Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"THE ASCENDED CHRIST IS KING OF KINGS."
50. Q. Why is it added, And sits at the right hand of God?
A. Christ ascended into heaven to manifest Himself there as Head of His Church, through whom the Father governs all things.
 Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18.  Matt. 28:18; John 5:22, 23.
51. Q. How does the glory of Christ, our Head, benefit us? A. First, by His
Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members. Second, by His
power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.
 Acts 2:33; Eph. 4:7-12.  Ps. 2:9; 110:1, 2; John 10:27-30; Rev. 19:11-16.
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Christís ascension into heaven, we said last week, means that the Lord is not bodily in our midst; we cannot go to visit Him with our questions, nor will He come to us to preach for us. Yet, we added, that is not a loss, for the Lord remains hard at work in heaven on our behalf. Specifically, He intercedes for us before the Father, and so makes it possible for us Ėsinners though we be- to speak with God. So we may be people of prayer, making the most of the opportunity God has given to pour out our hearts before the God who created us and still upholds us day by day. In all the turmoil of this broken life, the possibility of prayer Ėand the assurance that God hears- is great wealth.
Our Savior in heaven, though, does more than intercede before the Father. He also, says the Scripture, governs the world from His throne at Godís right hand. Mr Howard is not at the top of the ladder in Australia, but our Lord Jesus Christ is. Itís of this material that we make confession in the first two Question & Answer of Lordís Day 19, and itís to this gospel that we may listen this morning.
I summarize the sermon with this theme:
THE ASCENDED CHRIST IS KING OF KINGS.
1. The reality of Christís reign.
The Lord God sent His chariot from heaven to transport His Son back into His heavenly glory. Upon His arrival in heaven Jesus "sat down at the right hand of God" Ė I read in Mk 16:19. That phrase - "at the right hand of God"- does more than describe a location; the phrase at bottom describes a function.
We sang from Ps 110, where David speaks about the right hand of God as the place where foes are made oneís footstool, the place from which one rules over enemies. In a word, the place describes the notion of having power. Paul captures the significance of "the right hand of God" when he says ĖEph 1- that God "seated [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in that which is to come" (vss 20f). Principalities and powers and mights and dominions: these are the demons, the powers of the air (3:10; 6:12), but Christ has a position of power far above them. The names that are named: think of the Caesars of Paulís day, and the big men of world history ever since - Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, even bin Laden- but Christ has a position of power and authority far above them also. Thatís whatís caught in the phrase "the right hand of God." It is as Jesus said to His disciples just before His ascension: "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Mt 28:18). So in Rev 1 Jesus is given this glorious title: "the Ruler over the kings of the earth" (vs 5).
We understand, congregation, that this doctrine is very rich in its content. Christ as king over all: how rich! This King is the very same person who loved us so much that He laid down His life for us on the cross to ransom us from Satanís power! This One, who loved us so much: He now rules the world, is King of kings and Lord of lords Ė yes, thatís rich! Through Him who loved us so much the Father now governs all things: what comfort for the church!
Is it really, congregation? Look around you, and what do you see? How many people in Australia in fact acknowledge Christ as king? How many do you meet when you walk the streets of town? Truly, thereís so few! Everywhere around us we see so much evil, unbelief, blatant transgression of the laws of the King of the world! Does that hard reality not give the lie to the confession that Christ is King, is seated securely at the Fatherís right hand as Master of the Universe?
It is true, brothers and sisters: the naked eye sees no real evidence of Christís kingship. But the Christian lives not by sight; the Christian lives by faith. Thatís to say: the Christianís view of reality is not determined by what the eye sees or by what the newspapers report. Rather, the Christianís view of reality is determined by what the Lord has revealed in the Bible. God has said that the Christ who was transported into heaven received that seat of authority and might at Godís right hand, and so the Christian confesses it to be so. Despite the unbelief of our society, despite the fact that sin is publicly condoned throughout so very much of the world Ėand therefore Christís kingship ignored or denied- the Christian confesses nevertheless that Christ is in fact King of kings in todayís sin-filled and turbulent world. In fact, the Christian confesses that his Savior directs each and every event of todayís difficult politics. Nothing comes by chance, totally nothing; the Father governs all through the Christ who died for us, arose and sits at Godís right hand.
Still, we need some explanation for the evil around us. How can Christ be King over the kings of the world, if most strong men of todayís world do not acknowledge Him? How can Christ be King over the people of the world, if people by the millions totally disregard His laws?
Here I need to bring up the imagery of rebellion. History has plenty of examples where a king ruled a given country, but the people chose to disobey his instructions. From the Bible I think, for example, of Solomonís son Rehoboam. Certain of the people within the kingdom rebelled against the king, refused to acknowledge Rehoboam as king, refused to obey his commands. Rehoboam could have sent out his soldiers to compel obedience, and it would have become full blown civil war, with Israelite fighting against Israelite (with all the misery of that) had God not told Rehoboam to leave off sending his troops in to compel obedience. So the northern tribes set up their own king, and Rehoboam continued to reign over Judah. But not every rebellion ends up in a parting of ways. Rebellion can be ongoing, and thatís civil war, an ongoing struggle within the kingdom Ė with the rebels trying to topple the king, and the king trying to compel the rebels to submit to his authority.
When the Lord God first created this world, every creature He fashioned submitted readily and cheerfully to His authority. Godís creation was Godís kingdom, and every creature acknowledged God as king. But there came the day when certain angels under the leadership of Satan rebelled against God, refused to accept His kingship (Jude 6). The devil and his angels were still within Godís kingdom, were still within the realm over which God reigned, but they refused to acknowledge Godís sovereignty. That rebellion grew when Adam and Eve, at the instigation of the devil, also disobeyed Godís command. Manís disobedience in Paradise did not dethrone God, nor did it shrink the size of Godís kingdom. But it did mean that rebellion had entered Godís kingdom, that certain of the citizens of Godís kingdom refused to acknowledge God as King.
Itís true that the Lord God announced enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, so that life on earth would be characterized by warfare. But itís equally true that in the course of the centuries of human existence so many millions have joined Satanís side and lived in rebellion against the king, while Ėin relative terms- so few have lived in submission to Godís kingship. In the Old Testament, for example, we see Israel gathered around Mt Sinai, people of God who acknowledge God as king. But at that very moment when Israel acknowledged Godís kingship, the people of Egypt did not, and the people of Canaan did not either. Nor did the civilizations of Australia or of China or of South America or of Europe: around the world was unlimited unbelief, rebellion, while only that relatively small number around Mt Sinai acknowledged the Lordís place as King of kings.
Worse, as time passed, that relatively small number around Mt Sinai joined the rebels. In the matter of the golden calf they disobeyed God. Later, in the land of Canaan, they bowed down to the gods of the Canaanites and so joined the rebels in rebellion against the King of the world. So it went through the generations. Listen to the prophets God sent to Israel: time and again they have to complain about Israelís disobedience. And all the while, all the rest of the world Ėheathen nations all!- did not acknowledge God as king, but belonged with the rebels. My point: if one were to look at the history of the world in Old Testament times, the overall picture the human eye would see is that God is not king of the world; the rebels have triumphed!
But faith, brothers and sisters, clings to Godís word! So the psalmist, despite the unbelief and apostasy of his day, could sing with exuberance: "The Lord reigns; Let the earth rejoice!" (Ps 97:1). Itís true: the world is full of rebellion, but "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision" (Ps 2:4 Ė ESV). For the Lord in heaven on high knows of the victory Christ would accomplish on the cross of Calvary, a work by which Christ would not only pay for sin but also defeat the devil and his demons. Indeed, throughout the Old Testament already even Satan could not move apart from God; even the rebels in Godís kingdom were dependent on Him.
In the course of time Christ went to the cross, battled Satan, and triumphed. Thatís why Rev 20 says that the devil was "bound". By His binding the devil, Christ earned for Himself the right to be crowned Lord of the universe, and thatís why God crowned Him with glory and honor, and made Him King over all. So the ascended Christ is today Lord of this world every bit as much as the Creator was sovereign over His creation on the day He fashioned it. That so many in Christís kingdom today live in rebellion against the King does not change the fact of His sovereignty and His kingship one dot.
I mentioned Rev 20. You will know that there is a doctrine about known as millennialism; it comes in Ďpre-milí and Ďpost-milí varieties. The mainstay of this teaching is that at some time still to come the Lord Jesus Christ will return from heaven to earth in order to set up His throne on earth and rule the nations; the throne will be in Jerusalem. The teaching is said to be based on the Lordís words in Rev 20, where the passage relates that the Devil was bound a thousand years in a sealed pit so that he should no longer deceive the nations (vss 1-3). The thing is now: those who adhere to this future millennialism do not see Christ as king today. Today, it is said, Satan is still free to come and go on earth to deceive the nations, and thatís to say that the rebels in Jesusí kingdom still have the upper hand. So these millennialists look to the future, to the time of the millennium, in the expectation that then Christ will reign supreme.
But the Bible is so clear, beloved, that Christ is king today. When Rev 20 speaks about a thousand-year reign, the reference is not to a period still in the future. This thousand-year period began with Christís ascension and catches the whole New Testament dispensation until Christís return on the last day. True, Christ has ascended nearly 2000 years ago, much longer than the 1000 years of Rev 20. But the figure Ď1000í in Rev 20 is not meant literally, no more than the dimensions of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21 are meant literally, or the total of the elect in Rev 14 Ė144,000- is meant literally. In keeping with the nature of the Book of Revelation, these are symbolic figures. The number 1000 captures the notion of a full period of time, and thatís to say that Christ reigns for the entire duration of the New Testament dispensation Ė even though the naked eye sees so much rebellion on earth.
Is Christ in fact King in the world today? Dear brothers and sisters, let there be no doubt! Faith accepts what the Lord has revealed in the Bible, and that revelation is plain. The naked eye may see something different, but the child of God lives not by sight but by faith. So we continue to confess in our apostate, rebellious world that Christ remains King of kings and Lord of lords; all authority in heaven and on earth is His.
I come now to our second point:
2. The consequence of this confession.
There is, first of all, enormous comfort flowing out of this confession of Christís sovereignty. The very one who laid down His life for our salvation is today Lord of lords, and thatís to say that the One of top of the worldís ladder loves His people most dearly. That in turn means that He directs the history of the world to the well being of His church (cf Eph 1:22). It cannot be differently; such is the depth of the love He displayed on Calvary.
As we look at the world around us today, this fact is truly comforting. There is plenty of war-talk in relation to Iraq, and what the consequences of such war might be in the Muslim world is anybodyís guess. But this much is clear: the Lord Jesus Christ will only permit a war in the Middle East if it somehow serves for the gathering and preservation of His church. We for our part do not have to know the details of how a war can provide opening for the gospel, or be instrumental in Christís church-gathering work in the Middle East. It is enough for us to believe that He who sits on the throne of the world loves His bride perfectly, and so preserves His people. That gives comfort in the face of all the war-talk of the day.
At the same time we need to be aware that a possible war in the Middle East has a purpose not only for the Middle East. We realize very well that the entire western world will be very much touched by such a war. Think of the effect on the economy, as well as the increased possibility of further terrorist attacks. But here is the comfort of Lordís Day 19 in our turbulent time: the Father governs all things through Jesus Christ for the good of the church. Thatís true in Australia too, and throughout the western world. Time and again we read in Scripture of how the Lord stirred up nation against nation, even world powers, with a view to pouring out His judgment on covenant children of His who had joined the rebels; think of the various enemies who attacked Israel in the days of the Judges (see also Dan 7ff). The Lordís point is to work a change amongst those rebellious covenant children; they should come to repentance. And that, we understand, is an expression of the Lordís love for His people; He does not wish that they should perish, but rather should repent and live. When the Lord in our day Ėand remember that He loves His people- when the Lord in our day leads history in such a way that tensions have risen dramatically around the globe in the last year or so, leads history in such a way that war appears likely in time to come, then He has His eye also on those covenant children of His in the western world who have joined the rebels in opposing Christís lordship. He laid down His life for all those whom the Father has given Him, and so will not permit a single one to be snatched from His hand. He will use even war, and all the plagues and trials that come with war, to impress upon His own that Yes, He is King, and so there is no place for rebellion; these citizens of His kingdom must turn again and submit to Him.
That in turn, congregation, is why there is no place for anxiety on our part as we look into the future. The One who loves His church so much that He died for her is leading history Ėin Australia too- in order to promote His church gathering and His church-preserving work. We need not understand the details; it is enough that we know and confess the sovereignty of our Savior. So weíre comforted as we look into the future.
There is another consequence that flows from the reality of Christís Kingship over the world today. This consequence concerns the way we live and act in todayís world.
Some of us live in rather protected environments, inasmuch as we do not daily rub shoulders with the rebels of the world around us. Others of us do; at university or TAFE, in the office or in the factory we work and study with people who have not an ounce of regard of Godís ordinances and Jesusí sovereignty. Working with such people day after day increases the pressure on us to conform to their patterns of behavior Ė be it in ethics or in dress style or word choice or attitudes, etc.
If now we keep in mind that the Lord is King, and millions of those around us live in rebellion against the King of kings - yes, and are in principle already defeated!- then our place on the job site comes into perspective. For us to talk or dress or act in a manner that removes any distinction between the rebels and us is nothing less than treason against the King! And that, of course, is incentive for the rebels to carry on in their rebellion, incentive for them to think that their rebellion against the King is successful. No, beloved, it is for us to make abundantly clear that our Savior is King, it is for us to acknowledge His kingship in every aspect of life. In all we do, day in, day out, the question is to stay with us: Lord, precisely because you are King, what is Your wish for me in this situation? How do You want me to speak, what attitude do You want me to adopt, what stand do You wish me to take on this issueÖ.
Meanwhile, we experience that it takes courage to stand up in this world as obedient citizens of Christís kingdom; somehow we fear the response of those around us. Yet, congregation, we know well that no civil war is ever won by the loyalists being afraid of the rebels. Itís for us to keep the cause in mind. More, itís for us to keep in mind the reality of Christís victory over sin and Satan. Already the devil and his rebels are defeated; the Devil in Rev 20 is "bound". Why, then, should we fear the reactions of the rebels?! Even if the naked eye sees the rebels making progress in their rebellion against Christ, the fact of the matter is that Christ has triumphed. Itís only a matter of time before the naked eye will see the King of kings on the clouds of heaven, and Satan and his rebels (people and demons alike) swept out of Christís kingdom and sealed in the bottomless pit. That reality has to encourage the people of God to stand up for their King in the midst of the rebels around us! Indeed, that reality has to drive us to place all of life Ėfamily, education, politics, culture, economics, everything- in submission to the will of the King of kings. That is part and parcel of the mandate that logically falls upon those who acknowledge Christís sovereignty; in deeds we need to spell out that there is not a square inch of life of which Christ doesnít say "Mine". So the fathers in the home (and the mothers as their helpers) must see to it that every aspect of family life is consistent with the confession of Jesusí sovereignty. The teachers and the school board (and the parents and students also) must see to it that every aspect of school life is consistent with the confession of Jesusí sovereignty. To the degree that we receive positions of influence in our work environment, it is for us to exert ourselves to ensure, as much as possible, that the work environment and work ethics conform to the reality of Christís sovereignty. We catch the point: the confession of Lordís Day 19 has consequences for how we live and what sort of environment we tolerate around us.
And say not, congregation, that the pressure of the rebels around us makes it too difficult in our modern world to be obedient citizens of Christís kingdom. Well does the church confess in Lordís Day 19 that Christ from the right hand of God has "poured out heavenly gifts upon us, His members." The Holy Spirit has made His home in the hearts of His people, and with His presence gives gifts of faith, of love, of patience, of perseverance. These gifts Ėand there are so many more- are the gifts we may work with in our godless age, and so be assured that our ascended King supplies our needs day after day so that we can be obedient citizens of His kingdom. Need we be afraid that we donít know what to say when the heat is on? Says our King: "do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Mt 10:19ff).
So, beloved, fight on against the rebels around us! The naked eye is not going to see a great deal of victory, but that may not deter the believer, simply because the believer embraces the reality as the Lord has revealed it in His Word. The naked eye sees growing rebellion, but the believer rejoices in the knowledge that His Savior is Lord of lords in todayís world, and so the believer calmly and resolutely obeys his King Ė despite the negative response he knows heíll get from the rebels around him. The believer is sure: soon the day comes when the King of kings will appear on the clouds of heaven, and then every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth Ėevery rebel included- will acknowledge that Christ was King after all, and the cause of the obedient citizens right and just.
Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus! Amen.