the Fifth Sunday of Lent
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
The title is applied to rulers of various degrees of sovereignty. We find it employed to designate the tetrarch Agrippa II. (Acts 25:13); Aretas of Arabia (2 Corinthians 11:32); Agrippa I., whose territory was co-extensive with that of Herod the Great, and who seems to have received the royal title (Acts 12:1); and the Roman Emperor, whom it appears to have been the custom for Greeks and Orientals so to designate (1 Timothy 2:2, 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:17). An instance of the elasticity of the term is provided in Revelation 17, where the seven kings in Revelation 17:10 are Roman Emperors, while the ten kings in Revelation 17:12 are vassal kings.
1. Christ as King
(1) The nature of Christ’s Kingship.-It was made an accusation against St. Paul and Silas at Thessalonica (Acts 17:7) that they were guilty of treason, inasmuch as they proclaimed another king, one Jesus. It was the revival of the charge brought against the Master (Luke 23:2). It is true that the Christians did claim Kingship for their Lord, but His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). His throne is in heaven, where He is set down with His Father (Revelation 3:21). There are various representations of His Kingship in the apostolic writings.
At one time His reign seems to have already begun. This is the thought suggested by the frequently recurring phrase, based on Psalms 110:1, ‘sitting at the right hand of God’ (Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1), which signifies Christ’s participation in the Divine government. According to this view, Christ enters into His βασιλεία immediately on His Exaltation (B. Weiss, Bib. Theol. of the NT, Eng. translation , ii.  § 99), in recognition of His obedience unto death (Revelation 3:21, Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 2:8 f.). On the literal interpretation of Colossians 1:13, the Kingdom of the Son is present even now, and believers are already translated into it (so Lightfoot and Haupt, while others interpret the phrase proleptically). Their citizenship is in heaven, whence they look for Christ (Philippians 3:20). The law they obey is called νόμος βασιλικός (James 2:8), in virtue of its emanating from the King (Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, p. 265). At limes this heavenly Kingship of Christ is represented as undisturbed by further conflict, and as peaceful sway over the powers which have been brought into subjection. So in 1 Peter 3:22 He is on the right hand of God, ‘angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him’ (cf. Ephesians 1:20 f.); and in Hebrews 10:12 f. He is represented as sitting down for ever at the right hand of God, ‘from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.’ According to this view, His work is finished; His present state is one of royal rest, and it remains for God to complete the subjugation of the hostile powers.
But there are other representations of Christ’s Kingship. The most general view of His βασιλεία in the NT represents it as not already realized, but beginning at the Parousia (so O. Pfleiderer, Paulinism, Eng. translation , 1877, i. 268); and according to the programme sketched by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24 ff., His reign is no peaceful sway, but a ceaseless conflict against the powers of darkness. ‘He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet’ (1 Corinthians 15:25). The last enemy to be overcome is Death; and when that is accomplished, then cometh the end, when He delivers up the sovereignty to God (1 Corinthians 15:24). According to this outline, Christ’s reign is of the nature of an interregnum, to be terminated (in opposition to the εἰς τὸ διηνεκές of Hebrews 10:12) when He resigns the power into the hands of God.
In the later Epistles this programme is not adhered to. In accordance with their more developed Christology, Christ becomes the end of Creation (Colossians 1:16), and the final consummation is now represented, not as the reign of God, who is to be ‘all in all’ (1 Corinthians 15:28), but as the Kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5), or even of Christ alone (2 Timothy 4:1), whose Kingdom is an everlasting one (2 Peter 1:11), and whose sovereignty is declared to extend to the future aeon (Ephesians 1:21). Again, in the earlier representation Christ’s Kingdom is to be established on earth at His Coming, but in the later versions it becomes a heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18), corresponding to the kingdom of the Father which St. Paul had expected to succeed the interregnum of the Son.
In Revelation we again meet with the conception of a temporary reign of Christ, its duration being put at 1,000 years (20:4). It is questionable whether that reign is here regarded as one of uninterrupted peace and blessedness, or of continuous conflict against the powers of evil. H. J. Holtzmann (NT Theologie2, 1911, i. 542f.) thinks that the only original contribution made by the author of the Revelation in this picture of the millennium is the representation of the interregnum as a period of peace and rest (Revelation 20:2-3; Revelation 20:7). On the other hand, F. C. Porter (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iv. 262) contends that the 1,000 years’ reign is part of the last conflict against evil, the reigning and judging of Christ and His saints being the gradual subjugation of the powers of evil, and that there is no suggestion in Rev. that peace and rest characterize the millennium.
(2) Christ and earthly kings.-In the Pauline references to the sovereignty of Christ the hostile forces which He overcomes are not earthly potentates but the angelic principalities and powers, the world-rulers of this darkness (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:13). To this corresponds the conflict with Satan in Revelation. But in the latter book there is also frequent representation of Christ’s sovereignty over earthly potentates. He is Prince of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5), King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:16). Out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and He rules them with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15). The kings of earth who have committed fornication with Babylon (Revelation 17:2), and who marshal their armies in support of the Beast (Revelation 19:19), are numbered among the enemies whom He has to subdue. Corresponding to this attitude of hostility to Christ on the part of the kings of the earth in Rev. is the spirit of hatred to the Roman Empire which the book breathes, as contrasted with that recommended in the other apostolic writings. St. Paul as a citizen of the Roman Empire recognizes in the higher powers the ordinances of God, and regards subjection to them as a religious duty (Romans 13:1 ff.). St. Peter recommends submission to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, and exhorts to fear God and honour the king (1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:17). In 1 Timothy 2:2 the injunction is given to pray for kings and for all in authority. But in Rev. we find a fierce hatred of Rome and longing for her destruction, She is to the author the throne of the Beast (Revelation 16:10), the very incarnation of the sin which Christianity sought to destroy, and his attitude towards the Imperial power is the direct opposite of that taken up by St. Paul.
2. God as King.-There is no power but of God (Romans 13:1), and all kingly authority ultimately proceeds from Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). Christ has ultimately to deliver up the sovereignty to the Father, being subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). In the song of Moses and of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3) God is praised as the King of nations, and in 1 Timothy 1:17 a doxology is sounded to Him as King of the aeons. The phrase may be chosen with reference to the Gnostic series of aeons, and may mean ‘King of the worlds.’ Others take it as ‘King of the world times,’ the ruler who decrees what is to happen from age to age; while others render it, as in the Authorized Version , ‘the King eternal.’
3. Believers as kings.-In Revelation 1:6 the Authorized Version runs: ‘and hath made us kings and priests unto God.’ This is based on the reading βασιλεῖς, which must be abandoned for the better-attested βασιλείαν. But in Revelation 5:10, where the same phrase occurs in the song of the angels concerning the Church (though here again there is a variant βασιλεῖς, which, however, would render the concluding clause superfluous), there is the further addition: καὶ βασιλεύουσιν ἐπὶ γῆς. א reads βασιλεύσουσιν; and if we accept that reading, then the reference is to the future dominion of believers as represented in Revelation 20:4, where they live and reign with Christ 1,000 years. Other references to this future sovereignty are found in Romans 5:17, 2 Timothy 2:12, and 1 Corinthians 6:2 f. (where they judge the world and the very angels). But if βασιλεύουσιν be retained, then the standpoint of the author is that already that sovereignty of the saints prophesied in Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:27 has begun. The Church, down-trodden and oppressed, is already the dominant power in the world. St. Paul ironically congratulates the Corinthians on the assumption of kingly authority (1 Corinthians 4:8). Their vaunting may have been due to a perversion of this doctrine of the present sovereignty of the saints.
Literature.-The various handbooks, on NT Theol.; H. Weinel, Die Stellung des Urchristentums zum Staat, 1908; A. Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, 1908.
G. Wauchope Stewart.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'King'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​k/king.html. 1906-1918.