Is Jesus Presently Reigning As King?
The doctrine of premillennialism denies that Jesus is presently reigning as king in His kingdom. The doctrine asserts that Jesus will come back to this earth and establish a physical kingdom at some time in the future. He is supposed to reign over this physical kingdom on this literal earth for a literal 1000 years. Is this doctrine true or is Christ presently reigning as king over His kingdom? If it can be shown that Christ is presently reigning as king over His kingdom, the doctrine of premillennialism will be shown to be false.
Did Jesus Fulfill Messianic Prophecy
When one studies the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah, he is impressed that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. Consequently, he confesses his belief that Jesus is the Christ Messiah/. If Jesus did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies, He was not the Christ; He was a false Christ who deluded the people. Of course, we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. However, let us notice the prophecies made concerning the Messiah. Isaiah foresaw the glory of Christ and predicted that He would reign as king over God's kingdom. He wrote,
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The Zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:6-7).
Others foretold many of the same things. They wrote,
Behold, the days come saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth (Jer. 23:5).
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14).
The prophecies which foretold the establishment of God's kingdom and the reign of the Messiah also foretold human opposition to that reign. The psalmist predicted the efforts which would be made to prevent the king from being appointed as king.
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. 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 (Psa. 2:1-6).
The prophecies which described the reign did not picture it as utopia - an era in which perfect peace would exist upon the earth. Rather, they foretold that Jesus would reign in the midst of His enemies.
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies (Psa. 110:1-2).
These and many other prophecies were made concerning the reign of the Messiah. Did Jesus fulfill these prophecies?
The Advent Of The Messiah
When Jesus entered this world, the angel announced unto Mary, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Lk. 1:32-33). The child born to Mary was to fulfill the Messianic-predictions of a king reigning over His kingdom.
When John labored in his ministry, he announced that the fulfillment of the kingdom prophecies was near at hand; he said, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). When Jesus began His ministry, He announced the same thing, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mk. 1:15; Matt. 4:17). During His ministry, Jesus stated that the fulfillment of the kingdom prophecies was to occur within the lifetime of those who were living then. He said, "Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power" (Mk. 9:1).
When Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman procurator inquired, "Art thou a king then?" Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was 1 born, and for this cause came 1 into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth" (Jn. 18:37).
These statements must be understood in the context of the Messianic prophecies. Jesus, the Son of God, stated that He had come into this world to fulfill the prophecies which had been made centuries earlier by the prophets. The prophets had plainly stated that nothing mere man could do could thwart God's purpose in establishing the Messiah as king over His kingdom. Hence, these promises were either fulfilled as the prophets predicted and as Jesus planned to do, in which case Jesus is the Messiah, or they were not fulfilled, in which case Jesus is not the Messiah.
Announcement of the Fulfillment
The early church believed that God fulfilled these prophecies when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit on the right hand of God. Their preaching contained the announcement of the fulfillment of these prophecies. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached that Jesus was reigning on David's throne. He said,
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before speaks of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all,the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:29-36).
This sermon announced the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies that God would raise up a descendant of David, namely Jesus, who would reign on David's throne. The sermon contained several Messianic prophecies, including Psalm 110:1.
In Acts 4, the saints applied the prophecy in Psalm 2, regarding God establishing the Messiah as king on His throne despite the concerted efforts of the unbelievers to thwart that reign, to the events surrounding the cross. Luke records their prayer,
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done (Acts 4:24-28).
They understood Psalm 2 to be fulfilled. The efforts to stop the coronation of Jesus on David's throne were those of the Jews, Gentiles, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. These efforts failed because God raised Jesus from the dead and set Him at His own right hand. He is presently reigning in heaven.
Consequently, gospel preaching contained the announcement of the establishment of the kingdom of God. Philip preached "the good news about the kingdom of God" (Acts 8:12, NASB) in Samaria. The good news was that the long awaited kingdom of God had come, not that it had been postponed indefinitely. Paul related that God had "delivered" the Colossians from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13-14). The author of the Hebrews reported that the Hebrew Christians had received a kingdom which cannot be shaken (i.e., an eternal kingdom, Heb. 12:28), the kind of kingdom foretold by Daniel (2:44). John stated that he and the saints in the seven churches of Asia were in the kingdom of God (Rev. 1:9).
In addition of these plain statements that the prophecies were fulfilled and that the kingdom was established, the New Testament authors also stated that Jesus had all authority given to Him after His resurrection. Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in~heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). God placed everything under Jesus' authority. Paul told how God had subjected all things to Christ as he stated, ". . . which he (God) wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own 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 world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1:20-22; cf. Col. 2:16). Everything, both in heaven and on earth, has been subjected to Christ since He was risen from the dead and was seated at the right hand of God. If everything is already subject to Christ, what more authority could be given to Him at some future date? He already has all authority! Hence, He is presently reigning as the monarch over His kingdom.
The period of Christ's reign is misunderstood. Hence, some believe that it has not yet begun, that it will begin at some future date, and that it will last for a literal thousand years. However, the Scriptures state that the reign of Christ began when He took His seat on the right hand of,the throne of God. Notice these Scriptures which teach that the, period of Jesus reign is from His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9) until His second coming. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). He was to sit on the right hand of God until God made His enemies the footstool of the His feet (Heb. 1:13; 10:12-13). Paul wrote on this subject in his discussion of the resurrection of the body. He said,
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:23-26).
Notice these facts gleaned from this passage: (1) Jesus is presently reigning; (2) He will continue to reign until the last enemy is destroyed; (3) The last enemy to be destroyed is death which enemy will be destroyed when the dead are raised; (4) After that occurs, the kingdom will be delievered up (not set up) to God; (5) Finally, Christ will "also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him" (1 Cor. 15:28).
At this present time, Jesus should be recognized as "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15). He presently has the key of David (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7) and is reigning as King over His kingdom.
Mistaken Views Based On Misunderstanding of Kingdom
Those who do not believe that Jesus is presently reigning as King over His kingdom hold this conclusion because they misunderstand the nature of the kingdom which He came to establish. They have a physical, literal kingdom in mind. They think that Jesus came to this earth to establish a temporal government in the city of Jerusalem which would gain control of the entire earth. This government would establish a one thousand year reign of peace in which the physical nature of things in this world would be changed so thoroughly that the wolf would dwell with the lamb and the leopard would lie down with the young goat. Of course, that has never literally occurred. However, these passages were never intended to be understood, literally because Jesus never intended to establish a physical kingdom.
The nature of the kingdom which Jesus came to establish was spiritual. When Jesus stood before Pilate, He said, "My kingdom is not of .this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (Jn. 18:36). Again, He said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, to there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Lk. 17:20-21). When Jesus' disciples tried to make Him an earthly king, He withdrew from their midst (Jn. 6:15), refusing to be an earthly king. The passage is thoroughly unable of explanation from a premillennial perspective. Premillennialists believe that Jesus wanted to be an earthly king. John 6:15 records that the people wanted to make Jesus an earthly king. Why did He refuse to allow them to make Him an earthly king? The premillennialist cannot give an answer, although the answer is quite simple - Jesus did not come to establish a physical kingdom!
As a matter of fact, Jesus could not reign as a king on this earth for several reasons. The prophet Zechariah foresaw that the Messiah would occupy the position of both priest and king; he wrote,
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zech. 6:12-13).
This prophecy was difficult of interpretation to those who lived before Christ. The Messiah had to be a descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:11-14), of the tribe of Judah. Yet, Zechariah said that He would be priest on His throne. The priest had to descend through the tribe of Levi. The Jews, prior to the coming of Christ, did not understand how the Messiah was going to be both priest and king.
Jesus could not be a priest upon this earth. "For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law" (Heb. 8:4). Consequently, the priesthood of Christ had to be a spiritual priesthood in which Jesus serves in heaven. Inasmuch as Jesus has to serve as a priest-king and he cannot serve as a priest on earth, He cannot serve as a king on earth as well.
This is further confirmed by Jeremiah. Jeremiah predicted that no descendant of Jehoiachin (also called Coniah) could occupy the throne of David in Judah. He wrote, "Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jer. 22:30). Jesus is a descendant of Jechoniah (Matt. 1:11-12). Hence, Jesus could not sit upon the throne of David in judah. Jesus sits on the throne of David but He sits on that throne in heaven, seated at the right hand of God. He could not reign on this earth in a temporal kingdom.
If Jesus Is Not Reigning
There are some conclusions which follow from taking the position that Jesus is not presently reigning as King in His kingdom which we need to consider. Those who deny that Jesus is presently reigning are unwilling to accept these conclusions. Hence, these become additional evidences that Jesus is reigning as King over His kingdom. If Jesus is not reigning as King over His kingdom:
1. God broke His promise. In Psalm 2, Jehovah promised that He would establish His kingdom regardless of man's attempts to thwart His purpose. Premillennialism teaches that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as an earthly king caused God not to be able to establish the kingdom in the first century. Hence, God's promise failed. The next conclusion which follows is this: if the rejection of Jesus in the first century caused God to be unable to fulfill His promise, how can we be sure that a similar rejection at a later time would not have the same effect? This destroys confidence in the word of God.
2. Jesus is a failure. John 18:37 plainly states that Jesus came to this earth for the purpose of becoming a king. If He did not accomplish that which He set out to do, as premillennialists assert, He failed in His mission.
3. Dethrones Christ. Premillennialism dethrones Christ by denying that He is presently reigning as king over His kingdom. Hence, if premillennialism is true,' we cannot confess that Jesus is Lord (Acts 2:36) or that He is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15). We could only state a conviction that He will become these things at some future date. Presently,' however, Jesus does not have "all authority" if premillennialism is true despite the clear affirmations to the contrary (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23).
4. The Apostles have no authority. The apostles were given "binding and loosing" authority in the kingdom (Matt. 16:18; 18:18). If the kingdom has not come, they have no binding and loosing authority. The words of the apostles would not then be the authoritative word of God for today. The New Testament looses its authority if premillennialism is true.
5. No need for a new birth. The new birth was the condition for one to have admission into the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:3, 5). If that kingdom has not come, there is no need for a man to be born again. Why be born again if there is no kingdom in which to enter?
Jesus is reigning! He is reigning in heaven today and will, continue to reign until the second coming at which time He will return to this earth, raise the dead, and judge the world in righteousness. He is presently Lord of lords and King of kings. Each of us needs to voluntarily submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge His authority.
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 1, pp. 7-10