Christ - The King

There is a title given to the Lord in Isaiah (chap. 9:6) which,
while it has been taken to establish error on the one hand, seems on
the other hardly to have been realized in its fulness of meaning by
those most orthodox. It is that of “Everlasting Father,” which is given
in the margin of the Revised Version as (more literally) “Father of
eternity.” It is given to Him as One upon whose shoulder is the
government in Israel, but of the increase of whose government and peace
there shall be no end; and the titles given Him show His capacity for
this rule. He is no ordinary king, but the “Wonderful”—“a phenomenon,”
says Delitzsch, “lying altogether beyond human conception or natural
occurrence.” Then He is the “Counselor,” whose purposes in their deep
unfathomable wisdom need and admit no help from others; who find, on
the other hand, in Him their wisdom. For, thirdly, He is El-gibbor, “the Mighty God,” [13] infinite in resources, almighty in execution of His will; and then Abiad, the “Father of eternity,” and “Prince of peace,” which is the enduring effect.

what, then, does this mean, “Father of eternity”? It is an
inconceivability, says a recent commentator; for “eternity has no
author.” But the eternal state—eternity in that sense—has an Author;
and it is just the glory of Christ, and coming here most perfectly in
place among His other glories, that He is the Author of it.
It is here that His “counsel” comes into full manifestation; it is here
that the might of His Deity is seen in execution of His counsel; it is
of this, finally, that peace is the necessary and abiding result. He it
is who brings in that which endures forever, because in it divine love
can rest in full satisfaction, eternity being only the seal of that
perfection in which it can rest.

Thus Christ is the Father
of eternity. The incorruptible seed of it was Himself, the corn of
wheat dying that it might not abide alone. But it is when power is in
His hand openly and His kingdom is established that it will be seen
fully how “the times of restitution” have been waiting for Him, and
what this implies for One with whom restitution is not bringing back
that which has passed away, but the bringing in of that which cannot
pass away.

The prayer that our Lord taught His disciples was
not, as it has been often misconceived, “Father, may Christ’s kingdom
come.” It was “Father, Thy kingdom come.” And we need to
recognize the difference in order to realize what Christ’s own kingdom
means. There has been put forth recently a view of this which will
illustrate what I mean. It has been maintained that as it needs the
double type of David and Solomon to give Christ’s kingdom in its double
character as that in which, first of all, enemies are subdued, and then
peace prevails, so the millennial reign in which, to the last, enemies
are being subdued, could only answer to the first part of this, the
David-reign, and the Solomon-reign of peace would come after the
millennium and be of long continuance. The millennium, it was argued,
was neither in duration nor character a sufficient reign for Christ: it
could only be the introduction to this, and the kingdom of peace itself
must stretch far beyond it.

Now it is not my purpose to
enter into the discussion of this, which it would seem a brief
examination of Revelation would be enough to set aside; while the
apostle’s words in 1 Cor. 15: completely contradict it. For the time
“when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the
Father” is “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....And when all things shall be subdued under Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

the very idea of the Lord’s reign as Man is this sub dual of enemies
and bringing things back to God. When this is accomplished, all is
accomplished. He has no ends of His own beside. As He taught His
disciples to pray for the coming of the Father’s kingdom, so when he
takes the throne, it is to bring it in. Every thing being settled
according to God, He hastens to lay down the sceptre which as Man He
has taken up, “that God may be all in all.” He would not delay a moment
the perfect blessing for which He has toiled, nor allow any other
principle than that for which the “body prepared” was taken, “Lo, I am
come, to do Thy will, O God.”

This will prepare us for the
better consideration of our Lord’s Kingship, so little understood, as
it seems, by many who yet accept it as a fact, and look on to see Him
take possession of His throne and share it with His people. Rule is for
Him service still, and power taken is power to serve with. If in grace
He has linked us with Himself in this, it is important to know the
character of what is before us. Service we see, then, to be the suited
preparation for a rule which will still be service, for love is the
spirit of service, and cannot be separated from it.

In those
anticipations of Christ with which the history of the chosen people
furnishes us, the King came after both priest and prophet. Sacrifice
being that upon which for sinners all must be founded, the priest was
the first link between God and the people, [14] until the failure of Eli and his family causes a change. The ark goes
into captivity for awhile, and when it returns is still in retirement.
The prophet Samuel is raised up as an extraordinary instrument for
awhile, and even offers sacrifice; but this only shows that there is no
proper restoration. The people clamor for a king.

The need
of a king had been long realized. God anticipates it even in Moses’
day. Throughout the times of the Judges, though priests were there, and
sometimes prophets, the judge had to be raised up as a temporary
expedient for the lack of a king. “In those days there was no king in
Israel: every one did that which was right in his own eyes.”

too, though, a king, is, but a temporary expedient, yielded to the will
of the people. With David only does the true king appear; and then for
awhile Israel becomes a united and prosperous nation. But this also
does not last: it is only the shadow yet, and not the substance; and to
this the slow years are passing on.

His hands who have laid
the foundation of the house, his hands must finish it (Zech. 4:9). The
priest must be upon the throne (6:13). Priest, prophet, king, each
separately too weak, must unite in one for the accomplishment of the
divine purpose. Love must meet the demands of righteousness, and take
the veil from the face of God, before power can be put forth in a way
worthy of God who is Love and righteousness. At the Cross,
righteousness and power are both against the blessed Sufferer. After
resurrection, and in the gospel, the King is hidden in God, that He may
have a people conformed to His own likeness. Then at last, power must
return to righteousness; what cannot be conformed must be destroyed:
they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and them
that work iniquity.

Yet even so, and though now there is power manifest, it is not as we might imagine—as most have imagined.
There is not a general day of judgment and swift rooting out of evil to
the uttermost, but a Kingdom of patient, however determinate rule,
which persists for a thousand years. For a thousand years the lesson is
given of the hopelessness of evil and the inherent curse that abides in
it. The veil that has been over the nations is removed, and men are
face to face with eternity and with God. The hands that bear rule were
stretched out on the Cross for men, and there is no longer for any the
possibility of denial or of ignorance of it. Satan is bound also for a
thousand years; and, save in the heart of man, there is indeed “no
adversary or evil occurrent.” Death seems also, except for open
rebellion, to have disappeared. Thus Paradise might seem to have come
again for men; and no more with innocent ignorance of evil, but with
the accumulated lessons of multiplied generations. If sin were but
ignorance—were but deceivableness—were but circumstantial—now its dead
hand must be dropped off of man and nature. “For the heavens rejoice
and the earth is glad; the sea roars and the fulness thereof; the field
is joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the
wood rejoice before the Lord: for He is come,—for He is come to judge
the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples
with His truth” (Ps. 96:11–13).

Such is the picture of the
future for man with which the Old Testament closes; and had we only
this we should most certainly believe that this would be the final
condition, or passing at least peacefully and surely into that “heaven
and earth in which dwelleth righteousness” of which Peter, borrowing
from Isaiah, speaks. Who could imagine any further disaster to a world
which had already endured so many? or think that this new Eden was
destined to pass away like the one of old? and that any of those so
blessed, so warned, so instructed, to whom faith might seem to have
passed already into knowledge, could listen once more to the, voice of
the tempter, and fall from within view of an opened heaven into a hell
as real and manifest?

Yet it is the New Testament that
assures us that this will be. “When the thousand years shall be ended,
Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth to deceive
the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog,
to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And
they went up upon the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of
the saints about and the beloved city; and fire came down from heaven
and devoured them.”

Thus comes to an end the last trial of
man—perhaps of the creature—that shall ever be permitted. We may
wonder, no doubt, why this is; but we may be sure, beforehand, that
infinite wisdom, holiness, and love are in it, if God is in it. The
Saviour of sinners is the King over all the earth, at the time when
this last judgment of the living takes place; and He is “the same,
yesterday, today, and forever.” It is a permitted trial and exposure of
those who through the long blessing of that wondrous time have hardened
their hearts against all the goodness that appealed to them in it. It
is the convincing proof that the condition of man is not the fruit of
ignorance or of circumstances, but of sin, for which he is fully, and
as judged by his own conscience, accountable. “Ye will not
come unto Me, that ye might have life,” is the Lord’s own judgment of
the men of His day. And here the end of confidence in the creature is
reached absolutely. In God alone is help or hope.

After this
last judgment of the living, the heavens and earth as now existing pass
away, the judgment of the wicked dead at the “great white throne” takes
place, and a new heaven and earth begin which are eternal. But events
even such as these are not our present theme, but Christ Himself,
though in such various relationship as all this implies; and we must
now turn back to consider more particularly in this way our Lord’s

There is no doubt or difficulty with any Christian
as to Christ’s being King. It is a theological common-place that He is
so. But as to what Isaiah, long before His coming, proclaimed of Him in
the passage we were first of all looking at, “upon the throne of David, and
upon his kingdom, to order and to establish it”—echoed and confirmed as
this is by so much elsewhere—many Christians have still very great
difficulty. It seems to them as if the title put upon His cross in the
three languages of the world could only be given Him by enemies or
detractors, and to take it seriously as His would only be (however
unintentionally) to dishonor Him thereby.

Low and carnal
thoughts there have been also as to a millennial reign, from the time
of the early “Chiliasts,” who imported into it the Jewish conceptions
of Messiah’s Kingdom with a large measure of their grotesque
materiality. In very recent days, as in the present, there are those
who would see in a renewed earth “the fairest nook of heaven,” and
bring down all the heavenly promises to earth-fulfilments. It seems
almost needless to say, however, that Scripture keeps earth and heaven
always distinct: and that as the earthly promises have their home in
the Old Testament, so have the heavenly ones theirs in the New. But
Christ is the centre and heart of both, and by reason of our interest
in Him, we too, though Christians, have connection with Israel and the
earth. To His own apostles the Lord promised that they should “sit upon
twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28): and
that is “when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His glory.”
When in heaven also John sees the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”
take the book of the future, he records that in the praise of the
redeemed that follows they say “We shall reign on the earth” (Rev.
5:10). And “to him that overcometh,” the Lord Himself says, “will I
grant to sit with Me upon My throne, even as I also overcame, and am
set down with My Father upon His throne” (3:21).

involves no taking up the earthly conditions again, whether for Him or
ourselves. We have seen what this millennial kingdom means for Him,
that the earth is put into His hands, in order to bring it back out of
its long alienation, and subdue it to God. The “rod of iron,” which is
the symbol of its rule, (though a Shepherd’s rod) dashes the rebellious
in pieces like a potter’s vessel (Ps. 2:9). This is again one of His
promises to the overcomer to give him such power as this (Rev. 2:26,
27); but the character of it shows that it has to do only with a
limited and peculiar time, and not with what is eternal. He is in this
acting as the “Father of eternity,” to give things their eternal order.

Israel will be then under the new covenant, which secures for
them abiding blessing. None shall have need to say to another, Know the
Lord; for they shall all know Him, and in His character as Saviour
also: “for,” He says, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and
their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Yet we shall make a
great mistake if We think of this as if it implied a spiritual level
such as in Christianity. In its way, it will doubtless be more perfect,
but earthly and not heavenly, with no hostile world to meet, no cross
to bear, no strangership in it. These are all the necessary result of
their very blessing. Harder it is to think of the old ritual in measure
restored, the temple and its services, and with the glory as of old,
but now extending itself over the whole city of God—“a cloud and smoke
by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night” (Isa. 4:5). Ezekiel
sees it entering and filling the new temple (Ezek. 43:2–5), and hears
of a “prince” who offers his sin-offering as of old, and has his
inheritance and his sons (45:22; 46:16). Notice, that he is not the
“King;” and how all this, and the presence of the glory as of old, puts
quite away the thought, if we ever had it, of any dwelling of Christ upon earth in this day of which Ezekiel prophesies.

He will reign,—and
“on the throne of David”; so Scripture positively says: but this does
not mean that heaven has become but another name for earth, still less
for the land of Israel; it does not mean that the infinite glories of
the Christ of God are to shrink into those merely of a mightier David
or a wiser and more resplendent Solomon. The Old Testament conception
of Messiah must be enlarged by the New Testament; not the New Testament
one contracted to the measure of the Old. Only in this way, indeed,
shall we find the Old Testament itself attain its complete meaning,
when transfigured by a light not its own.

We have to
remember also that the millennium is not eternity, nor the final rest
of God. It is not the seventh day, the Sabbath of creation, but the
sixth, the man and woman set over the earth to “subdue” and “hold it in
subjection.” The idea of a millennial sabbath is a foolish one upon the
face of it; for God’s sabbath can never be broken up again, could never
be measured by a thousand years! No doubt, people have felt the
incongruity, who have proposed to enlarge it, according to the “year
day” principle, to 360,000 years. That looks longer and more fitting,
but only from a human standpoint; God’s rest can only be eternal; and
the close limitation to a thousand years has its lesson for us in this
very way. It tells us that in taking the millennium as sabbath-rest, we
are taking the temporal for the eternal, and the misconception, so
fundamental as it is, must cling to all our thoughts of it.

it is that we naturally expect as to it a spiritual development that,
as to the earth, (and the millennium applies only to earth,) we shall
not find in it, and not finding which, we shall be tempted to overlook
or deny the plainest facts as to it, or to “spiritualize” what is too
low to suit our notions of what ought to be. Yet how can we imagine for
a moment an eternity for a “rod of iron,” or (as this implies) the
subduing of enemies? how can we spiritualize such things as these?

the millennial earth is not yet ready for it to be said, “The
tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell”—or
“tabernacle”—“among them.” That will be true as to the new earth, but we must not misplace it; and to misplace it, how much will be involved in this!

millennium is a grand preparation time. Even as to the heavenly saints,
their joys and glories cannot be measured from this side of things. As
to Israel and the nations, however blessed under the manifest rule of
Christ they may and must be, it is for them only a preparation for
eternity,—such a preparation as the centuries up to it, have been for
the heavenly saints. And then, let as remember, it is a preparation
still for earth, though for the new earth; and that means much—how
much, we have none of us perhaps realized.

Over the
millennial earth a heavenly King will rule, with a heavenly company of
redeemed men by grace His associates and ministers; “upon the throne of
David,” but not in the palace of Solomon; and though with manifest and
absolute power, yet with self-imposed restraints, both as to the
manifestation and the exercise of this, such as the probationary and
educational character of things implies, and a careful reading of the
Old Testament will (I believe) make plain to one who reads it in view
of this.

How blessed to turn to such a picture of that
Kingdom as the 72 psalm, for instance, exhibits! How different from any
thing that hitherto has been seen on earth! But the New Testament alone
it is which, if it does not say so much about the Kingdom, yet puts
before us the King with the “crown with which,” we may say, in a true
and blessed sense, “His mother has crowned Him” (Song 3:11).
For He is the Son of Man, and born of woman, and this is a glory won
from His humiliation. From a deeper humiliation He has won another
crown more glorious, and a crown with which His people crown Him with
delight, “Emmanuel,” God with us, even “Jesus, who hath saved His
people from their sins.”

13 Compare chap. 10:21; Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18.

14 Moses, no doubt, preceded Aaron; and in Moses, prophet, priest, and
king were in some sense united. But this was almost necessarily the
character of him whom God first used to separate the people to Himself.
Having consecrated Aaron according to the divine command, he in this
respect retires behind Aaron.