On Psalm 110 – King, Priest, and Judge

September 6, 2006

by Steve Owen

People who are new Christians, or who are perhaps looking at the Christian faith for the first time, often ask questions like, “What is Jesus doing now?” and, “If Christ has triumphed over Satan, why is the world still in the state it is?” Or even, ”Why doesn’t God do something about all the wickedness in the world? Why doesn’t He just come and sort it out?” Questions like this are nothing new. The Apostle Peter spoke of “scoffers” who asked, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2Peter 3:4 ). The question that I want to address here is, what is the purpose of this present age? What is our Lord’s role in it, and how will it end? I shall try to answer it by referring to this very remarkable psalm.

V 1. ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’

Psalm 110 is much quoted in the New Testament. In the Gospels, we see that the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to catch out the Lord Jesus with their questions, until He turned on them and asked, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ‘? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word’ (Matt 22:42-46). It’s amazing, but to whom can David be referring unless God had given him a glimpse of heaven, a thousand years into the future, to see the coronation of the Lord Jesus Christ, David’s Lord and ours?

Psalm 110 is not the only Scripture that treats of this event. If we turn to Daniel 7:13 we can see the same happening from another perspective: ‘I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.’ Now this perspective enables us to set a time for this event. The Son of Man is coming with the clouds, but not to earth; He is coming to heaven and into the presence of God. Remember what Acts 1:9 says about the ascension of our Lord: ‘Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.’ Daniel is telling of the other end of His ascension, His arrival in heaven. His great mission is accomplished, mankind redeemed, Satan defeated in that great victory on the cross (cf. Col 2:13-15 ). And now the conquering Hero is led into the presence of the Father who says to Him, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

What a change from the words spoken to Him on earth! There men had spat upon Him and mocked Him and cried out, “Crucify Him! Away with this Man! We have no king but Caesar!” How little did they know that all that they said was fulfilling God’s eternal plan, and their every wicked deed was according to His counsel and foreknowledge (Acts 4:27-28 ). And so the Lord Jesus comes to take His place at the right hand of the Father. “The head that once was crowned with thorns, is crowned with glory now.”

The Psalm may be divided, like Gaul, into three parts:-
The Coronation and Kingly Rule of Christ.
The Priestly Rule of Christ.
The Judicial Rule of Christ.

Let’s look at the coronation. “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Here’s our timescale. How long has Christ been reigning? Since His ascension. How long will He reign? Until His enemies are under His feet. Obviously, this is something that has not yet happened. Heb 2:8-9 says, ‘For in that put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we do not yet see all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.’ So our Lord will continue to reign throughout this present age until everything is under His feet. The fact that He is ‘sitting’ does not indicate rest. When a court is ‘sitting’ or ‘in session,’ that’s when it is doing its work. When a king is seated on his throne, that’s when he is governing and making decrees.

Now what sort of rule is this? You may think that if Christ is reigning there’s not much sign of it in the world at present, but what does the Bible say about the last days? It talks of wars and rumours of wars, it talks of terrible times and of wicked men becoming worse and worse (Matt 24:6; 2Tim 3:1, 13 ). There is nothing happening in the world today that God’s word has not foretold. And Christ is reigning over all of it. He told His disciples, “In this world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33. cf. Rev 3:21 ). We are also told, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28 ). The setbacks, discouragements, trials- yes, and even the tragedies- that beset the Christian will ultimately be found to be for his good. The Lord uses them to lessen our attachment to this world and to cause us to long for heaven. Thus the Psalmist could say, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes’ (Psalm 119:71).

v2. ‘The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’

The Lord Jesus Christ is ruling today in the midst of his enemies. All the wars and all the wickedness cannot prevent the Gospel from going forward into the world, with thousands of guilty sinners coming to Christ in China, in Africa, in South America. Christ’s rule is being extended despite all that Satan can do against it. Matt 16:8. ‘I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ This should fill us with hope! Do you have loved ones who don’t know the Lord and who seem to be on the downward path to destruction? By all means warn them, witness to them and plead with them; give them tracts and invite them to church; but the most important thing that you can do for them is that which you do upon your knees, praying to the One to whom all power in heaven and earth has been given, whose mighty sceptre extends from Zion. Does the case seem hopeless? Perhaps it is, for you, but for God it’s easy! I have often wondered how it would be if we could jump into a time machine, go back to first Century Palestine and ask the churches who was the person they thought was least likely to become a Christian- prior to Acts 9. I bet they would have voted Saul of Tarsus the man least likely to. There he was going round from house to house, dragging Christians off to prison (Acts 8:3 ); and when he thought he’d cleaned up Jerusalem, off he went to Damascus to do the same thing there. He couldn’t wait to get up that road to find some more of those blasphemous Christians to persecute, until the Lord said, “Enough!” And the light shone from heaven and he grovelled in the dust. Christ rules in the midst of His enemies and is kingdom is constantly expanding.

v3. Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, you have the dew of Your youth.’

God’s power turns the most obstinate rebel into a willing soldier. The Lord Jesus’ volunteers are a holy, separated people who desire to be like their Master. The Psalmist pictures them ‘In the beauties of holiness,’ or as the NIV puts it, ‘Arrayed in holy majesty’ (cf. 1Peter 2:9 ). As at the dawning of the day, the dew gathers in countless droplets, so are the followers of Christ ‘a great multitude that no one could number’ (Rev 7:9 ), as numerous as the drops of dew at daybreak. In the tome of His humiliation here on earth, the Lord Jesus had no trappings of a king save a crown of thorns. Pilate asked Him, “Are you a king, then?” He couldn’t believe in a lowly servant King. But now, as Paul says, ‘Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Phil 2:9-10 ). Has your knee bowed to Jesus? It will! But if you leave it until He returns, until the Day of judgment, it will be too late to save you. Now is the Day of salvation; now is the time of God’s mercy. Be one of Jesus’ volunteer army, come to the foot of the cross to enlist, and the blood of Jesus will wash you clean of all your sins.

v4. ‘The LORD has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”’

We asked the question earlier; “If Jesus is ruling, why doesn’t He come down and sort this world out? Why does He tolerate things as they are?’ To a degree the question has already been answered. Now is the time of grace. When our Lord was on earth, He said, “I did not come to judge the world but to save it” (John 12:47 ). Today He offers salvation to all those who come to God through Him, for He is not only reigning as King, but also as ‘High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ In Israel, the king was never allowed to fulfil the office of priest and vice versa. We read in 1Samuel 13 that king Saul was waiting for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices for the army, and when Samuel was delayed, Saul offered them himself. Samuel then told him that because he had done this and taken on the priestly role, his kingdom would not endure. Also in 2Chronicles 26, we read of King Uzziah who tried to officiate as a priest and God struck him with leprosy. The only person in whom we see the offices of king and priest combined is this strange figure, Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20 ). The name, ‘Melchizedek’ means, ‘King of Righteousness’ and we are told that he was king of Salem, which means ‘King of peace’ so he is clearly a type or foreshadowing of Jesus. It is interesting to note that Melchizedek offered no sacrifice but instead brought bread and wine the emblems of Christ’s passion. We know nothing of Melchizedek’s birth, death or appointment as priest. The levitical priests in the Old Testament had times of appointment and of retirement prescribed for them; sometimes they died in office and they had access to the Holiest Place only once a year, and then only after offering sacrifices for their own sins as well as the people’s (Heb 9:7 ).

But we have a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek who is sinless and perfect, who has offered one sacrifice of Himself for all time, who has entered not a man-made temple but heaven itself and who has taken His seat at the right hand of God (Heb 10:12-14 ). His appointment is for all time and so, ‘Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 8:25 ).

So Jesus is reigning in heaven as King and High Priest. He is also the last and greatest Prophet. ‘God…..has in these last days spoken to us by His Son’ (Heb 1:1-2 ). There are many people today who are happy to think of Jesus as their High Priest, as Saviour, but who don’t want Him as their Lord; who are happy to believe that Christ died for their sins, but who have no intention of turning away from those sins and of obeying Christ’s commands. The Lord Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Do you know Him in His three-fold office of Prophet, Priest and King?

Can you say, “Lord Jesus, you are my Prophet. I receive Your word as very truth. I look to no other to tell me what heaven’s about, what hell’s about, what life’s about and how to live down here until I get to heaven”?

Can you say, “Lord Jesus, You are my High Priest. I look to no other to intercede for me before the throne of Grace. I look for no other sacrifice than that which You made of Yourself at Calvary. Having no righteousness of my own to plead before God, I place my trust in Your perfect righteousness and in Your all-sufficient atonement to cleanse me from my guilt and sin”?

Can you say, “Lord Jesus, You are my King. I seek above all to obey Your commands. I place nothing else before You- not home, nor health, nor family, nor wealth, nor even life itself, if only I can be found in You on that Last Day”?

For make no mistake, there is a Last Day coming, and those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ in these ways will know Him as their Judge.

vs 5-6. ‘The LORD is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries.’

We come to the Judicial reign of Christ. There is a day coming when God will bring down the curtain upon this age and bring about the New Heaven and the New Earth. But that day will also be the day of retribution upon those who have scorned the Lord Jesus Christ during the time of grace. The kings and rulers of this world who have governed in their own wisdom and by their own standards will be struck down, and not only them, but the philosophers and scientists and media people and other ‘opinion-formers’ who have set themselves against the laws of God are surely included among them. The symbolism is warlike and bloodthirsty; it’s there to show that there will be no mercy for God’s enemies when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. The Day of Grace will be over; the Day of Judgement will have begun. If it came tomorrow, or even tonight, would you be ready? “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:42-44 ).

v 7. ‘He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; therefore He shall lift up His head.

Not one of God’s enemies shall escape. The psalmist is making an historical allusion. In 1Samuel 14, King Saul ordered that his army should take no refreshment until they had defeated the Philistines. Therefore many of his soldiers became faint and the enemy escaped. But in the imagery of the Psalm, Christ will drink from a wayside brook or spring to refresh Himself, and so He will be able to continue His assault until all His enemies are destroyed.

Here then are the three reigns of Christ: Royal, Priestly and Judicial. Is this how you know Him? As the King, who rules in the midst of His enemies? As the High Priest, who intercedes day and night for His chosen people? As the Judge, who treads the winepress of God’s fury (Isaiah 63:1-6; Rev 14:17-20, 19:15 )? Don’t have a lowly view of Christ. True theology is that which has the highest view of Him in all His offices.

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