This Kingdom of covenant promise and prediction, is to be distinguished from the Sovereignty which Jesus exercises by virtue of His Divine nature.
PROPOSITION 80. This Kingdom of covenant promise and prediction, is to be distinguished from the Sovereignty which Jesus exercises by virtue of His Divine nature.
This is distinctively shown by a simple fact (overlooked by the multitude) that the Kingdom is never promised to Him as “the Son of God” but as (the covenants and predictions demand it) “the Son of Man” or “the Son of David.” The following Proposition will develop this feature; now it is only necessary to say, that (1) the Sovereignty of God introduces this special Theocratic Kingdom in the incorporated Davidic line, and (2) to constitute this a pure, unfailing, perpetual Theocracy (viz.: God ruling as earthly King, etc.) the Divine is allied or incorporated with the person of this David’s Son.
Obs. 1. It may be premised, in order to avoid misconception, that Jesus now in His Divine nature, in His Oneness with the Father, does exercise a dominion over all things. According to this nature He is Lord over all, and this is, in our estimation, most unequivocally taught in such passages as John 1:3; Col. 1:15, 19; Phil. 2:9, 11; 1 Cor. 8:6; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 1:5–6, etc. We fully admit the Divinity of Christ, revere His Divine attributes, make these essential to a proper Theocratic ordering, and acknowledge the Sovereignty that He possesses in His Divine right and possession. But independently of the actual realization of the Theocratic order as covenanted, and aside from the latter (for let the reader consider that when God Himself was Israel’s Theocratic King, He did not cease to exert His general Sovereignty), this exercise of Divine Sovereignty is precisely the same as that we have been considering in the previous Proposition, viz.: God’s Sovereignty, and differs materially from this predicted Kingdom which is promised to Jesus, “the Christ,” not merely in virtue of His relationship to God but of that which He sustains to David as his Son, and to man as the Man. The reign, the dominion, or Kingdom that we are defending, is, in contrast with the other, that of His humanity (as covenanted), or, more properly speaking (embracing covenant as it relates to man, and God’s own Theocratic right which is not the subject of promise), that of the Divine-Human. The Theocracy, by incorporating the Davidic kingship, embraces, as the grand instrumentality for its future re-establishment in sublime power and glory, the Divine-Human, now united in Jesus, the Messiah.[*]
Note. It has been well said by various writers (as e.g. Neander, His. Ch., vol. 1, p. 506, note, and Life of Christ, p. 143): “The predicates ‘the Son of Man’ and ‘the Son of God,’ applied by Christ to Himself, have a reciprocal relation to one another and imply a distinction as well as the conjunction and unity of the divine-human in Him.” The careful student will observe that our argument receives additional force from the independent concessions made by able theologians, as e.g. Martensen (Ch. Dog., sec. 174), when he properly discriminates between the kingly power of Jesus, and the divine power belonging to Him as Logos, etc. Others distinguish in the same manner. Comp. e.g. Dorner’s person of Christ and kindred works.
Obs. 2. The early Chiliasts clearly distinguish between the Kingdom belonging to Jesus as the Divine-Human, and the Sovereignty vested in Him as God. Thus e.g. Lactantius (“Poem on Easter”), while firmly holding to the still future Kingdom of promise to be given to the Son of David, expressly asserts that Christ “reigns as God over all things, and all created objects offer prayer to their Creator.” The idea, gathered from their writings, is this: in His Divine capacity He is represented as reigning, but this reign is not the reign of promise;—the latter is confined to a special covenanted outward visible manifestation of the human in conjunction with the Divine, in an externally Theocratic ordering.
Obs. 3. When Christ assumes the Kingdom at the time appointed, in view of His being the predicted seed of David, this does not by any means cause Him to lay aside the Sovereignty that He has with the Father over the universe. As Divine He is with the Father evermore, but as the Divine-human, He manifests Himself (and the Father through Him) on earth in a specified form of reigning adapted to humanity. Hence the predicted Kingdom is something that pertains not merely to the Divine but to “the Christ,” i.e. the Divine-human united. The right comes to Him in the covenanted line through the human element (i.e. as the lawful seed of David) delegated by the Divine Sovereignty of the Father and rendered efficacious and Theocratic by the intimate and ever-enduring union of the Divine, thus constituting Him in the highest and purest sense the Theocratic King.[*]
Note. The reader is again reminded that this is fully illustrated by the Theocracy. When God condescended to reign as Theocratic King (i.e. to act in the capacity of an earthly Ruler) over Israel, two things were noticeable: (1) that this Theocratic rule was something diverse from the general sovereignty over all things; and (2) that when the former was assumed, the latter was not laid aside, but continued ever in force. The one was a special merciful manifestation in behalf of man, the other lies inherent in the Godhead and pertains to the universe at large.
Obs. 4. It is amazing that theologians, without observing the contradiction involved, confound the Divine Sovereignty with the covenanted Kingship of Jesus, and yet acknowledge that Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 12:2, etc., teach that “the ground of His dominion is to be found in His obedience unto death, the death of the cross” (so Oosterzee’s Dogmatics). Now certainly the Divine Sovereignty is not grounded in any such contingency, but the Kingship pertaining to Jesus, as the Son of David, is based upon His obedience, etc. (comp. Props. 83 and 84).[*]
Note. Flavel, in his Fountain of Life, represents Jesus as now reigning under two heads: (1) “the kingly office of Christ, as executed spiritually upon the souls of the Redeemed, and (2) the kingly office of Christ as providentially executed for the Redeemed.” The first is based on 2 Cor. 10:5, supposed to be especially confirmed by Luke 17:20, 21. He has, over against the express covenant that specifies with distinctness the throne to be occupied by Jesus, Christ’s throne in the hearts of believers. The second is derived from Eph. 1:22 (a present realization being taken for granted), which is supported by an appeal to the Divine Sovereignty. Two things are noticeable in Flavel’s ignoring of covenant and covenant promises: (1) the means are confounded with the end, and (2) without any regard to the context of passages, or to their reference to time (dispensation), they are quoted as applicable to his spiritualistic theory. Many writers, of usefulness and piety, follow the same illogical and unscriptural view of the kingdom.
Obs. 5. What Lange (Com. p. 268) observes in reference to the miracles of Christ, that “the distinction between the economy of the Father and of the Son must ever be kept in mind,” is especially necessary in the study of this Kingdom; otherwise we will be led to a confusion of ideas and to palpable contradictions. There are some things which essentially belong to Jesus as the Son of God, as One with God; and there are other things which appertain to Him as “the Christ,” the Divine-human. Two extremes are to be avoided: on the one hand to lay all stress on the Divine, and making, in this Kingdom, the human too subordinate; and on the other hand pressing the human to the exclusion of the Divine. Both are firmly and eternally united, and the very revelation of the Son of Man, as David’s Son, will necessarily be an attestation to His divinity in the works that He will do, in the power that He will exercise, and in the relation that He sustains to the universe. The last feature is illustrated as given in Jno. 3:13 (comp. 6:62, and 17:5), where, according to some commentators (as Barnes, Lange, etc.), Jesus speaks of Himself as being in heaven at the very time He was also on earth speaking to Nicodemus (two ancient MSS. according to Tischendorf’s N. Test. the S. and C. omit “which is in heaven”). Thus also when again present on earth, taking the Kingdom as Son of Man, this does not forbid His being, through the all-pervading attributes ascribed to Him, in heaven or in any part of the universe. These are deep things, and we must speak of them after the manner of man.[*]
Note. For we are not of those who think that the Person of Christ can be fully explained. He portrays Himself as a mystery, connected with the incomprehensible, revealed only to a few, and then only in some of His features. Much pertaining to Christ is still unknown, and has been the subject of controversy and impotent discussion. Hence the author has little sympathy with a class of writers who, in their exactness to define the Person of Christ rush to opposite extremes: the one party, while acknowledging the union of the divine-human, have the human completely absorbed in the divine; the other with equal preciseness making all human. Others receive, justly, all that is recorded, and therefore cleave to Jesus as “the Christ,” being constituted such by a permanent union of the divine-human, both existing in ever-enduring harmony. Man is himself, in some respects, a mystery, and so long as it has been found impracticable to explain man (as e.g. union of soul and body) consistently and satisfactorily, it would be better (as indicative of modesty) to avoid attempting an accurate explanation of “the Christ.” It is painful to read the varied and contradictory statements given in the writings of fallible men concerning Him, who, in the very nature of the case, being man and above man—man united with the Divine Mystery (God, the Incomprehensible)—is in a higher sense beyond our comprehension. We must rest satisfied with the description given of Him in the Word (which some writers portray with force and depth), without attempting to explain what the Bible has left indefinite and unknown.
Obs. 6. As if purposely to guard us against the error which is so largely prevalent, the phrase “Son of God” is not employed in direct connection with the Kingdom of heaven to be set up on earth. Indeed, our argument thus far indicates that such a declaration, as e.g. that the Kingdom is given to Jesus in view of His being the Son of God, would be utterly opposed to the Abrahamic-Davidic covenant, for it would virtually then be saying that God gives the Kingdom to God, phraseology so hostile to propriety that the Spirit avoids it (comp. Props. 82, 83, 84). The correspondence thus happily maintained between the requirements of the covenant (and that which is inherent with God) and the language of the New Test., is one of those indirect, but really powerful, proofs of the inspiration of the Word. The student is directed to a few peculiarities connected with this phrase. It is used, for instance, to denote the power, divine or miraculous, which was lodged in Him because of His relationship with the Father, as in Matt. 4:3, and 8:29, and 14:33; Mark 3:11, and 5:7; Luke 4:41; Jno. 10:36, and 11:4, etc. Jesus Himself clearly makes a designed difference between the two phrases, as in Matt. 26:63, 64. The High Priest uses the one, asking “whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God?” Jesus, purposely to identify Himself with the covenants and the prediction of Daniel, employs in His answer the other, the “Son of Man.” The delicate propriety, the beautiful consistency underlying this, stamps the Record as true and divine. The same is the case in John 1:49–51; for when Nathanael “saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel,” Jesus, with exquisite tact, silently acceding to the title thus given to Him, directs his attention to the title which specifically (see Prop. 81) belongs to Him as the King of Israel by styling Himself “the Son of Man” in the “hereafter.” Uninspired men could not have kept up such a considerate and wonderful unity. This is preserved even in cases where a work (as e.g. the resurrection) is said to be done by Christ, which human power alone could not perform. Thus in John 5:25, where it is said that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, He immediately adds, in order to avoid misapprehension, “and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also; because He is the Son of Man.” Miraculous, creative, divine power is lodged in Him because He is the Son of God; but Judgeship, the revelation of Kingship—for He judges as King—appertains to Him “because He is the Son of Man.” This change of title, this precise and guarded manner of expressing it, is sustained by the most weighty reasons. The predicate “Son of God” is given to show His ability to save, that requisite power is united with the human, as in Rom. 1:4; Heb. 4:14; 1 Jno. 3:8, etc. The predicate “Son of Man” is bestowed to identify Him as truly coming in the covenanted and Theocratic order.[*]
Note. The tendency of many Theologians is to exalt the divinity of Jesus to the almost total exclusion of the humanity, just as if the latter had performed its function and was not destined to remain in the future an important and essential factor in Redemption. So much is the latter ignored in the absorbing interest attached to the former, that its due relationship to covenants, to the purposes of salvation, to the Theocratic ordering, and to the history of the human race, is not observed. How often do we read expressions which ascribe the Kingdom of promise to “the Son of God” owing to the divine nature in Him, and arguments are plentifully adduced to prove that it must be so because of His Omnipotence, etc., while the real ground of the Kingdom being bestowed upon Him as “the Christ” is very differently represented in the covenant and by the prophets, viz.: the relationship of Jesus to David as the covenanted seed; a relationship sustained, elevated, made rich in blessing, fruitful in honor and glory by the union of the divine. It is wrong therefore, to estimate the human so lowly in the light of the divine, as almost to set it aside as if no particular value was to be placed on the same. Reuss (Introd., p. 16, His. Ch. Theol.), after saying that “God has no history,” gravely asserts: “Any one who undertakes seriously, and without playing on words, to write a life of Jesus, by that very fact, and whatever may be the result of his labors, steps out of the strict enclosure of orthodoxy.” Reuss forgets that Jesus is the Son of David as well as the Son of God, and that while the divine element, abstractly considered, cannot be limited by history, the Divine-human, the Christ, properly estimated from the Incarnation, has a history which must comport with the covenants and prophecies; and that such a history, now and when completed in the age to come, is a vindication of the faithfulness of God, etc. A history, if now necessarily incomplete, is a sequence of covenant and prophecy.
Obs. 7. The Divine has elevated the human, held in conjunction for the pre-ordained Theocratic rule, to the Father’s throne, i.e. “the Christ,” the Divine-Human united in one Person is “set down with my Father in His throne,” and that in virtue of His overcoming. Hence all power is lodged in Him both in heaven and in earth; He is exalted at the right hand of God; He is made “both Lord and Christ.” This insures the ultimate fulfilment of the Christship—for the Divine Sovereignty thus linked by the union of the fulness of the Godhead bodily with the Man Jesus shows that through “this Man” (as Paul calls Him) the Theocratic arrangement in the Davidic line, indicated by His being “the Christ,” will be carried out, and that thus God, in and through Him, will reign in the desired capacity of earthly Ruler over humanity. The present exaltation of Jesus, the resultant of His being esteemed worthy of the covenanted Theocratic position, is founded (1) on the Divine Sovereignty pertaining to Him as Divine; (2) on the contemplated and determined Theocratic rule; (3) on the provisionary measures instituted by and through Him, mediatory, intercessory, etc.; (4) on the honor and glory that appertains to Him both in virtue of what He is now, and of what He will yet be when manifested as “the Christ” in the covenanted office. Hence while immeasurably (Eph. 1:21, 22) exalted, as becomes a Theocratic King who is to rule on earth as God through David’s Son, yet distinguishing as the Bible does between His inherent Divine Sovereignty as God and the future manifestation of the God-Man as Theocratic King, He is represented in the latter capacity as waiting, “expecting till His enemies shall be made His footstool”, etc.[*]
Note. This expectant position of “that man, whom God hath ordained to judge the world” (Acts 17:31), will be fully developed as the argument advances. Let it only be said, that believers rob themselves of much comfort and sustaining hope when only looking at the Divine they forget the exceeding preciousness contained in the sublime fact that a man, David’s Son, is exalted above all dominion and power, thus unmistakably insuring the fulfilment of covenanted promises. The surety is thus given that the oath-bound covenant—which contains the blessings that a sin-cursed world requires—will inevitably be realized in every particular. The Davidic line, in which the Theocratic ordering runs, thus exalted in the Person of the promised seed, is a pledge given that “the sure mercies of David” will be abundantly verified at the time appointed by the Father. It is well too in this discussion to keep constantly in view that “the Christ,” in His exaltation, at present sustains to us the relationship of Mediator, Intercessor, and Advocate. Mercy and forbearance are characteristic of His waiting and expecting position now; mercy and wrath of His Sec. Coming.
In Rev. 3:21, Jesus is represented as in His Father’s throne. This in “the Christ” results from virtue of the acceptance of His sacrificial work, His dignity as the intended Theocratic King. and the union of the Divine with him. But while thus exalted, the special manifestation of the humanity in its own right as Theocratic, is reserved (for reasons that will hereafter appear) for the future. This is manifest even in the passage itself where two thrones are spoken of, viz.: His own throne—His by covenanted legal right as “the Man ordained,” and His Father’s throne, His also because of His Divine relationship. Attention is directed to this, in order that a due discrimination may be made between what pertains to the general Sovereignty of the third heaven, and what relates to the special Theocratic rule here on earth, and which alone is exhibited in and through “the Man.” Overlooking this, Waggoner (Ref. of Age) makes this reign of Christ on the throne of the Universe the one that he resigns, 1 Cor. 15:24. But this cannot be so, seeing that God ruling as a Theocratic King does not necessitate the relinquishment of the other (Obs. 3), that Jesus acting as Theocratic King never gives up the oneness with the Father or the fulness of the Godhead, that the Sovereignty inherent to His Divinity ever remains unimpaired, that no honor or power, or exaltation belonging to the Christ shall ever be diminished. The mistake arises from two things: (1) forgetting that God, without yielding other rights, etc., can act in the capacity of Theocratic King, and (2) misapprehending 1 Cor. 15:24.
Obs. 8. We do not lessen or lower the exaltation or power, or divinity, or glory of Christ, in thus referring the predictions and promises of the Kingdom covenanted to David’s Son to an outward manifestation still future. (Comp. Prop. 203). Instead of detracting from Him, we exalt Him as high as the Record honors Him, seeing that we accept of its Divine utterances just as we find them, feeling assured that the literal fulfilment of the covenant itself in the Theocratic ordering will only the more clearly vindicate the foundation upon which it rests, viz.: Divine Sovereignty as exhibited in a special Plan of Redemption realized in all its fulness. Therefore we gladly receive the declaration that “all power in heaven and on earth is given to Me;” that He is above all earthly kings; that all things are subject to Him; that He can do all things in behalf of His people, etc.; but we add to all this, precisely what the Bible adds, that, aside from His Divine nature, we do not yet see “the Christ,” as “the Son of Man” openly exercise this power, outwardly manifest this exaltation, visibly bring all things into subjection, and here on the earth perform all things that are promised. So far as the Kingdom pertaining to the Son of David is concerned, some things, and those too relating to the very re-establishment of it, are held in abeyance (as will be shown), until a certain period has arrived. By this faith, we honor “the Christ;” for in this way our belief is expressed that He will yet fulfil the precious covenants and the predictions of the prophets, just as they read; we evince our confidence that He is worthy, as David’s Son, to receive what is directly promised to Him, and to which He is entitled, His inheritance, throne and Kingdom; we express our trust that He, thus reigning in a special and triumphant Theocratic manner, will perfect Redemption, not from a part but from the whole of the curse; we glorify Him in exhibiting His own faithfulness in Salvation, crowned as it will be by His promised Theocratic rule as “the Christ,” showing forth the union of the human with the divine in the most conspicuous, honorable manner here on earth (comp. Props. 200, 201, and 204).