The Kingdom of God, Part V - The Judicial Reign of Christ
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 9, 2000
Copyright © 2000, P. G. Mathew
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek."
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
We have been studying Psalm 110, which speaks about the kingdom of God. We have spoken about the powerful reign of Christ, the present spiritual reign of Christ in the evangelization of the world, and the priestly reign of Christ. In this study we want to examine the judicial reign of Christ, as mentioned in the last three verses of this psalm, as well as in the light of Psalm 2.
Psalm 110 speaks about the lordship of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have heard the lie found in much modern evangelism that a person can receive Jesus as Savior and be saved forever without also receiving him as Lord. This is an example of American foolishness; it is not biblical truth. It comes from the pit of hell and is contrary to what the apostle Paul told us in Romans 10:9-10: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Because most people will not tolerate the lordship of Jesus Christ, some ministers have tried to make it easy for people to be "saved" by coming up with this idea. But no one can be saved without confessing Christ as Lord, as Paul said. That is why the doctrine of the judicial reign of Christ is so important.
Psalm 110 is a messianic psalm written by King David, as Jesus Christ himself stated. The most quoted psalm in the New Testament, its theme is the reign of David's Lord and Son. But it speaks of Christ differently from how most people think of him. He is not portrayed as lying in a manger, hanging on a tree, and or lying in Joseph's tomb. Here we see him risen and ascended into the heavenlies, where he is seated in heaven on the right hand of the Father as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
This psalm tells us that Christ's reign is powerful and, at present, spiritual. As the gospel is proclaimed throughout the world, Jesus conquers people, causing them to kiss his feet and be saved. Additionally, it is a priestly reign. Jesus Christ, who is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, offered himself as a sacrifice acceptable to God, once for all to make atonement for the sins of his people. God the Father accepted his sacrifice and now Christ always intercedes in heaven for his people.
But God the Father has also given all judgment to Jesus Christ and put everything under his feet; therefore, his reign is a judicial reign. In due time, all of God's enemies shall be defeated and made a footstool for this Son, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. That is why Paul tells us that Jesus must reign until he has conquered and destroyed all his enemies.
If you are an enemy of God today, I want to give you fair warning: You can never win against God. As we study this judicial reign of Christ, may God enlighten you to see the ultimate reality of the reigning Christ by faith. May you transcend all temporal things and see the One seated on the throne, that you may submit to him and be saved.
The Rebellion of Men
First, we want to examine the rebellion of men who are inspired by the evil spirit. All who are disobedient to God are under the domination of the devil, who is the god of this world and prince of the power of the air.
In Psalm 2 we find the speech of rebellious man: "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'" The essence of sin is enmity against the Lord.
Man's rebellion is the cause for the judicial judgment of Christ. God created man morally upright, yet the first man sinned by failing to love and serve God. After Adam's fall, all men by nature hate God. The Bible declares this universality of sin: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
Man's sin affects his whole being. This is the noetic effect of sin-it affects our thinking, our will, and our emotions. The very fabric of our being is affected by the pervasive evil of sin, which is manifested in our total lack of strength and desire to love God. By nature we are enemies of God, and alone are responsible for our corrupt condition.
In Psalm 2 we find an example of sinful men speaking publicly against the Lord and his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains and throw off their fetters," they say boldly. Such people refuse to serve God, their Creator. Instead, they consider God's rule to be oppressive. Such a view of the kingdom of God is the direct result of the pervasiveness of sin in them, for if they saw the kingdom of God as it really is, they would know it is beneficent and liberating for all who are in it. Those who are opposed to the Lord and his Messiah cannot see the kingdom of God as it truly is.
The essence of sin is enmity toward God. Professor John Murray used to say it is like taking a hand grenade and throwing it at the face of God. Man's sin causes him to flex his weak, finite muscles against the One who is omnipotent. So the kings of the earth, under satanic inspiration, conspire and rebel against their Creator and King and declare their independence from him.
God's Response to Man's Rebellion
How does God respond to the manifest rebellion of the kings of the earth? As holy and righteous, God must judge sin and pour out wrath upon his enemies. God's judgment demonstrates his righteousness and holiness. In fact, hell itself glorifies God because it demonstrates God's holiness.
God must judge man because man has violated God's holy laws. The wages of sin must be paid promptly in the form of spiritual and physical death and eternal hell. So man's rebellion is the cause of this judgment. Where there is rebellion, God must deal with it.
In Psalm 2 man speaks first, but then God responds: "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill'" (vv. 4-6). God's answer to human rebellion is to install his Son as King on his holy hill.
Man's speech reveals his heart. In Psalm 10:7 we find what man does with the mouth God gave him: "His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue." But what is God's response to man's speech? "Shut up, you rebels! Listen to what I have to say!"
God's first response is to laugh at the kings of the earth who are conspiring against him. We find this idea also in Psalm 37:13: "But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming." Did you hear that, mother and father, husband and wife, teenager-all who rebel against God? Your day is coming. Mighty ones, powerful people, wealthy individuals, educated scholars, kings and rulers of the earth-you who don't fear God-did you hear that? Your day is coming.
In Psalm 59:8 we read, "But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations." Perhaps Paul had this verse in mind when he asked, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)
God is not impressed with what comes out of our mouths. So we read, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath."
God's response to his enemies rests in the truth he proclaims in verse 6: "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." In theology we call this the session of Christ. On God's holy hill, the heavenly Zion, King Jesus sits and reigns forever. It is he who will deal with every rebel.
Psalm 110 speaks about the spiritual reign of Christ, meaning that he reigns now in the midst of his enemies. But all that will change. When Jesus Christ comes again, he will defeat, destroy, and dispose of all who oppose him.
The Rule of the Son
What is the nature of Christ's rule? In Psalm 2:7-9 the Son says, "I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.'" He is affirming his Father's proclamation that he is the King.
Rebellious man said what he wanted against God; then God the Father responded; and now the Son is speaking. Jesus Christ is not seen here in weakness, as one hanging on a tree; he is the King who rules the universe. The words "You are my Son; today I have become your Father" refer to Christ's resurrection and exaltation. Thus Paul, as he preached in Acts 13:33 to the people of Pisidian Antioch, and the writer of Hebrews, as he wrote in Hebrews 1:5, made reference to this verse. They understood it had to do with Jesus Christ, the Son of David, ruling and reigning as David's Lord.
Jesus Christ is now ruling as King of the universe. He told his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). The angel Gabriel told Mary, "He 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 the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:32).
Imagine the angst these words bring to the rebel kings of Psalm 2! Isaiah 9:7 tells us, "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." His is a universal kingdom. "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession" (Psalm 2:8).
Christ reigns spiritually over this earth now, but soon he shall reign judicially as well: "All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him" (Ps. 72:11). His kingdom is a righteous kingdom: "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy" (Psalm 45:6-7).
The Judicial Judgment of Christ
We find examples of this judicial judgment of Christ from the fall of man until now. In the days of Noah, God sent a flood that wiped out all but eight of the people living on the face of the earth. In the days of Moses God delivered his people from Egypt and then dealt with the arrogant, defiant Pharaoh who had so proudly asked Moses, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" Exodus 15:3-4 records the song of the victorious people of God: "The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea."
We see an example in Jacob's life. On his way back to Canaan, Jacob wrestled with an angel by the Jabbok River. At first Jacob was winning, but then the angel dealt with him and he was changed. If we are redeemed by him, he will touch us in just the right place to put an end to our stubborn rebellion and make us cling to him. Our King always wins.
After Joshua brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, he met a man with a drawn sword. Joshua asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither," the man said," but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come" (Joshua 5:13-14). This was Christ the King, the Son of God. And in Joshua 10 we read of a number of kings who felt Joshua's feet on their necks as they became, as it were, footstools for God's deputy, Joshua. Joshua 12:9-24 records another list of kings who had rebelled against God and his Anointed One. What happened to them? They also felt the feet of Joshua on their necks. They were destroyed, in other words.
Second Chronicles 32 tells of an outspoken Assyrian king, Sennacherib, coming against Hezekiah, who was the Lord's anointed on earth at that time: "Sennacherib's officers spoke further against the Lord and against his servant Hezekiah. The king also wrote letters insulting the Lord, the God of Israel, and saying this against him: 'Just as the gods of the peoples of the other lands did not rescue their people from my hand, so the god of Hezekiah will not rescue his people from my hand'" (vv. 16-17). Here was a big mouth, an arrogant man-Sennacherib, the king of Assyria-speaking against the King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is interesting to note that Sennacherib's attack is recorded in three places in the Bible: 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. But what happened to the army of this arrogant king? In 2 Chronicles 32:21 we read, "And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and the officers in the camp of the Assyrian king." And in 2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah 37:36 we read that the number of people killed by this one angel was one hundred and eighty-five thousand. (PGM) And after King Sennacherib returned home to Assyria, his own sons killed him.
I hope we all understand that this Warrior/King, Jesus Christ, will smoke out and hunt down all of his enemies and deal with them effectively and finally.
The Victory of the Cross
Not only do we see the judicial rule of Christ in history, but we also see it in the defeat of Christ's enemies at the cross. In John 14:30 Jesus said the prince of this world was coming, but then he added, "He has no hold on me." By his death on the cross, Jesus Christ defeated the devil, death, flesh, and hell for us.
In Colossians 2:15 Paul spoke about this complete and final defeat of all powers opposed to the King whom the Father installed in his heavenly Zion. Paul writes, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." By his death, Jesus Christ destroyed all his enemies. And he is going to deal with every enemy, not only in principle but in fact, when he comes again, as we read in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10:
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
The entire book of Revelation, especially chapters 6 through 20, is a clear record of this final aspect of the judicial reign of Jesus Christ. Remember the arrogant kings of the earth we read about in Psalm 2? We meet them again in Revelation 6:15-17. But here they are not as arrogant:
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
What happened to all these arrogant kings, rulers, generals, and people of the earth? They came in contact with the wrath of the Lamb, the judicial reign of Christ.
In Revelation 19:11-18 we find another picture of this One to whom has been given all authority, all glory, and all power going to war against his enemies:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."
This is the judicial reign of Christ. It will come at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:11-15). Every rebel who has ever lived shall be raised up and brought before the Judge, Jesus Christ, and will be disposed of by him in eternal damnation.
In that day Jesus will do all these things by himself, without anyone's help. Today he uses us to help him. That is why we find such verses as Psalm 110:3, "Your troops will be willing on your day of battle," and that is why I am preaching the gospel to you today. Now Jesus Christ rules and reigns through his people, but on that day he shall need no help.
Psalm 110:5-6 tells us, "The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth." Isaiah refers to this aspect of the reign of Christ in Isaiah 63:1-7:
Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save."
Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress?
"I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no-one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground."
I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us-yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
Jesus Christ now rules in the midst of his enemies. He does so by his design and through his people. But when he comes again, he will put an end to all his enemies. So in Psalm 2:9 we learn that he rules with a rod of iron, which is the sword that comes out of his mouth-his word, his will. This sword is made of iron, meaning it is inflexible. As someone said, God and man are incompatible and God never changes. So if God does not change, we must.
No one, therefore, will escape the judicial judgment of Christ. Either we will submit to his spiritual rule in this life and be saved, or we will experience his judicial judgment at the end of time and be damned.
The Reasonings of the Holy Spirit
But Psalm 2 does not only speak about the rebellion of man, the response of the Father, and the rule of the Son. We also see the Holy Spirit reasoning with these rebellious kings.
The idea of God reasoning with his people comes from Isaiah 1:18: "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" How amazing it is that God the Holy Spirit reasons with his people! But what happens if they don't accept his reasoning? Isaiah 1:19-20 tells us, "'If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you'll be devoured by the sword.' For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." This is a solemn warning from the Lord of the universe.
So look at the reasonings of the Holy Spirit in Psalm 2: "Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (vv. 10-12). Here we see God's mercy revealed to those who trust in him and the threat of God's judgment on those who refuse.
How does the Holy Spirit reason with us? Through his ministers. Every time we preach the gospel, the Holy Spirit is reasoning through us. Therefore, I pray that we would stop being foolish, shut our mouths, pay heed to the warnings of the Scriptures, and begin to be wise! Oh, that we would stop flexing our muscles against the omnipotent Lord and start fearing the One who is seated on the throne, who is about to exercise his judicial judgment, manifesting his righteousness by pouring out his wrath on all rebels. Knowing that the wrath of the Lamb will be revealed at any time, may we take warning, pay attention to the Holy Spirit's reasonings, and surrender to the reigning King. May we welcome his spiritual rule into our hearts even this day! May all who have not repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ do so, confessing with their mouths, "Jesus is Lord," and believing that Jesus Christ died for their sins and was raised for their justification. May we all kiss the Son's crucified feet and find mercy and refuge in him!
Have You Surrendered to Christ?
I challenge you to listen to the reasonings of the Holy Spirit. You can decide to choose life eternal or hell eternal; if you do not choose for Christ, you are choosing against him. His anger can flare up in a moment, and you will feel the weight of his crushing feet and destructive rod. If you don't choose for him, Jesus Christ will remain your omnipotent enemy, and he will always win. But now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. The door of the ark of salvation is still open and he is inviting us to come. "Come unto me, all sinners, I will give you rest." Revelation 22:17 tells us, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.'" The invitation is extended to us now.
I pray that we will listen to David, who said, "Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding. . . . Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him" (Psalm 32:9-10). I pray that none of us will be arrogant like the Emperor Diocletian (245-313 A.D.), who had a medal struck boasting that he had extinguished the name of Christianity and also erected two monuments in Spain, displaying his hatred towards God. One monument bore the inscription: "Diocletian Jovian Maximian Hercules Caesarus Augustine: For having extended the Roman empire in the east and the west, and for having extinguished the name of Christians, who brought the republic to ruin." The other said, "Diocletian Jovian Maximian Hercules Caesarus Augustine: For having everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ, for having extended the worship of the gods." Did Diocletian abolish Christianity? No. Nor should we be like another Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate (ca. 331-363), who showed his contempt for Christ by calling him the Galilean. In the days of his power it is said that Julian would point his dagger to heaven as if he was publicly defying Jesus Christ. But when Julian was mortally wounded in battle, he acknowledged his defeat by throwing his own clotted blood into the air and exclaiming to all listening, "Thou hast conquered, O thou Galilean!"
Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is now enthroned and reigning at the right hand of God the Father. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end, and at the last day he shall judge all men. It is only in surrender to this Savior King that we find eternal salvation. Thus, may God help you to pay attention to the reasonings of the Holy Spirit and surrender to the risen Christ. Why perish? Cry out for mercy, kiss his crucified feet, and surrender all to him. He will save you from all rebellion, grant you eternal life, and help you to serve him all the days of your life. And when you die, he will take you into his very presence so that you may reign with him forever. Amen.
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Copyright © 2000, P. G. Mathew
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