The Enthroned King (part 2 of 3)

Part one of this three part series can be found here.

The four historical narratives of Jesus’ life and ministry (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) all agree that Jesus’ primary message was that the active, dynamic rule and reign of God (i.e. the kingdom of God) had broken into the world. No longer were the people of God waiting for the promised day of the Lord when all would be made right. That day had come in and through Jesus, though he also told them that the kingdom was yet to come in its fullness. It was a paradox in which the age to come had come, is coming, and would one day fully break into the present evil age.[1]

Writing a few decades after Jesus, the Apostle Paul would summarize the message of Jesus in terms of “incarnation and enthronement.”[2] Jesus was the promised one about whom the prophets had foretold. Furthermore, he was also the incarnated Creator King of heaven and earth who entered into the world through “David’s seed in terms of flesh” (Romans 1:3, TKNT). While this statement itself is powerful, Paul goes to say that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and enthroned as “the King, our Lord” (Romans 1:4, TKNT).

               The enthronement of Jesus as the King of heaven and earth can be seen most clearly in the first chapter of Acts. After giving his followers some last-minute instructions, Jesus is lifted up into the skies and hidden from sight by a cloud (Acts 1:9). This action harkens back to Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV) in which “one like a son of man” approaches the Ancient of Days with “clouds of heaven” and is enthroned with “all nations and peoples of every language” worshiping him.  Jesus, the Son of Man as he commonly called himself (e.g. Matthew 9:6, Mark 8:38, John 8:28), is now the “true world ruler, with all the warring pagan nations made subject to him.”[3]

               Though we don’t think much about such language, for Paul to say that Jesus is the “blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15, ESV) is to effectively commit treason against the Roman Empire and its divine ruler. Starting in the days of Caesar Augustus (63 BCE – 14 CE), the emperors of the land were seen as divine gods with temples dedicated to their worship being built across the empire from Spain to Judea.[4] Accordingly, for Paul to claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Creator God and the true King of the earth was to effectively deny the exclusive rule of the Caesars (e.g. Acts 7:6-8). Later followers of Jesus would face death at the hands of Roman authorities for upholding these claims as they refused to renounce their loyalty to Jesus and offer sacrifices to the human emperor of the land. 

Pledging our undivided allegiance to Jesus doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t be proud of our nation, religion, or holy book. Paul, for example, was a Roman citizen who obeyed the laws of the land even though he disagreed with common worship practices of the day (e.g. Acts 16:37-38, 22:25-29, Romans 13:1-7). He also was proud of his Jewish heritage and Scriptures of his youth even if he now reinterpreted them through the lens of Jesus the Messiah (e.g. Acts 22:3-21, Philippians 3:2-11). As Paul’s life shows us, following Jesus means that our first allegiance is to Jesus our King and Lord. We are first and foremost disciples of Jesus before we are citizens of a nation, followers of a religion, and/or readers of a holy book. If ever there is a disagreement or test of loyalty between these things, may we echo words of Simon Peter and the apostles as they stood before the same Assembly who tortured and killed Jesus a few weeks previously: “We must obey God, not human beings!” (Acts 5:29, TKNT)


Endnotes

[1] Joshua S. Hopping, The Here and Not Yet: What is Kingdom Theology and Why Does It Matter? (Ladysmith, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing, 2017), 23-38

[2] Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017), 30-34.

[3] N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, And Why He Matters (New York: HaperOne, 2011), 196.

[4] N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God: Book 1 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 311-343.

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