A preacher recently reminded his congregation in a well crafted sermon that during the Christmas season, we do well to emulate the wise men who came to worship the Christ child. Like them, we are to make much of Him who is born King of Israel.
Furthermore, he issued the caution to not make more of the cradle than we do of the crown. In other words, the amazing story of Christ coming into the world should not overshadow the reality that He came to offer Himself as King. The tragic story of humanity is that the earth did not receive her King. Instead of recognizing His crown, we handed Him a cross.
Nevertheless, He reigns over the earth from His Father’s throne (Revelation 3:21) and in a very different capacity than what His reign upon the earth will be. This important distinction can help us to understand why the world remains such an evil place. This gives us the right context for understanding not only who Jesus Christ is but what He is doing presently.
Context is King
Bad ideas develop from out of context messaging. There is a story told that illustrates the importance of getting the right message to the right person. This story involves a man who wrote to his wife while he was attending a business conference in the southern U.S.
The message was about their anticipated rendezvous at a local resort once the conference was complete and he left his hotel. She was to travel from the wintry climate in the north to join him for some time at the beach.
His message was sent by express mail but it was inadvertently delivered to the wrong address. Rather than sending it to his wife, it was directed to a woman whose husband had recently passed away. The grieving woman did not closely inspect the address of the sender when she received it. The message that she read caused her to become faint and she nearly passed out.
“My dearest wife, I Just checked out. I am looking forward to seeing you here on the day after tomorrow…
Eternally yours, your loving husband.
Then, as if the shock of her predicted demise was not enough, this post script was added…
P.S. It sure is hot here….”
Often times, I find myself evaluating whether my understanding of God, His plan and purposes are really in line with the message that God has left to us in His Word.
Sometimes, sad to say, my theology is wrongly influenced by the hymns that we sing. Not that the hymns are necessarily theologically wrong, but that my faulty understanding of the words wrongly influences my interpretation of who God is.
An example of this is the way in which we refer to Christ Jesus as King. We sing about Him as “Our matchless King”; “O worship the King all glorious above…”, “victorious King”, etc. While it is proper for the church to refer to Him as ‘King Jesus’, I may not always recognize that the fullness of His reign is still pending.
I am reminded that young David in the old testament was anointed king as a young man but did not ascend to rule on the throne of Israel for many years. In fact, he was a hunted man and lived in exile while King Saul remained on the throne. During the time that David was in exile, he had a loyal band of mighty men who recognized his right to rule and thought of him as their king. (1 Chronicles 11:10)
In the same way, the church recognizes Christ as King. Yet while He is a King, He does not at present have an earthly Kingdom. If I fail to rightly understand this, then my understanding of this unique day of grace and the privilege of the church is diminished.
Recently, I have been challenged to consider the idea of Christ as King in at least four ways.
- What does this title really mean to the church?,
- How does it impact the doctrine of grace?,
- How do we rightly communicate this truth in the gospel?
- What is the practical result of my thinking on this matter?
King of kings
…to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. – 1Ti 6:14-16 ESV
Clearly, the Spirit of God reveals to us that Jesus is Jehovah, the Eternal King. Not only so, but He shows us that God’s reign is not only a present reality but it is also a future reality:
“Say among the heathen [that] the LORD (Jehovah) reigns (presently): the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously. … for he comes to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” (future)
Psalm 96:10, 13 KJV (parentheses mine)
This begs the question: What is the difference in His present reign over the nations and how He will exercise His authority in the future?
Only three times in the new testament the phrase King of kings and Lord of lords is used. In each instance (1 Tim 6:14-16 and Rev 17:14; 19:16), it is in the context of the appearing of Jesus in His earthly Kingdom. It is also worth noting that His appearance as King in Revelation 19 is very different from the super-abounding grace that the church lays claim to today. (2 Cor 4:15; 1 Tim 1:14)
It is also interesting that in Revelation 17:14 the phraseology is reversed to say “Lord of lords and King of kings”. Is this phrase merely a poetic and redundant declaration of Jesus’ supremacy? Or, is there another point to the Holy Spirit giving Him this dual title?
A review of the word “King” as it is used in the new testament reveals that where ever it is used in reference to Jesus, it is always said that He is King of Israel or King of the Jews.
- Matt 2:2; 5:35; 21:5; 27:11, 29;
- Mark 15:9, 12, 18, 26, 32;
- Luke 19:38; 23:2, 3, 37,38;
- John 1:49; 6:15; 12:13,15; 18:33, 37, 39; 19:3, 12,14,15, 19, 21
- 1 Tim 6:15;
- Rev 15:3; 17; 14; 19:16
There is one instance that seems to call Jesus King apart from any connection to Israel or the Jews.
“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. “– 1Ti 1:17 KJV
Some might argue that the Apostle Paul is stating here that he is applying the title of King to Jesus in the context of the church. However, Paul is writing here in relation to his own conversion as Saul the Pharisee of the Pharisees. The result of his conversion was that he recognized that Jesus is Messiah, the eternal King of the nations but in particular, Saul recognized Jesus as the King of Israel.
It is significant to observe that Jesus is never called the King of the church. Instead, His relation to the church is that of the head of the body (Colossians 1:18); Our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14); The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and Lord (1 Corinthians 1:2).
A King Without a Kingdom
This hope of Israel has always been that when Messiah comes, He will have real physical armies to dispatch Israel’s enemies and to establish her promised geographical borders. He will be Israel’s salvation and make her the pre eminent nation on earth by means of a nationalistic military victory. The Spirit of God reveals that when Messiah comes, He will destroy His enemies by the sword that proceeds out of His mouth. (Revelation 19:15)
This desire of Israel is in the context of the promises of Land, Seed and Blessing given to Abraham. This promise of a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:9,10), was one day to be achieved by Abraham’s physical seed, the Messiah of Israel.
Jerusalem was named the city of David because it was King David who greatly expanded the borders and influence of Israel by subduing the nations around them. In the same way, when Messiah appears as King of Israel His reign will have world wide influence.
So, we can see that the title King of kings refers to a time when this King will physically reign over all other kings of the earth from Jerusalem. His earthly throne will exist within the borders of Israel defined by God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jesus was rejected as King at His first appearing because He had no political or military bonafides. In fact, He was more critical of the Jewish nation than He was of Gentile Rome. Israel’s rejection of her king caused her to be completely driven from her land in 135 A.D.
No Prince, No Peace
Although they were re established in a portion of their land in 1945, there has been no shalom (peace) because they still reject their Prince of Peace. So, if we think that we are presently in the Kingdom age, then why is there no peace for Jerusalem? Why is the King not reigning in righteousness? Sadly, His reign is scarcely accepted in His church right now (Revelation 3:20), let alone as King of kings upon the earth.
Presently, Christ sovereignly reigns over the nations from His Father’s throne of grace. This provides an opportunity for individuals to repent and submit to being disciplined by grace. However, when He comes to earth to reign, rather than discipling individuals by grace, He will discipline the nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).
The Spirit of God would have believers in this church age getting and giving the right message regarding the present state of God’s kingdom. Jesus reign over the earth is presently powerful, but self limiting until Israel receives Him as her King.
Next, we will look at the title Lord of lords….
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I have included Blue Letter Bible links to the scriptures cited. When you click on them, it will open a new window to that reference.
If this post was helpful to you, I would appreciate it if you could post a short comment below. This is very helpful toward getting this blog seen by more people. Likewise, if you believe that this blog post would be helpful to someone you know, please copy and share the url link with them…
Thank you and may the Lord richly bless you today.