Jesus as King

In this lesson we take up the third and final Messianic office of our Lord – His kingship.  Jesus is not only Prophet and Priest, but He is also King.  These three offices, which were central to the daily life and ministry of Israel in the Old Testament, coalesce in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, bringing about the salvation of God’s elect and establish Jesus as the one Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5).  Let us consider again the distinctions between these offices, with mention of Christ’s fulfillment.  Again, I quote Grudem:

The prophet spoke God’s words to the people; the priest offered sacrifices, prayers, and praises to God on behalf of the people; and the king ruled over the people as God’s representative.  These three offices foreshadowed Christ’s own work in different ways….Christ fulfills these three offices in the following ways: as prophet he reveals God to us and speaks God’s words to us; as priest he both offers a sacrifice to God on our behalf and is himself the sacrifice that is offered; and as king he rules over the church and over the universe as well.[1]

OLD TESTAMENT TYPES & PROPHECIES

One of the greatest prophecies of the Messianic King is found in Psalm 2.  This Psalm depicts God setting His King, who is called His Son, on His holy hill, Mount Zion, all the while with the nations raging against God and His Anointed One (Messiah).  The nations stand no chance against the power and justice of this King, so they are called to be wise, fear the LORD, and kiss the Son, lest they perish.  Those who take refuge in Him are called blessed.  In this Psalm we see the magnificent sovereignty of God and His King.

Further, while the office of king in the Old Testament certainly anticipated the Messianic fulfillment – reigning over His people, exhorting them in the will of God, defending them against their enemies, and conquering the nations – there was a specific king who uniquely typified the Messianic King.  This was, of course, King David (and in a lesser way his son, King Solomon).  God made this covenantal promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 (cf. Ps. 132:11),

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.  When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever.”

Although this promise did have immediate fulfillment with the birth and reign of Solomon (1 Kings 8:20), it did in fact have another, greater fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLMENT

There are key passages that demonstrate the fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus.  In these passages we see that Jesus is a descendent of David, and therefore a son, and that He has received a kingdom without end.

Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Luke 1:30-33 (cf. Acts 2:23-36) “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Romans 1:1-6 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

A Spiritual Kingship & Kingdom

Christ’s kingship is a spiritual kingship.  It is a spiritual kingship because of the nature of the kingdom, the end for which He reigns, and the means by which His kingdom is administered and experienced.  Louis Berkhof sums these points up well:

It is a spiritual kingship, because it relates to a spiritual realm.  It is the mediatorial rule as it is established in the hearts and lives of believers.  Moreover, it is spiritual, because it bears directly and immediately on a spiritual end, the salvation of His people.  And, finally, it is spiritual, because it is administered, not by force or external means, but by the Word and the Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth and wisdom, of justice and holiness, of grace and mercy.  This kingship reveals itself in the gathering of the church, and in its government, protection, and perfection.[2]

So Christ has received and established this kingdom through His mediatorial or redemptive work.  This realm or kingdom over which Christ reigns pertains to salvation, and it therefore consists of God’s elect or the redeemed.  The citizens of this kingdom and the ethic of this kingdom are expressed in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7).  Numerous Scriptures bear these points just mentioned.

John 3:3, 5 “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…..’  Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”

John 18:36-37 “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world.’  Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’”

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Acts 2:32-36 (cf. Phil. 2:5-11) “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.  Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”  Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Romans 14:17-18 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

Colossians 1:13-14 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.”

It is important to keep in mind that there is a sense in which this spiritual kingdom has always existed since the fall, for it pertains to the realm of salvation.  However, such was not inaugurated until the incarnation, crucifixion, and exaltation (resurrection and ascension).  “But though He was permitted to rule as Mediator even before His incarnation, He did not publicly and formally assume His throne and inaugurate His spiritual kingdom until the time of His ascension and elevation at the right hand of God, Acts 2:29-36; Phil. 2:5-11.”[3]  It is therefore, in a sense, retrospective (cf. Rom. 3:21-26).

This brings us to another very important point: the kingdom and the gospel go hand-in-hand.  This is the significance of the important phrase, “the gospel of the kingdom.”

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Throughout the Gospels we find Jesus preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:25; Mk. 1:14-15; Lk. 4:43; 8:1; 16:16).  This was also of central importance in the preaching of the apostles and others in Acts (8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 30-31).  So, what exactly is the gospel of the kingdom?  What does it mean or refer to?  The gospel of the kingdom has reference to the kingdom of God being established during the first advent of Christ through His Spirit anointing, sinless life, substitutionary sacrifice, and glorious exaltation (i.e. resurrection and ascension).  This is to say that Jesus fulfills this Messianic office of king and establishes His kingdom through the gospel.  The King has come, He has accomplished the redemption typified and prophesied long ago, and He now sits on His throne of glory, reigning over the church and the universe.  The passages we have already observed make this point evident.

This spiritual kingship of Christ will continue for all eternity, just as much as His headship over the Church will continue forever.  He will always be King of God’s people.

Already/Not Yet

I will be brief with this point.  There is a sense in which the spiritual kingdom of God and Christ is both present and future.  This is often referred to as the “already/not yet” aspect of the kingdom.  A few passages will suffice to make this clear (I will only reference passages that speak of the future aspect of the kingdom, as we have already looked at passages demonstrating the present or “already” aspect).

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Acts 14:22 “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (cf. Eph. 5:5) “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

2 Timothy 4:18 “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.  To him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.”

Although we experience here and now the spiritual blessings of the kingdom (i.e. those things that pertain to our salvation), especially through the Spirit poured into our hearts, we yet await the final realization of this blessed kingdom (see Eph. 1:3-14; Rom. 5:1-5; 8:18-25).

Universal Kingship & Kingdom

There is also the universal kingship of Christ and the universal kingdom.  Berkhof notes the nature of the universal kingship/kingdom as consisting of “the dominion of the God-man, Jesus Christ, over the universe, [carrying out] His providential and judicial administration of all things in the interest of the Church.”[4] Although the spiritual kingship/kingdom and universal kingship/kingdom are certainly related, they are nonetheless distinct.  The universal kingdom does not consist of the realm of salvation, as does the spiritual kingdom.  Rather, it pertains to the universe at large (i.e. Christ’s sovereignty over the world), redeemed and lost alike.  It does not spread and grow like the spiritual kingdom, as the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed (see Matt. 13), but is static.  Perhaps the most significant relation of the two kingdoms is that they possess the same King by the same means (the incarnation, crucifixion, exaltation).  Further, although the spiritual kingship/kingdom continues for eternity, the universal kingship/kingdom will be given up once all of Christ’s enemies are made His footstool and judgment on the world is accomplished.  Berkhof sums up well these various characteristics:

Christ was formally invested with this kingship over the universe when He was exalted at the right hand of God.  It was a promised reward of His labors, Ps. 2:8,9; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11.  This investiture was part of the exaltation of the God-man.  It did not give Him any power or authority which He did not already possess as the Son of God; neither did it increase His territory.  But the God-man, the Mediator, was now made the possessor of this authority, and His human nature was made to share in the glory of this royal dominion.  Moreover, the government of the world was now made subservient to the interests of the Church of Jesus Christ.  And this kingship of Christ will last until the victory over the enemies is complete and even death has been abolished, 1 Cor. 15:24-28.  At the consummation of all things the God-man will give up the authority conferred on Him for a special purpose, since it will no more be needed.  He will return His commission to God, that God may be all in all.  The purpose [which serves the interest of the Church] is accomplished; mankind is redeemed; and thereby the original kingship of man is restored.[5]

The Return of the King

In the third part of the Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, which is called Return of the King, Aragorn, who is the rightful king of Gondor, returns to His kingdom just in time to defeat the dark forces and claim his throne.  The militant people then become a triumphant people.  While the events aren’t an exact parallel to the biblical testimony, the essential idea is there.  When our King of kings and Lord of lords returns, He will bring to completion the work He accomplished during His first advent.  Although the spiritual forces of darkness have already been defeated through the cross (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14-15), this will be finally realized or completed at His return.  The unrighteous will be condemned to an eternity in hell, separated from the presence of the Lord, whereas the righteous (in Christ) will be ushered into His glorious presence, where they will marvel at His grace and glory (2 Thess. 1:5-10).  The Church that was once militant, engaged in spiritual warfare, will forever be known as the Church triumphant, living in the blessed bliss of communion with the triune God (Rev. 20-22).

IMPLICATIONS & APPLICATIONS

1. The “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7) is all about kingdom living.

2. The hope and promise we have of an eternal inheritance in the kingdom of God (yet future) is motivation, and indeed a reason, for living this life in holiness and righteousness.  We are to strive to live now as we will live then, for we now are in the kingdom, we only await its final realization.  Those who do not live according to the gospel of the kingdom will not inherit the kingdom.

3. Evangelism; all three offices (Prophet, Priest, King) have implications and motivations for evangelism.  This is especially fleshed out for us in the book of Acts (read it and take note of this three-fold office in the early Church’s evangelism).  I will briefly express the significance for each for our evangelism:

Prophet and Evangelism: Jesus continues to serve as prophet through the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures, most notably through the proclamation of the gospel.  As the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ manifests His prophetic office.  Further, when we point people to Jesus as having the words of truth and life, we are pointing them to His prophetic office.

Priest and Evangelism: The priestly office of Christ centers on the cross, the place where He died in the place for sinners.  This is, no doubt, the central focus in evangelism.  When we proclaim the cross we are proclaiming the priestly work of Christ.

King and Evangelism: As the exalted King, Christ is worthy of submission.  When we proclaim the gospel we are to call on people to submit to Christ’s rule.  Those who don’t will experience the justice of His rod.  This point bolsters our call on people to repent and believe.  Further, as we proclaim the gospel the enemies of darkness will not overpower it.

4. As King, Jesus protects His Church, corporately and individually, not allowing any eternal harm to come to them.  Our King will not leave us to fend for ourselves against Satan’s schemes, but will rule and strengthen us, helping us to finally overcome, for He has already overcome.

Other Posts in Series:

Jesus: Prophet, Priest & King (An Introduction)

Jesus as Prophet

Jesus as Priest


[1] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology (MI: Zondervan, 1994), 624.  Take note of Christ’s reign over both the Church and the universe, as this will be discussed in detail below.

[2] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (MI: Eerdmans, 1941), 406.

[3] Ibid. 410.

[4] Ibid. 410.

[5] Ibid. 411.

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