Christ shall have dominion.
This was the sure promise of Psalm 72. That promise has now been fulfilled in the kingdom established by the gospel. Christ reigns in the confession of every true church. Since the church is established among all nations, the kingdom of Christ is a world-kingdom. Within the church, Christ reigns in the heart and life of every believer personally.
To this reign belongs Christ’s subduing of His enemies, defeated by His cross. Satan is overcome in the salvation of every elect. Sin is crucified in the holy life of every believer. The reprobate world is judged, hardened, and rendered ready for punishment by the gospel that goes forth from the true church.
The dominion of Christ, a glorious, present reality, will be perfected shortly at His coming. Jesus Christ will destroy the Antichrist with the breath of His mouth (II Thess. 2:8). He will execute “terrible vengeance . . . on the wicked,” banishing them from His presence into “everlasting fire” (Belgic Confession, Art. 37). Christ the judge will exalt the innumerable elect into the glory of reigning with Him in their resurrection bodies over the renewed creation.
Indeed, Christ shall have dominion.
Every Reformed Christian thrills to sing this dominion in the grand versification of Psalm 72:
Christ shall have dominion
Over land and sea,
Earth’s remotest regions
Shall His empire be.
The dominion of Christ – the present dominion of Christ – is the fundamental confession of the Christian: Jesus Christ is Lord.
But, “the church shall have dominion”? In the sense that the church shall have dominion in history over the nations? A dominion in history that is earthly? A dominion that consists of exercising political, military, social, economic, cultural might? A dominion that brings about the Christianizing of the entire, present world? A dominion that is due to Christians’ being the majority, whereas the enemies of Christ are the minority? A dominion that consists of the church’s imposing her will on what wicked world is left? A dominion that is forced upon the ungodly by the threat of the sword – the physical, steel sword-or that seduces them by the prospect of money, health, social order, and international peace?
This is the message that is heard in evangelical and Reformed circles of late. Fittingly, it calls itself “dominion theology.” The church shall have dominion.
In a recent book, The New Charismatics (Zondervan, 1992), Michael G. Moriarty informs us that dominion theology is being preached and pursued by such charismatics as the “Kingdom Now” movement. The church must establish the carnal kingdom of Christ in history, here and now.
In Reformed and Presbyterian circles, dominion theology is aggressively pushed by the movement known as “Christian Reconstruction.” This name refers to the movement’s intention to rebuild American society and all the world according to the law of God. The movement also calls itself the “theonomic movement” (“theonomy” meaning simply “law of God”) because it insists that the coming carnal kingdom must enforce upon Christians and unbelievers alike the civil laws of the Old Testament. Basic to this program is the hope of the church’s temporal, earthly victory over the ungodly world in a millennium of earthly peace and prosperity that is supposed to precede the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The church shall have dominion. In fact, the Reformed church shall have dominion.
But not, apparently, without some strange assistance. Ignoring the important civil law of the Old Testament that Israel not look to Egypt for help in fighting Jehovah’s battles, the Calvinist reconstructionists ally themselves with the Arminian charismatics. Men who scruple to permit their tailors and seamstresses to make clothing out of two kinds of cloth unite themselves, confessed Calvinists, with those who not only deny the sovereignty of God in salvation (and in all else), but also the Word of God itself, with the sacraments, as the only means of the coming of the kingdom. They unite with these mystical charismatics in order to bring about the coming of the kingdom of Christ. They are disobedient to the law in Deuteronomy 22:10: “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” Both Moriarty in The New Charismatics (pp. 160-189) and Bruce Barron in the just published Heaven on Earth? The Social & Political Agendas of Dominion Theology (Zondervan, 1992, pp. 91ff.) document the alliances of the reconstructionists with the charismatics.
Dominion theology makes strange bedfellows. It always has in the history of the church.
Dominion theology is false theology.
The church of Christ shall not have dominion. God does not will it. Scripture does not promise it. The only church that will have dominion in history before the coming of Christ is the false church, the great whore that rides the beast in Revelation 17.
The church in history is a victorious church, but not a triumphalist church, that is, a church lording it over the nations with earthly power. She is the church of and under the cross, not the church wearing a crown. Genuine Protestantism learned this from Martin Luther. We will not forget it.
The message of the true church to her members and would-be members is not dominion, but taking up the cross in following Christ (Mark 8:34-38). It is the message of pain, shame, loss, labor, and death. Her summons is not a call to join in dominion, but the call to suffer with Christ, the call to die daily (Rom. 8:17, 36).
Such is the church by virtue of the presence of Christ in her through the gospel that she is despised and ridiculed by all whose standard is earthly size, power, status, and glory. It is with the church in the world just as it was with her great Head in the days of His earthly ministry: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). It is the privilege of the church “to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
This is how the church has always appeared in history.
The church of the cross!
Glorious church! Invincible church! Glorious and invincible exactly in her powerlessness, ignominy, suffering, and dying for Christ’s sake.
But the church of the cross, not a church of a crown. Church of the cross during the 200 years of persecution by the Roman Empire. Church of the cross in the imprisoned Gottschalk Church of the cross in the Reformed saints in the Netherlands and France slaughtered by the Roman Catholic Church. Church of the cross in the detested Afscheiding in Holland in the 19th century. Church of the cross in the expulsion of the faithful from the Presbyterian Church in the USA in the early 20th century. Church of the cross in the deposition of ministers and casting out of men and women by the Christian Reformed Church in 1924/1925. Church of the cross today wherever the little flock of those who confess the Word of God are hated, scorned, and evilly spoken of.
Christ’s church shall not have dominion in history. She has no hope of it. She does not aspire to it. Were the golden scepter of absolute dominion over all the world offered to her on a silver platter, she would reject it with the words, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” The message of dominion is foreign to her. She knows only the message of the cross.
Church history proves her right. Dominion theology cannot explain the past 2,000 years of church history. Never has the true church possessed and exercised dominion. Has she failed all these years? Has she been a defeated and defeatist church? Has Christ her king been disappointed in her all these years? Has His kingship been frustrated in the failure of His church?
Dominion theology is being exposed as foolishness by the events that are taking place before our very eyes in fulfillment of the prophecy of the Scriptures. At the end the dragon will establish a world-kingdom of blasphemy and lawlessness that will fight against the saints and overcome them (Rev. 13:1-7). Dominion theology is foundering on the rocks of the gathering kingdom of the beast, as I write. What a disappointment to the theologians of dominion. What confession of sin is required of them for their contempt for and harsh condemnation of Christ’s church under the cross.
For us, this temporal and temporary dominion of the beast and his whore is the clear sign of the soon coming of the Lord.
Then, dominion. Then, the crown.
After the cross.