THE REIGN OF CHRIST - FUTURE, NOT PRESENT
In his inspired Epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul speaks of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus by his Father: “he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the ecclesia, which is his body …” (Eph 1:20-23). So it was, that subsequent to his resurrection, the Lord Jesus was given power, and elevated to a status far greater than all the principalities and powers of this world. Yea, a position greater even than the Angels of God, for he received a name “more excellent” than they (Heb 1:4), a name “which is above every name”, at which “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Phil 2:10-11). The Lord himself taught his disciples concerning the power now vested in him: “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth” (Mat 28:18). But does the bestowal of this “power” over both earthly and heavenly things mean that the Lord currently possess a royal dominion? Although he has been given “power”, does he currently exercise it as a King ruling from his throne?
The answer of a contemporary magazine is clear, in commenting upon these words of the Lord: “Although the words “rule” and “reign” are not used here by Jesus, it is abundantly clear that he has been put in charge of heaven and earth and what else can that mean but that he rules and reigns over both domains” (Les Boddy, The Endeavour Magazine, June 1999). And again, in the same article, we are told concerning the Lord Jesus: “we seem to be so intent on telling others that he is to return to reign on earth that we neglect to tell them what the New Testament teaches so clearly, that he reigns now from Heaven”. And again: “Jesus is not merely the heir to the throne, for he is now enthroned at his Father’s side sharing his Father’s throne, (Rev 3:21) clearly there as King”. And yet once more: “it is certainly not good enough to say that Jesus will not begin his reign until he returns to the earth …”.
The claim we are being presented with then, is that the Lord Jesus reigns as King even now, ruling and exercising his Royal authority in both heaven and earth. The implications of this teaching is clear. If what The Endeavour teaches is true, then the Kingdom of Christ (by definition, the arena over which a king exercises his rule), is not future, but present! Indeed, this is the thrust of the article we cite from, that Christ’s Kingdom is even now being established throughout the world by preaching: “True, evil and wickedness have continued … but nevertheless the gospel has made inroads into the kingdom of Satan and victories have been made for Christ. In other words, the Son has been busy bringing the world into subjection to the Father, so that, in the end he may ‘hand over the Kingdom to God the Father’ (1Cor 15:24)”. In such an age when evil and wickedness have not just “continued”, but increased to the extent that the Lord likens it to that of Noah, (Mat 24:38, cp Gen 6:5,11), we may well wonder what “victories” for Christ the writer has in mind! But what saith the Scripture? “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is 8:20).
THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST
When we survey the great abundance of Scripture testimony regarding the Kingship of the Lord Jesus, we find one point being so repeatedly emphasised, that we cannot disregard it in any analysis of the matter. The Lord Jesus, was born to be King of the Jews, and the Kingdom over which his dominion is said to extend, is essentially an Israelitish Kingdom. So Gabriel testified: “the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his Kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33). The wise men enquired, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews” (Mat 2:2). Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (Jno 1:49). Even the chief priests and scribes recognised that it was “written by the prophet, And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Mat 2:6). Pilate “asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews?” (Mat 27:11), to which our Lord answered in the affirmative. Further examples could be multiplied many times, for the Scriptures are explicitly clear, that the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be centred in Israel, prophetically styled, his “first dominion” (Mic 4:8).
If it is the case that the Kingdom of Christ began subsequent to his resurrection, something that it is alleged “the New Testament teaches so clearly” we would expect the prophetic word of the Old Testament to speak likewise. Yet we find that this is not so. The prophets reveal Jerusalem, not heaven to be the location of Christ’s royal throne, for it is written; “at that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Yahweh; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Yahweh, to Jerusalem” (Jer 3:17, cp Is 24:23). Jerusalem, not Heaven was the ancient site of the Davidic seat of power; and so it will be in the future, when the Lord commences his reign. He will be seated in Jerusalem, the “city of the great king” (Mat 5:35), his Throne being positioned in the Temple yet to be constructed there (Zech 6:13, Is 6:1), that he might reign as a Kingly priest, after the order of Melchidedec (Heb 7:15). So it is, that without Israel, there can be no Kingdom, for the dominion of our Lord is that ancient Israelitish polity restored (Acts 1:6), Jerusalem being the future capital city of the World (Is 2:3), with the citizens of that “first dominion” being restored both to their land (Ezek 37:24), and to their God (Ezek 37:28). Has the reign of Christ thus described begun already? Clearly not – no passage in the Old Testament teaches that the Lord will rule from Heaven – rather upon earth, from the reconstructed Davidic seat of power in the ancient city of Jerusalem.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM
The scriptures also clearly reveal that the Kingdom of God will be established by the conquest of nations, not their voluntary submission to the gospel, as the Editor of Endeavour would have us believe. So it is, that the Prophets speak of the Lord’s judgements against the coming invaders of Jerusalem: “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead (Heb: judge) with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” (Joel 3:2). “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle… then shall Yahweh go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (Zech 14:2,3). “I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone thus will I magnify myself and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am Yahweh” (Ezek 38:22,23). This is the means whereby Yahweh, the great God of Israel shall be made known in the eyes of many nations – by the greatness of his power being openly declared in the judgement of Israel’s enemies, and the salvation of His People (Is 66:18, 52:10).
At that time, whilst there will be some who submit, having witnessed these judgements, (Ps 18:44), there will be others who seek to rebel: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against his anointed (Christ), saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Ps 2:2,3). This rebellion is further described in the Revelation to John, speaking of the “kings of the earth”: “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev 17:14). So it is, that far from being brought under the Dominion of Christ by a humble submission to the Gospel, there will be many who refuse to accept his reign even having witnessed such a mighty outpouring of his power. They will war against Christ, who will deliver them a crushing blow, (cp Dan 2:34, Mat 21:44), and impose God’s laws upon a subjugated world. The apostle clearly teaches that the “natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God” (1Cor 2:14), and so the Kingdom will not be established by the world humbly receiving the Gospel. Rather, it will be by the Power of Almighty God, bringing all the earth into subjection to His Son. The Lord Jesus does not presently exercise such dominion over his enemies; but in His Father’s Purpose it will be so, for he is now “set down at the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool” (Heb 10:12,13).
CHRIST IS CURRENTLY LORD, BUT A FUTURE KING
Despite the breadth of his sweeping statements, and the repeated affirmation of his unjustified claims, Les Boddy, by his own admission is unable to find passages which use the words “rule”, or “reign” in connection with the current work of our Lord. So it is, that in speaking of Ephesians 1:18-23, he confesses, “it is true that the word “rule” is not literally in the Greek …”, even though it is in the faulty translation he uses. Again, in the extract we cited earlier, when speaking of Mat 18:18-20 he concedes; “ … the words “rule” and “reign” are not used here by Jesus … ”, although he continues by saying, “it is abundantly clear that he has been put in charge of heaven and earth and what else can that mean but that he rules and reigns over both domains?”. But no such thing is “abundantly clear”! What is “abundantly clear”, is that if the Lord intended to inform us that “he rules and reigns over both domains” now, he would have told us such, and by Les Boddy’s own admission, he has not! What the Lord did tell his disciples, and what the New Testament does “teach so clearly”, being “abundantly clear” from our opening citations, is that the Lord has been given “power” “in heaven and earth” – which, in the absence of scriptural support, is interpreted to mean he has been given Kingly rule. We are asked, “what else can that mean …?” Well, let us search the Scriptures and see!
The apostle clearly informs us, that there are two aspects to the status of the Risen Jesus. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). So then, Jesus is both Lord and Christ. The word Christ, according to Les Boddy means “king”. Not so, no Greek scholar worth hearing would accept this definition. It means, “anointed”, speaking of one anointed to be King/Priest. The Lord Jesus, is both Lord and has also been anointed to reign as a king/priest after the order of Melchisedec – two aspects which we need to consider.
THE EXAMPLE OF KING DAVID
When he comes, Yahweh’s Christ is to reign from David’s throne (Luke 1:32), yet although he is currently “anointed”, he does not now so reign. In the life of the original incumbent of that throne, we see a precedent for this. David was selected by the Lord God to reign over his people in the place of Saul, who He had rejected (1Sam 14:26, 16:10), even being anointed by Samuel in preparation for that position. Yet a considerable time elapsed between the time of anointing, and the time when his reign actually began. He had a number of opportunities to take up his reign before due time, (1Sam 24, 26, cp Jno 6:15), yet rather demonstrated a spirit of faith and patience in waiting for the time appointed by the Father. The situation is similar in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ – being rejected and persecuted by the Israelitish authorities, he has departed into “a far country”, to await the appointed time in which he might return to take up his reign. But the parallel goes even further than this; during the interim period of Saul’s reign, the Spirit informs us that “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain over them …” (1Sam 22:2). He became a “captain”, and “lord” (cp 1Sam 25:24) over those who sought him before his return to Reign. Even so, we who are discontented and distressed by the evil ways of this wicked generation, forsake the ways of sin, having our debts forgiven (Mat 6:12) by association with him. We join with him in the hope of his future reign, that as his brethren, we might reign with him (2Tim 2:12, Rev 5:10), and experience the blessedness of his coming Kingdom. Were any of those who followed David as their Captain and Lord under any delusion that he was already reigning as King? By no means! Why then is it, that some who profess to follow the Greater David (Ezek 37:24) in similar circumstances believe that his Kingdom has begun – especially whilst recognising that Christ himself did not speak in such terms?
The Lord Jesus is our Captain – the “captain of our Salvation” (Heb 2:10), whom we pray will lead us into glory. His reign has not yet begun, yet his lordship over us remains (Jno 13:13). But the difference between our Lord and David, is that his current Lordship is far, far greater. He has been given “power” “in heaven and earth” (Mat 28:18). He has been raised to be seated at his Father’s right hand as a Lord, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet …” (Eph 1:21,22). Not that he is currently King over “all things”, for Heaven is the domain of Almighty God – He is King reigning there, the dominion of Christ is to be upon earth, as Yahweh’s representative. Rather, being given a name “more excellent” than the Angels of God, being “made so much better than they”, the Lord Jesus exercises control over world events through them. It is so truly written that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan 4:17), yet we know that He does not do this by issuing Royal commands which kings and princes tremble at and obey. Rather, the angelic hands of Providence move unseen to those ignorant of His Purposes (cp Dan 10:13,20), to accomplish the Divine will. And the Lord Jesus, being given power “in heaven and earth”, having dominion over the Angels of God is able to move world events according to the Apocalyptic scheme given to Him by the Father (Rev 1:1), that they might culminate in the ultimate overthrow of the Kingdoms of Men, for him to take up his rightful reign from David’s throne. Now, as a most Highly exalted Lord, he is able to watch over, and guide all things towards that great climax – but then, as Yahweh’s anointed King, he shall reign openly, with the kings of the earth bowing before him, in trembling obedience.
In the next issue, if the Lord Will, we shall examine more fully the present role of the Lord Jesus Christ in this regard; and also his current activities in the life of the believer. Having made “abundantly clear” what the present role of Christ is not, we hope to progress to consider what it actually is.