As we move into the year of our Lord 2018 and experience the decline of what were once Christian countries (in Western civilisation) we draw courage from the knowledge that God rules all of world history through His eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. What is that purpose? It is the glory of His great and holy name. That was His purpose in creating the universe and mankind “after His image”: in order that all should live to God’s glory. Mankind’s devastating fall into sin has not put an end to that purpose but has given even more reason for believers to glorify God. For man’s fall into sin has led to God the Son becoming a human man and going the way of humiliation, suffering and the cross to pay for our sins, before rising from the dead, ascending into heaven and being exalted as King at God’s right hand. By way of the cross, Christ received the crown. He now rules as King, and as King of kings and Lord of lords He presses all of world history on to the great day of His return.
Rev E Kampen, speaking about the celebration of Christ’s Kingship at Christmas, said:[i]
The connection between cross and crown is evident in Paul’s words in Philippians 2. After stating that the Son of God humbled himself even unto death, Paul writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above very name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10). Paul also testifies to the kingship of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:27, when he writes that “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” We hear a similar message in Ephesians 1:20-33, where Paul writes that after God raised Jesus from the dead, he “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church…” We also have a reminder of the kingship of our Lord in the words we hear every Sunday, namely, that Christ is “the ruler of the kings on earth” (Rev 1:5). His being crowned as king is also portrayed in Revelation 5, where John sees the Lamb that once had been dead, but now alive again, receiving the scroll from the hand of God. The kingship of Jesus is also described in Revelation 19:16, where he is called “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
This is all very well, you might say, but what do we really see of Christ’s kingship in society today? If we look at what’s happening around us and throughout the world we see an increasing rejection of the Christian way of life in society. There is much mockery of Christianity and increasing persecution of those who confess Christ and oppose sinful practices. Indeed, this persecution of Christians is something we’ve seen throughout the ages and many have even died for the faith. Did God then hide His face? And what about all the wickedness and immorality and sexual perversion that seems to prevail from day to day? Can that really show that Christ is in control? Here is Rev Kampen’s response:
This [persecution] is not to be seen as evidence of King Jesus being defeated, but of King Jesus being at work. Some gladly embrace the gospel, despite the hardships that will come, while others get their back up and fight against it. In short, the presence of opposition to the gospel is evidence the King is at work.
This evidence of Christ’s rule is also seen in the increasing immorality. We can say this in light of Paul’s words in Romans 1. He mentions how those who knew God did not honour him as God or give thanks to him. They became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. We then read in verse 24, “Therefore, God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for the lie and worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” In verse 26, Paul writes about God giving people up to dishonourable passions. In verse 28, he writes about God giving them up to a debased mind, to do what ought not to be done. He mentions a variety of sinful conduct. That was how Paul saw God exercise his kingship in his days. That authority has been given to Jesus, our King. As is evident from the book of Revelation, he is the one who is already passing judgement over a world that has rejected him. What we see in this world is therefore not an indication of a world outside of Christ’s control, but under his control.
As we approach 2018 we do so in faith, in the knowledge that Christ rules all creation as Head of His church. The evil in society indicates that God is giving people over to their own dishonourable desires. It has been prophesied that the world will go from bad to worse. But as for His people, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ—He sees us in our needs and calls us to go forward trusting in Him, delighting in doing what is right according to His law, confessing Him in deep gratitude as Saviour and Lord, and fighting faithfully against sin and Satan and all that is worldly, remembering the purpose for which He created us: to live to His glory. Let us do so in the knowledge that He rules and that He comes, He comes, to judge the nations.
[i] Rev E Kampen, “Celebrating the Kingship of Christ”, Clarion, Year-end 2017, p. 695/6. (Rev E Kampen is Minister of Word in the Canadian Reformed Church at Orangeville, Ontario.)