Christ and His Kingdom by A.A. Hodge (1823-1886)Articles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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The Kingdom of Christ considered.
That the office of Mediator between God and sinful men must include the function of kingly dominion and control is self-evident. Christ’s functions as Prophet and Priest would have been ineffective without it. That the promised Messiah of the Old Testament was to be a King and that the historical incarnate God of the New Testament actually is a King in the highest sense are witnessed to by almost every page of the whole Bible. “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel,” (Num 24:17). “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6). I have “set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel,” (Psalm 2:6, 8-9). “One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days…And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,” (Dan 7:13-14). The angel Gabriel, in the annunciation to the Virgin Mary, said, “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). The universality and pre-eminence and absoluteness of His kingly authority is expressed in the Revelation when it is declared that the Lamb is “King of kings and Lord of lords,” (Rev. 17:14) .The title which spontaneously springs to the lips of all men, even of the indifferent stranger, but with infinitely more meaning from the lips of all who have been made recipients of His love, is LORD—Jesus, Possessor, Master, Sovereign. It is universal over all, dominating the highest as well as the lowest, comprehending and bending to its own sway all lower authority and power—King of kings. It is absolute in all, knowing no limit in soul or body, in time or eternity—absolutely owning, possessing, and disposing to His own uses all we are and all we possess, each thing entirely, and all things in all relations. 1. And all this is predicated of Him not merely as God, but as God-man in His work as Mediator between God and man. As the second Person of the Trinity, equal in power and glory to the eternal Father, the Word of God possesses an absolute, inherent sovereign dominion as King over the whole universe. This authority is intrinsic, underived, inalienable, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). During all the years of the earthly life of the God-man, alike while an unconscious babe in the manger and while hanging a dying victim on the cross, the eternal Son of God was exercising His sovereign dominion over the entire universe. But in His office as Mediator, and in His entire Person after the incarnation as God-man, He was constituted a King by the authority of the entire Godhead as represented in the Father. His mediatorial sovereignty is…given to Him by the Father as the reward of His obedience and suffering. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father,” (Phil. 2:7-11). This authority, thus bestowed upon Him by the Father, is special, having particular reference to the salvation of His own people, and, to that end, to the administration of all the provisions of the covenant of grace, of which He is the gracious executive. It attaches not to His divine nature exclusively, but to His entire Person as the God-man. A MAN sits upon the mediatorial throne of the universe. He Who stood insulted, despised, condemned at Pilate’s judgment seat, now sitting at the right hand of God, rules all worlds, as He will hereafter, seated on the great white throne, judge all men. Our blood Brother according to the flesh has “all power in heaven and in earth,” that He may make “all things work together for good to them that love God,” (Romans 8:28). The attributes of both the divine and the human nature are together exercised in the administration of this kingly reign. All His kingly acts are infinitely wise, righteous, and powerful because He is God. But they are at the same time the acts of a man. They possess a truly human quality; for in all His administration, He has a feeling for our infirmities as well as an eye for our interests. 2. Christ is already a King upon His throne in the full sweep of His kingly administration. As the eternal Word, of course, He has been Mediator between God and sinful man ever since the fall of Adam. Otherwise, the sentence of the law must have been unconditionally executed immediately upon the apostasy. Ever since, we have been living—and human history has been evolved—under a system of forbearance involving an arrest of judgment. This was, of course, possible only as the human family has existed under the protection of a divine and competent Mediator. All the functions of the mediatorial office mutually imply one another. If He were “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Rev. 13:8), He must have been a Prophet before Moses, a Priest before Aaron, and a King before David. He was in these respects their predecessor and the ground from which they sprang, as well as their successor and antitype. A close inspection shows that the Jehovah of the Old Testament, Who is also called the Angel of or the one sent by Jehovah, is the second Person of the Trinity, as is declared by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (cf. Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9; Gen 31:11, 13, 48:15-16 with Hos 12:2-5; Exodus 3:1-14 with Act 7:30-35). He reigned over all human affairs, as the biblical history relates. He gave the Law from Sinai, including the entire ceremonial ritual, as well as the Ten Commandments. He brought Israel out of Egypt through the wilderness and established them in the Holy Land “with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders,” (Deut. 26:8). He fought their battles with the Philistines; established His types and representatives, David and Solomon, upon their temporary, symbolical thrones; and He directed the entire course of human history to the consummation of the fullness of times in preparation for His own advent in the flesh. But, on the other hand, in the strictest sense we must date the actual and formal assumption of His kingly office in the full and visible exercise thereof from the moment of His ascension into heaven from this earth and His session at the right hand of the Father. He could not have actually entered upon His kingly office as the God-man before He had become both God and man in the one Person through His incarnation. His function as Priest in a sense precedes His function as a King, as well as acts together with it. His atonement is the foundation of His royal right to His people and His royal administration in their behalf. When He was announced, it was declared, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:2). He was received by His disciples and rejected by the Jews as one claiming to be a king. Pilate wrote the title of His kingship in three languages and attached it to His cross. “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool,” (Hebrews 10:12-13). His kingly office is essentially the royal dispensation of grace by Him as a Savior. In order that this may be universally and infallibly effectual and complete, He declares that now “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” and He founds on this His great commission to His Church: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” (Matthew 28:18-19). And Peter on the great Day of Pentecost declared that when the prophet David recorded the sworn promise of God to raise up Christ to sit upon the throne, He spake of the resurrection of Christ: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ,” (Act 2:32-33, 36). 3. The present mediatorial kingdom of the God-man is universal, embracing the whole universe and every department of it…This truth, nevertheless, is just as plainly and as certainly taught in the New Testament as any other article of our faith. In Psalm 8, God declares His purpose to put all things under the feet of man. This purpose Paul declares was fulfilled in Christ “when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:20-23). He declared to His disciples, as the ground of the commission He gave to them, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” (Matthew 28:18). In Philippians 2:9-10, Paul says, “God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” This absolutely and exhaustively includes the whole universe in all its categories of heaven, earth, and hell, just as the passage in Ephesians includes all duration, the. world-age, which now is and that which is to come. And this is repeated and emphasized in the most forceful language in Hebrews 2:8: “For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him”; and in 1Corinthians 15:27, He only “is excepted which did put all things under him”—that is, absolutely all things but God the Father. Theologians have accordingly made a distinction, designed to classify the different aspects and methods of this vast administration of royal power, between Christ’s kingdoms of power, of grace, and of glory. These, of course, are not entirely different realms or spheres of government, since the kingdom of power includes the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of grace precedes and prepares the way for the kingdom of glory. They are rather different methods of working and different special systems of administration, all comprehended in His universal reign as King.
I. CHRIST’S KINGDOM OF POWER: This is the providential reign of the God-man over the whole universe in the interests of His mediatorial work as Redeemer of His own people. The universe in all its provinces, material and spiritual, constitutes one system. The certain attainment of any end, the absolute control of any single department, necessarily involves the control and the coordinate administration of all the parts. 1. Hence, Christ’s universal kingdom of power must include, in the first instance, His providential control of the entire physical universe. The physical universe is the necessary basis of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual world. The higher cannot be adequately governed unless the lower is controlled. The laws of matter and the order of the material world remain the same as before, and no change takes place that can be discovered by science. Nevertheless, the glorious fact is that the God-man, as mediatorial King, has, during the present…world-age, brought the whole mechanism of the material universe under His command as means to secure the establishment of His mediatorial kingdom. He guides the marshaled hosts of heaven to that supreme result. The great currents of all the world-forces are directed to that end. The sweet influences of the Pleiades obey His voice, and the bands of Orion are in His hands. It is not the God absolute, but it is our kinsman Redeemer, the man who is also God, Who orders the courses of the stars; “Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry,” (Psalm 147:8-9); Who numbereth all the hairs of our head (Matthew 10:30); and will not allow any plague to come nigh our dwelling (Psalm 91:10).
2. Christ’s mediatorial kingdom of power includes the universal moral government of God over all His intelligent creatures. The moral government of God over the human family constitutes only one province of the immeasurable empire. Angels, devils, and whatever intelligent creatures may exist in other worlds must constitute one systematic moral whole with the human race. The entire moral empire of God must be governed on the same general principles of righteousness. The will of God must be the common rule of all, His love their common motive, His glory their common end, His fellowship their common goal. Christ in this widest sense is King of kings and Lord of lords. God hath appointed His Son “heir of all things.” He is placed “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named,” (Ephesians 1:21). All in heaven and all on earth who are to bow at the name of Jesus, include all rational creatures. And all men and angels are to be gathered to His judgment seat. The devils “are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” (Jude 6). He exercises this universal moral government providentially in various ways, according to the various characters and conditions of His subjects, but always upon the same principles of essential righteousness. He employs angels as ministering spirits for His people at present, and He will employ them as His executive agents in the siftings of the great judgment. He restrains and controls the action of the devil and his angels, the spirits of the power of the air. He controls all events for the good of His people. Especially, He directs events to the end of effecting their complete discipline and education, and consequent preparation for the enjoyment of His glory. The end is the complete redemption of His people. But in order to secure this, all the members of the human family in their successive generations and in their various family and national groups must be dealt with as subjects of the same government. During the present world-age it is not God absolute, but our kinsman Redeemer, the God-man, Who is the Lord, “the Governor among the nations.” He speaks with authority to every conscience. He has a supreme right to control for His own ends the service of every life. He orders every political and social event, and the entire evolution of civilization and associated human activity, to the accomplishment of His supreme end. And at the close, every tribe, people, and tongue shall stand to be judged before His throne and to have its destiny fixed by His decree.
II. CHRIST’S KINGDOM OF GRACE. This spiritual kingdom, which is the special care of Christ, for the sake of which His government of the universe is undertaken, respects, first, His own spiritual people individually, and, second, His professed people collectively organized in the visible Church. 1. Christ reigns over His own individually, both from without and from within. From without, He subdues His and their enemies, restraining Satan, his angels, and wicked men. He strengthens them in weakness, defends them in danger, directs and co-operates with them in action, and gives them ultimately the victory in all their contests, and causes them always to persevere to the end that they may receive the crown of life. He also, under the inspiration of His Spirit, brings His spiritual people into sympathy with one another and stimulates and guides the great currents of sympathy…and all the various functions in which is manifested the “communion of saints.” From within, the God-man reigns supreme in every Christian heart. It is impossible to trust Christ as our Sacrifice and Priest without at the same time cordially trusting Him as our Prophet, absolutely submitting our understanding to His teaching and accepting Him as our King, submitting implicitly our hearts and wills and lives to His sovereign control. Paul delights to call himself the doulos, purchased servant, of Jesus Christ. Every Christian spontaneously calls Him our Lord Jesus. His will is our law, His love our motive, His glory our end. To obey His will, to work in His service, to fight His battles, to triumph in His victories is our whole life and joy.
2. Christ’s kingdom of grace also embraces His visible Church. Although the true Church is constituted simply by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and although no organization is essential to its being or coextensive with its existence, nevertheless Christ wills that His true Church shall, for great practical ends, tend always spontaneously to organize itself in some form. Its forms are very various, determined in their differences by providential conditions; and they are of very different excellence; yet they are all, whether better or worse, forms of the true Church…And Christ alone is the legitimate Head of this visible Church in any of its forms whatsoever. He has appointed no vicegerent. He has forbidden His servants to be called rabbi or master (Matthew 23:9-10). He pronounces a curse upon those who lord it over His heritage, whether national sovereigns, universal patriarchs, or popes. He has in His inspired Word and through His ever-indwelling Spirit provided for the government of this Church through all ages. He has therein ordained the conditions of membership, the laws, and offices…We are not bound to believe any doctrine or to fulfill any duty that He has not clearly revealed in His Word. The disciples of Christ are the Lord’s freemen, discharged from all human bondage because they are bound to render absolute obedience to Him alone. Christ declared that His kingdom is “not of this world”—that it is not one kingdom associated with the other kingdoms, with like organizations, laws, methods of administration, and ends. But it is a spiritual kingdom, embracing and interpenetrating all others, so different in method and ends from them that it cannot, when loyal to its Head, interfere with any of them or enter into organic alliance with any of them. Its Head, members, laws, officers, methods, penalties, and rewards and ends are not of this world, but are spiritual—that is, they are revealed and applied by the Holy Ghost; and they bring man into relation to the great world of spiritual realities which is revealed in the Scriptures.
III. CHRIST’S KINGDOM OF GLORY. During the present age Christ is set forth principally as a conquering Captain, reigning at the head of His militant host, the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), the conqueror of His and our enemies, and the subduer of the world (Rev. 19:11-16). But hereafter the Scriptures reveal a final consummation, when Christ’s kingdom shall be complete in all its members, and shall be developed to its perfect state—when all the redeemed shall be gathered, the crisis of judgment past, the glorified bodies of the saints reunited to their perfected spirits: then “shall the Son of man sit in the throne of his glory,” and “there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads,” (Rev. 22:3-4).
From “Christ the King” in Evangelical Theology.