Christ as King

The third office that Christ executes as our Redeemer is that of king. The Shorter Catechism, in answer to the question, “How doth Christ execute the office of a king?” says: “Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.”
The kingly office of Christ relates primarily to the risen and glorified Christ who, seated at the right hand of the Father and possessing all authority in heaven and on earth, directs the advancing affairs of His kingdom and secures the salvation of His people. Exercising His authority through the agency of the Holy Spirit, through whom He is ever present with His people, He effectively applies to His people the redemption which He has worked out for them and effectively restrains the forces of evil which would thwart their redemption. As the Second Person of the Trinity Christ possessed divine power and glory from eternity, and so was King of the entire universe. But during the time of His career on earth He voluntarily subjected Himself to the limitations and privations of human nature, and His divine power and glory were veiled except for occasional miracles which bore testimony to the nature of His mission and work. But with the completion of His work of redemption He, as the God-Man, ascended to heaven in His glorified nature and now directs every step in the advancement of His kingdom.
That Christ is a king is taught clearly and repeatedly in Scripture. In the first place His name, “Christ,” means “anointed.” In Old Testament times the anointing of the king signified his appointment to the kingly office. To Samuel God said, “Fill thy horn with oil, and go: I will send thee to Jesse, the Bethlehemite; for I have provided me a king among his sons.… Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward,” 1 Sam. 16:1, 13. After announcing to Mary that she should have a Son whose name was to be called Jesus, the angel Gabriel added “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: 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 ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end,” Luke 1:32, 33. At the very beginning of His public ministry Nathanael, impressed with His supernatural insight, acknowledged His true kingship: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art King of Israel,” John 1:49. Christ Himself claimed to be a king, and announced the establishment of His kingdom, which is variously called the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ. Mark tells us that early in His ministry, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the Gospel,” 1:14, 15. In the Sermon on the Mount He made it plain that not mere lip service but only true allegiance from the heart would secure admittance into His kingdom: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven,” Matt. 7:21. In the eschatological discourse of Matt. 25:31–46 Christ pictured Himself as seated upon the throne of universal judgment, before whom is to be gathered all the nations, whose voice pronounces sentence and assigns to the good and the evil their eternal rewards and punishments. In conformity with the accepted custom of the Roman Empire that the newly designated king, coming to the capital city for the first time in his official capacity, should be mounted on a proud spirited horse and publicly welcomed by a multitude of his people who shouted his praise and strewed flowers in his path, Jesus so entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, except that instead of the proud spirited horse he used the lowly ass, symbol of service and humility,—thus literally fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass,” Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5. On this same occasion He was welcomed by the crowd with the words, “Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord,” Luke 19:38,—which welcome He accepted as entirely appropriate. During His trial before Pilate His enemies made the charge: “We found this man … saying that He Himself is Christ a king,” Luke 23:2. In reply to Pilate’s question Jesus 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,” John 18:36; and when asked directly, “Are thou a king then?” He answered affirmatively: “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth,” John 18:37.
Paul’s testimony to the kingship of Christ is, of course, clear and abundant. In the Epistle to the Ephesians he declares that “God raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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: and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church,” 1:20–23. To sit at the right hand of the Father is to occupy the position of honor and power. In these words Paul tells us that Christ, in His theanthropic nature, now presides at the tribunal of heaven, that all creatures, celestial and terrestrial, admire His majesty, obey His will, and are subject to His power. In the Epistle to the Philippians he declares that “God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” 2:9–11. In First Corinthians he says that “He must reign, till He hath put all His enemies under His feet,” 15:25. And in First Timothy he declares that Christ is “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,” 6:15.  In Heb. 2:8, 9 we read: “For in that He subjected all things unto Him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But we behold … Jesus … crowned with glory and honor.” And in Heb. 1:8 the 45th Psalm is quoted as having its fulfillment in Christ: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; and the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”
The book of Revelation is one sustained hymn of praise to Christ as King, setting forth the glory of His person and the triumph of His kingdom. He is declared to be “the Ruler of the kings of the earth,” 1:5. He has “made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever,” 1:6. In chapter 5 He is pictured as sitting on the throne and receiving homage and worship from all the hosts of heaven and earth. All opposition is to be utterly crushed: “and out of His mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron.… And He hath on His garment and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,” 19:15, 16,—not that He will use violence or military force, but rather that His conquest of the nations is to be accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel, as is indicated by the fact that the sword proceeds “out of His mouth;” and, continuing with the same figure of speech, while it will be an immeasurable pleasure and privilege for His people to be ruled by Him, His rule will be as complete and effective as if enforced with a rod of iron.
The Old Testament too sets forth His kingship. The predicted Messiah is set forth as the King of the Golden Age in which the wolf and the lamb lay down together, Is. 11:1–10. In the Messianic vision recorded in Daniel 7:13, 14 we read: “There came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a Son of Man, and He came even 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 the peoples, 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.” The Messianic psalms strongly emphasize the kingly nature of the coming One, some making special mention of His conquest of the wicked: “I have set my King upon my holy hill in Zion,” 2:6; “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” 45:6 (quoted in Heb. 1:8 as having its fulfillment in Christ); “Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations 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,” Ps. 2:8, 9; “Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” Ps. 110:1 (quoted five times in the New Testament as having its fulfillment in Christ).
The inward spiritual nature of His kingdom as well as its present existence was set forth by Christ Himself when, being asked by the Pharisees concerning the time of its appearance, He said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation”—that is, not with outward and spectacular signs or events—“neither shall they say, Lo, here! or There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you,” Luke 17:21, 22. The kingdoms of this world are established with mighty armies, great conquests, violence and cruelty. But how different was the advent of Jesus, without earthly eminence, without arms, without wealth. Individuals are brought into His kingdom one by one as the Holy Spirit regenerates their hearts and implants a new principle of spiritual life. The Christian, although in the world, is no longer of it. Actuated by new motives and new desires and acknowledging Christ as His only Lord and Master, he looks forward to a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Paul fittingly says that “our citizenship is in heaven,” Phil. 3:20.
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, after having called the roll of the outstanding faithful, says that these “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” 11:13, and later adds that “we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come,” 13:14,—“the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” 11:10. The visible representation of the kingdom on earth is, of course, the Church, in so far as the Church is composed of true believers.
In order to make clear the nature of Christ’s kingdom in its broadest outlines it probably can be best presented under three heads: The Kingdom of Power; The Kingdom of Grace; and, The Kingdom of Glory.
(1). Christ’s Kingdom of Power relates to the universe at large as, by virtue of His Divine nature and His work of creatorship, He upholds (that is, preserves in existence) all things visible and invisible, governs (throughout the realm of nature as well as in the affairs of men), and passes final judgment on the entire race of men. That He was the active agent, although not the exclusive agent, in the creation of all things is repeatedly taught in Scripture: “All things were made through Him; and without Him was not anything made that hath been made … the world was made through Him,” John 1:3, 10; “Through whom also He made the worlds,” Heb. 1:2; “All things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist,” Col. 1:16, 17. He rules or governs all things, for the glory of God and the effective execution of the divine plan: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth,” Matt. 28:18; “Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Phil. 2:9–11; “The exceeding greatness of His power … which He (that is, God the Father) wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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: and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, Eph. 1:19–22; “For in that He subjected all things unto Him. He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we see not yet all things subject to Him. But we behold … Jesus … crowned with glory and honor,” Heb. 2:8, 9. And that He is to be the final Judge of all men is set forth with equal clearness: “But when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all the nations.… Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.… Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the Devil and his angels,” Matt. 25:31–41. His conquest of the nations, which is to be accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel, and His effective government of them in righteousness is foretold in figurative language in the book of Revelation: “… Upon His head are many diadems.… And the armies which are in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, pure and white. And out of His mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron.… And He hath on His garment and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,” 19:12–16. Thus His kingdom of power embraces the material world, the course of history, and all angels and men.
(2) The Kingdom of Grace. Christ’s Kingdom of Grace is that spiritual kingdom in which He rules in the hearts and lives of believers. It is a kingdom which is here and now: “The kingdom of God is within you,” Luke 17:21. It was originally founded by Him, being made possible by His atoning work on the cross. It receives its laws from Him. In all ages He administers its affairs and defends it against all enemies. Its membership on earth is identical with that of the true Church, which is composed of all those who from the heart believe in Christ as Saviour and Lord. It is a kingdom which is in the world but not of it: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world,” John 17:16; “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” John 15:19; “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,” John 18:36. Its distinguishing characteristics are not earthly or carnal: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 14:17. It is made effective, not by any external display of power or magnificence, but by a divine work of the Holy Spirit as He regenerates the hearts and gives spiritual insight to the minds of men: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” Luke 17:20; “Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3; “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5. But while the coming of the kingdom is not heralded by external signs, its effect within the individual is immediately felt in that he becomes conscious of a new relationship to God and of new governing principles which make for holiness, sobriety and uprightness; and in due time the effects thus wrought in individuals are reflected in the improved social, economic and political conditions of the whole community or nation.
Christ’s kingdom of grace embraces all types of men, recognizing no distinctions of nationality, color, class, rank, person or sex. “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus,” says Paul, Gal. 3:28. That it was not intended for the Jews alone but for all nations and races was set forth clearly in the Old Testament Messianic passages and was repeatedly emphasized in the New Testament: “Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,” Ps. 2:8; “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth,” Is. 49:6; “From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles,” Mal. 1:11; “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles,” Is. 42:6; “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,” Joel 2:28. When the infant Jesus was presented in the temple the aged but spiritually minded Simeon recognized Him as “A light for revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of thy people Israel,” Luke 2:32. “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him,” said Peter when he realized the full meaning of the vision he had seen while on the housetop, Acts 10:34, 35. “Is God the God of Jews only? is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yea, of Gentiles also,” said Paul, Rom. 3:29. And the last command of Christ to His disciples was, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,” Matt. 28:19.
We wish particularly to stress the fact that Christ is in the truest sense of the word our King today, that, having established His Church as the fellowship of believers, He now is seated on the throne of the universe from whence He directs the affairs of His advancing kingdom, that He animates His people with new spiritual life and defends them against all the forces of evil, and that He is thus to continue until all His enemies have been placed under His feet. It is our duty never to despair of the Church, nor of the world, which eventually is to be conquered by the Church. Since the Kingdom of Grace is not terrestrial or carnal, but spiritual, we must not be surprised if during our course through a world in which there still remains so much that is evil we often suffer persecutions, sickness, poverty, cold, hunger, and other disagreeable circumstances. For all of these things have their appointed place in God’s providential control of the world, and as they come upon believers they are designed not as punishments but as disciplines or chastisements for their improvement. We have the assurance of our King that He will never forsake us—“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”—and that He will supply, not our every desire, but our “every need … according to His riches in glory,” Phil. 4:19. Being truly united with Christ and depending on the power of His Spirit, we shall not doubt but that we shall be finally victorious over the Devil and every kind of evil that he can bring against us. We look upon science, education, invention, art, music, commerce, statesmanship, sociology, etc., each in its own field so far as it is based on truth, as a revelation of the wisdom and glory of Christ, who is the Light of the world and the Ruler of the nations. Each of these represents an accomplishment in man’s conquest of the forces of nature, which was the task assigned to him when immediately after his creation he was commanded to “subdue” the earth; and each of these is a prophecy of the complete establishment of Christ’s kingdom. Let us ever remember that Christ is our King here and now, that He is ruling and overruling through the whole course of human history, making the wrath of men to praise Him and able even to bring good out of that which men intend for evil.
And since Christ is thus our King it is our duty in every sphere of life’s activity to render to Him that homage and obedience which is His due. In the following paragraph Dr. Craig sets forth this obligation very clearly. “It is important,” says he, “that we note the all-inclusiveness of Christ’s rule. Not only does He demand obedience from all men; He demands obedience from them in all things.… There is no sphere of life conceivable where Jesus does not maintain His demand that He be honored and obeyed. As King, therefore, Christ ought to be supreme in our private lives. Within this sphere we ought to strive to bring every thought and activity into captivity to Him. As King, Christ’s will ought, also, to be supreme in our social and business lives. Within these spheres we should be guided by the golden rule; we should place the emphasis upon our duties rather than upon our rights. Still further, as King, Christ’s will ought to be supreme in our political lives. To deny this is tantamount to saying that politics ought to be Christless. This is not to say that the Church, as an institution, ought to mix in politics, but it is to say that, if we are Christians, our Christianity will manifest itself in the sphere of politics as well as in the other spheres of life. Let us not imagine, then, that Christ’s kingship has to do with only a part of life; it has to do with the whole life. Wherever we may be, whatever we may do, in the world of action or of thought, we are under the dominion of, and as such responsible to, Jesus Christ.” (Jesus As He Was and Is, p. 84).
Furthermore, whether in human or divine affairs, the relationship between king and subjects is a reciprocal relation. Not only do the subjects have obligations towards their king, but the king also has obligations toward his subjects. In this connection Dr. Craig has said: “For our comfort and encouragement let us remind ourselves that—assuming that we are endeavoring to yield Him that obedience that is His due—Christ has placed Himself under obligations to us. As subjects of the King we do, indeed, owe Him homage and obedience. At the same time, however, He, as our King, grants us support and protection. What holds good of our relations to the State holds good, in a true sense, of our relations to King Jesus. As long as we obey the laws of the State, the State will protect and defend us. If others seek to take away our life, our liberty or our possessions we are not dependent upon our own resources: all the resources of the State are pledged for the support and defense of even the weakest and most insignificant of its citizens. And so as long as we serve Jesus as King, all His power and strength is pledged to our support and defense. No matter how weak and helpless we may be in ourselves; no matter how strong and reliant they may be who are against us, we need not fear, for greater is He that is for us than they that be against us. No doubt, if left to ourselves, we would soon be overcome of evil; but as it is King Jesus watches over us and defends us, and thus we are enabled to prevail not because of our own strength but because of the strength of Him in whom we have put our trust. Let us then be of good cheer. Though all the hosts of earth and hell should conspire together to accomplish the undoing of the weakest of Christ’s true subjects they would not succeed. Unto Him that watches over us and defends us has been committed all power and authority in heaven and on earth.” (Craig, p. 85).
Today Christ’s kingship is, of course, widely ignored. In this connection we find another valuable comment in the writings of Dr. Craig. Says he: “Everywhere there are those who say by their action if not by their words that they do not recognize His right to rule over them. It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish between His de facto and His de jure rule, i.e., between the obedience that is actually yielded Him and the obedience that is His by law and right. According to law and right Jesus is entitled to universal obedience. As a matter of fact only a relatively few render Him the homage and obedience that is His due. We may be sure, however, that things will not always remain as they are in this respect. Jesus being what He is we may be confident that He will make good His claims and that the time is coming when all men, willingly or unwillingly, will acknowledge His lordship. Let no one suppose that Jesus’ right to rule rests on the consent of men, that He exercises rightful authority only over those who acknowledge His lordship. It is not for you or for me, it is not for any man to say, whether he will live in Christ’s kingdom. This is true, in some degree at least, of the kingdoms of this world. If we do not like the way in which authority is exercised in that one in which we happen to be, we may move to one more to our liking. Nothing like this is possible, however, in connection with the kingdom of Christ. His kingdom is not confined to any special territory. Go where we may, we are still within His jurisdiction and answerable to His authority. We might as well suppose that we can go where the law of gravitation does not operate as suppose we can go where Christ does not hold sway. Hence just as it is the part of wisdom to adjust ourselves to the law of gravitation so that it will operate for our advantage and not to our disadvantage it is the part of wisdom to adjust ourselves to the Lord Jesus in such a way that His rule will bring us weal not woe, gain not loss, life not death.” (Craig, p. 82).
That Christ does exist as King is recognized by Roman Catholics as well as by Protestants—a fact which could hardly be denied since it is set forth so clearly in Scripture—although they differ quite radically in regard to the manner in which He exercises His authority. Roman Catholics hold that He has appointed the Pope as His vice-regent on earth, and that His kingly authority is thus exercised through the instrumentality of a human being. We hold, however, with the whole Protestant world that not only is there no Scripture authority to support such a claim but that such a claim is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture, and that the authority by which the Pope presumes to speak and act in the name of Christ is simply usurped authority. We hold that every believer is directly responsible to King Jesus Himself, and that it is our God-given right to go directly to Him in prayer without the intervention of any earthly pope or hierarchy. Our conviction in this regard is only strengthened when we examine more closely into the private lives and conduct of many of the popes and priests who have presumed to exercise this authority. A church which has incorporated so much error into its teaching and which has engaged in such shameless oppressions and persecutions as has the Roman Catholic Church is plainly not the authorized agency of Christ on earth.
In this treatment we have given undue space to the Kingdom of Grace, since that is the phase of Christ’s kingdom in which we now are and since it is also the phase concerning which we have the most information. There is, however, a third phase, and we must now turn our attention to that.
(3). The Kingdom of Glory. Christ’s Kingdom of Glory is that state in which He rules over the redeemed in heaven and over the holy angels. It began with His ascension, and it reaches its consummation and completion at the end of the world and the final judgment. Entrance into the Kingdom of Glory is through the Kingdom of Grace; and it grows and develops as the members of the Church Militant, one by one, are translated into the Church Triumphant. In anticipation of his estate in this kingdom Paul wrote to the Philippians, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” 1:21; and in the same connection he declared that he had “the desire to depart and to be with Christ,” which, said he, “is very far better,” Phil. 1:23. John pronounces blessed those who are privileged to share in the glories of this kingdom: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,” Rev. 14:13. In the highly figurative passage of Rev. 20:4–6 John gives us an insight into the joys experienced by those who are privileged to share in this kingdom as, released from all earthly cares and limitations, they “lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years,”—which period of time, we believe, is to be understood not as an exact one thousand years but a comparatively long period, specifically, as relates to each individual, the period between his death here and the consummation of the kingdom at the end of the world. For some of the redeemed, perhaps for most of them, this period will continue much longer than a literal one thousand years. All of those who have suffered and died for Christ, that is, all of those who in one way or another have given their lives in Christian service, are described as having been “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God,” Rev. 20:4. If this be taken literally to include only those martyrs who actually have been beheaded, to the exclusion of all those who have been burned at the stake or who have suffered torture or privation in other ways, the number partaking of the joys of this reign would be relatively insignificant. As a matter of fact many of those who have been put to death by being beheaded have suffered much less than those who have died by other means, or who after a life of Christian service have died natural deaths. Consequently we understand this to mean that all those who have suffered for Christ have a part in His mediatorial reign. Furthermore, as these persons are awaiting the resurrection they are in a disembodied state and are described not as men and women but as “souls,” and their estate there is figuratively described as “the first resurrection.” It is an inestimable privilege to share in this intermediate reign, and those who are thus privileged are described as “blessed and holy.” “Over these,” John tells us, “the second death”—by which he evidently means the state of torture into which the wicked are to be cast—“hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years,” Rev. 20:6. Furthermore, when seen in this light death should hold no horrors for the Christian, but should be looked upon primarily as a transition from this world to Christ’s Kingdom of Glory, or as the gateway through which he enters a far better and more glorious life than can ever be attained here.
The mediatorial reign of Christ closes with His second coming and the final judgment. The work of redemption then will have been completed, divine grace will have been fully manifested, and the fate of all men, good or bad, fixed forever. Then Christ, having gained the complete victory and having reigned till He has put all His enemies under His feet, shall deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, “… that God may be all in all,” 1 Cor. 15:23–28. This does not mean that from that time on Christ will cease to have any part in the kingdom, but that, the work of redemption having been completed and the elect gathered in, it will cease to be pre-eminently His kingdom, that He will return to the original relationship which He had with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and that the triune God will reign eternally over the perfected kingdom.
In conclusion, then, Christ is at one and the same time our Prophet, our Priest, and our King. This is the terminology under which His work is set forth in Scripture. It is to John Calvin that we are indebted for developing more clearly than anyone else has done this threefold nature of the work of redemption. But while we use this terminology we are not to assume that these are separate offices as are those of President, Chief Justice and Senator in the affairs of State, or that these functions are performed successively and in isolation. Rather they are concurrent and mutually imply one another as do lungs, heart and brain in the human body—functionally distinct, yet interdependent and together constituting the one life. With varying degrees of emphasis Christ is always a royal Priest, a priestly King, a priestly Prophet, and a prophetical Priest. His work as Prophet, through which he reveals God to us, is rightly understood only when we know Him as the One who through His priestly work has redeemed us and who is our heavenly King. His work as Priest—His offering up Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God—is made known to us through His work as prophet as He reveals to us the true meaning of His suffering and death. And His work as King can be rightly understood only when through His work as Prophet He reveals Himself as the One who has purchased us with His own blood, whose possession therefore we are.
In the typical economy of Israel’s long history there were three distinct offices, that of the prophet, of the priest, and of the king. In the historical order the prophetic order was established first. Abraham was a prophet (Gen. 20:7); Jacob performed this function (Gen. 49:1); and Moses was officially called to be a prophet before he led the Children of Israel out of Egypt. The priests were appointed soon after Israel became a nation. The kings, however, did not begin to reign until some four hundred years later, Israel in the meantime existing as a theocracy in which God as their King governed through the prophets. As the Old Testament prophets were types of the great Prophet, and the Old Testament priests were types of the great Priest, so were the Old Testament kings types of the great King. The three functions which ran in separate though parallel lines during Old Testament times were thus merged and brought to perfection in Christ. But even in Him the emphasis on the three offices still fell in the historical order, so that during His public ministry He acted primarily as Prophet; in His suffering and death on the cross and in His intercession for us before the throne of God, he acted primarily as Priest; and in His Kingdom of Grace and His Kingdom of Glory He has revealed Himself primarily as King.
Furthermore, as a result of Christ’s work of redemption, all believers, under the New Covenant, are made prophets, priests and kings. We are constituted prophets in that we are commanded to proclaim the Gospel and to show forth the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (Matt. 28:18–20). Peter sets forth the priesthood when he says, “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” 1 Peter 2:9, and likewise John when he says, “He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father,” Rev. 1:6. And the kingly estate of the Lord’s people is set forth when Peter declares that believers are a “royal” priesthood, and when John declares that those in the intermediate state “shall reign with Him a thousand years,” Rev. 20:6, and that those in heaven “shall reign for ever and ever,” Rev. 22:5. Thus the three offices which for centuries ran parallel in Israel and then were united in the Lord Jesus Christ reappear in all those who believe in Him. Each believer ideally and potentially has all three offices. Some are pre-eminently prophets in that they proclaim the Gospel. Others are pre-eminently priests, not that they offer any more sacrifices for sin, for Christ alone offered that sacrifice, but in that they minister under their great High Priest and offer up for themselves and others spiritual sacrifices, which sacrifices include (1) themselves as living sacrifices in service to God, (2) their possessions, (3) prayer, (4) praise, and (5) thanksgiving. And while the kingly office is largely reserved for the future, some even in this life through the instrumentality of their office in Church or State exercise authority over their fellow men.
Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947), 246–259.