The Present Work of Christ — Part II: The Present Universal Lordship of Christ
Article contributed by www.walvoord.com
The lordship of Christ in the present age is revealed in two distinct areas; (1) His lordship over creation in general; (2) His lordship over the church as its Head. In this study, attention will be directed to the first of these two aspects as the other will properly be considered in discussion of His work for the church.
The difference of point of view in regard to eschatology has had an unfortunate effect upon the proper statement of the present lordship of Christ. If amillennialism and postmilliennialism are correct that Christ must, in the present age, fulfill promises of universal rule over the earth by means of the church and the preaching of the gospel, they would contradict the concept that He is now seated at the Father’s throne waiting for that future time when He will return to earth in power and glory to set up His earthly rule. The premillennial position is fully in harmony with the Scriptural revelation given concerning the present universal lordship of Christ and relieves much of the confusion that is brought in when attempts are made to fulfill millennial prophecies in the present age.
A study of the passages dealing with the lordship of Christ provides additional evidence for the validity of the premillennial interpretation. Scriptures pertaining to this subject reveal a threefold division of the subject: (1) the present position of Christ at the right hand of the Father; (2) the extent of His present authority; and (3) the expectation of Christ as revealed in Scriptures which anticipate a future aspect of His Lordship, which will be discussed in connection with Christ’s reign on earth.
The Present Position of Christ
There has been a tendency to neglect what the Scritpures actually say concerning the present position of Christ at the right hand of the Father, mentioned in many Scriptures (Ps 110:1; Matt 22:44; Mark 12:36; 16:19 ; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69 ; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3-13; 8:1 ; 10:12 ; 12:2 ; 1 Pet 3:22).
The position described as being seated at the right hand of the Father is obviously one of highest possible honor and involves possession of the throne without dispossession of the Father. The implication is that all glory, authority, and power is shared by the Father with the Son. The throne is definitely a heavenly throne, not the Davidic throne, and not an earthly throne. It is over all the universe and its creatures.
One of the constant assumptions of the postmillennial and amillennial interpreters is that the throne which Christ is now occupying is the throne of David. An examination of the New Testament discloses that not a single instance can be found where the present position of Christ is identified with David’s throne. In view of the many references to the fact that Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, it is inconceivable that these two positions are identical, as none of the passages cited above use the expression throne of David as a proper representation of the present position of Christ. If Christ is now on the throne of David, it is without any Scriptural support whatever.
The impossibility of David’s throne and the Father’s throne being one and the same is readily demonstrated by the simple question of whether David could sit on the Father’s throne. The answer is obvious. David’s throne pertained to the earth, to the land of Israel, and to the people of Israel. It never contemplated any universality, and it never was anything more than an earthly throne.
The description of the throne of David in the Old Testament makes this clear. David’s throne had to do with his rule over the people of Israel during his generation. That it was promised that it would continue was interpreted by the Jews as a promise of a future earthly kingdom. By contrast, every reference to the throne of the Father pictures it as in heaven. In point of time, the throne of the Father was eternal, that is, it existed long before David was born or his kingdom or throne began. In all of these points, there is dissimilarity between the throne of David and the throne of God the Father which Christ now occupies.
The distinction between the two thrones is also brought out by examination of their characteristics. The throne in heaven on which Christ is now seated is obviously one of supreme honor, glory, victory, power, and authority. No power on earth or in heaven could possibly have a higher position nor could there be one of more honor and privilege than that which the Lord Jesus Christ now possesses. The throne of God is in keeping with the divine attributes of the eternal God and is supported by infinite power and authority in keeping with the position and work of the second Person of the Trinity. It is because such a one is on the throne in glory that the saint is able to have victory in this world and can be assured that though the power of Satan and the temptations of the world are very real, and though there may be weakness in flesh, it is still true that Christ is on the throne and a higher power is able to sustain the believer in his hour of need.
The position of Christ on the throne is also theologically important because it reveals the present position of the body of Christ. The church is in Christ and therefore has the position which Christ already possesses, namely, being in the presence of God and assured of ultimate vindication even as Christ is. The locality of Christ in heaven on the throne does not interfere with His divine omnipresence so that He at once can be on the throne on behalf of the believer and be in communion with the believer on earth. His presence on the throne, however, is our guarantee that we will be with Christ bodily in heaven subsequent to the resurrection and translation of the church and will reign with Him (Rev 3:21).
By contrast, these factors cannot be said of the throne of David. The church has no relationship to the throne of David nor was the throne of David one of infinite power and authority. Conceivably it could be lost and destroyed though David was assured that it would not be. To confuse such dissimilar positions is to bring confusion to the Word of God. spirit world.”1 It apparently refers to angelic beings, whether holy angels or fallen. The word “powers” (dunameon) has the same idea but the added thought of inherent power. Arndt and Gingrich define it as “a personal supernatural spirit or angel.”2 Thayer gives a more specific definition, “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.”3 Taking the three words together, they reveal that Jesus Christ in His position at the right hand of the Father has lordship over all creative beings superior to man and specifically over angels, whether fallen or unfallen. In this passage, nothing specific is said concerning His authority over man, but, of course, this is implied because man also is the object of divine creation. It is most important to observe, however, that while Christ has the authority over this area of creation He manifestly is not exerting it to the full as He is permitting evil forces to continue their dominance of the world and Satan is yet unbound.
Another important passage bearing on this subject is found in Ephesians 1:20-22 where, in addition to the thoughts provided in 1 Peter, it is revealed that the present authority of Christ stems from His resurrection. Paul prays that the Ephesian church might know “the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph 1:19-21). Paul adds the climax to the whole concept of Christ’s authority in Ephesians 1:22-23: “And he put all things in subjection under his feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” This statement excludes nothing and makes clear that Christ’s power extends to all creatures and all aspects of the universe. The word translated “rule” in verse 21 (arxes) literally means “first place,” and reveals that Christ is first before all others. Added to the meaning of this word is the phrase “far above” indicating not only supremacy but that Christ is infinitely above any others who might be considered, such as angels or men. The words “authority” and “power” are the same words used in 1 Peter 3:22 (exousias and dunameos), though they are singular here instead of plural.
Another word is introduced, however, in the expression “dominion” (kuriotetos). This translated literally means lordship, coming from kurios. It teaches that Christ is Lord over all other lords, or Lord of lords. The Apostle Paul puts a final superlative touch upon his description of the authority of Christ in stating that the rule, authority, power, and dominion of Christ is far above “every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” There is no competition whatever to the present position and lordship of Christ. He is supreme now and He always will be supreme. The reference to “world” is literally a reference to “age” and represents a time idea. In the present time as well as in the future Christ is supreme in power and authority.
The concluding statement of Ephesians 1:22 is that God put all things in subjection under His feet. The expression is probably derived from Psalm 8:6, “Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hand; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Because Psalm 8 deals with God’s commission to the “son of man” (v. 4 ) the implication is that Christ will rule over the earth as man rather than as God. In the original creation of man, God gave to Adam the responsibility of exercising authority over the earth. This was spoiled by the entrance of sin in the human race. Now Christ, as the second Adam, is qualified by His perfect life, victory over death and sin, and His resurrection to rule over the earth. This is the ultimate intent of God, namely, that His son should rule as indicated in Psalm 2:8-9. Though it is true that today this authority is not fully manifested in that we live in an evil world, Christ nevertheless has power and authority to put down evil and is waiting only the proper time for the consummation of the present age to fulfill this purpose of God. The expression “put in subjection” (hupetaxen) is used in the sense of the positional ingressive aorist, that is, it indicates that Christ has come into this position where all things are in subjection under Him. Other Scriptures clearly show that the realization of absolute subjection of all creation which will ultimately come is a part of God’s future program (1 Cor 15:25). At the present time, Christ is, however, exercising His lordship over the church and this ultimately will be extended to the entire universe.
Much has been made in the philosophic consideraton of Christianity of the fact the present world is not a good world in many respects. Philosophers, therefore, considered it an irresolvable problem that if God were both omnipotent and good, He would not permit an evil world. Both attributes, according to the philosophic point of view, could not be true. Therefore, they chose a finite God but one who was good, a God who could not control the universe but who desired to bring good into it.
The solution of this problem is found in Scripture in the fact that the Bible clearly recognizes the present age, judged by present standards, as not necessarily good. No book in all the world more frankly faces the sinfulness of the human heart and the evil and sorrow of life than the Bible. The situation is resolved, however, in that the Bible anticipates that ultimately sin will be judged and righteousness will triumph and with it the omnipotence and goodness of God will both be fully demonstrated.
In keeping with this, in Psalm 110:1, Christ is seen seated at the right hand of God awaiting the subjugation of His enemies: “Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” According to Hebrews 10:13, this is a position characterized by rest rather than by activity, “Henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet.” While Christ in His present position has authority and power to do everything necessary to put down evil and is assured of ultimate victory, it is also evident that the present exercise of this power is being withheld to some extent to permit a future consummation of His universal rule over creation. The Scriptures represent the present age, therefore, as a period of waiting for a future display of the power of Christ. This is precisely what is anticipated in the premillennial interpretation of Scripture. The present age is a parenthesis in the program of God in which the ultimate domination of Christ over the earth, as its supreme ruler, is withheld in some aspects that God might fulfill His present purpose of calling out of the world a heavenly people.
The present age is, however, not one of complete inactivity as is made clear in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. The program leading to the ultimate subjugation of His enemies is underway, but the final triumph will not come until the end, as there is rebellion even at the end of the millennium against the government of Christ. Meanwhile, however, Christ is on the throne awaiting His hour of triumph in which history will come to its close, and the power, sovereignty, and majesty of Christ will be obvious to every creature.
This article was taken from the Theological Journal Library CD and posted with permission of Galaxie Software.
1 Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament.
3 Thayer, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.