by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
A large number of passages establish the reign of Christians. Paul tells us that Christians will reign with Christ after this life is over. "This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us" (II Timothy 2:11-12). John expresses a similar thought in Revelation 3:21, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." It is a reign that will last through all eternity (Revelation 22:5; Ephesians 2:5-7).
Yet, there are also numerous passages that state that Christians currently reign on the earth. "And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." " (Revelation 5:9-10). Some translations render the last statement as "made them to be a kingdom," but the last phrase still states that they will reign on the earth. Peter talks of Christians being a royal, or kingly, priesthood (I Peter 2:9). Paul said, "For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17). Daniel prophesied of this reign of God's people in Daniel 7:18, 22, 27.
It is not the fact that we reign which gives trouble, it is the question of how we reign. Most of us do not feel we have much authority in this world. So how does the Christian reign?
In one sense, we reign by sharing the blessings of our king. As Paul said, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). As adopted heirs of God, we share the benefits of our elder brother's reign upon the throne of God.
Yet, there is more to the Christian's reign. The Bible is clear that we have been granted some authority. "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' --as I also have received from My Father" (Revelation 2:26-27). This verse is particularly interesting as it takes a prophecy of Christ's rule and applies it to each Christian. Perhaps if we understand how Christ reigns we can better understand how we reign with Christ.
We know that God rules over those who choose to be His. God's kingdom is connected with the idea of accepting God's authority (Matthew 6:10, 33). Yet, God reigns even over those who do not accept His rule. Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way (Daniel 4:1-3, 30-37). God rules over all the kingdoms (Psalms 103:19) and His kingdom has no end (Psalms 145:13).
When Christ came, a kingdom was established which would consume all other nations (Daniel 2:44). His rule was not dependent on the acceptance of man (Psalm 2). In fact, Christ is said to rule in the midst of enemies. "The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool." The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! 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" (Psalm 110:1-3). Christ holds all authority, not just in heaven, but also on earth (Matthew 28:18).
Hence, Jesus reigns over the United States and France and Iraq, and every other nation, whether they acknowledge His reign or not. And the Christian reigns with Christ. In accordance with the laws of our kingdom, Christians are obedient to the laws of the nations where they live (Romans 13:1-7). Yet, when these same nations break the laws of God, Christians have the authority to say they will not obey the nations. When the apostles were told to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, they replied that it was better to obey God than man (Acts 4:19-20). Take note of the response by Christians to this event. "So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.' For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts 4:23-28). What gave the apostles the right to tell the rulers of their nation that they were wrong? Jesus gave them the right to rule over the nations. Think about it. When one person tells another this is the way it is going to be, who is in charge?
Our rule is not the right to create our own laws. But we do have the right to impose Christ's laws on others. We have the right to say that God's laws supersede our national laws. We have the right to tell men that they must submit to the will of God. They may not like it. We might be persecuted or even killed for our stand with our king, but the right remains ours. "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:18-19). This translation makes it appear that we can make up our own rules, but Greek is more specific. Whatever we bind on earth are the things which have been bound in heaven. What gives us the right to impose the will of heaven on others? The fact is that as obedient servants of Christ, we reign with Him.