"On his robe and thigh was written this title– King of kings and Lord of lords!" Rev. 19:16
In speaking of the Ascension of the Divine Redeemer in a preceding chapter, we have already so far anticipated consideration of the Rock-cleft which is now to engage our attention--the Kingship of Christ--"Set as King upon His holy hill of Zion"--made "Head over all things to His Church." But the theme is one which volumes cannot exhaust. Well might the inspired Psalmist thus speak of it. "My heart overflows with a beautiful thought! I will recite a lovely poem to the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet."
How sweet should be the music of these words to every believing heart--"He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death--even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name--that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
When He disappeared from the sight of the eleven disciples on Mount Olivet, His extended hands poured a priestly benediction on these representatives of the Church of the future. But it is as a King He is next pictured to us in the page of inspiration. In the lofty poetry of the Psalmist, it is as a King He enters heaven. The summons of His attending retinue outside the celestial portals is--"Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." The response is made, "Who is this King of glory?" And the reply is returned, "The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. The Lord Almighty, He is the King of glory."
His Regal office, indeed, did not date its commencement with His reign at the right hand of God. In human language, that was only the date of His public investiture with royal honors--when, in phrase borrowed from earthly coronations, He was said to be "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows,"--after being "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, He was crowned with glory and honor." But His Kingship had a more ancient pedigree. He was designated King of His Church from the ages of eternity. "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth was." Among other types, His royal dignity was foreshown in the person of MELCHISEDEK, who was "King of Salem as well as Priest of the Most High God." Also in the people of King DAVID and Solomon--the former, with more special reference to the years preceding His resurrection, when He was "the Man of sorrows"--reproach often breaking His heart--a King in the midst of enemies--while SOLOMON, in the splendor of his reign, was typical of the risen and glorified Head of His people; riding forth in the chariot of salvation, surrounded with the valiant of His spiritual Israel; inaugurating, as the ascended monarch of the Church, the services of the Heavenly Temple.
His REGAL POWER was predicted by the lips of patriarchs and prophets, from the Shiloh of Jacob to the Messiah-King of Zechariah. And when His advent in the flesh did take place; though His only apparent palace was a stable at Bethlehem, and His throne a manger; yet, even at His birth, representative potentates were present to do Him homage, bearing their KINGLY GIFTS of "gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Throughout the period of His Incarnation--though wearing a garment of humiliation and a crown of thorns--He was clothed too with an invisible robe of glory and honor. Like some of our own ancient monarchs, He was King in disguise; a sovereign in beggar's garb. Ever and always the golden tassel of royalty revealed itself under the assumed ragged attire--while, on one memorable occasion, branches of royal palm strewed the highway across Mount Olivet--and the air rang with the acclamation--"Hosanna to the Son of David--Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!" In the very moment of His deepest abasement, in answer to the interrogation of a heathen judge, "Are You a King, then?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is as you say."
It is important, moreover, to regard the Kingly office of Christ as the complement of His Priestly functions. Or, rather, it is the combination of the two which imparts to the believer surpassing comfort and confidence. As the great covenant angel, He has both the censer and the scepter; while standing robed by the altar, He has "a crown of pure gold put upon His head." All earthly rule is but the shadow of this great prototype of Sovereignty. The correct view, indeed, to take of Christ's Kingship, is not that of a mere figure or emblem derived from the rule of earthly monarchs; but rather are earthly crowns and scepters derivations and emanations from His great central everlasting throne. They have their archetype or primal pattern in the kingdom of heaven--in the Person and dignity of Him who is "forever sat down at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens."
The earthly sovereignty with which we are familiar, may serve to suggest a few simple thoughts regarding the mediatorial Kingship of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ, our exalted King, has a THRONE. It is a throne of Righteousness. Righteousness is at the foundation of all rule. History and experience are ever reading and rereading, that the earthly throne not established in righteousness--based on tyranny and wrong--bolstered up by oppression and treachery--will, sooner or later, totter to its fall. The Intercessory and Kingly offices of Christ, are alike founded on the great work of righteousness wrought out and completed by Him on earth. "Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist." "This is the name whereby He is called--The Lord our Righteousness." It forms the theme of adoration alike of His Church below and of the Church of the first-born in Heaven, as they "speak of the might of His awesome acts and the glorious majesty of His Kingdom." "You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows. All Your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces whereby they have made You glad."
The Lord Jesus, our exalted King, has a SCEPTER. It is called "the rod of His power" "The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion." By it He is said to rule in the midst of His enemies. As His throne is a throne of righteousness, so this "scepter of His kingdom is a righteous scepter." In the proclamation of the Gospel, His design is to vindicate the righteousness of His law in the salvation of sinners, and to foster and advance the cause of righteousness among His people. That Gospel is "the little Book" which the angel in the apocalyptic vision held in his hand, when he was seen flying with it open in the midst of heaven. In the eye of the world's wisdom, a "little Book," a little Scepter, a feeble rod. But "the wisdom of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." "Is not My word like as a fire? says the Lord; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" "The Spirit of the Lord," was the opening sentence of the Messiah's ministry, "is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach glad tidings to the meek." And when that ministry was terminating, and He was about to delegate the rod of His power to others, this was still the parting apostolic commission, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
Nobly did His followers fulfill His royal decree. Hear the boldest and bravest of these ambassadors--the great apostle of the Gentiles. Whether he stood amid the soldiers and senators of imperial Rome, or among the merchant princes of Corinth, or the sailors on the Adriatic Sea, or the cultured philosophers on the Athenian Areopagus--hear him proclaiming, as he holds out the same golden scepter delegated to him by his heavenly King--"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ--for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
This suggests, that Jesus Christ our Divine King has, like earthly sovereigns, subordinate officers to carry on the administration of His vast empire. We cannot withdraw the veil which screens the upper sanctuary. Could we do so, doubtless we should find "the spirits of the just made perfect" engaged in ceaseless embassies and ministries of love in behalf of their exalted and glorified Head--employed in bringing to Him royal revenues of glory from distant worlds. In one of the beautiful figurations of the Apocalypse, the armies of heaven (angelic natures as well as the redeemed) are represented as "following Him upon white horses."
But we know with certainty that He has appointed such officers in His Church and kingdom on earth, to gather in "ransomed spoil" against the day of His final appearing and enthronement as Lord of all. He has selected, moreover, these subordinate ministers of His court, not from among angels, not from among the unsinning inhabitants of heaven; but from those whom He has purchased with His own blood--dust and ashes--earthen vessels--with no badge of distinction or human greatness--often purposely the weakest instrumentality, that the excellency and the power may appear to be of Him alone. "As My Father sent Me," said He, as He invested His disciples with divine authority, "even so send I you." These specially gifted and endowed office-bearers of the Gospel age, clothed with miraculous powers needful for laying and consolidating the Church's foundations, are indeed now withdrawn. But while the extraordinary ministrations have ceased, the ordinary remain. The "prophets and apostles" have been followed by "pastors and teachers"--and though claiming no 'apostolic succession' in the conventional sense of the word--no gift of tongues or of prophesying--yet we assert and maintain the Divine institution of the pastoral office. The King has still heralds, as of old, to prepare His way before Him; and these in their turn are charged by Him to commit their work to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Ministerial power is derived, not from priestly ordination or hereditary virtue, but directly from the King Himself. "To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." As the earthly King has his viceroy and ambassador at foreign courts, empowered to speak in his sovereign's name, and to vindicate his sovereign's rights, so He has committed unto His servants "the ministry of reconciliation," and empowered them thus to deliver their high command--"Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we beg you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God."
As an earthly King has SUBJECTS, so has our heavenly King. His mediatorial sway is indeed, in one sense, UNIVERSAL--"His kingdom rules over all;" "All things were created," not only by Him, but "for Him." His true subjects, however, are composed of the Church, which He has redeemed with His blood--chosen by Him "before the foundation of the world." "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed HIS PEOPLE, and has raised up an horn" (horn, the type of kingly rule) "of salvation for us in the house of His servant David." These, His people, are said to become "willing in the day of His power." What day is that? Doubtless it is the momentous era in their lives, when, by the efficacious grace of His Spirit, they are brought to surrender their weapons of rebellion; to renounce the service of Satan, and enroll themselves under the banner of their Savior-King. To effect this result, at times the terrors of the law are employed--those arrows which "are sharp in the hearts of the King's enemies, whereby the people fall under Him." At other times, "the still small voice" proves, as in the case of the prophet, more efficacious than tempest, and earthquake, and fire. The heart is conquered and won by love. A TWO-FOLD CHANGE is at that great crisis-hour undergone.
There is, first, a change of state. The new-born subjects of the King are enrolled among the pardoned. Enemies once, with the sentence of death recorded against them--they receive a full forgiveness--a royal amnesty is extended to them--they are "accepted in the Beloved;" From being by nature and practice (to use the simile in the Song of Solomon), like "pillars of smoke," they become redolent "with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant." Captives once--the chains are struck off; prodigals once--the home of their Father is thrown open. God in His judicial character justifies them--in His paternal character He adopts them. They are received into the number and invested with all the privileges of Sonship.
But, in addition to the change of state, that "day of power" brings along with it a change of character. It not only captures the citadel of the heart, which had long held out against the heavenly King, but all its storehouses and resources are now willingly laid in tribute at His feet. The understanding is enlightened, the affections purified, the will renewed. The body, which was formerly the slave of unrighteousness unto sin, is now consecrated to His service. Inspired with love and loyalty, His people reverence His laws. It is their supreme delight to serve and honor Him. Their interests are identified with His. Their obedience is not the coerced duty of the slave, but the delight of a voluntary heart-surrender. The moral and spiritual transformation is likened to the working of that mighty power which God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.
More than this--just as in the case of friends with whom we are in the habit of daily and familiar communion, we insensibly catch up their tone and manner and conversation, and imbibe their tastes and likings--so it is with believers and Him, who, though a King, delights to call them "friends." They gradually become assimilated to the Divine character. They imbibe His spirit; they reflect His image. "The King's daughter," like her Lord, becomes "all glorious within; her clothing, is of wrought gold" (the inwrought graces of the Spirit). So that it may be said of Christ's true people as of the brethren of Gideon, "each one resembled the children of a king."
Thus then the subjects of this Divine Mediator receive the double blessing of having their natures changed as well as their sins pardoned--or as this is briefly but beautifully stated by Peter in his address before the Jewish council, "Him has God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
Does the personal question here occur, 'HOW are we to become the subjects of this exalted Sovereign? What is the passport of admission into His royal favor and within His palace-gates? Have we to fight our way to it, like desperate men, through blood and death? Have we in our own strength to scale inaccessible ramparts before reaching the city of the great King?' Listen to the words of the beloved disciple, "As many as received Him to them gave He power (or the right) to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name." We have no merit in the attainment of these royal privileges and prerogatives. They are all derived from grace and bestowed through faith. The hand which "delivers from the power of darkness" translates also into "the kingdom of His dear Son." The charter of our rights is delivered to us in the same way as the cure was dispensed to the cripple at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple--"In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk." Or, to employ an older Bible simile, He, the true Ahasuerus, extends the regal scepter, and of His sovereign good pleasure confers the rich blessings of His spiritual kingdom.
While, however, it is by grace we are redeemed, we must never forget that HOLINESS is the distinguishing badge of all true subjects of the Savior's rule. This is the characteristic of "the nations of those who are saved"--a holy people. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it through the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, without having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that it should be holy and without blemish." If we are partakers of this heavenly citizenship, inhabitants of this glorious spiritual empire, let us listen to the word of power, divinely recorded as the test of our loyalty and allegiance, "As He who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation."
One other observation is suggested by the analogy between an earthly and heavenly sovereign. As a truly great earthly king has ever in view THE GOOD OF HIS SUBJECTS, so it is with our gracious Redeemer. In His beneficent administration, He has constantly and invariably at heart the welfare of each individual member of His spiritual realm. The children of Zion may well be "joyful in their King." They may trust His combined power, and wisdom, and faithfulness; for all things, by immutable covenant, are working together for their good. Jesus is depicted in one of Zechariah's visions, as a royal warrior, riding in the midst of His Church on a "red horse," while "red horses, speckled and white," are in the same vision represented as forming His retinue--varied colored providences--some "white" (clearly understood), others "red and speckled" (or mottled). But all providences are under His control. Even when He afflicts, He afflicts not willingly. Chastisement is one of His love-tokens. This royal Shepherd often seeks out His flock in "the dark and cloudy day." He will not allow trial to go too far. He will not allow His people to be tempted above what they are able to bear. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations." We may well, in all that concerns us and ours, TRUST HIM IN THE DARK; remembering that He is infinite in His wisdom and boundless in His resources. Let "the shout of a King" be in the midst of His spiritual Israel. He has but one object in view in all His dealings with them--the "bringing many sons unto glory." And He will not leave His work undone until their salvation is complete. They may well take up the words of the prophet, and say with triumphant assurance, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us!"
We have thus briefly contemplated some of the characteristics of the rule of Christ over His Church and people. But there is one special phase of His sovereignty constantly unfolded in Scripture, to which we may make a brief reference in closing. It is the exercise of that SOVEREIGNTY OVER HIS ENEMIES. While we are told of "the rod of His strength out of Zion" by which He rules His people, we are told of a rod of iron by which He "breaks" His foes; "dashing them in pieces like a potter's vessel." As the warrior of Edom, He is represented, with blood-stained clothing, coming up from the overthrow of His adversaries--first of all, indeed, "speaking in righteousness--mighty to save;" but to those who reject that righteousness, mighty to destroy and to condemn.--"The Lord," we read in Psalm 110, "said unto my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool." "And I saw," says John, "heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He who sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness does He judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns."
The power of His enemies is only temporary--the triumph of His own cause is certain. "The rod of the wicked" will not always "rest upon the lot of the righteous." Despotism, Tyranny, Atheism, Popery, Infidelity, and the other foes of His Church and forces of evil, may do their worst. But every anti-Christian confederacy will at last be broken like a cobweb. "He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet."
It is a comforting and elevating contemplation, and especially in these days, to think of Christ as King of nations, as well as King of His Church--King of Providence as well as King of Grace--and making all events work out His own ends for the advancement of the cause of righteousness. He who manifested Himself in olden time, by His visible interpositions, as God of nature--who made the material world, alike earth and skies, subservient to His purposes--putting a drag on the burning axles of the sun--causing the stars in their courses to fight against Sisera--drying up the tongue of the Red Sea--making the hail of heaven--the white arrows of His quiver--to accomplish the conquest of Israel's foes--("When the Almighty scattered kings, it was white as snow in Salmon")--this sovereign Mediator superintends and controls the revolution of the still more complex and often apparently capricious wheels of Providence. He "holds the stars (emblems of political rulers) in His right hand," as well as "walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks."
See how in the bold figure used by the Prophet, He put a bit in the mouth of haughty Sennacherib! That heathen king was the instrument, employed by a Mightier, for the needed chastisement of apostate Judah--"But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind." Never, doubtless, did that tyrant dream, that his whirlwind march through the passes of the Lebanon, so graphically described by the inspired narrator, was at the dictate and to fulfill the sovereign purposes of the great God of armies. He would have spurned the thought of being the rod of Jehovah's anger and the "staff of His indignation." As such, nevertheless, he was employed--the minister of divine retribution; and then, when he had done his work, his legions were scattered like chaff before the whirlwind!
"I am Jehovah of hosts," says the Divine Messiah, "and besides Me there is no God." And all the plottings and counter-plottings of tyrants and despots, civil and ecclesiastical, will be similarly overruled for the spread of His cause, and the defeat and final overthrow of His enemies--when they shall be "consumed with the breath of His mouth; and destroyed with the brightness of His coming."
'Prince of peace, take to Yourself Your great power, and reign!' "Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O most mighty, with Your glory and with Your majesty, and in Your majesty, ride prosperously!" We know the day is coming when You shall be "King over all the earth, and Your name one"--when You shall become, as prophecy has described You, "the Desire of all nations"--when to You as the true Shiloh, shall "the gathering of the people be." "Violence shall no more be heard in Your land, wasting nor destruction within Your borders." The nations of those who are saved shall walk in the light of Your millennial glory. The shout of jubilant loyalty recorded in the Canticles will have its true fulfillment in that great coronation-day--"Go forth, O daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, with the crown with which his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart." What a mighty multitude will bow down before that chariot of victory, in which are yoked the white horses of salvation--a multitude with palms in their hands, out of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people--the Bride of the King--seated alongside her Lord, wearing on her person the costly jewels (her royal dowry) of "glory, honor, immortality, eternal life!"
Let us, in conclusion, hear this Warrior-king, standing, as He did of old before Joshua with a sword drawn in His hand, and asking each of us individually, "Are you with Me or against Me?" Reader! have you ever pondered all that is comprehended in the reality--"AGAINST Him?" Let Balaam's description be true of you now--one whose "dwelling is in the clefts of the Rock;" so that the same soothsayer's other dreadful words may never be verified in your experience--"I shall see Him (I shall see these clefts), but not near; I shall behold Him, but not near." "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him."