|On the Location of Christ's reign|
I am a fully recovered former premillennial, pretribulational, futurist. It is now amazing to me how easily I see the wealth of passages that utterly defeat those earlier much-cherished eschatological doctrines. That being said, I do not believe for a second that other people hold them because they are unintelligent and do not love the Word of God because I once zealously held them myself….. but I do remember that once I started taking a look at certain passages without the grid I was so carefully taught, the scaffolding just fell away. Now while I didn't receive the particular insight that I am now going to share in those earlier days, I am hoping that this may be used to open the eyes of others to consider the possibility that the idea that Jesus is going to return to set up a thousand year Kingdom and rule from a physical throne in physical Jerusalem is simply not Biblical.
The primary text under consideration is:
Ephesians 1:15-22 ….Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Paul is beautifully describing a current reality for him in the first century, the reign of Christ. It is a heavenly reign with Christ seated in the heavenlies not on the earth. It is a reign at the right hand of the Father. Most Christians can look at this passage and not grasp the implications. As a premill, I was taught that this passage describes the reign of Christ in the age in which we are now living (the same age in which Paul was living) and in the "age to come" which is the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. However…. Paul in describing the nature and location of the reality of Christ's first century, also states that this reality continues throughout the "age to come." That is, even if we futurize the Millennium, which can chronologically be dismantled through numerous other means, the location (in heaven) and the nature (spiritual) of Christ's reign does not change. He was "physically" located in heaven for Paul enjoying a spiritual rule, and He will remain so throughout "the age to come."
This comports with this passage's reference to Psalm 110 which arguably is the most important OT passage to the NT authors as it is referenced and/or alluded to more than any other. Psalm 110 states that Christ is to sit at the right hand of the Father (He is fixed there) UNTIL His enemies are made His footstool. Now since this already happened judicially at the Cross, this cannot be what is being referred to here, but rather the actual practical subjugation of Christ's enemies during the ages. The writer of Hebrews recognizes this tension:
Hebrews 2:8For in that He 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.
There will come a day when we will see all things put under Him practically, and He remains at the Father's right hand until that happens and will physically return concurrent with the destruction of the LAST enemy, death (1 Cor. 15:26). When He returns there will be no enemies left to vanquish, the Kingdom is complete, consummated, and handed over to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24). So… He cannot leave the heavenly throne and position to come to rule from the earth, which is merely His footstool (Isaiah 66:1), for in the Premill paradigm, satan is still not in the Lake of Fire, sin is still alive and kicking, and death is still a reality for the saved, and there are enough enemies to provoke a final eschatological showdown at the end of the Millennium. This is utterly contrary to Scripture. What is that sound? It is the tumblers falling into place. The "age to come" and the Kingdom are now present in His New Covenant people, the Church. Scripture offers no alternative.
ADDENDUM 4/7/04: Now in presenting this idea for debate I have come across two noteworthy objections. First, it was rightly objected that the Ephesians text is not speaking of geography but rather of position. For example, the passage says that we are also seated in the heavenlies, and we obviously are not physically there, but positionally. On its face the objector is completely right that the focus of the passage is not geography, however, I submit that the objection answers itself. How? We are positionally in heaven through the concept of representative agency through Christ who is actually in heaven. His "position" is not simply positional, it is actual. Part and parcel of the position of Christ is His location. He reigns from where YHWH reigns: from heaven. Looking again at the passage…
Ephesians 1:20…which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
The rest of the New Testament teaches the raising was literal/physical and He literally/physically was taken up into Heaven (Acts 1:8). This is not merely positional for Christ. The position is subsumed by the actual. What others can only have by virtue of vicarious position (ie Psalm 110 applies as well to past Hebrew rulers yet ultimately to Christ); Christ in reality possesses. Further…
Luke makes it a point to say that the LOCATION was key in the Psalm 110 passage (which is the clear referent for the Ephesians passage) as follows:
Acts 1:34For David himself did not ascend into the heavens but he says himself: The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.
Luke's point is that David could not have fully-filled that passage for though David may have positionally been at YHWH's right hand, he did not really get seated by LOCATION in the heavens but Christ DID.
Moving on, the second objection was that this same passage is limited to Christ's reign over the church as the "nations" were not specifically mentioned. I do not grant this objection the weight that I did the first, but feel it needs to be addressed as this is the more common dispensationalist apologetic. Now let's look at some other passages and then come back to Ephesians 1 to tie it all down.
Psalm 110:2bRule in the midst of your enemies!
As stated, Psalm 110 is describing the current state of Christ and His current position (including location). He is currently reigning from the right hand of YHWH, and is currently reigning over His enemies. Unless the Church is His enemy, His present rule is NOT restricted to simply the Church and angels (good or bad). Now it may be objected that this passage does not say that He is ruling over His enemies, but merely in the midst of them, so let's address that.
Psalm 2:7-9I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces likes a potter's vessel.
This once again is describing the current reign of Christ. Over the nations. Over ALL. It is not speaking of a Millennium of peace, but of violence in which Christ conquers the disobedient, of which there are plenty. Notice in Psalm 110:2 a "rod" is also mentioned. It is the rod of the present rule of Christ. The Book of Hebrews chapter 1 tells us that the Psalm 2 event started in the first century. He was then ruling over ALL, in fact He was "upholding ALL things by the word of His power."
Daniel 7:13-14I 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.
This is not speaking of a descent to earth. Notice the directionof the coming. It is UP to the Father. This is not speaking of His return DOWN to the earth, but of His vindication over death and ascension to the Father.... the very same event spoken of by the Ephesians passage. This is quite obvious.
Now let's look once again at that primary text for discussion breaking it apart a bit....
Ephesians 1:19... and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places....
Pause. He was raised and was seated. That is exactly what is being spoken of in Daniel 7. God raised up Christ to Him and seated Him with Him ("thrones" were put in place - Daniel 7:9). This is also what is being spoken of in Psalm 110. What was Christ to do? RULE in the midst of His enemies would includes the nationswhich are explicitly mentioned in Daniel 7 and Psalm 2.
To continue ...
Ephesians 1:21... far above all principality and power and might and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
Pause. This scope of authority is not limited. Paul goes out of his way to be unlimited. Is there a name to be named? Christ is ruling over it and subjugating it. Is that "name" a nation? Is that name the "nations"? It is included. Paul is universal in his scope. Additionally Paul states that the extent of Christ's reign remains the same spanning two ages. If one is pushing off the beginning of the "age to come" to some future Millennium, the scope and character of that reign cannot be fundamentally different then the scope and character of His current reign, ie., if He is not ruling over the nations now, He won't be then either.
Let's look at the extent that Paul gives (and remember just in case he missed anything, Paul adds "and every name that is named" - similar to how Psalm 8:6 goes so far as to say even the animals are included in this dominion).
Principality- arche (Strong's 746) - this word primarily means beginning, thus signifying authority, but it is used of human rulers and authorities such as magistrates (Luke 12:11), governors (Luke 20:20), as well as Christ Himself (Col1:18; Rev 22:13); and most likely the Father (Rev 1:8).
Power - exousia (Strong's 1849) - the word primarily means authority, it is used of humans very often as in governing power or authority (Luke 23:7 is a good example). It is not limited.
Might - dunamis (Strong's 1411) - from which we get the word dynamite - mighty works or power. Human or otherwise.
Dominion - Kuriotes (Strong's 2963) - government, lordship. It unequivocally is referring to human government in Jude 8 and 2 Pet 2:10.
This are the words used to encompass the scope of Christ's Lordship. Now let's look at a related passage…
Colossians 1:16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions (kuriotes) or principalities (arche) or powers (dunamis). All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
The verse is speaking of the supremacy of Christ over all things and uses the very same words. One cannot limit the range of meanings here or in Ephesians. The nations are not some rogue entities outside the primacy of Christ. The connection is tight. One cannot examine the Ephesians passage while not taking into consideration this one as well.
Thus any attempt to limit the Ephesians verse does not work. The same rule Christ was enjoying when Paul wrote, is the same rule He will/is enjoying in the age to come. Nothing is added. Not the nations. Nothing.
Discuss this article here.
-Dee Dee Warren