The Christian and the Kingdom
Although it was motivated by a desire to mock the accused who had been before him and to antagonise His accusers, Pilate’s designation of the Lord Jesus as the King of the Jews (John 19:19) was accurate, as the Lord Himself had confirmed earlier (Luke 23:3; see also Matt. 2:2). He was of the royal line (Luke 1:32) and, as one of our hymns says, great David’s greater son (Spiritual Songs hymn 256). Although His own did not, as a nation, receive Him (John 1:11), the small number who followed Him realised that He was the one who would redeem the nation (Luke 24:21). Nevertheless, as the nation publicly declared that He was not their King (John 19:15), Christ is yet to take up His position as Israel’s King.
However, God has already anointed Him as King (Ps. 2:6), and what God has purposed in this appointment will come to pass. When the Jews feel their distress at the end of the tribulation, the Lord Jesus will, in grace, come as their King and deliver them from their enemies (Jer. 23:5–6). He will also establish Himself as King over all the earth (Zech. 14:9; Dan. 7:14; Rev. 11:15).
Is Christ King now? Does His kingship have any application to the Christian in this dispensation? Such questions are not unreasonable as the New Testament refers to a kingdom existing at the present time, and in fact to believers having been brought into it (e.g. Col. 1:13). The many references to the Lord Jesus as King in Christian media today may also cause many believers to ask whether Christ is their King.
A detailed answer to this question can be found in books such as J A Savage’s The Kingdom of God and of Heaven. For the purposes of this magazine, and focusing on the relevance of the kingdom to the individual believer, the following notes may be helpful.
1. The Lord Jesus is not the Christian’s king or the King of the assembly. The New Testament contains no suggestion that He is. Although we are subjects in His moral kingdom (see also point 3 below), Christ is not exercising His kingship at present (Luke 19:12–15). Hence, we do not address Him as ‘King’. Our relationship to Him as His bride and members of His body is a much closer one.
2. Even though His work upon the cross has been completed, Christ’s kingdom has not yet been publicly established (see Acts 1:6). It will not be until all of the world empires have been dashed to pieces, including the revived Roman empire which is yet future (Dan. 2; Rev. 13–17; see also Rev. 11:14–19).
3. While believers today are subjects of His kingdom, His kingdom and our position as subjects of it are manifested in a moral way. The parable in Matthew 25:14–30 illustrates this. The ruler of the kingdom (the Lord Jesus) is absent from this earth, and what should exercise the consciences of His servants (believers) is how they occupy themselves in His interests during His absence. When the Lord returns and establishes His kingdom publicly, He will reward each of us according to our service (vs. 20–23).
4. The Lord Jesus also expects us to follow the example that He left us (1 Pet. 2:21). In particular, we are to manifest the same moral qualities He did in His life on earth. There will also be recompense for this when the kingdom is publicly displayed, as demonstrated by the blessings and great reward referred to in Matthew 5:3–12.
5. Being a faithful subject of the kingdom in its present manifestation involves suffering (Rev. 1:9). Peter addresses this in detail in his first letter. However, although we may suffer for righteousness’ sake now, we can be encouraged by knowing that this also brings a blessing (1 Pet. 3:14).
In summary, the Lord Jesus is not our King, nor will He ever have that relation to us. When He reigns over the earth, we will reign with Him (Rev. 20:6). Nevertheless, the things which will mark His kingdom in the millennium — righteousness, joy and peace — are to mark us today (Rom. 14:17). Kingdom truth for individual believers today involves our demonstrating our loyalty to our Lord and Saviour while He is absent from this world that has rejected Him, by faithfully imitating and serving Him while we await His return.