Christ As King: The Royal Supremacy of Christ Part 2

Royal Appearance of Christ (NT)

When we turn to the NT, Jesus appears as the subject matter. He is immediately addressed as king and people are willing to make him one. Jesus himself claimed to be king, although indirectly.

Jesus’s Claim to be King

Jesus made several claims to be the King of Israel. First, he claimed to be the Son of Man with reference to Daniel 7.[1] Daniel presents the Son of Man as coming “with the clouds of heaven . . . And He came up to the Ancient of Days . . . And to Him was given dominion, . . . That all the peoples . . . Might serve Him” (Dn 7:13-14). Daniel’s whole vision in context concerns the kingdoms of the world and the kingdom of God. And he presents the Son of Man in the middle of this discussion and positions him as the king of the kingdom of God. Thus, the kingship of the Son of Man is integral to his identity.

In the NT, Christ’s claim to be the Son of Man was also a claim to be the King of the kingdom. He makes this connection in the Parable of the Tares (Mt 13:24-30, 37-41). Jesus explained the parable: “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks” (Mt 13:41). The kingdom belongs to the Son of Man who is Christ. This kingdom will come when “the Son of Man [comes] in the glory of His Father with His angels” (Mt 16:27; cf. v. 28). Jesus claims that he will sit on “His glorious throne” and the twelve disciples will sit with him “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28). He claimed to be the king over those “who are blessed of My Father” and they will “inherit the kingdom prepared . . . from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:31-40). Finally, Jesus said to the Jewish leaders that the Son of Man would sit “at the right hand of power” (Mt 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69).

Second, Jesus’ clearest claim to kingship was during his trial with Pilate. Every gospel records the interaction between Pilate and Jesus: “Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say’” (Mt 27:11; cf. Mk 15:2; Lk 23:2-3; Jn 18:33-37). John gives the fullest account of the interaction with specific details regarding his kingship. Jesus implied his claim to be king several times through the simple phrase “My kingdom” (3x) and through his affirmation to Pilate: “You say that I am a king” (Jn 18:36-37). The fact that Jesus only implies his kingship is not unusual. His reluctance in this text follows a normal pattern of hiding his Messianic identity. [2]

These two lines of evidence bring up an important question: what kind of a kingdom did Jesus think he ruled over? The title Son of Man and its reference to Daniel 7 are important in this debate. Daniel 7 begins with a description of four beasts which were empires on the earth.[3] Then, the Son of Man is given a kingdom (v. 14). The Ancient of Days gives the kingdom to the Son of Man (v. 14). Verse 26 describes the defeat of the final king of the last kingdom. Verse 27 says, “Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One.” That these kingdoms are “under the whole heaven” means these are real, physical kingdoms. And it is these kingdoms which make up the kingdom of the Son of Man, as the rest of the verse says, “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom.” This sentence links back to verse 14 where the Son of Man receives an “everlasting dominion.” Therefore, the kingdom in Daniel 7 is a physical kingdom. Since Jesus claims this title, it seems best to conclude that Jesus thought of his kingdom as a physical kingdom.

It may be objected from John’s evidence that Jesus did not think of his kingdom belonging to this world. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36).This phrase leads some to conclude that the kingdom must be a spiritual kingdom.[4] While it is certainly true that Jesus’s kingdom is spiritual, it does not seem Jesus was limiting it to spirituality. The phrase can also be taken in another way. The preposition translated “of” should be translated “from.” The kingdom does not come from this world.[5] This translation means that while the Kingdom did not come from this world, it can enter this world in time and space.

In sum, Jesus claimed to be king. His kingdom was a real, physical kingdom according to Daniel 7. It was not from this world, but it would come to this world.

The People’s Recognition of His Claim

People around Jesus also recognized his kingly nature. From the wisemen to his triumphal entry, he carried with him this identity. It was so closely tied to him that this was the very thing for which he was condemned.

The first people besides his parents to recognize his kingship were the wisemen. Their public question made this obvious to everyone: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Although they did not have the Scriptures, it seems God revealed to them his kingship through the stars: “For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Mt 2:2).[6] The significance of this proclamation was not underestimated by Herod. He saw it as a threat to his kingship and commanded the death of Jesus (Mt 2:16-23).

When Jesus talked with Nathanael for the first time, Nathanael was immediately impressed with the kingly nature of Christ: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). The phrase “Son of God” can refer to his deity (Jn 10:30-33). But in addition, it is probable that in context with Jesus’ kingship over Israel this title also refers to the Davidic Covenant where God promises to be a Father to the son of David (2 Sm 7:14).

After the feeding of the 5000, the people said to each other: “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn 6:14).[7] But they did not just leave him at the status of prophet. They “were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king” (Jn 6:15). He was not ready for his kingship to be announced at this time, so he escaped. But in his last days on earth, he fulfilled the crowds desire and rode in as king into Jerusalem. This crowd was probably made up of the crowd in the feeding of the 5000. They were making the annual trip to Jerusalem required by the Passover (Jn 12:12). And they are specifically called “the whole crowd of his disciples” (Lk 19:37). These crowds were different from the people of the city (Mt 21:9-10). Having experienced Jesus’ work in Galilee, they were ready to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9).[8]

The NT Affirmations of His Claim

Besides the claims of the people, written into the NT is the claim that Jesus fulfills the OT type of the king. Paul spoke several times of Christ as king. He mentions Christ as the ruler of his kingdom (Eph 5:5; Col 1:13; 2 Tm 2:12; 4:1, 18). He also proclaims that Jesus “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. . .. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Tm 6:15). The General Epistles and Revelation repeat the same message. In Hebrews, the Son has a throne, a scepter, and a kingdom (Heb 1:8). Peter calls Christ’s Kingdom “the eternal kingdom” (2 Pt 1:11). John hears the loud voices proclaiming that Jesus “will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15). He calls Jesus “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 17:14, 19:16). And John sees the saints ruling in the kingdom with Christ (Rev 20:4).

[1]. Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; 22:69 Michael B. Shepherd, “Daniel 7:13 and the New Testament Son of Man,” Westminster Theological Journal 68, no. 1 (2006): 111.

[2]. Köstenberger notes for ways in which this pattern appears in the other Gospels. “(1) Jesus frequently asks counter-questions rather than answering a questions immediately (e.g. Matt 15:3; 21:24; 22:18–19; Mark 10:3; Luke 10:26). (2) He regularly provides indirect answers (e.g. Matt 11:4–6; 21:24–27; 22:18–21). In fact, Jesus’ very words in John 18:37, ‘You say that I am. .. ,’ are paralleled in the Synoptic account of Jesus’ Jewish trial before Caiaphas (Matt 26:64; Luke 22:70). (3) The Synoptics repeatedly mention that Jesus remained silent when questioned (Matt 26:63; 27:14; Mark 14:61; 15:5; Luke 23:9; cf. Isa 53:7). (4) Jesus’ reluctance to speak about his messianic claims and identity is widely known as a characteristic feature of the Synoptic portrait of Jesus and is often identified by the label ‘the messianic secret.’” Andreas J. Köstenberger, “‘What Is Truth?’ Pilate’s Question in Its Johannine and Larger Biblical Context,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48, no. 1 (2005): 42.

[3]. A.E. Gardner, “Decoding Daniel: The Case of Dan 7,5,” Biblica 88, no. 2 (2007): 233.

[4]. For example, Stevens interprets this phrase to mean: “His kingdom partakes of a higher nature; it is heavenly, spiritual, divine.” George B. Stevens, “The Teaching of Jesus. VI. The Kingdom of God,” The Biblical World 5, no. 6 (1895): 436.

[5]. Alva J. McClain, “The Greatness of the Kingdom Part III,” Bibliotheca Sacra 112, no. 447 (1955): 221.

[6]. Colin J. Humphreys, “The Star of Bethlehem, a Comet in 5 BC and the Date of Christ’s Birth,” Tyndale Bulletin 43, no. 1 (1992): 31–56.

[7]. This is in reference to Deuteronomy 18:15-22 where Moses promises that “the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you.” For more discussion on the prophetic office of Christ, see: Michael H. Windsor, “Jesus of Nazareth: The Supreme Prophet of God,” Central Bible Quarterly 18, no. 1 (1975): 18–23.

[8]. These crowds were probably not the same crowds which shouted for the death of Jesus several days later (Mt 27:29, 37, 42; Mk 15:12,18, 26, 32; Lk 23:37-38; Jn 18:39, 19:3, 12, 14, 15, 19, 21). The interpretation which says these were the same crowds (presented in many different sermons) is dubious at best.

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