Now, as we discuss the kingship of Christ in connection with the twelfth Lord’s Day of our Heidelberg Catechism, we must needs limit ourselves to a consideration] of this function of our Savior as an aspect of His office in general. If we fail to do this, we will be tempted also to treat of Christ’s exaltation at the right hand of God, whereby He is raised to the glory of His present dominion over all things. The two are, of course, closely connected. Yet, of the latter we must not speak here, for of this the Catechism speaks in the nineteenth Lord’s Day, in connection with the sixth article of the Apostolicum. Here, therefore, we must consider the kingship of our Lord in connection with His name Christ, Messiah, the Anointed of God. He is the Servant of Jehovah, God’s officebearer, “ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost.” And this office, threefold though it be, is one. In a sense, it may be said to culminate in His kingship. For the Servant of Jehovah, Who as prophet reveals and glorifies the Father, as Priest consecrates Himself to God and fulfills all righteousness, is as such also king, authorized to be over the whole house of God, and to have dominion over all the works of God in His Name. Christ is priest after the order of Melehisedec, and, hence, He is priest-king.
Also in His royal office, let it be remembered, He is our Mediator, Who takes our place, Who redeems man as the fallen king, and delivering him from the power and dominion of the devil, restores him to his office as priest-king, at the same time raising him in that office to the highest possible level of royalty and glory. In general, we already referred to all this in, the first chapter under this twelfth Lord’s Day. We must now draw the line somewhat more definitely with respect, to the royal office of Christ.
Also of this royal office of Christ, then, there was a reflection in Adam in the state of rectitude in Paradise. For the first man, too, was king under God, expressly ordained by God to that position in the earthly creation. For God gave him dominion over the beasts of the field, over the fowls of the air, and over the fish of the sea. It must he emphasized, however, that man’s original dominion was limited to the earthly creation. We dare not say without qualification that he was king of the world, over all creation. Adam was of the earth earthy. He was not the Lord from heaven. All things, in heaven and on earth, were not, and could not possibly be, united in him, and did not belong to hits, dominion. It was, indeed, God’s counsel and eternal purpose to raise man to that exalted position in which all things would be subjected under his feet. That this is true is evident from a comparison of Psalm 8 with Heb. 2. The psalmist exclaims in wonderment: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” 4-6. It is true that the psalmist, evidently, still considers man in his original position, and in his dominion over the earthly creation: sheep and oxen, the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea. But in the epistle to the Hebrews the Holy Spirit interprets this dominion as having reference to all things. There the psalm is interpreted as meaning that originally man was, indeed, made a little lower than the angels, that his original dominion was limited to earthly things, but that he was destined to reign over all the works of God’s hands: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is mam, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him ? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him.”.
But this highest form of universal dominion was not destined to be realized in the first Adam. He was, indeed, an image of Him that was to come. And of the kingship of the latter there was a reflection in that of the former. But himself was not king over all the works of God’s hands. He was made a little lower than the angels, though destined, in the last Adam, to rule even over them. His dominion was limited to the earthly creation. But even so, he was king. He was king, as servant of God. As the friend of God in His covenant, it was his calling to acknowledge the Most High as his Lord, to love and to serve Him with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength and thus, as friend-servant of the Lord, he was to rule over all the earthly creation.
The first servant of the Lord, however, rebelled against his sovereign Lord, rejected His Word, preferred the lie of the devil, and became the latter’s servant. And with his dominion he is made subject to God’s curse and to the power of death. There are, indeed, remnants of his original royal power and dominion. And these are plainly visible in the mighty works he still accomplishes, and in all his attempts to subject all things under him. Man constantly struggles, even in the present world, burdened by the curse, to regain and maintain his royal dominion, and though in the attempt be is often overcome, he despises death in the struggle to attain to the end he has in view. He makes the world about him the object of his scientific investigation. He discovers God’s ordinances in creation, and arranges his own life accordingly. He brings to light the hidden powers and wonders of the world, and presses them into his service. He understands the laws of the seasons, of winds and rains, of seeds and of the soil, and he makes, the earth produce the best possible crop. He studies the laws of gravity and gravitation, of steam and electricity, of light waves and sound waves, and he invents many wonderful things: telephone and telegraph, radio and television. He plows through the depth of the sea, and flies through space. He studies the structure and laws of the human body, fights disease and death, alleviates human suffering and prolongs human life. And he surrounds himself with means to enhance and enrich his life in the world. It is true, that all this is but a faint afterglow of man’s original glory. It is also true that in reality he accomplishes nothing, for the creature is made subject to vanity; and that in the ultimate sense be is always defeated, for he idles, like the beasts that perish. But this does not alter the fact, that there is a certain remnant of man’s original kingship. And it is exactly because of this remnant that there is a kingdom of darkness. For in the spiritual-ethical sense of the word, man became an enemy of God, and a slave of the devil. And thus there develops in this world a kingdom of the devil, that will culminate in the world-power of the Antichrist, in which all the powers of creation shall have been exploited and pressed into the service of man, but in which, at the same time the measure of iniquity shall be filled, and the root-sin of the first man Adam shall have become completely revealed in the fully ripened fruit of iniquity.
All this, however, stand’s strictly in the service of God, and of His eternal good pleasure. For He had provided some better thing for us. And before the foundation of the world, He had ordained His Servant to be King over all the works, of God’s hands. Even though it remains true that the first man plunged himself and all his posterity into the abyss of misery and death by an act of willful disobedience, and that for this he is responsible to his Lord; nevertheless, also his fall is no accident from God’s viewpoint, but must serve to prepare the way for God’s bringing “the first-begotten into the world.” . For God is the Lord. He is in the heavens and performs, all His good pleasure. His counsel was never frustrated; His purpose was never thwarted. Always He accomplished all His good pleasure, even through the devil’s temptation and through the fall of man. There never was a power on earth, in heaven, or in the abyss of darkness that really opposed Him, or that forced Him to change His plan. Though the powers of darkness, as far as their own intention is concerned, set themselves against Him, and vainly take counsel to dethrone the Almighty, and though in this attempt and purpose they become guilty and worthy of damnation, the fact remains that they can only serve the realization of God’s eternal purpose, and that God, without deviation from the straight line of His counsel, attains to His purpose.
This truth must be established.
Nor need we fear to emphasize this truth, especially in our age with its mighty emphasis on man.
Gold is God!
And always He is the Lord!
His counsel shall stand, and He shall do all His good pleasure.
Salvation is no repair work, by which God mends His handiwork marred and destroyed by the devil and the powers of darkness. It is the realization of His eternal purpose in a straight line. And all things, all creatures, also the devil, also the fall of man, must be subservient to the accomplishment of His purpose.
Hence, although through willful disobedience, the first man, the king of the earthly creation, falls according to the determinate counsel of the Most High, and in order that this, counsel may stand. He fell, in order that He whom God had ordained from before the foundation of the world to be king over all, His Servant par excellence, the firstborn of every creature, and the first begotten of the dead, the Head of the Church, might come into the world, and might be revealed in all the glory of His righteousness, truth and grace.
For that was God’s eternal purpose. Not to perfect things in the first man Adam, the earthly king, but to unite them all under the kingship of the last man, the last Adam, the Lord1 from heaven was the end of God’s counsel. His own Son, the only Begotten, had been ordained, is eternally ordained to be the Firstborn of every creature, King over all things, in order that as the Lord of His elect brethren, and with them, He might forever reign over all the work of God’s hands.
Unto this end He comes in the flesh.
And in the flesh He fights the battle against the powers of darkness in the way of obedience!, and He enters into the strongholds of the devil, sin, and death, fighting His way as the King of His Church even into the depth of hell, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all there lifetime subject to bondage.”. And He is, victorious. Perfect and everlasting righteousness He establishes as the foundation of His kingdom. Through the darkness of death He breaks into the glory of His resurrection. And He is exalted into highest glory, in order that, at the right hand of the Father, clothed with all power in heaven and on earth, He may reign over all things even in the present dispensation, until all God’s counsel is fulfilled, His Church shall have been gathered, His kingdom shall be perfected, and He shall subject Himself with His, kingdom, as the eternal Servant-King, to the Father, that God may be all in all.
This mighty King is Lord of lords, and King of kings.
By grace He reigns over His Church. The Catechism instructs us that “he governs us by his word and Spirit.” He is King of Hits, Church, but then as the Head of the body. Surely, He alone has all legislative, judicial, and executive power in the Church. He reigns over believers individually, and over the Church as a whole, organically and institutionally. His will is the only law. And to that will all are subject, also those that are ordained to be officebearers in the Church on earth. But He rules by Hits, word and Spirit, and therefore, by grace. Not only by the Word, but by the Spirit, His own Spirit, and the Word he reigns. For even as He fought the battle for them, and in their behalf, even unto death, so He also delivers them from all the power and dominion of the devil. By His Spirit He enters into their hearts, dethrones the powers of darkness in that heart, enthrones Himself by the power of His grace, and from the heart He reigns over them. He makes them His willing subjects by His Spirit and Word. He calls them out of darkness into His marvelous light. He writes His law in their inmost hearts, so that it becomes their delight to do His will. And by His Spirit He remains in them, and abides with them forever. The result of that spiritual reign of Christ over His own is that they repent of sin, and hearing His Word follow Him withersoever He leads. And they fight the good fight, even unto death, that no one take their crown.
But as the King of His Church, He also defends and preserves His own in the redemption and salvation He obtained for us.
For the present, the Church, though redeemed and victorious in her Lord, is in the midst of a hostile world, and is surrounded by enemies that always aim at her destruction. And though she has life, eternal life, in her King, she still lies in the midst of death. The final victory, eternal glory in the tabernacle of God and in the new creation, has not yet been reached. And, therefore, the battle must still be fought by the Church of Christ in the world. She has her battle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, Eph. 6:12. Besides, believers are not yet delivered from the body of this death. Sin and the motions of sin are still in their flesh. And always that enemy within the gates seeks an alliance with the powers of darkness in the world. In the midst of, and over against all these powers of darkness the Church as a whole, and believers individually, must be preserved and defended, and through them all they must be led on to eternal glory and victory. Yea, they must be more than victors, for even their enemies must, in spite of themselves, cooperate unto their salvation, and the very devil may only serve the purpose being the watchdog of the Good Shepherd.
And also this work of defending and preserving His Church in the midst of andthrough a hostile world, belongs to the office of Christ as King. In themselves, in their own power, they are nothing. They could never stand and remain faithful to the end. They would be quite helpless in the midst of the powers of darkness. But Christ preserves them. And this, too, He does, as far as their spiritual preservation is concerned, through His Spirit and Word. Never He leaves them. Always He abides with them, and in them. And never can they finally fall away. No one can possibly pluck them out of His hand. Even as He is at the right hand of God, and intercedes for them, so He constantly blesses them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, and preserves them in the salvation He obtained for them. He strengthens them in the battle. He keeps them in temptation. When they stumble He raises them up. And He fills them with the hope of eternal joy in the midst of the suffering of this present time.
But he also defends them by His power, and causes all things in this present world to work together unto their salvation! For He is King, not only by grace over His Church, but also by His mighty power over all things, even over principalities and powers, over the rulers of this world, over all the forces of darkness, and all things are subjected under His feet even now. For although the word of the eighth psalm is not yet completely realized, and although “now we see not yet all things, put under him” we do “see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.” . And even now God has set Him “at His own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, land every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Of this we must speak further in connection with the nineteenth Lord’s Day of the Catechism. But even now it must be pointed out that Christ uses this mighty power that has been given Him as the Anointed of the Father for the benefit of His Church, to defend and preserve her against all enemies, to cause all things to work together for her salvation, and to lead her own to final glory.
And thus Christ will reign forever.
For when all things shall have been accomplished, the last of the elect shall have been called, the measure of iniquity shall be filled, He will come again in great power and glory, establish His eternal Kingdom in the new creation, that He may reign everlastingly over His Church, and with all His people as the royal priesthood over all the works of God’s hands. For Christ is an eternal King. His dominion is an everlasting dominion. And although it is true that He, as the perfect Servant of the Lord, will also subject Himself to the Father, this does not mean that He will ever abdicate and cease to be King. On the contrary, He is King forever, even as He is an eternal Priest after the order of Melchisedec. And in the eternal kingdom of glory, all things shall serve Christ and His people, that they may serve their God, and He may be all and in all forever!