"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and 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 1:31,33.
"He shall have DOMINION also FROM SEA TO SEA, and from the river unto the ends of the earth... Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him" - Psalm 122:8,11.
The above quotations very effectively link the scriptural doctrine of the KINGSHIP of Jesus Christ to the promises made to Abraham and David. (If necessary, review lessons 22 & 23 regarding Abraham & David)
The Bible clearly says the time is coming when the Son of God, now in heaven, shall literally and visibly return to Earth in person, to dispossess all human governments of their power, and establish himself in their stead on the earth as the universal ruler of mankind. Lesson 21 touched on this subject, and the purpose of this lesson will be to go into greater detail and illustrate how that the most prominent element of the character of Jesus Christ, as portrayed in all the Scriptures, is his KINGSHIP.
The kingship of Christ is a subject that has been downplayed by traditional Christianity. It has been given "lip service", but the theory of heaven as the ultimate place of reward has virtually eliminated the importance and impact of what it means to recognize Christ as the King of the world. If a person say that Jesus is the Christ, or anointed one, while having an entirely erroneous idea of what the statement means, the words are an empty sound. The traditional recognition of the kingship of Christ is generally understood to be the present exercise by him of a spiritual authority in heaven. This ignores the view presented in the Scriptures.
The Jewish expectation of the Messiah was that he should appear upon the earth in person, and visibly exercise the power of a king over all nations. The disciples themselves shared the same view. The real controversy is as to whether this view is right. Traditional theology generally passes it off as a mistaken view of a gross and carnal nature, and condemns the idea of a visible kingdom on earth as opposed to the very spirit of Christianity.
What does the Bible actually teach? Were the expectations of the disciples erroneous and carnal? If they were, we are faced with some serious problems.
Firstly, Christ himself did not term the disciple's view of the Messiah and his kingdom as erroneous and carnal.
Secondly, when some of these same disciples later wrote the letters that now form part of the New Testament, no retraction of those beliefs ever appeared. All Scriptural testimony is directly in favor of the doctrine which it is so common to condemn.
Jesus said to those who heard him, "I am not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil" - Matthew 5:17.
No statement can be more clear as to the mission of Christ. But what, exactly, did the prophets say concerning him?
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be RULER IN ISRAEL." - Micah 5:2
Who came out of Bethlehem? Jesus of Nazareth. This is a prophetic basis for regarding him as the future "ruler in Israel". This theme is supported by the words of Jeremiah ... "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and A KING SHALL REIGN AND PROSPER AND SHALL EXECUTE JUDGMENT AND JUSTICE IN THE EARTH: in his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely" - Jeremiah 23:5,6.
What could be more calculated to inspire the Jewish national hope of a literal king and a literal kingdom? Who is the "Righteous Branch of David"? None other than Jesus: for he himself claims the designation - "I am the root and the offspring (or BRANCH: 'offspring' being that which grows out of the 'root') of David ..." - Revelation 22:16.
If Christ be the Righteous Branch raised up unto David, and is come to fulfil the law and the prophets, he must "reign and prosper, and execute judgment and justice IN THE EARTH": for so the prophet has declared the Righteous Branch shall do. The idea is not confined to one or two statements, but appears in many prophetic testimonies
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel, and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time, I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land." - Jeremiah 33:14,15. "UNTO US a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, UPON THE THRONE OF DAVID, AND UPON HIS KINGDOM, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this" - Isaiah 9:6,7. "Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place... and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne" - Zechariah 6:12,13. "He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" - Isaiah 2:4. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name One" - Zechariah 14:9. "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment" - Isaiah 32:1. "The Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously" - Isaiah 24:23. "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious" - Isaiah 11:9,10. "Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee" - Isaiah 12:6. "I will make them (the Jews) one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King to them all" - Ezekiel 37:22. "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it: Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" - Psalm 132:11. "The Lord said unto my lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies" - Psalm 110:1, 2. "I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" - Psalm 2:8. "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth....Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him" - Psalm 72:8,11. (See also Daniel 7:14).
These are but a few out of many statements the Bible makes regarding this subject. Obviously, the expectations of the Jews and the disciples were well founded. The prophets clearly expressed the one idea of Christ's visible future appearance on the earth as a king; the Jews were not wrong in looking for such a manifestation. It was not because they were carnally minded; but because the language of the holy men of old, who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, was so framed as to preclude every other but the one idea which they derived from it.
But what about the New Testament? Does it throw another light upon the statements of the Old Testament, thus weakening the support for the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah's kingship? It is customary to assume that this is the case; but the result of an unbiased examination will prove that the New Testament unmistakably corroborates the teaching of the prophets on the subject. At the very outset there is the message delivered by the angel Gabriel to Mary, in announcing the birth of Christ: "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the. Son of the Highest; and 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 1:31,33.
Here is a distinct New Testament declaration that it is the purpose of God to give to Jesus "the throne of his father David." We have considered David and the promises of God to him in Lesson 23. We know that David was the most renowned of Israel's God-anointed kings, holding sway over the twelve tribes of Israel in the Holy Land, and ruling many tributary nations. He was a mighty warrior, a distinguished prophet, and a poet of the highest type. He was the progenitor of Christ, through Mary, who was descended from the royal house. But WHAT IS MEANT BY "THE THRONE OF DAVID"?
Peter said, in his address to the Jews on the day of Pentecost: "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his (David's) loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ TO SIT ON HIS THRONE" - Acts 2:30.
There is, therefore, a connection between Christ's mission and David's throne. Had David a throne? He had. In what did it consist? Obviously the literal regal chair upon which he sat has long ago crumbled into dust. The throne of a kingdom is much more than simply the literal decorated chair occupied by royalty on state occasions. When we speak of the throne of England, we mean the office, function, or position of the monarch in that country. Likewise with the throne of David.
A popular view is that Christ is now on David's throne. But where is the current location of Christ? Christ is in heaven, sitting with his Father in His Father's throne, but not on David's throne. Nothing that David ever possessed is in heaven, therefore it is impossible that Christ is now sitting on that throne. David himself is not in heaven; for Peter said in his address on the day of Pentecost ... "David IS NOT ASCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS." - Acts 2:34
The Bible teaches that at a future time appointed by God, the throne of David will be reestablished in the earth; and Jesus will share it with his faithful ones... "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" - Amos 9.11.
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." - Revelation 3:21.
Jesus spoke of that time when he was on earth. He said:
... "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." - Matthew 25:31
Hence, before Jesus sits upon David's throne, he will return to earth, appear in Palestine, and assume the position which David occupied when he swayed the sceptre of Israel; that is, he will become king of the Jews.
In order to fully understand the angelic announcement to Mary, it is important to realize that it must be linked in context to a Divine prophecy uttered and recorded by Ezekiel more than 600 years earlier. The prophet was sent to the last monarch to occupy David's throne - King Zedekiah. He was an unworthy prince, and Ezekiel was sent to tell him of coming retribution. In the course of his prophecy, he uttered the following words:
"And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord God: Remove the diadem and take off the crown; this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more UNTIL HE COMES WHOSE RIGHT IT IS; and I will give it him." - Ezekiel 21:25-27
This was a declaration of the end of the Kingdom of God as it had existed in the past. The diadem was to be removed, the crown taken off, and the national political organization known as the Kingdom of Israel was to be completely abolished, as indicated in the triple repetition of the verb, "overturn," and as expressed by the phrase, "it shall be no more."
The prediction related to things Jewish, even to the things which constitute the throne of David; and its fulfillment is notorious to every reader of Jewish history. About a year after this prediction was delivered, the first of three invasions (occurring BC 606, 598 & 587 respectively) by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar occurred. The outcome was utter disaster and chaos for the nation of Israel. Zedekiah was uncrowned, the nobles were put to death, the nation was partly massacred, and partly carried away captive, and the land given over to desolation. Seventy years after, a partial restoration took place under Ezra and Nehemiah, but not of the throne of David. The Jews existed as a vassal people thenceforward; and after varied political fortunes, were overtaken by the Roman storm in AD 70 which swept away every vestige of their national existence.
But is this condition of David's throne to be perpetual? The prophecy is very clear: desolation shall only continue "Until HE COME whose right it is." Who is the "HE"? None other than the subject of all the other Old Testament prophecies - i.e., Jesus Christ, to whom the throne pertains of right, both by lineal descent, and special divine bequest. Note carefully that it is the things overturned (the diadem, crown, throne, and Kingdom of David) which are the things to be given to Christ at his coming. At that point of time he will become King of the Jews, and Lord of the whole earth. In this context and setting there is a striking significance in the words of the angel: "The Lord God shall give unto Jesus 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."
Going a step farther in our New Testament enquiry, we come to the birth of Christ, and we note the following incident: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born KING OF THE JEWS" - Matthew 2:1.
There is no doubt that the wise men understood the significance of this event in the same context of all that the prophets had foretold of him who was to be ruler in Israel. They understood that he would be KING OF THE JEWS. The traditional teaching of organized Christianity is that Christ is only the spiritual Saviour of mankind, in the general sense of a broad universal spiritual relationship to the human race as a whole; and that he is king of those to whom he brings salvation - spiritual Jews, who are not Jews outwardly, but in the heart. But Christ has never claimed to be king of his spiritual flock. Of them he says, "I call you not servants, but friends." They are his brethren, "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17), destined to reign with him a thousand years (Revelation 20:6). They are not his subjects, but aggregately his bride, "the Lamb's wife" - signifying the closest communion and identity of relational interest. Christ, therefore, cannot be king of the Jews in any spiritual sense. He is king of those Jews of whom David was king; for he is heir to his throne. That this was the nature of his claim, as understood by his contemporaries, is obvious from the response of King Herod:
"When Herod the king had heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is 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 . . . And (Herod) sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men" - Matthew 2:2,3,6,16.
It is obvious that Herod understood this announcement as a direct threat and challenge to his office and position as king - even though that position was little more than administrating a Roman colony as "King of the Jews" in the name of the Roman Caesar. It would have been of little significance to Herod if Christ was merely to be a spiritual ruler exercising power from heaven in the hearts of men. Such would not in any way have conflicted with Herod's jurisdiction as a king. However, his inhuman reaction serves as a proof that in Christ he recognised a prospective claimant of the literal kingship of Israel.
If we trace the career and note the sayings of Christ, as further recorded, we shall find constant indications of the correctness of the view entertained by the apostles concerning his kingship. For instance, in the course of his sermon on the mount, he said: "Swear not by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King." - Matthew 5:35.
Here Christ makes a connection between him and the city which witnessed his humiliation, and accounts that connection so sacred that he prohibits us from using the name of the city on oath. He is "the Great King". - the "greater than Solomon." Jerusalem is the city. It existed at the time that Christ uttered the words under consideration. At that time it was a great, prosperous and magnificent centre of royalty and learning. Soon afterwards, in AD 70, it was plundered into insignificance by the Romans, and has remained in desolation until recent times. This was predicted by the Lord Jesus. He said: "They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, UNTIL the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" - Luke 21:24.
He also said (with great sadness):
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" - Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:34,35.
Here was a treading down and a desolating foretold. This prediction by Christ parallels the prophecy by Ezekiel considered previously. Note that there is a limit imposed in the desolation of Jerusalem, and that limit forms a timeline by which to measure the extent of Gentile domination of world affairs. According to this prediction, Jerusalem will recover from her fall when the period indicated by the word "until" arrives. Christ said that two events mark that time: 1) the ending of Gentile times and, 2) the Jewish nation will recognise the crucified Jesus as the namebearer of God. Both events are certain, and we are informed, in the following testimony, that the day is coming when Christ will yet be received by his penitent nation the Jews:
"I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" - Zechariah 12:10
When these have been accomplished, what then for Jerusalem? Again, the Old Testament prophetic testimonies provide a convincing answer (see side-bar) ...
"The Lord shall inherit Judah, his portion in the Holy Land, and shall choose Jerusalem again" -Zechariah2:12
"The Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody" - Isaiah 51:3 "Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury. Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.... Therefore hear now this thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people. Behold I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury. Thou shalt no more drink it again" - Isaiah 51:17,21,22
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean . . . Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem"
- Isaiah 52:1,9 "The Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously"
- Isaiah 24:23 "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart" - Jeremiah 3:17 "For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" - Micah 4:2,3
Hence we realize that the city of Jerusalem has an important place in the purpose of God. It is destined to be the seat of that divine government which is to bless the world in the future age. It will, in fact, be the capital of the coming universal kingdom, constituting the centre of power, of law, of enlightenment, for appreciative nations who will visit there for instruction in that glorious time: "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" - Isaiah 2:3.
The Lord Jesus was fully aware of this glorious destiny in store for the city of Jerusalem. With this in his mind, and with an appropriateness which can only be appreciated by those who understand the purposes of God, he could say, "Swear not by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King." Thus we are enabled to extract from the words of Christ in his "sermon on the mount", powerful evidence of the reality of his kingship in relation to the earth.
Furthermore, Nathanael (the "Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile") adds to the evidence in his recognition of Christ:
"Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel" - John 1:49
That the conviction expressed in these words was generally impressed on the minds of the people by the teaching of Christ, is evident from the fact that:
"they wanted to take him by force, to make him a king" - John 6:15
Their language, on the occasion of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, is evidence to the same point:
"Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed be the kingdom of our Father David that cometh in the name of the Lord" - Mark 11:10
However, the leaders of Jews plotted his destruction, and succeeded in their vicious plans. They brought him before Pilate, who finding no fault in him, was willing to release him (Luke 23:13-16). This inflamed their animosity, and brought to light the real reason for their hatred of Jesus. They cried out saying -
"If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself A KING speaketh against Caesar" - John 19:12
This had the desired effect: Pilate gave judgment; and Christ was crucified, and according to the Roman custom, the nature of the charge against him was specified in writing over the cross:
"Jesus of Nazareth THE KING OF THE JEWS" - John 19:9
Here again the kingship of Christ was front and center. He was crucified because he "made himself a king" (Matthew 27:11). This is the declaration of the superscription. That superscription was not sufficiently definite for the chief priests ...
"This title then read many of the Jews.....
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, write not, The King of the Jews, but that HE SAID, I am King of the Jews." - John 19:20,21
Here is an important testimony from the chief priests as to Christ's own assertion of his royalty. In fact the closing scenes of our Lord's life on earth are perhaps the most decisive proof that prospective Jewish royalty was the essential feature of his character as the Messiah - a feature which is entirely omitted in popular preaching. The teaching of the Apostles after the ascension of Christ was the same on this important point. We read that the Jews of Thessalonica made accusation concerning them to the rulers of the city after this fashion:
"These that have turned the world upside down, are come hither also whom Jason hath received; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying THAT THERE IS ANOTHER KING, ONE JESUS" - Acts 17:6,7
Paul made the same proclamation to the Athenians, in his address on Mars Hill ...
"And the time of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in which He will judge (which, in its political application, means rule) the world in righteousness BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED; whereof He hath given assurance to all men in that He hath raised him from the dead." - Acts 17:30,31
The great THEME of the New Testament teaching concerning Jesus is that he is "the Christ," that is, the "Anointed" One foretold by the prophets as the future king of Israel and the world. To deny him this kingship is to deny that he is the Christ - for the "anointing" refers, not only to his character as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," but to his future development as God's appointed KING on earth. His title "Christ" is prospective, culminating in "the glory that shall be revealed," which shall "cover the earth as the waters cover the sea." It is scripturally impossible to acceptably confess that he is the Christ, on one hand, and to be ignorant of this great Bible truth, and deny the future manifested Christship of Jesus, on the other.
That Christ is the future king of the world is one of the most awesome and joyful truths of Bible revelation. What hope else is there for this sin afflicted world? It has groaned under ages of misrule. The riches of the earth are hoarded away in the halls of a surfeited few, and the great mass of humanity are left to welter out a degraded existence of poverty, ignorance, and misery. God's goodness has been fraudulently squandered.
Where shall we find comfort for the future? The world is incurable by human agency. Its only hope lies in the truth that a great Deliverer is waiting the appointed time of blessing; Christ at God's right hand is the future king of the world; he who endured the shame of a criminal's cross is coming to wear the honor of a universal crown; and though dark be the clouds that usher in his majestic advent, and fierce the convulsions that will attend the earth's deliverance, great will be the glory of the day he will bring, and everlasting the peace that will settle on the everlasting hills.