The Mediatorial Kingdom and Glories of Jesus Christ - Part II
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
This morning we come to the second part of the sermon which was begun last week titled The Mediatorial Kingdom and Glories of Jesus Christ.
We have recently been reminded that the Christian is the light of the world, the only light of the world. And so the truth is that the world is in utter, complete darkness without Christ, and the only institution which brings Christ to the world is the Christian Church, and the Christian Church on earth is nothing buts its members, individual Christians. They, and only they, shine the only light that is to be seen in this dark world.
As we look around us and survey the state of our province, and nation and indeed the whole world, it can become quite overwhelming and discouraging. But this can also have another and much better effect. It can help us turn our eyes towards another kingdom, the peaceful, pure and altogether wonderful kingdom of Jesus Christ.
1. We were reminded of the circumstances of this interrogation of Jesus by Pontius Pilate. The Jews, knowing that no religious argument would have any weight with him, manufacture this accusation, that since Jesus claims to be a king, Pilate would be a traitor to Caesar if he did not condemn him. That is when Pilate asks this question: “So you are a king?” and Jesus replies in John 18 verse 37: “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.”
2. We then surveyed the Scriptures and saw how this character of the Messiah as King is a common and wonderful theme which runs throughout the Old and the New Testaments.
3. And we looked into the nature of this kingdom,
i. its actors, which included the elect angels as well as the fallen angels, his ministers on earth as well as every individual Christian,
ii. its history revolving around the central event of the Cross,
iii. and its extent which can be summarized as “all things” animate as well as inanimate all working towards his purposes.
We ended with the reflection that though, in the hands of a mortal, a great empire is a huge and unwieldy thing which always rushes headlong from its glory, and falls to pieces by its own weight, Jesus, in contrast, can easily manage the government of an empire which is really universal: his hand is able to hold the reins and He will certainly turn what appears to us scenes of confusion into perfect order, and show for all to see that he has not taken one wrong step in the whole plan of his infinite government.
This morning we will continue our survey with a comparison of the kingdom of this great king with the kingdoms of this world.
The kingdoms of the world have their laws and ordinances, and so has the kingdom of Christ. Look into your Bibles, and there you will find the laws of this kingdom, from its first foundation from the moment of man’s fall. The laws of human governments are often defective or unrighteous; but these are perfect, holy, just, and good. Human laws are enforced with sanctions; but the rewards and punishments can only affect our mortal bodies, and cannot reach beyond the present life: but the sanctions of these divine laws are eternal, and there never shall be an end to their execution. Everlasting happiness and everlasting misery, of the most extreme kind and the highest degree, are the rewards and punishments which the immortal King distributes among his immortal subjects; and they are appropriate to his character, and are adapted to their nature.
Human laws extend only to outward actions, but these laws reach the heart, and the principle of action within. Not a secret thought, not a motion of the soul, is exempted from them. If the subjects of earthly kings behave well outwardly, and give no visible evidence of disloyalty, they are treated as good subjects, though they should be enemies in their hearts. But Jesus is the Lord of souls; he makes his subjects bow their hearts as well as the knee to him. He gently commands their thoughts and affections as well as their external practice and makes himself inwardly beloved as well as outwardly obeyed. His subjects are such on whom he may depend: they are all ready to lay down their lives for him. Love, affectionate, unfeigned, ardent love, is the principle of all their obedience; and so it is that “his commandments are not burdensome,” (1 John 5:3) but delightful to them.
Other kings have their ministers and officers of state. In like manner Jesus employs the armies of heaven as ministering spirits in his mediatorial kingdom: besides these he has ministers, of a humbler sort, who negotiate more immediately in his name with mankind. These are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, to beseech men, in his place, to be reconciled to God. These are appointed to preach his word, to administer his ordinances, and to manage the affairs of his kingdom. This view gives a peculiar dignity and importance to this office. These should be adorned, not like the ministers of earthly courts, with the trappings of gold and silver, but with the beauties of holiness, the ornament of a meek and quiet, zealous and faithful spirit, and a life becoming the gospel of Christ.
Other kings have their soldiers: so all the legions of the elect angels, the armies of heaven, are the soldiers of Jesus Christ, and under his command. This he asserted when he was in such defenseless circumstances, that he seemed to be abandoned by heaven and earth. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father,” he says, and he would “at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt 26:53)
Let me remind you of that majestic description of this all-conquering hero and his army, which we saw not long ago in the book of Revelation chapter 19. I saw heaven opened, says the Apostle John, and behold a white horse, an emblem of victory and triumph, and the one sitting on it is called Faithful and True. How different a character from that of mortal conquerors! And in righteousness he judges and makes war. War is generally a scene of injustice and lawless violence; and conquerors have often used their arms to gratify their own greed or ambition, and make encroachments upon others.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, makes war too, but it is in righteousness; it is in the cause of righteousness he takes up arms. The divine description goes on: His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, emblems of his manifold authority over the various kingdoms of the world, and the various regions of the universe. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, in the blood of his enemies; and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses: the whitest innocence and purity, and the beauties of holiness are, as it were, the uniforms of these celestial armies. And from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev 19:11-16)
In what manner the war is carried on between the armies of heaven and the powers of hell, we do not know; but that there is really something of this kind, we clearly see from Revelation chapter 12: War arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan. (Rev 12:7-9)
And so you see all the host of heaven are volunteers under the Author of our salvation. Indeed, he commands even the stars, and calls them by their names. From heaven the stars fought, says Deborah in the book of Judges, from their courses they fought against Sisera (Judges 5:20) the enemy of God's people. Every part of creation serves under him, and he can commission a gnat, or a fly, or the meanest insect, to be the executioner of his enemies. Fire and water, hurricanes and earthquakes; all these fight under him, and conspire to avenge his honor with the guilty sons of men.
The subjects of his grace in particular are all so many soldiers; their life is a constant warfare; and they are incessantly engaged in hard conflict with temptations from without, and the insurrections of sin from within. Sometimes, unfortunately! they fall; but their General lifts them up again, and inspires them with strength to renew the fight. And it is on their knees that they fight most successfully. This is the best posture for the soldiers of Jesus Christ; for prayer brings down recruits from heaven in the hour of difficulty.
They are indeed but poor weaklings and invalids; and yet they overcome, through the blood of the Lamb; and he makes them conquerors, indeed more than conquerors. It is the military character of christians that gives the apostle occasion to address them in a military style, like a general at the head of his army. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. He writes to the Ephesians, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Eph 6:10-18)
The ministers of the gospel in particular, and especially the apostles, are soldiers, or officers, in this spiritual army. Therefore the Apostle Paul speaks of his office, in military terms; I have, he says, fought the good fight. (2 Tim 4:7)We are not, he says, waging war according to the flesh. The humble doctrines of the cross are our weapons, and these are mighty through God, to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5) Fight the good fight, he says to Timothy. (1 Tim. 6:12) And again Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:3)
The great plan of the gospel-ministry is to rescue enslaved souls from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and to recover them into a state of liberty and loyalty to Jesus Christ; or, in the words of the apostle, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. (Acts 26:18) Mere men are indeed very inadequate for the conflict; but their success shows all the more clearly that the surpassing power belongs to God; (2 Cor 4:7) and many have they subdued, through his strength, to the obedience of faith, and made the willing captives of the cross of our Lord.
Other kingdoms are often founded in blood, and many lives are lost on both sides in acquiring them. The kingdom of Christ, too, was founded in blood; but it was the blood of his own heart: life was lost in the conflict; but it was his own; his own life lost, to purchase life for his people. Others have risen to lead empires through the blood of mankind, and even of their own subjects, but Christ shed only his own blood to spare that of his soldiers. The general devotes his life as a sacrifice to save his army.
See the ardent love of the Author of our salvation! How amiable does his character appear, in contrast with that of the kings of the earth! They often sacrifice the lives of their subjects, while they keep themselves out of danger, or perhaps are rioting at ease in pleasure and luxury; but Jesus engaged in the conflict with death and hell alone. He stood a single champion in a field of blood. He conquered for his people by falling himself: he subdued his and their enemies by resigning himself to their power: Worthy is such a general to be Commander in Chief of the hosts of God, and to lead the armies of heaven and earth!
The founders of earthly kingdoms are famous for their heroic actions. They have braved the dangers of sea and land, routed powerful armies, and subjected nations to their will. They have shed rivers of blood, laid cities in ruins, and countries in desolation. These are the exploits which have made the Alexanders, the Cæsars, and other conquerors of this world, famous throughout all nations and ages. Jesus had his exploits too; but they were all of the gracious and charitable kind. His conquests were so many deliverances, and his victories salvations. He subdued, in order to set free; and made captives to deliver them from slavery.
He conquered the legions of hell, that seemed let loose at that time, that he might have opportunity of displaying his power over them, and that mankind might realize how much they needed a deliverer from their tyranny. --He triumphed over the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, by a quotation from his own word. He rescued wretched creatures from his power by an almighty command. He conquered the most inveterate and stubborn diseases, and restored health and vigour with a word of his mouth. He vanquished stubborn souls with the power of his love, and made them his willing people. He triumphed over death, the king of terrors, and delivered Lazarus from the prison of the grave, as an example and first-fruit of a general resurrection. Finally, by his own inherent powers he broke the bonds of death, and forced his way to heaven. He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, by his own death, and laid the foundation in his own blood for destroying the kingdom he had seized, and forming a glorious kingdom of willing subjects redeemed from his tyranny.
Other conquerors have gone from country to country, carrying desolation along with them; Jesus went about doing good. His miraculous powers were the powers of miraculous mercy and benevolence. He could easily have made himself an earthly king, and routed all the forces of the earth; but he had no such ambition. He that raised Lazarus from the grave could easily restore his soldiers to vigour and life, after they had been wounded or killed. He that fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, could have supported his army with plenty of provision in the greatest scarcity. He that walked on water, and enabled Peter to do the same, could easily have transported his forces from country to country, without the need of ships. Certainly, he was capable by his own single power to conquer any opponent. What could all the armies of the earth have done against him, who struck an armed company down to the earth with only a word of his mouth? But these were not the victories he sought: Victories of grace, deliverances for the oppressed, salvation for the lost; these were his heroic actions. He glories in his being mighty to save. (Is 63:1)
And what an attractive, wonderful character this is! How much more lovely is the Saviour of sinners, the Deliverer of souls, than the enslavers and destroyers of mankind; which is the general character of the renowned heroes of our world? Who has ever performed such truly heroic and brave actions as this almighty conqueror?
- He has pardoned the most aggravated crimes, in consistency with the honour of the divine government:
- he has delivered an innumerable multitude of immortal souls from the tyranny of sin and the powers of hell, set the prisoners free, and brought them into “the freedom of the glory of the children of God;” (Rom 8:21)
- he has peopled heaven with redeemed slaves, and advanced them to royal dignity. All his subjects are kings; (Rev. 1:6) The one who conquers, he says, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev. 3:21) They will wear royal robes and crowns of unfading glory. They are more than conquerors over their lusts and passions, and all their enemies.
- Whoever gave such encouragement to his soldiers as this, if we endure, we will also reign with him? (2 Tim 2:12) What mortal general could bestow immortality and perfect happiness upon his loyal subordinates?
But these boundless blessings Jesus has to bestow. In human governments merit is often neglected, and those who serve their country best are often rewarded with demotion. But none have ever served the King of kings in vain. The least good action, even the giving of a cup of water to one of his saints in need, will not pass unrewarded in his government.
Other kings have their arms, their swords, their cannons, and other instruments of destruction; and with these they acquire and defend their dominions. Jesus, our king, has his arms but how different they are! The force of evidence and conviction in his doctrine, attested with miracles, the energy of his dying love, the gentle, and yet powerful and effective influence of his Holy Spirit; these are the weapons with which he conquered the world.
His gospel is the great magazine from where his apostles, the first founders of his kingdom, drew their arms; and with these they subdued the nations to the obedience of faith. The gospel, says the Apostle Paul, is the power of God for salvation. (Rom. 1:16) The humble doctrines of the cross became almighty, and overcame every obstacle, and after a time subdued the vast Roman empire which itself had subdued the world.
The Holy Spirit made these weapons effective; and, by the mercy of God, though they are quite powerless without his help, yet, when he helps, they are still successful. Many stubborn sinners have been unable to resist the preaching of Christ crucified: they have found him indeed to be the power of God for salvation.
And is it not astonishing that any one should be able to resist against his dying love, and continue as an enemy of his cross? I, he says, when I am lifted up from the earth, that is, when I am suspended on the cross, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32) You see he expected that his cross would be an irresistible weapon.
And who can see the blessed Jesus dying there in the agonies of torture and love; the just for the unjust, meek and humble, bearing the sins of a fallen people, and not melt into submission at his feet! Is there one heart in this small assembly proof against the energy of this bleeding, agonizing, dying love? Surely, such a sight has to spark a corresponding affection in your hearts towards him; and it is, in the last analysis, an exploit of wickedness, it is the last desperate effort of an impenetrable heart, to be able to resist.
Other conquerors march at the head of their troops, with all the marks of power and grandeur, and with their large well-equipped armies, accustomed to war: and who would not expect them to be victorious?
But see the despised Jesus without riches, without arms, without forces, opposing the united powers of earth and hell; or see a company of poor fishermen and a tent-maker, with no other powers but those of doing good, with no other arms but those of reason, and the strange unpopular doctrines of a crucified Christ !
See the professed followers of a master that was hung like a wrongdoer and a slave, see these men marching out to encounter the powers of darkness, the whole strength of the Roman empire, the lusts, prejudices, and interests of all nations, and travelling from country to country, without guards, without friends, exposed to insult and contempt, to the rage of persecution, to every kind of tormented deaths which earth or hell could invent:
See this little army marching into the wide world, in these circumstances, and can you expect they will have any success? Does this appear to be a promising expedition? It does not. Human reason would predict that they will soon be cut in pieces, and the Christian cause buried with them.
But these unpromising champions, with the help of the Holy Spirit, conquered the world, and spread the religion of the crucified Jesus among all nations. It is true they lost their lives in the cause, like brave soldiers; but the cause did not die with them. Their blood proved to be the seed of the church. Their cause is immortal and invincible.
Let devils in hell, let Heathens, Jews, and Moslems, let Atheists, Papists, and persecutors of every character, do their worst; still this cause will live in spite of them. All the enemies of Christ will be forced to confess at last that Jesus is Lord.
And so, however dark our times may seem to be, we can rest assured nonetheless that Jesus, the Prophet of Galilee, will push his conquests from country to country, until all nations submit to him. And has not his victorious arm reached to us in these ends of the earth: here he has subdued some obstinate rebels, and made their reluctant souls willingly bow in heartfelt homage to him. Are not some of you the trophies of his victory? Has he not rooted out the enmity of your carnal minds, and gently constrained you to the most affectionate obedience?
The kingdoms of the world have their rise, their progress, perfection, declension, and ruin. And in these things, the kingdom of Christ bears some resemblance to them, excepting that it will never have an end.
Its rise was small at first, and it has passed through many revolutions in various ages. It was first founded in the family of Adam, but in about 1600 years, the space between the creation and the flood, it was almost demolished by the wickedness of the world; and at length confined to the little family of Noah.
After the flood, the world soon fell into idolatry, but, that this kingdom of Christ might not be totally destroyed, it was erected in the family of Abraham; and among the Jews it continued until the coming of Christ in the flesh.
This was indeed but the infancy of his kingdom, and we do not often think of it in that way. It is the New Testament Church that is described as the kingdom of Christ, in a special sense. And it was only very small and unpromising at first. When its Founder was dying on a Cross, and all his followers had forsaken him and fled, who would have thought it would ever come to anything, that it would ever have recovered?
But it revived with him; and, when he equipped his apostles with gifts and graces for their mission, and sent them out to increase his kingdom, it made its progress through the world with amazing speed, notwithstanding all the early and powerful opposition it met with. The Jews set themselves against it, and raised persecutions against its ministers, wherever they went. And then the tyrant Nero used all the power of the Roman empire to crush them. Peter, Paul, and thousands of the Christians fell prey to his rage, like sheep for the slaughter. This persecution was continued under his successors, with only rare interruptions, for about two hundred years.
But, under all these pressures, the Church persevered; and the more she was persecuted, the more she spread and flourished; and at length she was delivered from oppression by Constantine the Great, about the year 320.
But now she had a more dangerous enemy to encounter: Prosperity: and this did her much more harm than all the persecutions of her enemies. Now the kingdom of Christ began to be corrupted with heresies: the preaching of the gospel, which used to be the most dangerous occupation in the world, now came with honour and profit, and men began to throw themselves into it from principles of greed and ambition; superstition and corruption of morals increased; and at length the Bishop of Rome was set up for universal head of the church in the year 606, and gradually the whole monstrous system of popery was formed and established, and continued in force for nearly a thousand years.
The kingdom of Christ was now at a low state; and tyranny and superstition reigned under that name over the greatest part of the Christian world. Nevertheless, our Lord still had his witnesses who opposed the torrent of corruption; until at length, Luther, Calvin and several others, were made the honoured instruments of introducing the Reformation from popery; when various whole kingdoms, shook off the authority of the Pope, and let in the pure light of the gospel.
Since that time the kingdom of Christ has struggled hard, and it has lost ground everywhere; Where there once were many Protestant churches; now are only ruins. And of those that still retain the reformed religion, the most have reduced it into a mere formality; and it has but little influence upon the hearts and lives even of its professors. And so it is here in Canada. This gracious kingdom of Christ makes but little way here. The snare of comfort and riches have set the most on a determined course to perish in their rebellion rather honour the giver of these blessings.
And how long it will continue in this way no one can say: however, this we may know, it will not be so always. The Lord may yet take to him his great power, and reign in a more extensive and illustrious manner than he has ever yet done in this country and the whole world; or we may be very near the glorious time of his return.
Once the scheme of Providence is completed, and all of what God has spoken by his prophets is accomplished, the world will be ripe for the universal judgment; and then proclamation shall be made throughout all nature, that there will be no more delay. (Rev 10:6) Then the Supreme Judge, the same Jesus that ascended the cross, will ascend the throne, and review the affairs of time: then he will put an end to the present course of nature, and the present form of administration. Then heaven and hell will be filled with their respective inhabitants: then time will close, and eternity run on in one uniform stream, without end.
But the kingdom of Christ, though changed in its place and form of government, will not then come to an end. His kingdom is strictly the kingdom of heaven; and at the end of this world, his subjects will only be removed from these lower regions into a more glorious country, where they and their King shall live together forever in the most endearing intimacy; where the noise and commotions of this restless world, the revolutions and agitations of kingdoms, the terrors of war and persecution, will never again reach them; but all will be perfect peace, love, and happiness, through immeasurable ages.
This is the last and most illustrious state of the kingdom of Christ, now so small and weak in appearance: this is the final grand result of his administration; and it will appear to admiring worlds wisely planned, gloriously executed, and perfectly finished.
What conqueror ever erected such a kingdom! What subjects are so completely, so lastingly happy, as those of the blessed Jesus!
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