The Kingship of Christ is referred to in the following passages: Psalm 2:6, Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion; Psalm 132:11, The Lord has sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne; Daniel 2:44, And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever; Luke 1:33, And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end; John 18:36, Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. There are other relevant passages but these suffice.
The kingship of Christ in defined in the Westminster Larger Catechism Q/A 45: Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace on the elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God and obey not the gospel.
His Kingly office extends to three spheres, the visible church, the invisible church and the world. The most import of the three is the invisible church. Every member of the invisible church was elected to eternal life from eternity, and for such Christ suffered, died and rose again. Some of its members are in glory, others are at present in the world who have come to a saving knowledge of Christ, others are in the world who are His but have not yet been effectually called, and also all they who are His in the generations following.
The Nature of the Kingship
In dealing with Christ’s Kingly office, it has to be made sufficiently clear that as the second Person of the Trinity coequal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, He has original right in having dominion over the whole universe. However, that authority is different in a number of ways from His mediatorial Kingship, because He is invested with the latter, and it is exercised as the God-man (Theanthropos), and consists of His Kingly rule in the world, and indeed in the Universe – for all power has been given unto Him in heaven and in earth – restraining and overcoming the enemies of His church, ordering all things to His glory and their good. This rule extends to the Day of Judgment.
Christ’s spiritual kingship is established in the hearts and lives of His people, and administered by the Word and Spirit, and the government of the church. But He who is their King is also the Head. The following passages refer to the Headship: Eph 1:22-23; And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all; Col 1:18, And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. The citizenship of the Kingdom is co-existent with the invisible Church’s membership. A distinction has to be made. The former is more extensive than the latter because ‘… it extends to life in all its manifestations.’ The visible church is the external organisation of the Kingdom. Within the visible church membership there are both the Kingdom’s citizens and others though professing to belong to Christ are ignorant of His saving grace.
The spiritual character of the kingdom applies to both the Old Testament and the New. It was somewhat obscured by the ceremonial law, in comparison with the New Testament. Regarding the latter there are frequent references in it to the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven – these are employed interchangeably and mean the same. The Premillinarians view the kingdom of God as the universal kingdom, and the kingdom of heaven as Christ’s mediatorial kingdom. But this distinction is incorrect. This is not a natural kingdom. Jesus reminded Nicodemus that it is not possible to enter into it but by the rebirth. John 3:1-8; and this subject is also dealt with in Luke 17:20-21, And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or Lo there! For the kingdom of God is within you. Some are of the view that the present kingdom will become the ‘… future kingdom imperceptibly …’ This however is not the teaching of Scripture according to Matt 24:21-44; 1 Thess 5:2-3; and 2 Pet 3:10-12. Although the kingdom is more extensive than the church, it is through the church that it can extend.
There are numerous views expressed on this point, some of which are unscriptural. Those who hold to the view that it will not commence until His second advent, deny Christ’s present mediatorial Kingship. Others restrict His Kingship to His ascension. But according to the Scriptures His appointment as mediatorial King was received in eternity, and it became effective immediately after the fall. His mediatorial Kingship was indispensably necessary to believers in both the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament it was carried out through the judges and the typical kings.
Shedd says: The Logos was not actually and historically a mediator until He assumed human nature. In the Old Testament it was discharged by anticipation – it was in view of His future advent. Until there was a miraculous conception was there actually a God-man, and not until then was there an actual mediator. And regarding its duration he says: … there will be no longer an access to a holy God for sinful men through Christ’s blood ... According to him the mediatorial office is temporary: It begins in time and a time will come when it will cease to be exercised. This is taught in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. As there was once a time when there was no mediatorial work of salvation going on, so there will be a time when there will be none. (Dogmatic Theology, p 677). Turretin supposes that the delegated mediatorial kingdom over the church will undergo a change in the mode of administration at the final consummation, but in other respects that it will continue because the Theanthropos will be the direct medium for the saints guidance and government forever and ever. Dabney speaks in a similar vein: His people will need protection and guidance, just as they will need teaching and intercession forever. For their glorification will not render them naturally impeccable or infallible … But it seems far more natural to suppose that these blessings will still be given through Christ their Head to whom they were spiritually united at conversion. (Lectures in Systematic Theology, pp 551, 555). Dick did not see the necessity of a mediatorial work in glory, and that God would deal directly with the saints.
Of course a distinction must be drawn between His universal Kingship and His spiritual Kingship. The latter will never end, but the former will be given up according to 1 Cor 15:24. As King of the universe He promotes the interests of His Church, defending it against its enemies, and directing all things for the good of His people. This kingship was a promised reward according to Ps 2:8-9; and Eph 1:20-22, and also part of His exaltation. It did not add anything to the power He already had as God, but as the God-man He was put in possession of it. This reign will continue until all his enemies are destroyed and death abolished. At the consummation of all things the God-man will give up the authority conferred on Him and return the commission to God the Father that He may be all in all.
Turretin states that 1 Cor 15:24 can be understood in two ways: (1) Thus the sense is that Christ (the work of salvation having been consummated) will bring to the Father the Church perfectly consummated and redeemed from all enemies, to be fully blessed according to the oracle of Isaiah: This is claimed for Christ: “Behold I and the children whom God has given me” Heb 2:13; but still in such a way that he will always remain the head. And (2) Or understood formally as to the mode of its administration which is concerned with collecting, governing and defending the Church from her enemies (which will have no place after her enemies are vanquished). Thus he will deliver up the kingdom not by a disposition and abdication of it, but by an exhibition of it as consummated. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol 2, p 493).
Charles Hodge, in commenting on 1 Cor 15:24 expresses more or less a similar view: It must be remembered, that the Scriptures speak of a threefold kingdom as belonging to Christ. 1. That which necessarily belongs to him as a divine person, extending over all creatures, and of which he can never divest himself. 2. That which belongs to him as the incarnate Son of God extending over all his own people. This also is everlasting. He will for ever remain the head and sovereign of the redeemed. 3. That dominion to which he was exalted after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to his hands. This kingdom which he exercises as the Theanthropos, and which extends over all principalities and powers, he is to deliver up when the work of redemption is accomplished. He was invested with this dominion in his mediatorial character for the purpose of carrying on the work to its consummation. (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p 330).