Jesus’ Royal Act of Humility
ONE of the outstanding qualities of Jesus Christ is his humility. He willingly gave up his high position in the heavens to become a man “a little lower than angels.” (Heb. 2:7; Phil. 2:5-7) Then, while on earth, he did not seek to be served but humbly served others. (Matt. 20:28) Yet future is his fine royal act of humility as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16) This is referred to at 1 Corinthians 15:24, where we read: “Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.” To appreciate what this involves, we must consider why Jehovah purposed to have his Son rule as King.
When Jehovah God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, he wanted them to remain in his love and at perfect unity with him. He had created them in such a way that everlasting life would be possible for them only if they maintained a good relationship with him through perfect obedience. By transgressing God’s law, Adam and Eve alienated themselves from their Maker and lost the spiritual connection that they needed to continue living. Having ruined his perfection, Adam also lost the capability to father perfect offspring. “That is why,” says the Bible, “just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) As sin means missing the mark of perfect obedience to God, the entire human race thus came to be at disunity with its Creator.
It was not God’s will, however, for this situation to continue. This is evident from what the apostle Paul wrote about Christ’s rule, at 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26: “He must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing.” The bringing of death to nothing calls for the removal of all human weaknesses and imperfections. This is so because, as the Bible states, “the sting producing death is sin.” (1 Cor. 15:56) According to Revelation 20:4, “a thousand years” have been set aside for Christ, along with a body of associate rulers purchased from among mankind, to bring death to nothing by restoring mankind to perfection.
The arrangement for liberating humankind from enslavement to sin and death is symbolically portrayed at Revelation 22:1, 2. The apostle John there describes what an angel revealed to him in vision: “He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb. . . . And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.”
The Bible makes it clear that the stain of sin can be removed only on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice. The apostle John wrote under inspiration: “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) So the “river of water of life,” with trees alongside its banks, represents God’s provision for life, including the sin-atoning benefits of his Son’s sacrifice. Since “life’s water” and the trees are symbolic of God’s provision for life, partaking of that provision definitely involves exercising faith in the atoning benefits of Jesus’ blood.—Rev. 22:17.
Such faith must express itself in action, for, as the Bible points out: “Faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:26) What action is required? Obedient response to the direction of God’s kingdom in the hands of Christ and his associate rulers. As individuals loyally submit to Kingdom rule during Christ’s thousand-year reign and have the atoning benefits of his sacrifice applied in their behalf, they will be growing to perfection.
That the lifting up of mankind to perfection will be a gradual process is implied in the symbolic description of God’s provision for life. The trees alongside the “river of water of life” yield their fruits each month. Were it a matter of partaking of God’s provision for life just once, manifestly there would be no need for such a regular, unfailing supply of life-sustaining fruits.
Further, to assist mankind, Jesus Christ and his associate rulers will be using earthly representatives. These will be men of outstanding devotion to what is right and having genuine love for others. Among them will be faithful men in the earthly line of Jesus’ ancestry. By reason of Jesus Christ’s raising them to life, they will become his children.—Ps. 45:16.
Clearly, then, the Messianic kingdom became necessary in God’s purpose only because the human race had been plunged into sin and death. With the removal of all traces of sin, there will be no further need for the Messianic kingdom to rule in this respect. However, it will not come to a violent end; that kingdom will not be brought to “ruin,” for the fruitage of its fine works will remain forever. (Dan. 7:14) It appears to be in this sense that the Scriptures speak of Christ’s rule as having “no end.”—Isa. 9:7; Luke 1:33; Rev. 11:15.
At the conclusion of his thousand-year reign, Jesus Christ will have accomplished his assigned task of bringing humankind to perfection. In true humility he will then hand over to his Father the authority he exercised toward mankind in the capacity of “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The words of 1 Corinthians 15:28 will thus be fulfilled: “When all things will have been subjected to him [the Son], 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.” Following his example, his associate rulers and the Kingdom’s earthly representatives will gladly and humbly relinquish their positions. At that time all humans will stand as equals before God, free from weaknesses and imperfections.
How should this knowledge affect us even now? It should impress upon us that in the Christian congregation positions are not what count as all-important. Not the responsibility or authority entrusted to the individual, but what he is as a person and his approved relationship with God are the truly important things. In the Christian congregation there are no “great men”; even elders or overseers are but servants or slaves of their brothers. (Matt. 20:25-27) Furthermore, it would seem that the arrangement of elders or overseers today and during Christ’s thousand-year reign may be only temporary, and that it may continue only until such time as mankind attains to perfection before Jehovah God. Truly, this understanding of matters puts the emphasis where it should be—on the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah God.
Let us, therefore, imitate Jesus Christ in maintaining our humility before our Maker, keeping uppermost in mind that an approved relationship with him is an abiding possession. (Prov. 22:4) If we do this, it may be our privilege to be among those who witness Jesus’ royal act of humility—his handing over the kingdom to his God and Father.