be upon his shoulder” (v. 6) and “of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (v. 6-7). Jesus was, therefore, born king of the Jews (Matt. 2:2).

            Jesus’ kingdom does not originate from or depend upon this world. Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). Jesus’ kingdom is the church. In Ephesians 1:20-22, we see that God gave Christ to the church as head and king. Since Jesus is King, he is our provider, protector, and representative. Since Jesus is our King, we must submit to him. To rebel is treason. Since Jesus is King, we must trust him. He is our Provider and Protector. We cannot doubt him.

            Jesus’ kingship ensures our spiritual safety. How could we dare seek to cross the borders of his kingdom or commit treason against him. He is our King. He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. He has been given by God for the church as a blessing (Eph. 1:20-22). We should be thankful that we have such a great King as our Savior.

[1] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 624.

[2] Hist. eccl. 1.3.8, in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (New York, 1890), 1:86

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.15.

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