Christ and Civil Government: An Exposition of Psalm 2

Stephen D. Wood

Thinking Americans are concerned by the growing signs of national decay. Even the foundations of our governmental structures seem to be shaking. Many are wondering if our nation will survive as a free nation much past the year 2000.

America is in the midst of an authority crisis. Who is to be the ultimate authority in our national affairs? Shall it be the Supreme Court, the Congress, the President, the majority will of the people, the opinion of experts, or some combination of these? Our answer to the authority question will determine the future of our nation.

Many are appealing to our constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Christian history of the United States, in attempts to reconstruct a Christian civil government in America. while these appeals are commendable, they lack the authority that is uniquely found in the Bible. Therefore, in attempting to answer the question of the ultimate authority for our government we will limit our investigation solely to God’s word.

PSALM 2:1-3 – ‘Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?’ The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Psalm 2 opens with a prophetic picture of the gentile nations (the heathen) and their rulers conspiring together in order to free themselves from the Messiah’s authority.

This Psalm was written by David, the greatest of all Jewish kings during the Old Testament era. David undoubtedly saw some type of immediate application of Psalm 2 to himself. At the same time, we must remember that the greatness of David’s kingship was only a shadow of the universal kingship that the coming Messiah would possess.

The apostles of the New Testament authoritatively declared that Psalm 2 found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:25ff.) They also stated that David gave these predictions regarding the Messiah under divine inspiration.

God had a direct bearing on the government of the Jews during the Old Testament. Many Christians are under the impression that since the first coming of Jesus Christ, there is no longer any connection between God and government. Nothing could be further from the truth! If anything, there is an increased relation between God and civil government.

Before I go any further let me make an important point of clarification, lest I be misunderstood. I firmly believe that the Bible teaches a separation of church and state. Both church and state are two distinct spheres of government united under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. One sphere should not seek to usurp authority over the other.

It is one thing to believe in the separation of church and state. It is quite another thing to believe in the separation of God and state. Many Americans have mistaken the separation of church and state to mean the separation of God and state. This is a fatal mistake.

As we shall see in Psalm 2, any nation which seeks to separate its civil government from the government of God is doomed to destruction.

The first three verses of Psalm 2 describe the vain attempt of gentile nations and their rulers to try to become independent from the government of God. The nations and rulers referred to in these verses are non-Jewish kingdoms. The word translated “heathen” by the King James Version refers to the gentile peoples. It is in this context of a kingly messiah and his relation to the gentile rulers that we see the relationship between Christ and the civil governments.

Evidently these rulers and their subjects regard submission to the Lordship of the Messiah as some form of bondage. They view God’s government as “chains” and “cords” preventing them from “doing their own thing” rather than God’s will.

Many in our day argue against an explicitly Christian civil government on the grounds that it would be overly repressive. A Christian civil government would be as repressive to a nation as wings are to a bird. It is the way God made Gentile nations to fly.

Psalm 2:4-7 – He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

Starting in verse 4 the scene before us shifts from earth to heaven. In verses 1-3 we saw the rebellious kings of the earth. In verses 4-9 we will see the reaction and reply of the King of Heaven.

The significance of this shift of scenes cannot be overly stressed when trying to understand the relationships of Jesus Christ to civil governments. As we shall see in these verses, there is a king enthroned in heaven who is currently the ruler of the nations and kingdoms on earth. This king is Jesus Christ who has been given the name KING OF KING AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev 19:16).

Verse 4 describes an interim period. The earthly kingdoms are carrying out their rebellious schemes without a reaction from heaven. No doubt these rulers are vainly imagining that they are succeeding in their purposes. As their plans progress, so their pride increases.

God’s reaction to these feeble attempts to thwart his government is laughter. Most of you have had the experience in a swimming pool when a little tyke squirms up your back and then tries to dunk you under the water. What is your reaction when the attack begins? If you are like me, you probably let it go on for a little time while you enjoy a little laughter. Then the time of reckoning comes. You lift up your attacker and throw him for a splash. After a few repetitions his enthusiasm is usually dampened.

It is not a humorous game to oppose the rule of God. There is a time gap between the beginning of a rebellion to God’s rule and the punishment God inflicts for that rebellion. Verse 5 declares that the terrifying wrath of God immediately follows the laughter of God. A preacher once said, “It is not funny when God laughs.”

God the Father has firmly established his son, Jesus Christ, as the Messianic King (vss. 6-7). The establishment of the Son of God as Messianic King is part of the fixed and unalterable decree of God (vs. 7). The rejection of the Messianic King by the nations of the world will not, and cannot, alter the will of God.

Many, if not most, of the popular commentators and Bible teachers in America emphatically deny that Jesus Christ has begun his kingdom reign. If this is true, then it must be affirmed that in today’s world Christ has no authority over civil governments. But is it true that Jesus Christ has not yet been installed as king on Mount Zion? A wrong answer to this question could mean the wrath of God falling upon our nation.

Those who reject the idea that Christ is currently king of this world share the same method of interpreting the Bible that was used in the first century by those who failed to recognize Jesus as the Christ (i.e., the Messiah).

The common messianic expectation of the first century was a earthly king who would rule the nations with a physical sword (i.e., a powerful military force). What they did not expect was a king who would rule earth from heaven with the omnipotent Word of God. Out of the mouth of this king “comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” (Rev 19:15).

Many modern prophecy experts claim that the second coming will begin the kingdom rule of Jesus Christ. They expect Jesus to be an earthly king who sits on a physical throne located in Jerusalem, Israel. The book of Hebrews sharply contradicts this teaching.

We are told in Hebrews 12 that we “have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem” (vs. 22). the Mount Zion referred to in Psalm 2-6 is not the Jerusalem on earth, but the one in heaven.

In Hebrews 1 we are told that the son’s throne is in heaven, not on earth. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” after his sacrificial death on the cross.

Hebrews 1:8 explains that sitting on the right hand of God is equivalent to sitting on the Messianic throne and exercising the authority of the kingdom of God: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

In case anyone has not yet understood from these passages that Christ is currently ruling earth from heaven, I refer you to two summary verses in the book of Hebrews. “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens … For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest” (Heb. 8:1&4a).

Those who expect the Messiah to sit on an earthly throne like Old Testament kings have substituted the shadow for the substance (Heb. 8:5).

Psalm 2:8-9 – “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

God the Father promises his Son that he will extend the Messianic kingdom to the ends of the earth (vs. 8). This promise of the Father stands as the foundation for the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). It was only after Jesus declared that he had received “all authority in heaven and on earth” that he commanded his disciples to carry the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations. The Great Commission is the King’s Commission!

The time for the Son to receive the nations as his inheritance began after his resurrection. The greatest advances of the Kingdom of God since the days of the Apostles have been made by those believing in a victorious kingdom that would appear on the earth before the second coming.

Christ taught his disciples to pray for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth (Matt. 6:10). We can make this petition to the Father in the name of Jesus knowing that it will be answered. such a prayer is made in harmony with the eternal plan of God. Prayers cannot only move mountains, they can move kings and nations (Prov. 21:1). the loyal subjects of King Jesus are to daily pray for the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on earth.

The Messiah has been given an iron rod (scepter) to rule the nations (Ps. 2:9, Rev. 12:4, 19:15). The scepter is a symbol of Christ’s sovereign power with which he rules the earth as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). Such symbolism has highly political overtones!

Psalm 2:10-12 – “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Psalm 2 concludes with a solemn warning to civil rulers. In light of the heavenly realities just mentioned, the earthly rulers are told to wise up. They must bow to Jesus Christ or perish. They are exhorted to “be wise” and cease trying to escape the dominion of the Messiah (cf. vss. 1-3).

The rulers and kings of the earth (i.e., the civil governments) are told to “kiss the Son.” To kiss a king was an ancient mode of showing allegiance and doing homage.

Notice very carefully that the civil rulers are explicitly told to kiss the Son, not the Father, Jesus said. “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23b). Civil rulers who do not express public allegiance to the Son are in rebellion against the Father. God is not honored in the nation that does not specifically and expressly honor Jesus Christ as its head. The God of the Bible demands that all nations submit to the rule of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

The implications of these Biblical declarations are startling when you realize that America no longer acknowledges itself to be a Christian nation, but a “pluralistic” one. We still acknowledge that we are a nation under God. Unfortunately, the god which we acknowledge has become a generic variety and not the God of the Bible who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Therefore, our nation is in rebellion to the government of God.

The United States civil government must either do homage to the Son or perish (2:12). Our nation will have the wrath of God poured out upon it if we do not repent and confess that Jesus Christ is the lawful king of America (Ps. 79:6).


May all people everywhere commit themselves, by the grace of God to pray for and diligently work toward the establishment of the Crown Rights of Jesus Christ over all the earth and the reformation of all aspects of American society and politics by the infallible Word of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Triune God.

May we not rest until we see under the Lord’s blessing, Christian individuals in Christian families and Christian churches and Christian schools and Christian businesses in a truly Christian republic with genuinely Christian elected officials and Christian judges practicing Biblical Law and passing Christian legislation.

May that day soon come when our beloved nation will publicly and officially confess:

‘We the people of the United States of America, distinctly acknowledge our responsibility to God, and the supremacy of his Son, Jesus Christ, as King of kings and LORD of lords, and hereby ordain that no law shall be passed by the congress of these United States inconsistent with the will of God, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. AMEN. SO LET IT BE.’


May the LORD continue to use you to warn nations and governments about the folly and the danger of trying to shake off the dominion of Jesus Christ. In these end times, it is easy to have a friendly conversation with muslims, jews and cultural Christians, as long as you only talk about God and make no mention of Jesus(the Stumblingstone and Rock of offence).

Sir, I thank you for your teachings in the relationship between Christ and the government and the relationship between Psalms and Christ.

Your comments are welcome

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