Christ the Future King of the World
The object of this lecture is to prove that the time is coming when the Son of God, now in the heavens, shall return to the earth in visible person, to dispossess all human governments of their power, secular and ecclesiastical, and establish himself in their stead as the universal ruler of mankind. The essential constituent of the Messiahship of Jesus Christ, and the most prominent element of his character, as portrayed in all the Scriptures is his KINGSHIP. Therefore, any faith which ignores this phase of his character, is vitally defective, to which let everyone see for himself as a matter of the highest individual concern.
There is a great deal more said in the Scriptures about the kingship of Christ than anything else. In the Old Testament, particularly, we find very little mention of the shame and the suffering to which he was to be subjected on account of sin. His sacrificial character is kept pretty much in the background. That which stands out in brilliant prominence is the glory which is to cover the earth when he shall reign in righteousness. This is true also of the New Testament, though it tells us more of “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” than the other.
Every professed believer in Christ is prepared to admit that he is a king. It must be obvious, however, that this admission is only valid in so far as it recognises the true idea of that office. If a man say that Jesus is the Christ, or anointed one, while having an entirely erroneous idea of what the statement means, his words are an empty sound. When words do not mean the thing they properly stand for, they have no value. That this is the case with the popular recognition of the kingship of Christ will certainly appear. The popular recognition of the kingship of Christ both expresses a view which is untrue, and ignores the view exhibited in the Scriptures. By the kingship of Christ, it means the present exercise by him of a spiritual authority in heaven; therefore, it is no recognition of Christ’s Messiaship at all, in the true sense, as we shall presently see.
It is admitted that the Jewish expectation of the Messiah was that he should appear upon the earth in person, and visibly exercise the power of a king over all nations: and it is also admitted that the disciples themselves shared the same view. The real controversy is as to whether this view is right. Our religious teachers take upon themselves to say that so far from being right, it was a mistaken view of a gross and carnal nature. They severely condemn the idea of a visible kingdom on earth as opposed to the very spirit of Christianity, calling it Judaical, grovelling, “earthly, sensual, and devilish”; and as the teachers teach, so the people believe: so the untruthfulness of the Jewish national hope and the expectation of the disciples, has passed into an unquestioned article of popular creed; and people look surprised and incredulous when they are gravely defended.
Now let the merits of the case be candidly considered. Were the expectations of the disciples erroneous and carnal? If they were, how is it that they were not so pronounced by Christ? and how is it that none of the apostles made confession of the error in the epistles which some of them wrote subsequently to the time when they are supposed to have their errors removed? Those who affirm the misguidedness of the Jews and disciples in the belief in question, go against the evidence. There is not only no Scriptural countenance for the popular condemnation, but all Scriptural testimony is directly in favour of the doctrine which it is so common to condemn.
Jesus said to those who heard him, “I am not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). Now with this statement in view, we shall look at a few of the statements of the prophets concerning him. We read in Micah 5:2:—
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be RULER IN ISRAEL.”
Who came out of Bethlehem? Jesus of Nazareth. Here then is a prophetic warrant for regarding him as the future “ruler in Israel”:—
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and A KING SHALL REIGN AND PROSPER, AND SHALL EXECUTE JUDGMENT AND JUSTICE IN THE EARTH: in his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely” (Jer. 23:5, 6).
What could be more calculated to inspire the Jewish national hope? and what more likely to create the expectations which the disciples are condemned as “carnal” for entertaining? Who is the Righteous Branch of David? None other than Jesus: for he claims the designation. He says:—“I am the root and the offspring (or BRANCH: ‘offspring’ being the antithesis to ‘root’) of David, and the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). If Christ be the Righteous Branch raised up unto David, and be come to fulfil the law and the prophets, he must “reign and prosper, and execute judgment and justice IN THE EARTH”: for so the prophet hath declared the Righteous Branch shall do. The idea is not confined to one or two statements, but appears in the face of many testimonies, at a few of which we shall look. In Jeremiah 33:14, 15, we read:—
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel, and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time, I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.”
“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, UPON THE THRONE OF DAVID, AND UPON HIS KINGDOM, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:6, 7).
“Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place … and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne” (Zech. 6:12, 13).
“He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).
“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name One” (Zech. 14:9).
“Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isa. 32:1).
“The Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously” (Isa. 24:23).
The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:9, 10).
“Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (Isa. 12:6).
“I will make them (the Jews) one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King to them all” (Ezek. 37:22).
“The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne” (Psa. 132:11).
“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Psa. 110:1, 2).
“I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2:8).
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him” (Psa. 72:8, 11). (See also Dan. 7:14).
These are a few out of many testimonies of a common import, and the question for us to consider is whether they do not amply justify the expectations which the Jews are admitted to have built on them. Nay, could they have consistently professed a belief in such testimonies, and not have entertained such expectations? It is not possible to conceive of language more designedly adapted to express the one idea of Christ’s visible manifestation as a king on earth; and if the Jews were wrong in looking for such a manifestation, it was no fault of theirs. It was not because they were carnally minded; but because the language of the holy men of old, who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, was so framed as to preclude every other but the one idea which they derived from it.
It may be suggested that the New Testament interpretation throws another light upon the statements of the Old Testament, and deprives them of the warranty which they seem to afford to the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah’s kingship. It is customary to assume that this is the case; but the result of an examination will prove that a more unfounded assumption could not be entertained, and that the New Testament unmistakably corrobarates the teaching of the prophets on the subject. We are met on the very threshold by the message delivered by the angel Gabriel to Mary, in announcing the birth of Christ:—
“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall GIVE UNTO HIM THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31, 33)
Here is a distinct New Testament intimation that it is the purpose of God to give to Jesus “the throne of his father David.” If we would apprehend the import of this statement, we must know what is the throne of David. Of David we know something. He was the most renowned of Israel’s God-anointed kings, holding sway over the twelve tribes of Israel in the Holy Land, and ruling many tributary nations. He was a mighty warrior, a distinguished prophet, and a poet of the highest type. He was the progenitor of Christ, through Mary, who was descended from the royal house; and was a fitting type of his illustrious son, whom he acknowledged as “My Lord” (Matt. 22:44). But what of his throne? Peter said, in his address to the Jews, on the day of Pentecost:—
“Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his (David’s) loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ TO SIT ON HIS THRONE” (Acts 2:30).
There is, therefore, a connection between Christ’s mission and David’s throne. Had David a throne? He had. In what did it consist? Not in the material structure which he occupied as a seat in dispensing justice; that has long ago crumbled into dust. The throne of a kingdom is not the literal seat occupied by royalty on state occasions. When we speak of the throne of England, we mean the office of position of monarch in this country. So with the throne of David; it is said of Solomon, on the occasion of his accession in the room of David (1st Kings 2:12), “Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father.” Yet we read in 1st Kings 10:18, that “he made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold,” so that while sitting on the throne of David his father in the political sense, Solomon really occupied a different royal seat. “The throne of David” points to something that pertained to Saul’s successor. There is no getting away from this; and any explanation of the promise that ignores this as its fundamental element, must be rejected as unworthy.
Of this character is the view that Christ is now on David’s throne. Christ is in heaven, and cannot now be sitting on that throne; for nothing that David ever possessed is in heaven. David himself is not there; for Peter said in his address on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:34), “DAVID IS NOT ASCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS.” When the time arrives, the throne of David will be set up again in the earth; and Jesus will share it with his faithful ones, as intimated in Rev. 3:21. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen” (Amos 9:11). That time he spake of when on earth. He said (Matt. 25:31), “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” Hence, before Jesus sits upon David’s throne, he will return to earth, appear in Palestine, and assume the position which David occupied when he swayed the sceptre of Israel; that is, he will become king of the Jews.
Look at Ezekiel 21:25–27. The prophet was sent to Zedekiah, an unworthy prince, who was the last to occupy David’s throne. He was sent to tell him of coming retribution, and in the course of his prophecy, he uttered the following words:—
“And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end; thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem and take off the crown; this shall not be the same; exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high; I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more UNTIL HE COME WHOSE RIGHT IT IS: and I will give it him.”
Here was a diadem to be removed, a crown to be taken off, and a national polity to be completely abolished, as indicated in the triple repetition of the verb “overturn,” and as expressed by the phrase, “it shall be no more.” The prediction related to things Jewish, even to the things which constitute the throne of David; and its fulfilment is notorious to every reader of Jewish history. About a year after its delivery, Zedekiah was uncrowned by Nebuchadnezzar. The nobles were put to death; the nation was partly massacred, and partly carried away captive, and the land given over to desolation. Seventy years after, a partial restoration took place under Ezra and Nehemiah, but not of the throne of David. The Jews existed as a vassal people thenceforward; and after varied political fortunes, were overtaken by a storm which swept away every vestige of their national existence.
The Romans, under Vespasian, invaded the country, and subdued its fortified places; and Vespasian having transferred the command to Titus, the latter laid siege to Jerusalem, which at that time was crowded with people from all parts of the country. The details of that awful siege are familiar to every one. The city was tediously beleaguered for months; famine arose among the inhabitants; civil dissensions divided their counsels, and led to mutual slaughter, and, finally, the place was sacked and given to the flames, and upwards of 1,000,000 of Jews perished. The remainder were sold as slaves, and scattered throughout the Roman empire as fugitives; and scattered they remain to this day. So awfully has the prophecy been fulfilled, that for the last twenty centuries, the throne of David has been a mere idle phrase—a tradition of the past; his kingdom has been overthrown, his land in desolation, and his people wandering as homeless exiles, unpitied and unpitying.
But is this condition of David’s throne to be perpetual? Are the Gentiles for ever to exalt their proud horns over the fallen kingdom of the Lord? (See I Chron. 29:23; II Chron, 9:8; 13:8; which affirm the kingdom of Israel to have been the kingdom of God). Nay, saith the prophecy: desolation shall only continue UNTIL—until what? “Until HE COME whose right it is”. Who is this? None other than Jesus Christ, to whom the throne pertains of right, both by lineal descent, and special divine bequest. Observe, then, what is distinctly proved, that the things overturned are the things to be given to Christ at his coming. Now, what things were those? The diadem, crown, throne, and Kingdom of David. Hence, when HE COMES whose right they are, he will enter into their possession in as real a sense as they were held by Zedekiah. He will become King of the Jews, and Lord of the whole earth. We thus perceive a striking significance in the words of the angel:—
“The Lord God shall give unto Jesus THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER David; and he shall reign over THE HOUSE OF JACOB for ever; and of HIS KINGDOM there shall be no end.”
Going a step farther in our New Testament enquiry, we come to the birth of Christ, and we note the following incident:—
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born KING OF THE JEWS” (Matt. 2:1).
The enquiry of the wise men was intelligible in view of all that the prophets had foretold of him who was to be ruler in Israel; but if Christ is only the spiritual Saviour of mankind, in a universal general sense, their words have no meaning. In what sense could Christ be “king of the Jews,” if he only stood in broad spiritual relationship to the human race as a whole? It may be suggested that he is king of spiritual Jews, who are not Jews outwardly, but in the heart. The reply to this is, that Christ is not king of his own people. Of them he says, “I call you not servants, but friends.” They are his brethren, “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), destined to reign with him a thousand years (Rev. 20:6). They are not his subjects, but aggregately his bride, “the Lamb’s wife”—signifying the closest communion and identity of relational interest. Christ, therefore, cannot be king of the Jews in any spiritual sense. He is king of those Jews of whom David was king; for he is heir to his throne. That this was the nature of his claim, as understood by his contemporaries, is obvious from what followed the enquiry of the wise men:—
“When Herod the king had heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet—and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel … And (Herod) sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men” (Matt. 2:2, 3, 6, 16).
Now, whence all this commotion? If Christ was merely to be a spiritual ruler in the popular sense—exercising power from heaven in the hearts of men, without at all interfering with the temporal concerns of kings on earth, it is not conceivable that Herod should have been so jealous of him; because Christ’s spiritual dominion would not in any way have conflicted with Herod’s jurisdiction as a king.
Assuming, however, that the enquiry of the wise men imported the verity of Christ’s character as a king, appointed of God to sit on David’s throne, Herod’s procedure appears in a natural light. He was at that time ruler in Israel. He was, in fact, “King of the Jews,” in the name of the Roman Caesar. For him, therefore, to hear of the birth of a rival to that position, was to be touched in the tenderest part, and to have all his jealousy aroused. He would see plainly that if he allowed this infant king to live, the people’s allegiance might become diverted, and his own throne would be endangered. He therefore conceived the inhuman project of slaughtering the entire babyhood of Bethlehem, in the hope of destroying the object of his jealousy—a proof that he recognised in Christ, a prospective claimant of the literal kingship of Israel.
If we trace the career and note the sayings of Christ, as further recorded, we shall find constant indications of the correctness of the view entertained by the apostles concerning his kingship. For instance, in the course of his sermon on the mount, he said:—“Swear not by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” Now it would be difficult to attach a likely significance to these words on the popular supposition. If Christ is never to return to earth again, except for the purpose of plunging it in the “judgment fires” and blotting every vestige of its existence from creation, what possible connection can exist between him and the city which witnessed his humiliation, since in that case it must perish in the universal destruction? In the passage before us Jesus affirms a connection with it, and accounts that connection so sacred that he prohibits us from using the name of the city on oath. He is “the great King,”—the “greater than Solomon.” Jerusalem is the city. It existed at the time that Christ uttered the words under consideration; only in the time of Christ, it was a great, prosperous and magnificent centre of royalty and learning, whereas now it is an insignificant abomination-infested, and comparatively ruinous and neglected town in the heart of a petty Turkish province. Divine regard, however, is no less now than ever it was. The testimony is, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands: thy walls are continually before me” (Isa. 49:16). For a period it has been in desolation. This was predicted by the Lord Jesus. He said:—
“They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, UNTIL the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
He also said:—
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together; even as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate, for I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth UNTIL THE TIME COME, when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:37–39; Luke 13:34, 35).
Here was a treading down and a desolating foretold. That this referred to Jerusalem in Palestine is universally granted. Let it be noted then, that the place involved in the prediction of ruin, is the same which is related to the “UNTIL” by which that prediction is limited. If Jerusalem has been trodden down of the Gentiles, and left “desolate,” she will as certainly, by the same prediction, recover from her fall when the period indicated by the word “until” arrives. In one case “until” arrives with the expiration of “the times of the Gentiles”; in the other, when the time comes that the Jewish nation will recognise the crucified Jesus as the name-bearer of God. The declaration is, that at that time, down-treading and desolation shall cease. Now both events are certain. The termination of the times of the Gentiles, or the age of Gentile domination is decreed (Dan. 7:25–27; 9:24–27; Rom. 11:25), and we are informed, in the following testimony, that the day is coming when Christ will yet be received by his penitent nation the Jews:—
“I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born” (Zech. 12:10).
When these have been accomplished, what then for Jerusalem? Let the following testimonies give the answer:—
“The Lord shall inherit Judah, his portion in the Holy Land, and shall choose Jerusalem again” (Zech. 2:12).
“The Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (Isa. 51:3).
“Awake! awake! stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury. Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.… Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people. Behold I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury. Thou shalt no more drink it again” (Isa. 51:17, 21, 22).
“Awake! awake! put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean … Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem” (Isa. 52:1, 9).
“The Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously” (Isa. 24:23).
“At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. Neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17).
“For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Mic. 4:2, 3).
Here, then, we learn that the city of Jerusalem has an important place in the purpose of God. It is destined to be the seat of that divine government which is to bless the world in the future age. It will, in fact, be the capital of the coming universal kingdom, constituting the centre of power, of law, of enlightenment, for the gladsome nations who will repair thither for instruction in that glorious age; for it is written:—
“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
This going-up of nations will be periodical, as we learn from Zech. 14:16:—
“And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.”
If any nation become refractory, and refuse to pay this annual homage to the king of all the earth, they will be summarily dealt with. No need for armies and lazy process of military subjugation; a word from the King will stay the supplies of heaven, and compel submission. It is written—verse 17:—
“And it shall be that whoso shall not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem, to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.”
Now the Lord Jesus was aware of this glorious destiny in store for the city of Jerusalem, and well knew the intimate relationship he should sustain to it when the time should come when his countrymen would say to him, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord;” and, with this on his mind, he could say with an appropriateness which can only be appreciated by those who understand the purposes of God—“Swear not by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” She is the city of the great King, though now but a despised ruin; and those who laugh at the promises of her future glory, are guilty of a heinous crime against God, for which they may be called upon to answer. The great King would not allow His friends to swear by her name; much less will he forbear the jibe of the scornful. He cometh to His city anon to rule the world in righteousness, and woe to the despiser; but blessed are all they who are looking for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). To them the words of the prophet are addressed:—
“Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her. Rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her; that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations: that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isa. 66:10, 11).
Thus we are enabled to extract from the words of Christ in his “sermon on the mount,” evidence of a powerful kind of the reality of his kingship in relation to the earth. Nathanael, the “Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile,” adds to that evidence in the recognition of Christ to which he gave utterance on meeting him (John 1:49)—“Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” That the conviction expressed in these words was generally impressed on the minds of the people by the teaching of Christ, is evident from the fact that “they wanted to take him by force, to make him a king” (John 6:15). Their language, on the occasion of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, is evidence to the same point:—“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed be the kingdom of our Father David that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:10).
Christ gave them reason for that conviction in the parable of the vineyard, contained in Luke 20, beginning at the 9th verse. The vineyard, says Jesus, was planted by a certain nobleman, and let out to husbandmen; and at the time of the fruit, the nobleman sent his servants to the husbandmen to get of the fruits of the vineyard: but they maltreated and killed them one after another (verses 13–15). “Then said the Lord of the vineyard, what shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be that they will reverence him when they see him; but when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying: This is THE HEIR; come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” This parable related to the nation of Israel, and the rulers thereof. This is evident from the 19th verse, and also from a statement in Isaiah 5:7:—“The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel.”
This being so, let us note the tendency of its teaching. In the rejected servants we recognise the prophets who shared the fate indicated in the words of Christ:—“O Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee.” The “Son” was the Lord Jesus Christ, as is evident from the words of Paul in Heb. 1:2, which might be almost accepted as a commentary upon the parable under consideration:—“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.”
If Christ, then, be the “son” of the parable, of necessity he is also the “heir”. Of what? This is the important point. Answer:—Of the inheritance held by the husbandmen; for said they, “This is the heir come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.” Now, if that inheritance be the land and nation of the Jews, of which the Pharisees were the rulers or “husbandmen,” and Christ be the heir of these things, there is no escape from the conclusion sought to be established throughout this lecture. He is the rightful claimant to David’s throne. “He came unto HIS OWN, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Why did they not receive him? What motive prompted the chief priests and rulers to destroy Jesus? It was not merely their hatred of righteousness. If Christ had simply been a teacher of religion, according to modern notions, doubtless they would have been among his admirers; but then he was “THE HEIR.” He was the divinely sent of God to occupy David’s throne, and put down all opposing authority and power; and his assertion of this character brought him into instant collision with them, because they had the inheritance in their possession. Therefore, said they, in their insensate short-sighted jealousy—“Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.”
So they plotted his destruction, and succeeded in their nefarious plans. They brought him before Pilate, who finding no fault in him, was willing to release him (Luke 23:13–16). This inflamed their animosity, and developed the true nature of its origin. They cried out saying—“If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself A KING speaketh against Caesar” (John 19:12). This had the desired effect: Pilate gave judgment; and Christ was crucified, and according to the Roman custom, the nature of the charge against him was specified in writing over the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19).
Here again the kingship of Christ came out in circumstantial prominence. He was crucified because he “made himself a king.” This is the declaration of the superscription. That superscription was not sufficiently definite for the chief priests. We read (John 19:20, 21), “This title then read many of the Jews.… Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that HE SAID, I am King of the Jews.” Here is an important testimony from the chief priests as to Christ’s own assertion of his royalty. In fact the closing scenes of our Lord’s life on earth, altogether constitute the most decisive proof that prospective Jewish royalty was the essential feature of his character as the Messiah,—a feature which is entirely omitted in popular preaching. The teaching of the Apostles after our Lord’s ascension was the same on this important point. We read that the Jews of Thessalonica accused them to the rulers of the city after this fashion:—
“These that have turned the world upside down, are come hither also, whom Jason hath received; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying THAT THERE IS ANOTHER KING—ONE, JESUS” (Acts 17:6, 7).
Paul made the same proclamation to the Athenians, in his address on Mars Hill, recorded in Acts 17:30, 31:—
“And the time of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in which He will judge (which, in its political application, means rule) the world in righteouness BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised him from the dead.”
In fact, the great burden of the New Testament teaching concerning Jesus is, that he is “the Christ,” that is, the Anointed One foretold by the prophets as the future king of the world. If you deny to him this kingship, you deny that he is the Christ—for the anointing refers, not only to his character as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” but to his future development as God’s vicegerent on earth. His “Christing” is prospective, culminating in “the glory that shall be revealed,” which shall “cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” Whosoever, therefore, is ignorant of this, and denies the future manifested Christship of Jesus, cannot Scripturally or acceptably confess that he is the Christ, inasmuch as that confession is empty sound when it does not import the things signified.
That Christ is the future king of the world is one of the most gladsome truths of revelation. What hope else is there for this sin-afflicted world? It has groaned under ages of mis-rule. The riches of the earth are hoarded away in the halls of a surfeited few, and the great mass of humanity are left to welter out a degraded existence of poverty, ignorance, and misery. God’s goodness has been fraudulently squandered. The provision, sufficient for competence to all who breathe this mundane atmosphere, has been rapaciously plundered by the unprincipled and the strong, and stored away in accursed garners from famishing millions. This is as true in the present latter-day civilisation as it was in the ruthless days of yore; only the system—venerable by its antiquity—is more respectable, has the protection of the law, and is recognised as the indispensable institution of a well-governed country.
And among the people themselves, what barrenness and hideousness we behold! How intellectually empty! How morally destitute! How ignoble and selfish! How small and grovelling! Some say the world is getting better. It is a mistake. Intellectual acuteness is on the increase; but real character is dwarfing with the increase of years. Mankind is deteriorating with the spread of civilisation. Flimsiness and frivolity are the order of the day. Thorough-going good sense and earnestness of moral purpose are confined to a despised minority. The word of God is of light esteem, and faith hath almost vanished from the earth.
Where shall we find comfort for the future? The world is incurable by human agency. Its only hope lies in the truth expressed in the title of this lecture. A great Deliverer is waiting the appointed time of blessing; Christ at God’s right hand is the future king of the world; he who endured the shame of a malefactor’s cross is coming to wear the honour of a universal crown; and though dark be the clouds that usher in his august advent, and fierce the convulsions that will attend the earth’s deliverance, great will be the glory of the day he will bring, and everlasting the repose that will settle on the everlasting hills.