Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | April 14, 2008

How is Christ a King? (Lesson 6: Question 7 Answer)

7. How is Christ a King?

 

In this installment we will conclude our examination of the munus triplex with the last office that manifests Christ in His mediatorial role, which is His role as the perfect King for God’s people.  We approach this task with fear and trembling, especially in light of the author’s own inadequacies in interpreting how this office should be understood biblically until relatively recently.  As we elaborate on the reason for these adjustments in our understanding of this office, we will remain fixed on the following verses that reveal a convergence of these three mediatorial offices for the final time in this series:   

 

18So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

As we discussed in our previous entry Jesus in this passage is making reference to His task of temple-builder.  This task was divinely appointed to be accomplished by the Messianic Priest-King, which we find fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s resurrection and subsequent building of a spiritual house through the living stones comprised of His redeemed elect Church (1 Peter 2:4-5).  As was necessary for the execution of all His mediatorial offices, the fulfillment of this office was also facilitated by the exceptional Anointing our Savior was endowed with during His baptism.  Similar to our previous assessment of the Priestly office, the role of king was established in the Old Testament arguably reaching as far back as the first man himself (Genesis 1:26).  As is manifested in the creation account during his probationary period, Adam was commissioned to exercise dominion over the creation and to populate the earth with a holy progeny (Genesis 1:28).  This royal race was to live under a theocratic state where the realms of cult (religion) and culture (civic) were converged into one, being ruled by the Law of God.  The goal of this race, arguably, was to perform the task of constructing a kingdom city to the Lord, analogous to the New Jerusalem described in Revelation.129 Nonetheless, this task was unable to undergo fruition being disrupted by man’s heinous and devastating fall that ruined his original righteousness resulting in a traumatic plunge into sin and misery.  Although, this realization of union between cult and culture continued to be pursued in a perverse manner by fallen man (Genesis 6:1-7), this experiment was not instituted by the covenant Lord again until the formation of the nation of Israel (except for a parenthetical period on Noah’s arc).  The theocratic nation of Israel again bore the task of unifying cult and culture consisting of a “holy progeny” (Leviticus 11:44) dwelling in the typological paradise to be identified as the kingdom of God.  However, this theocratic kingdom was only a parenthesis in God’s redemptive plan pointing forward to the true heavenly city where cult and culture would be perfectly unified (Revelation 21:9-22).  Thus, the primary purpose for this parenthetical theocracy was the preservation of the Messianic Seed who would reconcile the alienated and consummate the eternal kingdom of God.   

 

Ultimately, God designed the Israelite theocracy to possess a king who would faithfully execute the laws of the covenant Lord (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).  This standard of righteousness and justice, however, was never once fulfilled by the occupants who assumed this office during the duration of this typological nation.  Even the greatest kings, David and Solomon, of this theocracy would fall short of God’s standard for this office.  They acquired many wives (1 Chronicles 14:3-5; 1 Kings 11:3), accumulated wealth (2 Chronicles 1:14-17), forsook the law of God (1 Kings 11:6-8) and failed to keep God’s statutes (2 Samuel 11).  The state of ungodliness in subsequent office holders degenerated to the extent that the kings were even inducing the violation of the laws they were entrusted to preserve (2 Kings 21:9).  As a result, the toleration of this rebellion reached an unbearable point that culminated in the exile of this people from the Promised Land (2 Kings 24:20).       

 

The failure of the human federal head was recapitulated in the failure of Israel, to demonstrate the need for a Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22-25) and true Israel (Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1) to fulfill this role.  However, this would be impossible for a pure son of Adam, tainted by the fall through the transmission of the fallen nature, thus God Himself would need to fulfill this role (Ezekiel 20:33-44) through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  It is now appropriate for us to consider how Jesus fulfilled this role of King.  In order to perform this evaluation it is fitting for us to refer to the criteria God established for a good king already cited above, yet quoted in the following:

15you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

From this passage in Deuteronomy the following active and passive parameters are identified as the criteria for a good king:

1.       He shall be an Israelite of the “seed” of Abraham

2.       He must not acquire horses

3.       He must not cause the people to return to Egypt

4.       He shall not acquire many wives

5.       He shall not acquire excessive silver and gold

6.       He shall write for himself a copy of the Law of God

7.       He shall read and keep the Law of God completely

8.       He shall not lift his heart above his brothers

9.       He must not turn aside from the Law of God

It is evident that our Lord fully meets all of these criteria as testified by the eye witness testimony provided in the Gospels.  We find that Jesus fulfills the first qualification of being an Israelite after the flesh (Matthew 1:1-14) from the seed of Abraham and from the Davidic line.  Jesus fulfills the second, fourth and fifth qualifications as one who did not have any possessions, not even a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20; 2 Corinthians 8:9), He did not accumulate wealth for Himself remaining poor that others may be rich in Him.  Jesus fulfills the third qualification, obviously, residing in Palestine and ministering to Israel (Matthew 15:24-26; John 1:11) with no hint of encouraging a return to Egypt.  Jesus fulfills the sixth qualification in a unique way, since He is the Word of God Incarnate (John 1:1; 14; 18; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12) He does more than just copy the Law of God.  He is the sum and substance of all that the Law proclaimed.  In the seventh qualification Jesus fulfills completely to the extent that He received the approval of the Father for His behavior, which is the basis of our imputed righteousness indispensable for our salvation (Matthew 3:15-17; 5:17-18; 17:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus fulfills the eighth qualification as one who did not come to be served, but to serve others (Matthew 20:28).  Finally, similar to the seventh qualification Jesus fulfills the ninth qualification never turning to the right nor the left and faithfully obeying the Law of God to the extent that it was characterized as His food and drink  (John 4:34).

 

As we see from the examination, Jesus Christ fit the profile of the covenant Lord’s ideal and faithful king.  Nonetheless, it is apparent from Jesus’ faithful execution of this office that it was done significantly different than the prior king’s of Israel.  Thus, it is proper for us to evaluate the differences and consider the implications it has on the covenant community after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  An essential element that attributed to Jesus’ invariably different execution of His office revolves around the emphasis that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  It was this reality that characterized the major differences between Jesus and His predecessors.  Although, elements illustrative of Christ’s kingly office during His earthly ministry were unlike the norm, it does not negate the legitimacy of the kingdom that He initiated.

 

Just as there are elements that were fulfilled in the Incarnation and continue in different respects post resurrection/ascension in the offices of Prophet and Priest, this principle also applies to the Kingly office.  In the prophetic office the full “exegesis” of the Father occurred in the Incarnation making known the great mystery kept hidden in ages past (1 Timothy 3:16).  However, after the resurrection and ascension the apostles equipped with another Comforter (John 15:26-27) were commissioned to preserve the record of this mystery in writing for subsequent generations.  In the priestly office the once for all substitutionary atonement was completed during the Incarnation for all those whom Christ came to save.  Nonetheless, after the resurrection and ascension He continual intercedes on behalf of His saints serving as their Advocate before the Father.  Likewise, our Lord’s kingly office was initiated during His Incarnation in His fulfilling the attributes and criteria of the ideal king.  However, after the resurrection and ascension the scope of this office undergoes a transformation relative to its emphasis and realm. 

 

It is essential for us to consider that in these last days Christ’s kingdom is manifested through the Church, which will remain “not of this world” until the consummation (Acts 1:6-8).  Thus, it will not possess the same attributes relative to the civic realm manifested in the Israelite theocracy, which was primarily pointing forward to or foreshadowing the consummation when cult and culture are again reunited under God’s perfect King.   This is consistent with the WLC Q&A 45, which also defines the role of this office by our Lord in these last days to apply only to the Church.  Although, the Church is commanded to submit to her earthly rulers (Romans 13:1-7) who may at times possess hostility toward Christ and His kingdom,  it will remain as a lasting witness on the earth until Christ returns (Matthew 16:16-19).  Calvin also articulates this point in his discourse on this office as follows:

…“Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool” [Ps.  110:1]. Here he asserts that, no matter how many strong enemies plot to overthrow the church, they do not have sufficient strength to prevail over God’s immutable decree by which he appointed his Son eternal King.  Hence it follows that the devil, with all the resources of the world, can never destroy the church, founded as it is on the eternal throne of Christ.” 130

It is important to note that Christ is sovereign and will never allow His kingdom to ever be defeated or extinguished (Revelation 1:5-6).  Nonetheless, the kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (Revelation 11:15).  Thus, it is essential for us to differentiate between these two kingdoms, lest we confuse them and blur the distinctions between them (see 2nd to last paragraph).  Unlike Israel we must rely on Common Grace for the institutions of civic government to rule over us during this earthly pilgrimage.  There will be seasons for us in the Church when this is more difficult to do than at other times.  We can be assured that when it comes to our salvation and the preservation of Christ’s body, nothing can separate us from Christ and the benefits of being His.  However, when it comes to our earthly lives we may have to face hardships, persecution or even death.  Unlike Israel these earthly blessings or lack there of are not directly based upon our obedience to the law of God, which is also articulated by Calvin in the following:     

For this reason we ought to know that the happiness promised us in Christ does not consist in outward advantages – such as leading a joyous and peaceful life, having rich possessions, being safe from all harm, and abounding with delights such as the flesh commonly longs after.  No, our happiness belongs to the heavenly life! 131

Jesus Christ will return one day to reunite the realms of cult and culture under the Law of God.  He has fulfilled the conditions of God’s Law that Adam and Israel failed to do for His people that they may be a part of this kingdom.  There is much confusion in our day about the extent of God’s kingdom and we were only able to scratch the surface of this topic.  It is our hope, however, that our treatment of this subject within the discussion of the three offices of Christ provided some clarification of a biblical view of this topic.  Some doubt the importance in emphasizing these offices, however, when we examine the Old Testament we find that these offices are important to the life of God’s people.  Unfortunately, the previous occupants to these offices failed the people of God in their roles of mediation (Ezekiel 22:23-31).  There failures only accentuate the exceptional performance that our Savior had in becoming our perfect mediator before God.  We now leave this topic to resume our study of the Gospel of John.

129 Meredith Kline (2007) Kingdom Prologue Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Eugene, OR:  Wipf & Stock 2006), 68

130 John Calvin (1559), The Institutes of the Christian Religion Volume I (Louisville, KY WJK Press) 498

131 John Calvin (1559), The Institutes of the Christian Religion Volume I (Louisville, KY WJK Press) 498

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Responses

  1. Mike (is that right?),

    It was good to see you again last night.

    I have a couple comments about your post. 1st, you quote question 45 and assert that it tells us that Christ’s kingship “ONLY to the Church.” But you must not have read the end of the divines answer:

    restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

    This is clearly His exercising His Kingship over more than just His church. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Also, even though God made provision for how Israel could properly implement a king if they wanted one, didn’t God prefer them NOT to have a king, and when they persisted then He finally gave them Saul?

    Next, you mention Revelation where it talks about the kingdoms (notice plural) of this world becoming the kingdom of our God and His Christ. Then you assert the 2 Kingdom view to this passage. However, this passage is mentioning the MANY kingdoms, so that has to be at least two plus His so that is at a minimum 3 kingdoms, no? And, do you think that the making of the world’s kingdoms into His kingdom is going to happen in the twinkling of an eye at the end of history?

    You might check out my post entitled: “There is only ONE kingdom.” I don’t want to hijack here with a link, I’m sure you can find it.

    So, blessings to you. Let me know how you respond to these questions.

    kazoo

  2. Kazoo,

    Thanks for stopping in to S2C and appreciate the feedback to the post written above. I can definitely sympathize with your point of view, because about two years ago I was on the track to be an advocate of your position in lieu of an “opponent” (intra-Reformed faith, of course). In response to your questions, however, I offer the following:

    1. Context of WLC Q&A 45: I don’t think that I am asserting anything other than what the divines had in mind. Of course, when you read the answer to this question it is one long, long, long sentence. The sentence begins with “Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself…” This “people” are obviously Christ’s elect Church, which is the subject of the rest of the benefits that Christ bestows upon them. So I would not agree with your conclusion stated above.

    2. I do not agree that God prefered that Israel not have a king, otherwise, He would not have prescribed this in the Law (i.e. Deut 17 stated above). This is analogous to the garden, in which Adam was to be God’s viceroy or king over creation.

    3. On your third issue I offer the following; all of the man-made kingdoms of this world share a common ruler according to Eph 2:2. This kingdom can be characterized as the “seed of the serpent” who war against the “seed of the woman”. This struggle, obviously, goes back to Genesis 4. So in that sense I am not sure where you are going with the 3 kingdom thing.

    4. I think the last issue is the nature of God’s conversion of the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of Christ is separate from number 3 above. What I have learned is that the progressive or gradual view shares a lot in common with Enlightement liberalism influenced greatly by Hegel. Although, I was tempted to adopt this view at a time would now steer very clear of it. So, yes the age to come will come like a thief in the night.

    And yes it is Mike.

    S2C

  3. […] 7.  How is Christ a king? […]

  4. […] in the Church about the nature of the kingdom of God.  As noted previously in our treatment of Christ as king the author’s views on this issue have evolved in hopes of becoming more consistent with all the […]


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