Born to be King

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6)

Christians are prone to think of Jesus perpetually in one of two places: the cradle or the cross. Neither of these portray his ultimate purpose in coming, namely to rule. As God promised and the Jews expected, Messiah was born to be King.

This is what the New Testament proclaims. Mark begins his gospel narrative with a formula used in Roman times to announce a new Emperor, “hail, the beginning of the good tidings concerning the reign of” e.g. Caesar Augustus. In contrast with mortal rulers, Mark announces “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Messiah, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).

‘Son of God’ identifies Jesus as the eternal king whom God promised David through the prophet Nathan (1 Chronicles 17:11-14): “When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever’”.[1]

It was the arrival of this house and kingdom of God – over which the Son of God would rule – that both John the Baptist and later Jesus announced – and this announcement is what the New Testament calls ‘the Gospel’.

“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”  (Mar 1:14-15)

God’s kingdom on earth (His rule over man) is not however established territorially or politically, but through the prevalence of His will upon the hearts and minds of His people. God ruled over Adam before he sinned without Law and without coercion. King David foreshadowed Jesus, commanding a faithfulness and loyalty beyond obligation or fear of sanction.

The Pharisees, who expected Messiah to rule in the manner of regular kings, were told:“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, `Here it is,’ or `There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is [comes] within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

For God to rule in this way, the rift between man and God must first be healed. Those reconciled to Him must then be moved, in contrast with their former lives, “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). The Hebrew prophets[2] and New Testament both testify that this is achieved when God puts His Spirit into a human soul (a transformation described as being “born again” or “born from above”). The life lived in pursuit of vanity – while deciding ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ independently from God, i.e. in the legacy of Adam –  is replaced with a new life, informed by God’s purpose in creation and directed toward the perfection of all things in eternity.

Jesus avoided an earthly throne in order to rule over his people from heaven. As it is written, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a high mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Later Jesus explained to his disciples:“It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you” (John 16:7). Messiah who came so fleetingly in history, must be born in every soul that will come under the rule of God.

Nor is the ambit of God’s Kingdom limited to the usual spheres of governance. For it is God’s purpose, through Jesus, “to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20). The rule of God must ultimately extend over the whole creation, over every creature, over inanimate matter and the laws of nature.

Man’s original position was as Prince over God’s creation – “fill the earth and subdue it … rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” [3] – but man can only perform this role with God as his Head. Adam’s sin and separation from God impaired his ability to rule. Consequently the whole creation suffers on account of man’s sin and “waits in eager expectation  for the sons of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19), i.e. for the redeemed of mankind to rule in harmony with God.

The father / son relationship that makes of man the perfect extension of God’s will on earth is manifest in the Lord Jesus and described as follows: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does” (John 5:19-20).

Perfect submission to God’s will must ultimately see the whole universe restored to God’s perfect order. In the idiom of the Hebrew Prophets, “the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). “The fruit of righteousness will be peace, the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Jesus operated in the powers originally given to man, without the inhibitions and distortion of sin.[4] He had authority over every disease and deformity,[5] could walk on water[6] and rebuke storms.[7] Jesus overruled principles of science by multiplying inanimate matter (five loaves and two fish) into a meal for 5000.[8] He demonstrated authority over death itself – restoring life to a decaying corpse.[9]

In addition to the restoration of the natural order, the kingdom of God is concerned with the Spiritual powers that aid man’s rebellion. These prey on man’s fear of death, offering deceptive hopes and powers that detract us from reconciliation with God. These advance as arguments and pretences “that set themselves up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Messiah’s rule is thus characterised by a proliferation of truth through the outspreading of the Gospel, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). And, “since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The Cross is the essential starting point to Jesus’ reign and not, as some regard and teach it, an interruption or postponement of the Kingdom.  In full view of Calvary, Messiah declared to Pontius Pilate, “You say [that I am a king], because I am a king, for this I was born, and for this I have come into the world.” (John 18:37, YLT)

Man’s reconciliation with God is a prerequisite to the restoration of the rest of creation and is achieved through complete forgiveness and the ensuing gift of the Holy Spirit, for all who believe.[10] “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).

All the promises made to Abraham and beyond, find their fulfilment in the resurrection. For“flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50).

The regular objection that the absence of universal peace (and other conditions of sublime perfection) proves that Messiah’s reign has not begun, is misconstrued. Messiah does not rule over God’s perfected order, but rather to bring that perfect order into effect. The perfection of the Kingdom in fact marks the end of Messiah’s reign and not its beginning: “the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

At the next coming of our Lord, the dead are raised, death, “the last enemy to be destroyed,” is finally vanquished, and the Messianic Age comes to an end. This marks the time of universal judgment, when all who did not come into submission are removed from God’s presence forever – for human rebellion cannot persist in the immortal state in the presence of God. “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 marvelled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thes. 1: 8-10).

The age of Messiah’s rule is aptly also ‘the age of grace’ for during this time men everywhere are offered the opportunity to repent and be saved.

As for those who believe, “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:6-11).

Those who are led of his Spirit in this manner become “his body” on earth, i.e. the hands and feet by which he continues to advance and extend his kingdom. If we pray the way the Lord taught us, our prayers will be moved by the desire that our Father’s will to be done,“on earth as it is in heaven” (Mat. 6:10). It is chiefly our alignment to this will that distinguishes us from those who simply “do good”.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Mat. 7:21-23).

We who are “seated … with him in heavenly realms” become salt and light through our humble submission to our King and our manifest freedom from materialism, temporal power and the other trappings of the transient world. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25-26).

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:32-34).

Though we once regarded Christ after the flesh, we do so no longer.[11] The only correct view of Messiah is that of the risen King, seated at the right Hand of the Father in heavenly glory, “with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” [12] The only response worthy of his throne is to serve him as Lord as we look forward to his day and speed its coming.

[1]  While the title ‘Son of God’ was consequent to Nathan’s prophecy used for several of the kings of Judah, it belongs in its correct application only to the king who would reign with God’s irrevocable favour forever. The term ‘Son of God’ does not in its original application introduce or necessitate the doctrine of the trinity.

[2] Isaiah 59:19-21, Ezekiel 11:19, etc.

[3] Genesis 1:28.

[4] Virgin birth was necessary for Jesus’ sinless state under the Mosaic Law. Without the virgin birth Jesus would have inherited – despite his own sinless life – the sins of his forefathers in accordance with Exodus 34:7.

[5] Luke 6:19, etc.

[6] Mat. 14:25.

[7] Mark 6:39-34.

[8] Mat. 8:27.

[9] John 11:38-44.

[10] Complete and perfect forgiveness is an absolute perquisite to the indwelling of the Spirit, for God will not live in a defiled soul. Conversely, receipt of the Spirit is the absolute and empowering proof that complete and perfect forgiveness has been obtained.

[11] 2 Corinthians 5:16.

[12] 1 Peter 3:22.