“Jesus Christ Is Lord”—How and When?
“THE LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” This is the translation of Psalm 110:1 according to the King James Version. Who is “the LORD” here, and to whom is he speaking?
A more accurate translation of the Hebrew text quickly answers the first question. “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: . . . ” Thus, “LORD” in capital letters refers to the almighty God, Jehovah himself. Although the King James Version acknowledges the divine name by using “LORD” as opposed to “Lord,” it was not the first to confuse these titles, for the ancient Greek Septuagint, translated from the Hebrew, used “Lord” for Jehovah in its later copies. Why? Because the title “Lord” was substituted for the divine name, the Tetragrammaton (יהוה). Says scholar A. E. Garvie: “Use of the title Lord [kyʹri·os] is most easily and probably explained from the use of that title in the Jewish synagogue instead of the covenant name Yahveh [Jehovah], when the Scriptures were being read.”
The Bible identifies Jehovah as the “Sovereign Lord.” (Genesis 15:2, 8; Acts 4:24; Revelation 6:10) He is also called “the true Lord” and “the Lord of the whole earth.” (Exodus 23:17; Joshua 3:13; Revelation 11:4) Who, then, is the other “Lord” of Psalm 110:1, and how did he come to be recognized as “Lord” by Jehovah?
Jesus Christ as “Lord”
Jesus is addressed as “Lord” in the four Gospels, most often in Luke and John. In the first century C.E., the title was one of respect and courtesy, equivalent to “Sir.” (John 12:21; 20:15, Kingdom Interlinear) In Mark’s Gospel the term “Teacher,” or Rab·boʹni, is used more frequently in addressing Jesus. (Compare Mark 10:51 with Luke 18:41.) Even Saul’s question on the road to Damascus, “Who are you, Lord?” had this same general sense of polite inquiry. (Acts 9:5) But as Jesus’ followers came to know their Master, it is apparent that their use of the title “Lord” expressed much more than simple respect.
Following his death and resurrection but before his ascension to heaven, Jesus appeared to his disciples and made this startling announcement: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Then, on the day of Pentecost, under the influence of the poured-out holy spirit, Peter referred to Psalm 110:1 and said: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:34-36) Because of his faithfulness to the point of an ignominious death on a torture stake, Jesus was resurrected and given the highest reward. He then entered into his lordship in the heavens.
The apostle Paul confirmed Peter’s words when he wrote that God had “seated him [Christ] at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come.” (Ephesians 1:20, 21) Jesus Christ’s lordship is above all other lordships, and it will continue on into the new world. (1 Timothy 6:15) He was exalted to “a superior position” and given “the name that is above every other name” so that everyone should acknowledge “that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) The first part of Psalm 110:1 was thus fulfilled, and “angels and authorities and powers” were subject to Jesus’ lordship.—1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 8:1.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the expression “Lord of lords” applies only to Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:2, 3) But Peter under inspiration said of Christ Jesus: “This One is Lord of all others [or, “Lord of us all,” Goodspeed].” (Acts 10:36) He is indeed “Lord over both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:8, 9) Christians readily acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and Owner and willingly show him obedience as his subjects, bought with his most precious blood. And Jesus Christ has ruled as King of kings and Lord of lords over his congregation since Pentecost 33 C.E. But now, since 1914, he has been given kingly authority to rule in that capacity with his enemies placed as a ‘stool for his feet.’ The time was now ripe for him to ‘go subduing in the midst of them,’ all in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1, 2.—Hebrews 2:5-8; Revelation 17:14; 19:16.
How, then, are Jesus’ words “all things have been delivered to me by my Father,” spoken before his death and resurrection, to be understood? (Matthew 11:25-27; Luke 10:21, 22) This is not such a sweeping statement as those already discussed. In both Matthew and Luke, the context reveals that Jesus was talking about knowledge hidden from worldly-wise ones but revealed through him because he “fully knows” the Father. When he was baptized in water and begotten as a spiritual Son of God, Jesus was able to recall his prehuman existence in heaven and all the knowledge that went with it, but this was something different from his later lordship.—John 3:34, 35.
Distinguishing Jesus Christ as Lord
Some renderings of the Christian Greek Scriptures present a problem when translating quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures that clearly refer to the “LORD,” Jehovah God. Compare, for example, Luke 4:19 with Isaiah 61:2 in either the King James Version or The New Jerusalem Bible. Some people maintain that Jesus took over the title “Lord” from Jehovah and that Jesus in the flesh was really Jehovah, but this is a contention for which there is no Scriptural support. Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus Christ, are always carefully distinguished from each other in Scripture. Jesus made known his Father’s name and represented him.—John 5:36, 37.
In the following examples, note the quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures as they appear in the Greek Scriptures. Jehovah God and his Anointed One, or Messiah, are both mentioned at Acts 4:24-27, which quotes from Psalm 2:1, 2. The context of Romans 11:33, 34 is clearly referring to God, Source of all wisdom and knowledge, with a quotation from Isaiah 40:13, 14. Writing to the Corinthian congregation, Paul repeats the quotation, “Who has come to know the mind of Jehovah?” and then adds: “But we do have the mind of Christ.” The Lord Jesus revealed to his followers Jehovah’s mind on so many important matters.—1 Corinthians 2:16.
Sometimes a text in the Hebrew Scriptures refers to Jehovah, but by virtue of His delegation of power and authority, it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Psalm 34:8, for example, invites us to “taste and see that Jehovah is good.” But Peter applies this to the Lord Jesus Christ when he says: “Provided you have tasted that the Lord is kind.” (1 Peter 2:3) Peter takes a principle and shows how it is true also of Jesus Christ. By taking in knowledge of both Jehovah God and Jesus Christ and acting upon it, Christians can enjoy rich blessings from both the Father and his Son. (John 17:3) Peter’s application does not make the Sovereign Lord Jehovah one person with the Lord Jesus Christ.—See footnote to 1 Peter 2:3.
The relative positions of Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus Christ, are made very clear by the apostle Paul when he says: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6; 12:5, 6) Writing to the Christian congregation in Ephesus, Paul identified the “one Lord,” Jesus Christ, as being quite distinct from the “one God and Father of all persons.”—Ephesians 4:5, 6.
Jehovah Supreme Over All
Since the year 1914, the words of Revelation 11:15 have proved true: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah God] and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Volume 2, page 514) says: “When Christ has overcome every power (1 Cor. 15:25), he will submit himself to God the Father. Thus Jesus’ lordship will have achieved its goal and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).” At the end of his Millennial Reign, Christ Jesus hands back to his Father, Almighty God, the power and authority previously delegated to him. Hence, all glory and worship are rightly given to Jehovah, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Ephesians 1:17.
Although Jesus is now Lord of lords, he is never called God of gods. Jehovah remains supreme over all. In this way, Jehovah will be “all things to everyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:28) Jesus’ lordship gives him his rightful place as Head of the Christian congregation. Though we may see many powerful “lords” in high places in this world, we keep our confidence in the one who is Lord of lords. Yet, Jesus Christ, in his high and elevated position, still remains subject to his Father, “that God may rule over all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28, The Translator’s New Testament) What a fine example of humility Jesus has set for his disciples to follow, even as they acknowledge him as their Lord!
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“When the writers of the New Testament speak of God they mean the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. When they speak of Jesus Christ, they do not speak of him, nor do they think of him as God. He is God’s Christ, God’s Son, God’s Wisdom, God’s Word. Even the Prologue to St. John, which comes nearest to the Nicene Doctrine, must be read in the light of the pronounced subordinationism of the Gospel as a whole; and the Prologue is less explicit in Greek with the anarthrous [the·osʹ] than it appears to be in English.”—“The Divinity of Jesus Christ,” by John Martin Creed.