The Kingdom of God in the Hands of Christ
Whose kingdom it it—God’s or Christ’s? Why is Christ made its king?
“Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matt. 6:10.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in this manner he was teaching them to pray for God’s kingdom, the kingdom of their “Father in the heavens.” (Matt. 6:9) While in the Bible book of Matthew this kingdom is repeatedly spoken of as “the kingdom of the heavens,” throughout the books of Mark and Luke it is regularly called “the kingdom of God.” Yet, when Jesus was born on earth, it was foretold of him that ‘he would rule as king forever, and that there would be no end of his kingdom.’ (Luke 1:33) Jesus personally referred to the Kingdom as his when he told Governor Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world. . . . my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) You may ask, Can the Kingdom be both God’s and Christ’s at the same time?
Evidently so, since at Ephesians 5:5 the apostle, speaking of unworthy persons, stated that they would have no “inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.” How is this so?
It does not mean that Christ is God and therefore coequal with his Father. The Bible records Jesus’ own statement that “the Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) In fact, the more closely we look into the matter the more evident it becomes that Christ, even though king, occupies a position subordinate to his Father, Jehovah God.
JEHOVAH THE SOVEREIGN RULER
Following Jesus’ death, the same apostles whom he had taught to pray, later addressed his Father in this way: “Sovereign Lord, you are the One who made the heaven and the earth.”—Acts 4:24, NW; Mo; RS.
As they acknowledged, Jehovah is the Universal Sovereign. What does this mean? “Sovereign” means much more than merely the ruler or head of a government. It means the one who is the source of all right to rule, the one in whom all authority justly resides. Jehovah legitimately holds this position over all others by virtue of his Godship and because he is the Creator of all that exists. The psalmist sang of him: “Jehovah himself has firmly established his throne in the very heavens; and over everything his own kingship has held domination.” (Ps. 103:19) Unlike those heads of earthly governments today whose executive power is balanced by and limited through a separate legislature and a separate judiciary, Jehovah is not limited in his authority. For that reason the prophet wrote of him: “Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King; he himself will save us.”—Isa. 33:22.
Without stepping down or in any way diminishing his own position as the Sovereign Ruler, Jehovah can, nevertheless, delegate authority and grant power to others, appointing them to carry out his will. Because he always remains King over all such ones, it can be said to him: “Your kingship is a kingship for all times indefinite, and your dominion is throughout all successive generations.”—Ps. 145:13.
An example of such kingship authorized by Jehovah is found in the case of the nation of Israel. Beginning more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ, Jehovah delegated authority to men to serve as kings in that nation, among them Saul, David, Solomon and others. It was said of them that they sat on “Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chron. 29:23) Why? Because they served as anointed deputy kings, representing Jehovah on earth. So, while we read of the ‘kingdom of David’ as though it was his kingdom, we find David himself in prayer acknowledging Jehovah as the great Sovereign Ruler, saying: “Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all.”—1 Chron. 29:11.
THE SON RECEIVES KINGSHIP
The kingship by men of the nation of Israel served its purpose and that was, chiefly, to foreshadow the kingship of the one whom God would make the King of an everlasting kingdom. Following the overthrow of the last king to sit on Jehovah’s throne in Jerusalem, the prophet Daniel was given a vision describing the future appointment of God’s own Son to serve as King. As you read it in Daniel 7:13, 14, note how clearly Jehovah’s position as Sovereign stands out when he, as the Ancient of Days, grants rulership to his Son. The account states:
“I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”
A comparison of this text with Matthew 26:63, 64 leaves no doubt that the “son of man” in Daniel’s vision is Christ Jesus. Note how clearly the respective positions of Jehovah and of his Son Christ Jesus are set forth in that vision. The prophetic picture shows Christ Jesus ‘gaining access’ to Jehovah’s presence and then Jehovah, as the Sovereign and therefore the Source of all right to rule, giving his Son “rulership and dignity and kingdom.” Coequality? There is not the slightest sign of it here!
THE KING’S AUTHORITY
What, then, is this kingdom that Christ receives from his Father? Is he merely a “puppet ruler,” much like many kings today who have no real power of control themselves? Or is he an “absolute monarch,” that is, one who is not answerable to others and whose rulership is not subject to limitation?
That Christ is no “puppet ruler” can be seen from his own words, after his resurrection and just prior to ascending to Jehovah’s heavenly courts, when he told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) For that reason the command is given in Daniel’s vision that “the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” Christ, therefore, derives none of his power from the “consent of the governed,” as in a democracy or earthly limited monarchy, but derives it directly from the true Source of Authority, Jehovah God. He obtained this authority by making request to his Father, in fulfillment of God’s invitation expressed at Psalm 2:8, 9: “Ask of me, that I may give nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your own possession. You will break them with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel you will dash them to pieces.”
In one of his parables Jesus pictured himself as a “certain man of noble birth [who] traveled to a distant land [that is, to heaven] to secure kingly power for himself and to return.” (Luke 19:12) He showed that his kingship would be rejected by the majority of earth’s inhabitants, however, when he added: “But his citizens hated him and sent out a body of ambassadors after him, to say, ‘We do not want this man to become king over us.’” (Lu 19 Vs. 14) Because of just such opposition to his divinely invested authority, the King Christ Jesus will be obliged to dash earthly governments to pieces in the coming war of Armageddon.—Dan. 2:44; Rev. 16:14-16.
But Jesus said that all authority was given to him, not only on the earth, but also “in heaven.” (Matt. 28:18) What does this mean? Does it make him the Absolute Monarch of all the universe?
Christ’s authority in the heavens is shown in the statement at Philippians 2:10 that “in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground.” As with all of earth’s inhabitants, so, too, the millions of God’s angelic sons are all subject to Christ’s rule. (See also Hebrews 1:4-6, 13, 14.) Yet One in the heavens is excepted, and this places the only limitation on Christ’s kingship. For this reason the next verse 11 of Philippians chapter two adds: “And every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:11.
Yes, though all others in God’s universe are subject to the Son’s rule, Christ Jesus himself remains subject to his Father and God, the sole Absolute Monarch. As the apostle Paul explains: “God ‘subjected all things under his [Christ’s] feet.’ But when he says that ‘all things have been subjected,’ it is evident that it is with the exception of the one who subjected all things to him. But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”—1 Cor. 15:27, 28.
Throughout all time and space Jehovah God will continue to be the sole and legitimate Sovereign Ruler. What good purpose, then, is there in his having his Son represent him and serve as the anointed Executor of God’s will? Certainly it is not to relieve Jehovah of responsibility or to reduce in any way his work. How could that be, when he continues to be the very Source of all his Son’s power? (Isa. 40:28; Heb. 1:8) Evidently, then, this arrangement is an expression of Jehovah’s wonderful love whereby he extends this grand privilege to his Son. His Son has been trained at his Father’s right hand; he has been tested to the limit, perfected for the position; he has the ability and the wisdom required for the task. Now his Father lovingly exalts him to a position that allows this Son to use these assets to the widest possible extent and for the greatest good of all. He displays absolute confidence in him, knowing that his Son’s proven attitude is: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.”—Ps. 40:8; see also Hebrews 5:7-9; 10:5-7.
At the same time this arrangement vindicates Jehovah’s position as the true Sovereign, which was challenged by Satan from the time of the historic rebellion in Eden forward. How false the Opposer’s claim that he could achieve and legitimately maintain the position of a rival sovereign by inciting men to act independently of God and by even creating disaffection among some of God’s heavenly sons! What a crushing defeat that one experienced when God’s Son on earth rejected his every temptation and endured all of Satan’s insidious efforts to crack his integrity, dying loyal to his Father’s sovereignty! Though Satan has set himself up as the “ruler of this world,” by his integrity-keeping course Christ Jesus “conquered the world” and has proved its ruler to be worthy only of destruction.—Job 1:6-11; Rev. 12:3, 4; John 12:31; 16:33.
THE KING GRANTS PRIVILEGES TO OTHERS
The King Christ Jesus is not selfish with regard to his kingly position but follows his Father’s loving example. He shares with others the privilege of his kingly power. On the night of his death as a man, he said to some of these: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30) Those who are brought by Jesus into that covenant for the kingdom and who will make up his royal joint heirs are pictured in their heavenly position at Revelation chapter 14. Their number is there set at 144,000, all of them “bought from among mankind as a first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”—Re 14 Vss. 1, 3, 4.
It was such ones together with their Head, Christ Jesus, that the prophetic vision of Daniel referred to as “holy ones,” saying: “The Ancient of Days came and judgment itself was given in favor of the holy ones of the Supreme One, and the definite time arrived that the holy ones took possession of the kingdom itself. And the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One. Their kingdom is an indefinitely lasting kingdom, and all the rulerships will serve and obey even them.” (Dan. 7:22, 27) What a privilege is theirs for having upheld and stood fast for Jehovah’s sovereignty!
Even on the earth, transformed into a paradise by the King and inhabited by men and women who love righteousness and who uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty, there will be those who will exercise authority from him. The prophet long ago foretold: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself; and as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself.” (Isa. 32:1) Showing where such princes rule, Psalm 45:16 says: “In place of your forefathers there will come to be your sons, whom you will appoint as princes in all the earth.” Whether from the resurrected forefathers of Jesus, such as Noah, Abraham, David and others, or from among faithful men of more recent times, all these will faithfully represent the King. They all ‘bow their knee to him’ in recognition of his Father’s sovereignty, by virtue of which Christ rules.
For all of God’s angels, for all of Christ’s 144,000 joint heirs of the Kingdom, for all the earthly “princes” and for all others of his earthly subjects, Christ Jesus will serve for all time to come as their Model and Example of obedience to his Father’s will. He will be their divinely given standard as to the proper exercise of authority received from the great Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah God. What a wise and loving arrangement!