As we survey the remarkable predictions of Christ’s reign in the book of Psalms, we ought to keep two ideas in mind.
- That Christ’s kingship extends not only over those who have accepted Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Although this is a great truth and we don’t want to diminish the importance of personal salvation as the means by which the world is leavened, the picture is far bigger than most modern day evangelicals imagine. When the Bible speaks of nations being converted, it literally means nations, ethnic groups or families – in fact all social institutions. The Gospel message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ extends literally over every human institution imaginable.
- When we speak of the church “taking dominion,” we are merely speaking of the duty of Christians to be faithful to exercise stewardship over what God already owns. Too often, the “dominion message” has been attacked as a message of “fear, domination and control.” On the contrary, we are to serve as Christ served, suffer as He suffered – rule as he ruled – not as a dictator, but as a suffering servant willing to give up His life for the salvation of the world.
Let’s look first at Psalm 2:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel’” (Psalms 2:6-9).
Can there be any doubt that this Psalm was fulfilled at the resurrection and ascension? Jesus was set in place as the King over Mount Zion – representing God’s covenant people — and Jesus now rules the nations with a rod of iron over the nations. According to Revelation 1:5, not only is “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead,” but He is also now “the ruler over the kings of the earth.”
Yet many Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the faithful witness and the firstborn from the dead and yet He has somehow delayed His rulership and possession of the nations. We’d need some strong reasons to believe that Christ’s dominion is supposed to remain hidden until He returns.
Instead we see throughout the Psalms the bridge between the curse of Adam and the glorious promise of the New Covenant. Since God ruled over all of life from the very beginning, man’s rebellion against God manifested itself in every area of life; therefore God’s redemption of man from sin now involves every area of life.
- God’s redemptive revelation, the Bible, must apply to every area of life.
- Christ’s victory over sin at the cross involves every area of life.
Perhaps nowhere else in the Old Testament is this bridge between the curse and the covenant brought to bear than in Psalm 22. Here David, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, envisions Jesus crucified on a cross in vivid detail.
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots (Psalm 22:16-18).
Just a few verses later, we see the end result of Christ’s obedient action on the Cross.
All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s,
And He rules over the nations (Psalm 22:27,28).
The resulting effect of Jesus being crucified on the cross is the conversion of the whole world. All the ends of the earth will turn the Lord. This phrase means literally that every part of the earth will turn to him. All the families of the nations will worship Jesus because He rules them.
Again, there’s no reason to believe this refers to individual people from among the nations. In this context, “nations” simply means nations.
All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.
A posterity shall serve Him.
It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,
They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,
That He has done this (Psalm 22:29-31).
Note that the Psalmist here is referring to a period within history, when new generations are yet to be born. “The prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship.” Not only does Christ’s victorious kingdom extend over all the nations of the earth, it extends over all generations as well, during a time when people are still eating and worshipping, becoming sick, dying and being born.
This is a theme repeated again and again throughout the Psalms.
They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more (Psalm 72:5-7).
This Psalm seems to refer to this present life within history, because it speaks of the sun and moon and of all generations (v. 5).
And what does this rule look like?
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him,
And His enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
Will bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will offer gifts.
Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
All nations shall serve Him (Psalm 72:8-11).
Echoing the Abrahamic promises, people are blessed in Christ and all nations (not some people from the nations, but entire nations) will call him blessed.
His name shall endure forever;
His name shall continue as long as the sun.
And men shall be blessed in Him;
All nations shall call Him blessed (Psalm 72:8-11).
In fact, the whole earth will be filled with his glory – not just certain places and certain people.
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!
And blessed be His glorious name forever!
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen (Psalm 72:18,19).
According to Psalm 72, Jesus will rule over all nations within history and all nations will serve Him and call Him blessed. The Messiah’s rule, according to the Psalmist, will not be restricted to Israel alone as in the time of David. No, God’s Anointed is to have dominion over the whole world as Revelation 16:16 confirms as “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
How is this to be accomplished? In the New Testament, Paul implores us toward the revelation that God the Father puts all things underneath the feet of the Son Jesus Christ!
… that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:18-23).
Psalm 110, the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament, is perhaps the most important of the messianic Psalm with regard to Christ’s dominion over the nations.
The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies! (Psalms 110:1,2).
Though this is a Psalm of David, prophetic passage is quoted again and again throughout the New Testament to refer to Jesus Christ, the king over all nations. In Acts 2, the Apostle Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost spoke of David the prophet:
“Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’” (Acts 2:30-35).
According to Peter, this prophecy had been fulfilled in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus as Lord and Christ. Three key phrases in David’s prophecy indicate the place from where Christ is to rule; the time period in which this rule is to take place; and how He is to rule.
- The right hand of God – This is a clear indication that Christ’s rule over the nations occurs prior to the Second Coming because He is seated at the right hand of God. Throughout the New Testament, Christ being at the “right hand of God” is always understood as referring to His presence in heaven and not as His physical rule on earth that is to take place at the Second Coming.
- Till I make Your enemies Your footstool – This one little adverb, (Greek: ad) “til” or “until,” indicates the time period in which the rulership of Christ from heaven is to take place – Until God the Father places Christ’s enemies under His feet. In other words, though Christ triumphed over sin, the word and the devil at His crucifixion and resurrection, Christ will remain in heaven until all His enemies are being subdued, until finally that process is complete, “the last enemy,” as Paul writes, being “death” itself at the time of the general resurrection. So if Christ is in heaven, then how exactly does He make His rule known on earth? – The answer is found in the next verse.
- Through the rod of His strength – This is a phrase that may also be translated as God’s “mighty scepter,” that is of course a symbol throughout the Old Testament that is revealed in the New Testament as the Gospel, the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God. It is through the preaching of the Gospel, that the Church acts as ambassadors to spread the Good News of the reign of Christ as we go forth into all the nations in the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission.
And that of course begs the question, what kind of Gospel are we preaching? Is it a Gospel that presents Jesus as fire insurance for those who will walk the aisle or “accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior”? – Or is it as a Divine King who really rules with a rod of iron over entire nations and who transmits His invincible power to the church in its mission to the world?