Friday, November 19, 2021

Did Jesus Triumph?

Did Jesus triumph and begin his messianic reign at his death and resurrection, or is he waiting for some future event to do soDid Jesus triumph over his enemies on Calvary or not? Most of us would answer, “Well, of course, he did!” Yet certain interpretations, intentionally or not, deny this and teach that his reign will not commence until his return.

Jesus Lves - Photo by Manuel Rheinschmidt on Unsplash
[Photo by Manuel Rheinschmidt on Unsplash]

Recently, and not for the first time, I heard that assumption expressed, that the first time Jesus appeared he came as the lowly Lamb who gave his life for our sins, and not as the triumphant king who would reign from the messianic throne. But when he comes again, then he will arrive as the conquering hero who will impose his rule on the earth.

While most certainly, he did come the first time as the sacrificial victim who “loosed us from our sins.” But based on what I read in Scripture, that does not mean that he did not also conquer his enemies or begin his reign from the “throne of David.” As one preacher expressed this view,
  • Jesus would fulfill all of God's plans but during His first coming, He would be the suffering servant and not the conqueror king. He will return soon during His Second Coming as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will rule forever and ever” – (By Larry Huch).
Sorry, but that is NOT what the New Testament teaches. Paul, for example, wrote to the church at Colossae that, after nailing the “ordinance that were against us” to the Cross, Jesus “despoiled the principalities and the powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them.” And the description echoes the Roman practice of honoring conquering heroes with a triumphal parade through the streets of the imperial city – (Colossians 2:14-15).

To the Ephesians, Paul expressed a similar thought. Jesus “ascended on high, having led captivity captive.” This triumphal victory occurred following his resurrection. Having raised him from the dead, God seated him “at his right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come.” Not only did God exalt him, He also “put all things in subjection under his feet,” as promised by the Psalmist – (Psalm 110:1, Ephesians 1:20-22, 4:8).

Certainly, Jesus will be reigning over all things on the day when he “arrives on the clouds.” But he is reigning from the Davidic throne now, already, as we speak. And he will not return so he can beat his enemies into submission AFTER his second coming, for he will accomplish that before that day. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, at his “arrival”:
  • Then comes the end, when he will deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power, for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet,” and that will include the “last enemy, death” – (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Paul’s scenario means that Christ is coming again to CONSUMMATE his reign, not to start it. Moreover, any doctrine that claims death will continue to occur after his “arrival,” however rare, is incompatible with the Apostle’s claim. His words mean that Jesus is reigning now, already, he is subjugating his enemies.

Our problem is that we continue to conform our ideas to those of the existing world order. We hear terms like “king,” “reign,” and “conquer” and we imagine a ruler who uses his “iron scepter” to crack the skulls of his opponents, or of just those who might be a bit slow to give him his due honors.  Like the rulers of the present age, we cannot conceive of someone who does not conquer his enemies and rival regimes through political might and violence.

Satan had the same problem. His inability to understand the mind of God caused him to do the very thing that defeated him. As Paul wrote, if the “rulers of this age” had understood the “mystery” of God, they would not have “crucified the Lord of glory.” That “mystery” was “Christ crucified,” the “power and wisdom of God,” and something that only the “mind of the Spirit” could understand. And perhaps that reveals why so many of us still do not understand the necessity and the power of the cross – (1 Corinthian 1:18-23, 2:6-8).

Yes, Jesus did humble himself by submitting to the shameful death of crucifixion. But that is precisely why God “highly exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord.” And “exalted” is in the past tense; it is an accomplished fact – (Philippians 2:6-11).

As for his becoming the “King of kings,” in Revelation, Jesus is declared to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” present tense. It was the “slain Lamb” that “conquered,” nikaĆ“, thereby, becoming “worthy” to open the “sealed scroll,” and to receive all “power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing” - (Revelation 1:4-6, 5:6-14).

For the remainder of the book, he reigns as the “slain Lamb,” not as the “roaring lion of Judah.” He is the messianic “son” destined to “rule the nations with his rod of iron,” but he uses it to “shepherd” the nations, not to smash them and knock heads together.

He “conquered” through his sacrificial death, and he now summons believers to “conquer” in the very same manner that he did, thus, qualifying to reign with him on his Father’s throne. Victorious saints “conquer” Satan by the “blood of the Lamb, their testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death.” And according to Revelation, he is wielding that “iron scepter” over the nations already – (Psalm 2:6-9, Revelation 3:21, 12:1-11).

And in Revelation, Jesus, the “slain Lamb,” does not become the “King of kings”; he IS the “king of kings.” Thus, the “Lamb” will conquer all those who “war” against him, “for he IS,” NOT will become, “the King of kings, and the Lord of lords,” and once again, his exalted status is declared in the present tense - (Revelation 17:14, 19:11-21).

Yes, his kingdom will be consummated at his return, but it also is a present reality. For now, Satan is “bound from deceiving the nations,” and if his powers had not been curtailed, he would have destroyed the church long ago. For now, the kingdom advances on the earth whenever the “gospel of the kingdom” is proclaimed, whenever souls are added to the church, whenever “Christ crucified” is proclaimed, and whenever men and women are delivered from satanic darkness and oppression.

His disciples reign with him now, but we do so as a “kingdom of priests,” not as conquering and bloodthirsty warriors. And like the ancient priests of Israel, our task is to mediate the light of Jesus in a sin-darkened world.