3 Things about Jesus’ Reign You Need to Know—Whether You’re a Christian or Not
Jerome was one of the teaching fathers of the early church. He was born in Stridon (in or near modern day Croatia) around AD 347. He went to Rome to study Latin, rhetoric, and philosophy and willingly followed his peers into alcohol-fueled orgies and the worst kinds of sexual deviancy. At age twenty-six, disgusted with himself, he repented and turned to Christ.
Jerome lived out the rest of his life in simple poverty. He devoted himself to teaching the Scriptures and translating them into Latin. His classic translation is called the Vulgate, because it was in the vulgar (meaning common) language of the people. Jerome was therefore an ancient Wycliffe, longing for people to be able to read God’s Word in their birth language, the language of their heart. Jerome founded a monastery in Bethlehem in 386 and died there in 420.
This is what Jerome said about Isaiah: “Isaiah should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet because he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the church so clearly that you would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying about what is to come.” When we read Isaiah, we see how spot-on Jerome’s analysis is, for even though Isaiah wrote some seven centuries before Christ, he describes his person and work with astonishing detail and clarity.
It is no wonder that the book of Isaiah has often been called “The Fifth Gospel.” And perhaps nowhere is Jesus seen more clearly in Isaiah than in chapter 9:1-7, Isaiah’s beautiful description of the coming Christ. Isaiah 9:1-6a shows us the power of Jesus, that “the government will be upon his shoulders.” Isaiah 9:6b shows us the character of Jesus, that he would be a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:7 shows us the nature of Jesus’ kingdom:
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Here the “Fifth Evangelist” teaches us that
- Jesus’ reign is infinite.
- Jesus’ reign is righteous.
- Jesus’ reign is established in God’s promise.
Jesus’ reign is infinite.
Russia is so vast a country that it spreads across twelve time zones. At certain times of the year, the sun rises in Moscow at almost the same time it sets in Magadan, in the far east near Alaska. Yet the borders of Russia—Putin’s ambitions notwithstanding—are limited. Similarly, in 1829 the author Christopher North referred to the empire of King George IV as “His Majesty’s dominions, on which the sun never sets.” Yet the vast British Empire, easily the largest empire the world had ever seen, disintegrated into almost nothing in the decades after World War II.
Isaiah saw that Jesus’ kingdom has no limits in space or time. “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign...from that time on and forever.”
For believers this is wonderful: there is no time or place where his rule will not determine all things. For unbelievers this is terrifying: there is no time or place where they will be able to escape his rule and will. This strengthens the faith of believers and calls unbelievers to bow to his rule and to take their place as obedient and much loved subjects in his kingdom. Thus, Jesus calls every person to himself with these words: “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
Jesus’ reign is righteous.
Little children are very sensitive to injustice. If you don’t believe me, just give Miss Two-Year-Old three pieces of chocolate and Miss Three-Year-Old sister one piece of chocolate. Or see Mr. Four-Year Old’s outrage when he is mistakenly punished for the precious vase that his older brother broke. A sense of justice, of right and wrong and fairness, is built deep into our moral DNA. The requirements of God’s law are written on the hearts of every human being (Rom. 2:15).
We long for every wrong to be punished with exactly the punishment it deserves. We long for every good deed to be rewarded with exactly the reward it deserves. Isaiah saw that Jesus’ rule would be perfectly fair, and that it would bring about exactly this kind of perfect justice: “He will reign, establishing and upholding his kingdom with justice and righteousness” (Isa. 9:7 NIV).
This sounds logically irrefutable, for are not justice and righteousness one and the same thing? In fact, the word translated justice more often refers to judgment. Jesus will bring about judgment, and perfect justice will thereby be administered.
We may not like to associate Jesus with judgment, for John said that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). And it is wonderfully true that “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
But this time of favor and salvation will come to an end. It will come to an end for each of us with our own deaths. It will come to an end for all humanity at the return of Christ. For when he returns, he will no longer be holding out his hand of mercy. He will no longer be calling people to repentance. He will no longer be tenderly urging us to find forgiveness, mercy, and life with him. That time will have passed. (He is extraordinarily patient, but justice means that his patience must come to an end.) Then he will take his seat on God’s great white judgment throne. Books will be opened with the record of every person’s thought, word, and deed. And he will perfectly reward what ought to be rewarded, and will perfectly condemn what ought to be condemned (Rev. 20:11-14). And then perfect justice, the longing of every human heart, will be accomplished.
How vital on this day that we be found “in Christ” by faith. That God will look towards us and see instead his Son—all our sins already punished in him, and all his good works ready to be rewarded in us.
King Jesus will ensure that sin, idolatry, dishonor, hatred, cruelty, lust, unfaithfulness, greed, lies, and discontent—everything that poisons and spoils life on earth—will be utterly annihilated, and he will rule on into eternity with perfect justice.
Jesus’ reign is established in God’s promise.
Speaking of childhood injustice, cannot we all recall a time when a significant adult in our life failed to keep their promise? It bothered us deeply. And now we are adults, and we break our promises to those in our care. Why? Sometimes, because of our weakness and limited resources, we can’t keep our promises. Sometimes, because we are lazy and wicked, we don’t want to keep our promises, even when we have the means to keep them. Sometimes we forget our promises because even if they are important to others, they may not be so important to us.
Jesus’ kingdom is established in God’s promise. Remember when David determined to build a temple, a “house” for the Lord? How did the Lord respond? “You will not build a house for me, I will build a ‘house’ for you!” (see 2 Sam. 7:1-17). Not a corruptible earthly palace, but a dynasty that will never end. A dynasty that will never end because it will culminate with a king whose rule is infinite and eternal:
“When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Sam. 7:12-16)
Jesus is, of course, the “Son of David” (Matt. 1:1; 21:9; etc.), the fulfilment of this great promise. He is King because God has promised to make him King. And God, unlike us, never lacks the means or will to consummate his promises. In fact, Isaiah says “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” “LORD Almighty” translates Yahweh Tsebāōt (or Jehovah Sabaoth), which means LORD of Hosts: the LORD who commands all the mighty angelic hosts of heaven. This title emphasizes the sheer might and power of the Lord. The word translated zeal refers to passion, ardor, intense desire, and even jealousy. Isaiah thus makes a very powerful statement: The infinitely mighty LORD passionately desires that his Son will rule over all creation for all time.
Who can prevent this from being accomplished? Who would want to prevent this from being accomplished? For as we look out across our broken world and society, we need God’s just and universal King to come and establish his rule. And as we look at the storm and turmoil within our very own hearts, we need above everything else God’s just and universal King to come and establish his rule: to annihilate our sin and its appalling effects, and to leave nothing but perfect obedience and love.
Thank God for Isaiah and his “Fifth Gospel.” God is passionately determined that Jesus will rule heaven and earth forever, and our hearts burst with peace and joy in this sure hope.
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.
Related article: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel