The Mediatorial Kingdom and Glories of Jesus Christ - Part I
Adapted from a sermon by Samuel Davies
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” John 18:37
Kings and kingdoms, are majestic sounds even in our language today, and have filled the world with noise, confusions, and blood, ever since mankind spread over the earth and formed themselves into societies. The disputes of kingdoms for superiority has set the world in conflict from age to age, and destroyed or enslaved a considerable part of the human race; and the contest is not yet over.
Today the battles rage under other names, but the principles are the same. Our country has been a region of peace and tranquility for some time, but it has not been because the lust for power and riches is extinct in the world, but because we have no near neighbors, whose interests might clash with ours, or who are in a position to disturb us. The absence of an enemy has been our sole defense.
But if we seem to be presently free and secure in the physical sense, there are certainly alarming incursions in unseen realms such as the one of freedom of thought and speech. We have already received alarm upon alarm, with so many laws being enacted which threaten the family, absence of laws that protect the unborn, rumors of laws that protect and promote Islam, and we may expect the alarms to grow louder and louder as the season advances.
Under the counsel of our faithful friend Mr Davies, these commotions and forebodings have had one good effect on me, and that is, they have carried away my thoughts into a serene and peaceful region, a region beyond the reach of confusion and violence; I mean the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. And there I would also like to transport your minds this morning, as the best refuge from this tumultuous world, and the most agreeable mansion for the lovers of peace and tranquility.
In our text, you hear one making a claim to a kingdom, whom you would conclude, if you only payed attention to his outward appearance, to be the vilest and most miserable of mankind.
To hear a powerful prince, at the head of a victorious army, surrounded with all the pomp of his position; to hear such a one claim the kingdom he had acquired by force, would not be strange.
But here the despised Nazarene, rejected by his nation, forsaken by his followers, accused as the worst of criminals, standing defenseless before Pilate, just about to be condemned and hung on a cross, like a wrongdoer and a slave, here he speaks in a royal manner, even to his judge, “I am a King: for this purpose was I born; and for this cause came I into the world.”
Strange language indeed to come from his lips in these circumstances! But the truth is, a great, a divine person is concealed under this disguise; and his kingdom is of such a nature, that his abasement and crucifixion were so far from being a hindrance to it, that they were the only way to acquire it. These sufferings were infinitely praiseworthy; and by these he purchased his subjects, and a right to rule them.
The circumstances under which these words were spoken was this: the unbelieving Jews were determined to put Jesus to death as an impostor. The true reason of their opposition to him was that he had severely exposed their hypocrisy; had claimed the character of the Messiah without answering their expectations as a temporal prince and a mighty conqueror; and had introduced a new religion, which seemed to them to replace the law of Moses, in which they had been educated.
But these reasons, they knew, would have but little weight with Pilate the Roman governor, who was a heathen, and payed no attention to their religion. They therefore bring another kind of charge which they knew he would be very sensitive to, and that was, that Christ had set himself up as the King of the Jews; which was treason against Cæsar the Roman emperor, under whose yoke they then were. This was all pretense and deception but, in the end, it was this that determined Pilate, in the struggle with his conscience, to condemn the innocent Jesus.
When Pilate asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” do you indeed claim such a character, which may interfere with Cæsar's government? Jesus replies, My kingdom is not of this world; as much as to say, “I do not deny that I claim a kingdom, but it is of such a nature, that it need give no alarm to the kings of the earth. Their kingdoms are of this world, but mine is spiritual and divine, and therefore cannot interfere with theirs. If my kingdom were of this world, like theirs, I would take the same methods as them to obtain and secure it; my servants would fight for me, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now, you see, I use no such means for my defense, or to raise me to my kingdom: and therefore you may be assured, my kingdom is not from here, and can give the Roman emperor no reason for suspicion or uneasiness.”
Pilate answers to this purpose: You do, however, speak of a kingdom; so you are a king? do you in any sense claim that character? The poor prisoner boldly replies, You say that I am a king; that is, You have hit on the truth: I am indeed a king in a certain sense, and nothing will force me to renounce the title. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.; particularly to this truth, which now looks so unlikely, namely, that I am really a king. I was born to a kingdom and a crown, and came into the world to take possession of my right. Neither the hopes of deliverance, nor the terrors of death, could cause him to retract it, or renounce his claim.
Let us then look into the nature and properties of the kingdom of Christ. And in order to press it all the more to our hearts and understanding we will consider this kingdom in contrast with the kingdoms of the earth, with which we are more familiar.
And our plan as we approach this subject will be this. This morning we will first look into the character of the Messiah and then, in the second place we will look into the character of his kingdom in terms of its subjects, its history and its extend. And next week, God willing, will be devoted to a description of the contrast of this kingdom with the kingdoms of this earth.
And so we begin with a survey of what Scripture reveals of the character of the Messiah.
The scriptures describe the Lord Jesus under a great variety of characters, which, though they fall short on their own to fully represent him, yet, taken as a whole, they help us, as much as mere mortals are able, to form right ideas of this great person.
He is a guarantor, that undertook and paid the dreadful debt of obedience and suffering, which sinners owed to the divine justice and law.
He is a Priest, a great High Priest, that once offered himself as a sacrifice for sin; and now dwells in his native heaven, at his Father's right hand, as the advocate and intercessor of his people.
He is a Prophet, who teaches his church in all ages by his word and spirit.
He is the supreme and universal Judge, to whom men and angels are accountable,
and his name is Jesus, a Saviour, because he saves his people from their sins.
Under these majestic and engaging characters he is often represented. But there is one character under which he is consistently represented, both in the Old and New Testament, and that is, that of a King, a great King, invested with universal authority. And upon his appearance in the flesh, all nature, and especially the New Testament Church, is represented as placed under him, as his kingdom.
Under this idea the Jews were taught by their prophets to look for him; and it was because they understood these predictions of some illustrious king that would rise from the house of David, in a literal and carnal sense, that they had the unhappy preconception that the Messiah would be a secular prince and conqueror.
Under this idea the Lord Jesus represented himself while upon earth, and under this idea he was published to the world by his apostles. The greatest kings of the Jewish nation, particularly David and Solomon, were types of him; and many things are primarily applied to them, which have their complete and final accomplishment in him alone.
It is to him ultimately we are to apply the second psalm: I have set my king, says Jehovah, on Zion, my holy hill… Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:6, 8)
If we read the seventy second Psalm we will easily see that one greater than Solomon is there: In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!; May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!; May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! (Psalm 72:7, 11, 17)
The hundred and tenth Psalm is throughout a celebration of the kingly and priestly offices of Christ taken together. The Lord, says David, says to my Lord, to that divine person who is my Lord, and will also be my Son, sit at my right hand, in the highest honour and authority, until I make your enemies your footstool.-- Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, and submit to you in crowds as numerous as the drops of the morning dew. (Psalm 110:1-3)
The evangelical prophet Isaiah is often transported with the foresight of this illustrious King, and the glorious kingdom of his grace For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. (Is 9: 6, 7)
This is he who is described as another David in Ezekiel's prophecy, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations…. And I will make them one nation…And one king shall be king over them all … My servant David shall be king over them. (Ezek 37: 21, 22, 24)
This is the kingdom represented to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, as a stone cut out without hands, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
And Daniel, in expounding the dream, having described the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and Roman empires, subjoins, And in the days of those kings, that is, of the Roman emperors, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever. (Dan 2:34, 35, 44)
There is no character which our Lord so often applied to himself in his days on earth as that of the Son of Man; and he no doubt alludes to a majestic vision in Daniel, the only place where this character is given him in the Old Testament: I saw in the night visions, says Daniel, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13, 14) like the tottering kingdoms of the earth, which are perpetually rising and falling.
This is the king that Zechariah refers to when, in prospect of his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, he calls the inhabitants to give a proper reception to so great a Prince. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you (Zech 9:9)
And this is how the prophets all together ascribe royal titles and a glorious kingdom to the Messiah. And these early and plain notices of him raised a general expectation of him under this royal character. It was from these prophecies concerning him as a king, that the Jews got the mistaken idea to look for the Messiah as a temporal prince; and it was a long time before the apostles themselves were delivered from these carnal prejudices. They were concerned about posts of honour in that temporal kingdom which they expected he would set up: and even after his resurrection they couldn’t help but ask him, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6) that is, “Will you now restore the Jews to their former liberty and independence, and deliver them from their present subjection to the Romans?”
It was under this view that Herod was alarmed at his birth, and shed the blood of so many children, that he might not escape. He was afraid of him as the heir of David's family and crown, who might dispossess him of the government; he was even expected by other nations under the character of a mighty king; and they no doubt learned this notion of him from the Jewish prophecies, as well as their conversation with them. And so, the wise men from the east, when they came to pay homage to him spoke in these words, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matt 2:2)
This royal character Christ himself assumed, even when he spoke among mortals in the humble form of a servant. The Father, he says, has given him authority over all flesh. (John 17:2) All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matt 28:18)
The New Testament Church which he founded is most commonly called the kingdom of heaven or of God, in the Gospels: and when he was about to introduce it, this was the proclamation: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 3:2)
Under this character also his servants and disciples celebrated and preached him. Gabriel led the song in foretelling his birth to his mother. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
The Apostle Peter boldly tells the murderers of Christ, God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified, (Acts 2:36) and exalted (him) to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior. (Acts 5:31) And the Apostle Paul repeatedly represents him as being far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church. (Ep 1:21-22, Phil 2:9-11) Indeed, to him all the hosts of heaven, and even the whole creation together, ascribe power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory. (Rev 5:12)
Pilate the heathen was overruled to give a kind of accidental testimony to this truth, and to publish it to different nations, by the inscription on the cross in the three languages then most in use, the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew: This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews; and all the objections of the Jews could not get him to change it. Finally, it is he that wears on his robe and on his thigh this name written King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16) and as his name is, so is he.
And so we see by these instances, selected out of many, how the kingly character and dominion of our Lord runs throughout the whole Bible. The character of a king is one in which he glories, and which is the best expression of his role and position. And this consideration alone may convince us that this character is of the greatest importance, and worthy of our all our attention.
And what, in the second place, is the nature of his kingdom? It is that kingdom which is an empire of grace, an administration of mercy over our guilty world. It is the dispensation intended for the salvation of fallen sinners of our race by the gospel; and on this account the gospel is often called the kingdom of heaven; because its happy consequences are not confined to this earth, but appear in heaven in the highest perfection, and last throughout all eternity.
And so, not only the church of Christ on earth, and the age of the gospel, but all the saints in heaven are all included in the kingdom of Christ. Here on earth his kingdom is in its infancy, but in heaven it is arrived to perfection; but it is in essence the same.
As for the subjects and actors in this kingdom, the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians, that Christ is made head over all things to the church, (Eph 1:232) so the whole universe is at his disposal and command to carry out his mission, for the benefit and salvation of his church.
As Mediator he is carrying out a glorious scheme for the recovery of man, and all parts of the universe are interested or concern themselves in this grand event; and therefore they are all subjected to him, that he may so manage them as to promote this end, and baffle and overwhelm all opposition.
1. The elect angels rejoice in so wonderful a design for populating heaven, from a race of creatures that they had given up for lost. And therefore Christ, as a Mediator, is made the head of all the heavenly armies, and he employs them as his ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation. (Heb. 1:14) These glorious creatures are always active and ready to discharge his orders in any part of his vast empire, and delight to be employed in the services of his kingdom.
2. This is also an event in which the fallen angels deeply interest themselves; they have united all their force and art for above six thousand years to disturb and subvert his kingdom, and frustrate the plans of redeeming love; they therefore are all subjected to the control of Christ, and he shortens and lengthens their chains as he pleases, and they cannot go a hair's breadth beyond his permission.
The scriptures represent our world in its state of guilt and misery as the kingdom of Satan; sinners, while slaves to sin, are his subjects; and every act of disobedience against God is an act of homage to this infernal prince. Therefore Satan is called the God of this world, (2 Cor 4:4) the ruler of this world, (John 12:31) the power of darkness, (Luke 22:53) the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. (Eph 2:3) And sinners are said to be captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:26)
3. Hence also the ministers of Christ, who are employed to recover sinners to a state of holiness and happiness, are represented as soldiers armed for war; not indeed with physical weapons, but with those which are spiritual: arguments of plain truth, and miracles; and these have divine power to destroy strongholds… and to… destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:4)
4. And christians in general are pictured as wrestling, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:12)
As to the history of this kingdom, as to significant events that have marked it, the central one around which all revolves is the death of Christ. And it is presented not as a defeat, but as a glorious conquest gained over all the powers of hell; because, by this means a way was opened to deliver sinners from under their power, and to restore them into liberty and the favour of God.
By that strange, shameful weapon, the cross, and by the glorious resurrection of Jesus, he disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them. (Col 2:15) Through death, says the apostle to the Hebrews, he destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. (Heb 2:14)
Had not Christ by his death offered an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men, they would certainly have continued for ever under the tyranny of Satan; but he has purchased liberty, life, and salvation for them; and so, he has destroyed the kingdom of darkness, and translated multitudes from it into his own gracious and glorious kingdom.
And what shall we say about the extent of his authority in this kingdom?
1. It extends to the infernal regions, and he controls and restrains those evil, mighty, and raging spirits, according to his pleasure.
2. Next, even the inanimate world is connected with our Lord's design to save sinners, and therefore is subjected to him as Mediator. He causes the sun to rise, the rain to fall, and the earth to yield her increase, to furnish provision for the subjects of his grace, and to raise, support and accommodate heirs for his heavenly kingdom.
3. As for the sons of men, who are more immediately concerned in this kingdom, and for whose sake it was erected, they are all its subjects; but then they are of different sorts, according to their characters. Multitudes are rebels against his government; that is, they do not voluntarily submit to his authority, nor do they choose to do his service: they will not obey his laws, they will not obey even the plain and direct commands of his Word. But they are his subjects nonetheless; that is, he rules and manages them as he pleases, whether they will or not.
This power is necessary to carry on successfully his gracious plans towards his people; The kings of the earth, as well as hostile individual rebels, have often set themselves against his kingdom, and sometimes they have flattered themselves they had entirely demolished it.
But Jesus reigns absolute and supreme over the kings of the earth, and over-rules and controls them as he thinks proper; and he disposes all the revolutions, the rises and falls of kingdoms and empires, so as to serve the great plans of his mediation; and their united policies and powers cannot frustrate the work which he has undertaken.
But besides these rebellious involuntary subjects, he has gained the consent of thousands, and they have become his willing subjects by their own choice. They pay attention his authority, they love his government, they make it their aim to please him, and to do his will. Over these he exercises a government of special grace here, and he will make them the happy subjects of the kingdom of his glory hereafter.
And it is his government over these that we will more particularly consider in the second part of this sermon next week.
Once more, the kingdom of Jesus is not confined to this world, but all the millions of mankind in the invisible world are under his dominion, and will continue so to everlasting ages. He is the Lord of the dead and of the living, (Rom 14:9) and has the keys of Hades, (Rev 1:18) the vast invisible world (including heaven as well as hell) and of death. It is he that turns the key and opens the door of death for mortals to pass from world to world: it is he that opens the gates of heaven, and welcomes and admits the nations that keep the commandments of God: and it is he that opens the prison of hell, and locks its door on the prisoners of divine justice. He will forever exercise authority over the vast regions of the unseen world, and the unnumbered multitudes of spirits with which they are peopled.
And so we see the universal extent of the Redeemer's kingdom; and in this respect how much does it differ from all the kingdoms of the earth? The greatest kingdoms of the world are but little spots on the globe. But his empire is truly universal. It extends over land and sea; it reaches beyond the planets, and all the stars of heaven; even beyond the throne of the most exalted archangels, and downward to the lowest abyss in hell.
A great empire in the hands of a mortal is a huge, unwieldy thing; a heap of confusion; a burden to mankind; and it has always rushed headlong from its glory, and fallen to pieces by its own weight.
But Jesus is equal to the government of an empire which is really universal: his hand is able to hold the reins; and it is the blessing of our world to be under his administration. He will turn what appears to us scenes of confusion into perfect order, and convince all worlds that he has not taken one wrong step in the whole plan of his infinite government.
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”…. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:17)