This evening I had the privilege of preaching the final part in a three-part sermon series on the offices of Christ. Tonight’s message was on the kingship of Christ. Though I did not get audio recorded for the sermon, I hope the text is profitable to you. Merry Christmas!
Christ Our King
December 22, 2013
Well we are just days from the celebration of Christmas, and this will be the third message I am bringing in anticipation of that celebration. We have seen thus far how Jesus fulfilled the long anticipated offices of both ‘prophet’ and ‘priest.’
Tonight, we are going to see how the baby born of Mary was destined to fulfill that third and most glorious office of ‘king.’
As we anticipate a wonderful time in God’s word this evening, we remember the eager anticipation with which God’s chosen people had waited for the Messiah.
I pray that tonight we will have our minds renewed and reminded that we live in the time of great blessing, and also a time of anticipation – the anticipation of the return of our great King.
Our Text for this evening is Luke 1:26-33 which is traditionally known in Christendom as ‘The Annunciation.’ Turn with me and we’ll read that and then go to the Lord for His blessing upon our time together this evening.
Exegesis of Luke 1:26-33
1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
For contextual purposes, this is the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, not Mary’s. If we were reading the entirety of the first chapter of Luke’s gospel we would have just learned of the miraculous birth of a baby boy named John to elderly parents Elizabeth and Zachariah, and the context for the statement on the “sixth month” would make more sense.
Nazareth, as noted by many commentators, was 70 miles outside of Jerusalem to the northeast. To call it a “city” might conjure up incorrect images in our modern minds – there was no Greek word for “town”, so that the word “city” was meant to distinguish between a populated area and a rural area. Nazareth was a very small, out of the way village that probably didn’t hold more than a few hundred people. Nazareth was the definition of obscurity itself.[i]
It is perhaps significant that Gabriel is sent “from God” to both Mary and Zachariah. In this context we see Luke use a description of Gabriel’s origin as being “from God”, whereas in his visit to Zachariah Gabriel himself tells Zachariah where he hailed from:
And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. (Luke 1:19, ESV)
I mention this because I want us to meditate upon the weightiness of this message from Gabriel.
Gabriel is only mentioned twice in the New Testament – both in this first chapter of Luke. He is also mentioned two other times in the Old Testament, and both of those references come to us by way of the book of Daniel. Indeed it is Gabriel who announced to Daniel the 70-weeks vision that we looked at a few weeks ago.
As of late, there has been a modern flair up in interest surrounding demons and witches and angels. This is especially reflected in the different TV shows and movie being pumped out of Hollywood. I do not think the rise in interest is necessarily godly or beneficial, but stems from a vain curiosity and the desire to sell advertising on TV shows and box office tickets in the theaters.
However, this passage (and others like it) indicates to us that the significance of Gabriel is not bound up in who he is, but rather who he represents and where He came from: the throne room of God.
Angels in the Bible are messengers, and their authority rests on the fact that they convey a Word from God.[ii] So too Gabriel has come to deliver an authoritative word from the throne room of God.
1:27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
Verse 27 conveys to us that this young woman Mary has been betrothed[iii] to a man named Joseph. But the most important thing conveyed here is that Joseph is “of the house of David.” This means that he is a direct descendent of the famous King of Judah, and Jesus would share in that lineage.
In fact, John MacArthur states, “Thus Jesus inherited from His adoptive father, Joseph, the legal right to David’s throne, while His physical descent from David came from His mother, Mary. In every legitimate sense – both legally and physically – Jesus Christ was the Son of David and born to be Israel’s true King.”
For many Israelites, David typified the greatness of Israel. Generation after generation told of the glory of his kingdom, and how God used a mere shepherd boy to unite an independent mix of tribes into a single kingdom under the rule of a single monarch. What Saul had failed to successfully do in the flesh, David did in the power of the Spirit of God. David’s kingdom, then, represented all that was glorious about the Israel of yesteryear, and Israelites looked forward to a day when once again a king would sit on the throne of David, but more on that in a moment…
1:28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
It is evident from Gabriel’s greeting that he intended to convey comfort and calm. He meets her, as most have aptly mentioned, in an indoor setting, and his appearance and words – despite their comfort – baffled Mary.
Gabriel’s words are indeed astounding. He conveys that God is with Mary – essentially he’s saying that God will be her fortress and help (which we see reflected in her response – the Magnificat) and that He would never leave her or forsake her. Matthew Henry ponders whether or not she would have thought of Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (which means God with us).
Those in the Catholic tradition read this verse from the Latin Vulgate translation, which is “gratia plena”, or “full of grace” in English, making the whole of the greeting, “Hail Mary full of grace.”
While modern Bibles more accurately translate this “favored one”, those in the Catholic tradition pervert the intended meaning of the original language by stating that Mary who is “full of grace” is actually the bestower of grace, rather than the recipient of grace.[iv] In fact, they go so far as to state that Mary is the one in whom all grace is vested, and that Jesus never dispenses grace without her consent (see the most recent catechism of the Catholic Church).
This is a gross distortion of the narrative, and a corrupt perversion of the text that violates the sense of what is being conveyed in order to accommodate an entire system of unbiblical doctrine (Mariology).
Furthermore, I think its safe to say that the Catholic interpretation violates one of the basic biblical rules of interpretation, which is that we don’t use historical narrative to trump the didactic portions of scripture. Yet that is exactly what the Catholics do here. They create doctrine where there is none, and ignore the clear teaching of the rest of the NT in order to justify their interpretations.
What is being conveyed here is much more straightforward. Gabriel is announcing to Mary that God, by His own grace and in accordance with the mystery of His will, has chosen this humble girl to carry in her womb God incarnate. It is God’s favor, not Mary’s which is in view in this verse.
1:29-30 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
The fact that the angel had to reassure Mary not to be afraid ought to give us a clue as to the spectacular nature of this visit. When a messenger from God’s throne room visits you it stands to reason that the moment might shake you to the core.
Mary must also have been acutely aware of her own insignificance and sinfulness. She was a finite human being, and yet God had chosen her for an awesome task.
I love the point that John MacArthur makes: “All genuinely righteous people are distressed and terrified in God’s presence (or, as in this case, one of His holy angels), because they are acutely aware of their sin. Gabriel’s appearance and greeting unnerved Mary; nothing in her brief life could have prepared her for this astonishing event.”
1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
Like the instructions given to Zachariah concerning the naming of John, Mary is also given specific instructions as to what the name of her child will be.
The name “Jesus” basically means, “God saves” – and a more fitting name I cannot think of! In the ancient world the name of a person carried a lot more weight than it does in our current modern culture here in America. The name of a child conveyed, in many ways, the hopes and aspirations of the parents for that baby. In this case, God had a specific plan for this child, His Son, and the name of the child reflects that purpose: God will offer salvation through the life of the one being born of Mary.
1:32-33 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
It is an understatement to be sure that Jesus will “be great” (as MacArthur notes, “his life will define ‘great’”). And with this statement we come to the theological meat of this passage – the kingship of Jesus. There are so many dynamics and nuances to the kingship of Christ. But tonight I want to simply examine three parts:
- The predicted king
- The kingdom breakthrough
- The return of the king
The Predicted King
The Type of King
Before we examine how this king had long been predicted, I’d have us just notice what type of king has been predicted. Gabriel tells us the child who will be born will not be an ordinary child, but rather the “Son of the Most High. ”[v]
In other words, He will be the Son of God, holy, divine, and completely different than anyone ever born to a woman. Not only will He be an everlasting king, but also his kingdom will be everlasting.
So He will be a different kind of king with a different king of kingdom.
The Fulfillment of the Davidic Promise
Gabriel also says that the Lord will give this child the throne of his father David. So in human lineage, this child will be a descendent of the family of David, and therefore will fulfill the Davidic promise of an everlasting kingdom/throne – as Gabriel says, “of his kingdom there will be no end.”
For many years the Jews must have wondered at the nature of the promise to David. Naturally, they must have thought that the promise meant the kingdom would never lack a Davidic king – someone from the lineage of David himself. But it had been 1000 years since that promise was given, and hundreds of years since Israel had a king of their own from David’s house.
Obviously God had a different kind of “everlasting” kingdom in mind. Let’s examine the original text of the promise as we try and grasp the significance of Gabriel’s words:[vi]
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Sam. 7:12-16)
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’”(Psalm 89:2-4)[vii]
The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.” (Psalm 132:11-12)
Now, as time progressed, the people of God sinned, their kingdom was torn apart, and they endured exile and every manner of deprivation. Gone were the glory days of David and Solomon.
Yet despite the fact that the people of Israel had transgressed and broken covenant with God[viii], He reassured them that He would remain faithful to His covenant with David and raise up a king who would save them and “restore their fortunes.”
So during this time the Israelites looked forward with hope that God would one day usher in a kingdom that would save Israel by the hand of this “root of David.” Several OT prophets gave them reason to hope:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
17 “For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel…(Jeremiah 33:14-17)[ix]
Their prince shall be one of themselves;
their ruler shall come out from their midst;
I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me,
for who would dare of himself to approach me?
declares the Lord.
22 And you shall be my people,
and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:21-22)
In Ezekiel (one of my favorites)…
“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28)
And in Daniel…
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, (Daniel 2:44)
There are many other passages that reiterate the same message.
And when we read the New Testament we find that Peter (Acts 2:24-36) interprets these prophecies and proclaims in no uncertain terms that Jesus of Nazareth is the one who fulfilled them:
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:24-36)
Note that Peter sees Jesus as both Lord and Christ. He is both King and Savior.
From these verses it is apparent that not only was there a predicted King to come from the line of David, but that the man who fulfilled that role is seen by the New Testament authors to be none other than Jesus of Nazareth.
The NT authors do not simply view Jesus as reigning in a spiritual sense, rather His reign is over all of the created order. While it may be difficult to describe the nature of His kingdom, we know it is unlike any kingdom here on earth. And we know that one day what our eyes cannot see now will be consummated in such a way that no one will be able to avoid seeing it![x]
It is to these two topics we now turn…
The Kingdom Breakthrough
When Jesus walked from town to town He proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom of God.” That He was proclaiming a kingdom, there is no doubt. Here is one example of what Jesus was saying near the beginning of His ministry:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
I believe that the overwhelming witness of Scripture is that when Jesus was “proclaiming” a kingdom, He was inaugurating a kingdom, and that when Gabriel announced to Mary that Jesus would inherit the throne of David, this wasn’t a mantle He would inherit some time in the distant future.
It seems clear to me that given all the times He proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom” it would be very difficult to argue that Jesus did not inaugurate a kingdom during His earthly ministry.
One very powerful instance in which Jesus proclaims the inbreaking of the kingdom is found in Matthew 12 where we read the following:
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:22-28)
Note how the people connect the sovereign work of Jesus to the possibility of his Davidic kingly lineage. Jesus confirms their thinking. If He has sovereignty over the demons, then “the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Jesus doesn’t say “the kingdom of God will come in my millennial reign” or “the kingdom will one day come upon you” or some such thing. Rather He states that the kingdom “HAS” come upon you.
This is a message Jesus never abandoned. In fact He proclaims His kingship right until the day of His death. In an exchange with Pontius Pilate we read the following:
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:33-37)
I think that many Christians wonder what kind of kingdom this is. What is the nature of Christ’s kingdom? When Gabriel announced to Mary that her Son would be the heir to the Davidic throne, how are we to understand this?
A King for All Nations
We need to understand that the kingdom Jesus inaugurated was different in scope and character than what the Jews expected.
For instance, we know now that the Heir David’s throne will not only reign over all his people, but in the original covenant with David there are indications that God’s intention is for His king to bring His law to all nations.
In 2 Samuel 7:19 David responds to God’s promise in the following way:
And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! (2 Samuel 7:19)
Peter Gentry comments, “…since the god whom the Davidic king represented was not limited to a local region or territory, but was the creator God and Sovereign of the whole world, the rule of the Davidic king would have repercussion for all the nations, not just for Israel…This, I submit is the logic behind David’s response in verse 19, and this is why he claims that a covenant that makes the Davidic king son of God is the instrument of bringing Yahweh’s Torah to all the nations. David’s own understanding of divine sonship is clearly indicated by his statement in 7:19 that the covenant is God’s charter or instruction for humankind.”
The New Testament ramifications of this are that the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus proclaims is one not simply for Israel, but for all nations.
Another way the kingdom Jesus inaugurated is different than what the Jews expected is that it has a sort of incomplete feel about it – at least that’s how we tend to perceive it, isn’t it?
As Greg Beale comments, “Perhaps one of the most striking features of Jesus’s kingdom is that it appears not to be the kind of kingdom prophesied in the OT and expected by Judiasm. Part of the reason for the unexpectedness is that the kingdom had begun but was not consummated, and this lack of consummation was to continue on indefinitely. This stands in contrast to OT prophecies of the latter days whose events were predicted to occur all at once at the very end of history.”[xi]
In fact, this frustration in understanding the nature of Christ’s kingdom was expressed by the disciples just prior to Christ’s ascension:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
What Jesus is saying here is that the nature of the kingdom during the church age is going to look different – you will perceive it differently – than you probably thought.
Not only that, but the SCOPE and reach of the kingdom would be grander than the disciples first thought. Jesus wasn’t going to restore the kingdom to Israel and sit down on a throne in Jerusalem, instead He was going to ascend to heaven and sit down on the throne of God and rule over all creation!
Instead of sending armies out from the holy city to conquer His enemies, He was sending fishermen out to conquer evil with the Sword of the Spirit, and the power of the Holy Spirit living inside them. He would literally be working His will in and through them while at the same time ruling over all creation from heaven’s highest throne.
Baptist Theologian Tom Schreiner says:
It is clear, then, that when Jesus spoke of the future coming of the kingdom, he was not referring to God’s sovereign reign over all history, for God has always ruled over all that occurs. The coming of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed designated something new, a time when God’s enemies would be demonstrably defeated and the righteous would visibly blessed. The future coming of the kingdom relates to the realization of God’s promises of salvation…When Jesus announced the presence of the kingdom, he declared that God was about to bring about the salvation that he had always promised.”
But it would be inaccurate to describe Christ’s reign as only a “spiritual reign.” And I think that because we cannot taste, smell, see, or physically hear Christ’s kingdom, we have a tendency of describing His “literal reign” as purely “future.” This is wrong.
It would be more accurate to say that He “literally” reigns over all the created order right now. He “literally” is in control over all of things. We read as much in Hebrews 1:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)
Therefore it is not as though He just reigns in our hearts, nor will He just reign over the world in the future; rather He literally upholds all of creation as we speak, right now.
Therefore there is a very palpable “already/not year” tension to Christ’s kingdom. We can sense that there is more to come, yet we also know that there are wonderful privileges we have right now.
For example, we have received salvation, yet we have not yet realized the consummation of that salvation (we are still in the world). We have been sanctified (set apart), yet we are still being sanctified (made holy). We are adopted, yet we continue to behave as orphans, and have not realized yet all of the privileges of sonship – including the glorification of our bodies. Jesus reigns at God’s right hand, and yet His kingdom is not seen physically by the world.
The great Princeton Theologian Gerhardos Vos says, “Although in one sense the inheritance of this world lies yet in the future, yet in another sense it has already begun to be realized in principle and become ours in actual possession.”
Schreiner says, “One of the unique elements of Jesus’s teaching about God’s kingdom is that it is both present and future. When we speak of God’s kingdom as present in the ministry of Jesus, we are not referring to the notion that God is sovereign over all history. Rather, the kingdom is present in Jesus’ ministry in that the saving promises of the kingdom had dawned with his coming. In other words, the OT promises of a new covenant and a new creation and a new exodus were beginning to be fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus.”
He concludes, “In other words, the kingdom is already inaugurated but not yet consummated.”[xii]
Greg Beale says, “The great expected latter-day restoration was beginning through Jesus, a restoration that was inextricably linked to Israel’s kingdom prophecies.” Emphasis on “beginning.”
Therefore, the kingdom that Jesus ushered in was one marked by salvation and the outward behavior of a people being conformed to His own image. New creations in Christ displaying the fruit of the Spirit are the outward manifestations of this kingdom. The gospel being spread by the church militant throughout the world and the Spirit of truth exercised through the living and active Word of God are the weapons of the kingdom’s army. The kingdom is here and is present, Jesus is reigning at the right hand of God over all creation, and His Spirit lives within us testifying to the fact that one day He will come again to conclude and consummate the battle and His kingdom.
That is why Vos can say that, “We assume that he (Jesus) regarded the kingdom as in principle already present, although he regarded the eschatological consummation as still future.”[xiii]
It is to that “future” consummation – that “not yet” I mentioned a moment ago – that we now turn as we conclude our study.
The ‘Return of the King’
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic work ‘The Return of the King’ we read of the journey of one Aragorn son of Arathorn who is heir to a kingdom “long bereft of lordship. ” The kingdom of Gondor has been turned over to stewards – those entrusted to watch over the kingdom until a king returns to lead his people. The line of kings is thought to be broken, and there are few who even know of Aragorn’s existence.
As evil spreads and begins to manifest itself in Tolkien’s world of ‘Middle Earth’ Aragorn is hesitant to claim his birthright and lead the kingdom of men. Why? Because he knows of the weakness of men. Men like his ancestors are vulnerable to the corruption of power and he has no desire to be a tool of corruption. As the saying goes, ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’
Thus, he tarried.
Eventually Aragorn finds his courage in the confidence and hopes of his friends and fellow travelers, it seems. The tale ends with the consummation of the return of the king and the beginning of the grand session of Aragorn over the kingdom of Gondor.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a similar situation do we not? We look around and see evil on the rise. The bad is proclaimed as “good.” The forces of darkness seemingly closing in on all sides.
And yet, our King tarries.
However our King, who has possessed absolute power from before time began, is free from any hint of corruption. Unlike Aragorn, He tarries not due to any inherent deficiency, but because as King over the cosmos He is sovereign over time and the course of history.
Theologian John Frame writes, “…God’s decision is clear: that the history of redemption will take millennia, leaving space for dramatic movements, ups and downs, twists and turns, longings and astonishments. Salvation is to be a great epic, not a short story. God will glorify himself, not by measuring his kingdom in time spans appropriate to human kings, but by revealing himself as “King of the ages” (Rev. 15:3).
His time has not yet come.
Therefore Christ, who reigns now from heaven, will one day consummate His kingdom here on earth. On that day “every tongue” shall confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord” – that is to say that everyone on earth will either be forced to, or willingly and joyfully proclaim the kingship of Jesus.
That day will be both awesome, and terrible as Scripture says. The shear revelation of the power of the Lord Jesus in all His glory will terrify all unrepentant humanity.
I fear sometimes that we are so conditioned to think of Jesus as an infant born in a stable, or the kind-hearted healer of humanity that we fail to see Christ in His fullness – we forget Gabriel’s words – “He will be great!”
Certainly His majesty is described well by the apostle John:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16, ESV)
These images ought to evoke fear and trembling into the hearts of finite man. The majestic holiness and splendorous glory of the Son of God on that day will never be rivaled.
So while we recognize the current reign of Christ, we must also internalize and cling to the truth that His reign will one day be consummated. When He comes again, all enemies will cry in despair while His children shout for joy!
In conclusion, when Gabriel announced Christ’s coming to the Virgin Mary, he was delivering a message from God Himself.
That message was the announcement of promises soon to be fulfilled, and the inbreaking of a kingdom upon the sons of man.
Tonight we come before the Lord and remember that He is king. We praise God that after so many years He faithfully fulfilled His promise and sent a King to rescue His enslaved children – though this king did not act like the kings among the children of men.
This king was meek and lowly. This king came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt.
This King was born to poor parents among dirty animals and the smell of a barnyard, yet would offer the sweetest sacrificial fragrance to the Father.
This King ushered in a kingdom that, though unseen, has freed millions of captives whose lives have displayed the fruit of His kingdom’s power – a power that extends from the heavenly right hand from whence He reigns, to the moment-by-moment interactions of His Christian soldiers.
This King will one day consummate His kingdom, and bring all men into visible subjection to Himself.
In that day, His defeated enemies will wish for rocks and mountains to fall upon them rather than face His wrath, and His children will rejoice with an incomparable joy.
On that day we will remember the prophet Zephaniah’s words:
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
19 Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth. (Zephaniah 3:17-19, ESV)
On that day, His children will once again say, “The King is here!”
[i] It is interesting how many commentators describe the obscurity of this small town of Nazareth – especially in contrast to Gabriel’s previous destination which was the bustling metropolis of Jerusalem. Some note that the “city” of Nazareth being located in Galilee was significant because it was Galilee which was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” due to its proximity to foreign lands and probably its mix of inhabitants. Some even see this as an early sign that Jesus was born as a Savior to the world and not the Jews alone.
[ii] In his book ‘Unseen Realities’, R.C. Sproul writes about this passage, “So we see, again, the angel functioning both as messenger and as authoritative communicator of the Word of God.”
[iii] As John MacArthur notes, “In Jewish practice, girls were usually engaged at the age of twelve or thirteen and married at the end of a one-year betrothal period.”
[iv] Leon Morris states, “It is, of course, a complete misunderstanding to translate ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’, and understand the words to mean that Mary would be a source of grace to other people. Gabriel is saying simply that God’s favor rests on her.”
[v] Geldenhuys notes that there are no articles in the Greek so that it is just “Son of Highest” which he says is done “in order to indicate the absolute uniqueness and highness of His divine Sonship.”
[vi] There are SO many other scriptures that I could have quoted here. I love, for instance, what is found in Zephaniah 3:15-20 and the emphasis of God being in the midst of Israel, His people. He is called “a mighty one who will save” and that “he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing.” So beautiful the picture of the love of our king.
[vii] Later in this same Psalm (89) in verses 34-37 the author beautifully repeats the promise again, “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.”
[viii] Peter Gentry notes that, “Traditionally, theologians have viewed the Davidic covenant as unconditional. It is true that the content of the covenant consists in the might promises made by Yahweh. Nonetheless, as verses 14-15 (of 2 Sam. 7) show, faithfulness is expected of the king, and these verses foreshadow the possibility of disloyalty on the part of the king, which will require discipline by Yahweh.”
[ix] There are so many good passages which anticipate the coming king in the context of a new covenant – one of the anticipatory passages of David’s offspring that I didn’t mention above is in Jeremiah 23:5-8. It is a neat passage which talks about how the people of Israel will one day see a “righteous Branch” raised up from David and that Branch “shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” I really appreciate the work of D.A. Carson and Greg Beale who had this passage and several others listed in their ‘Commentary on the New Testament Use of the old Testament.’
[x] I simply cannot accept John MacArthur’s view on the nature of the kingdom. MacArthur incorrectly states, “The Lord Jesus Christ clearly did not establish His kingdom at His first coming.” I will endeavor to show in section two of my exegesis on Luke 1:32-33 that Jesus Himself said that the kingdom of God had come. MacArthur’s view is a distortion of Scripture based on a hermeneutic that must protect his dispensational premillennial view at (seemingly) all costs. So while I greatly respect Dr. MacArthur’s scholarship on many fronts, its clear that his thinking takes a bizarre turn in his commentary on Luke 1 when addressing this topic. Not only is he wrong on the aforementioned item, but he distorts the amillenialist view of eschatology by asserting that “the promised kingdom is not limited to Christ’s present spiritual reign, as amillenialists advocate.” I don’t know who he is reading, but I have yet to find an amillenialist who believes Christ’s reign is merely spiritual and not a reign over all of creation, a real actual sovereignty that exists but will be consummated at His second coming. All of this distortion is done in an effort to preserve the idea that Christ’s physical reign will be only during the millennium. MacArthur has to virtually ignore all the scriptures that refer to Christ’s current session. Lastly, MacArthur’s argument against a “merely spiritual” reign is, in fact, what he himself argues! For he states the following, “Jesus Christ rules spiritually in the heart of every believer and that spiritual rule will last forever because salvation is forever. But that does not preclude the future literal, earthly, millennial kingdom.” In other words, he believes that Christ’s reign right now is just spiritual! Really, there is very little difference between his view and that of the amillenialist when it comes to the future and current reign of Christ in that He and the Amill folks both believe in a current spiritual reign of Christ (Despite what he writes in his commentary, for the sake of charity I will give him the benefit of the doubt that if he were here arguing with me he would say that he also believes Christ reigns over creation and all things as well and take steps to qualify his words) as well as a future physical reign of Christ at His second coming. Obviously after that the time, nature, and location of that reign is highly disputed and MacArthur’s dispensationalism asserts something completely different than the Amill folks he picks a fight with in this instance. But other than those (important) distinctions, there is no need to misconstrue the views of those who don’t agree with his own (wacko) view. I took the time to work through this because its important to understand and stand firmly by the fact that when Christ came He DID usher in a REAL kingdom. Just because that kingdom doesn’t look like what MacArthur thinks it ought to look like doesn’t make it any less REAL and doesn’t take away any of the ramifications of the reality of that kingdom. These ramifications must be addressed and cannot be simply ignored by blindly looking toward a future kingdom while ignoring present realities. To do this would ignore the significant already/not yet tension that the NT writers (especially Paul and the author of Hebrews) see/describe.
[xi] These notes from Greg Beale are from his New Testament Biblical Theology on page 431 and are actually a part of an excursus on eschatological aspects of the inaugurated end-time kingdom in the synoptic gospels. A very helpful little section of his book indeed.
[xii] Sam Storms has this to say, “Thus the kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God, or his sovereign lordship, dynamically active to establish his rule among men. There are two decisive and dramatic moments in the manifestation of his kingdom: first, as it is fulfilled within history in the first advent of the Son, whereby Satan was defeated and men and women are brought into the experience of the blessings of God’s reign, and second, as it will be consummated at the close of history in the second advent of the Son, when he will finally and forever destroy his enemies, deliver his people and all of creation from evil, and establish his eternal rule in the new heavens and new earth.” This is just a fantastic summary of the kingdom theology that the New Testament gives us. I would have included in the main body of the sermon, but there were already so many resources and authors from which to draw that I had to slim the manuscript down a little.
[xiii] Vos’ description of the already/not yet and the kingdom were taken from pages 34 and 166 of an Anthology of his work compiled by Danny Olinger.