How important is the kingship of Christ? It is at the core of apostolic teaching. Consider the accusation brought against Paul in Thessalonica when he was on his second missionary journey. The charge was rooted in unbelief: “They all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7). Caesar may have ruled on earth, but Christ ruled over earth from heaven. This was fundamental in the thinking of Paul. This is what he preached.
An Astounding Declaration
To maintain the kingship of Jesus, as the New Testament does, is remarkable indeed. Luke writes about Jesus, informing us that “he breathed his last” and they “laid him in a tomb” (Luke 23: 46, 53). His body was cold and lifeless, without sight, without hearing, without speech, without strength, without breath, and without movement. He had become a part of history. He belonged to the past. His rule had ended.
But wait! Luke does not conclude with Jesus’ death. There is a crucial message. “He is not here, but he has risen” (Luke 24:6). Everything that Jesus had done for others was now applied to himself. Sight came to his eyes. Hearing was restored to his ears. Speech returned to his tongue. Strength rushed through his limbs. Breath was drawn into his lungs.
Remarkable as this is, there is more. There is his blessing given to the disciples at Bethany, and the statement that “he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51).
Enthronement as King
What is the meaning of his ascension? It brings enthronement. “This Jesus” was not only “raised up again,” but he was also “exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:32–33). He has been elevated to kingship, becoming “a Prince and a Savior” (Acts 2:33). Here we see the power of the Almighty. God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20).
Christ is preeminent in his enthronement, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:22). His jurisdiction is cosmic, universal in its scope. “All things” are “in subjection under his feet” (Eph. 1:22). At the same time, he rules us especially, his own people. God “gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22–23). We live in the age of Christ, the era of his kingship. God has made a determination: “He must reign” (1 Cor. 15:25). This is his time; he now builds his kingdom.
The present era will not last. Our king will come again, and a transfer will occur. “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to the God and Father” (1 Cor. 15:24). We now live in submission to his rule (Eph. 5:23–24). We will then be given to the Father as the fruit of his labors.
Then all will agree—Christ is the great king. “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10). “Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11). All will stand in awe. He will be seated on “a white horse” (Rev. 19:11)—the Prince who comes to rule the nations “with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15). There will be no dispute. He is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).
Christians do believe. There will be the eschatological display, the public unveiling of Christ the king. We have faith—a deep, inward assurance that the things that we hope for are true (Heb. 11:1).
How though do we see his kingship today? We must look at the present and even into the past. We see the growth of the church, the kingdom of Christ. Many are “rescued . . . from the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Many enter the realm of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” King Jesus brings it all to pass (Rom. 14:17). He conquers souls by love and grace.
Let us reflect more closely on this. How does Christ go about his sacred task? Our king uses ambassadors to extend his domain of righteousness. The church age is remarkable for the presence of preaching. Some of the signs of the parousia are spectacular and dramatic (Matt. 24:29–30), but gospel proclamation is dominant. “The end will come” only after “the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations” (Matt. 24:14).
We live in the days of a fundamental reality, the time of worldwide gospel proclamation. Why is this? Christ expressed his own realization. He now held universal kingship. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). Authority over the nations had implications. Now he could send ambassadors. (Rom. 10:15; 2 Cor. 5:20). Thus he gave the mandate: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19).
This is the time of King Jesus. He calls men and sends them out. Ambassadors arrive; they deliver the message of their Sovereign, a message of grace and mercy and forgiveness.
We know what our preaching entails. It is “as though God were making an appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). We implore our generation, “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). The gospel offers reconciliation, peace with God (Rom. 5:10–11). It comes at a great cost, “by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
Jesus’ ambassadors speak. Hear the Lord through their voices. Christ comes in them and preaches peace (Eph. 2:17). Receive what he offers.
Dr. Larson is the pastor at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.