The loss of perception that Jesus (really) is Lord & has all power in heaven and earth now and that this conviction was a supreme, animating force for early Christians and should also be for Christians today is no more apparent than in the loss of the supremacy of the Psalm 110 event in the imagination of the Christian church and the corresponding loss of recognition & observance of Ascension Day.
Today the majority of Christians in the USA celebrate July the 4th but, according to my informal survey in Lancaster Pennsylvania, have no clue when or what Ascension Day even is. We call people who don’t have a basic knowledge about the country they are citizens of irresponsible at best and scandalously ignorant at worst. The Ascension of Christ to rule the world is basic knowledge about the Kingdom of God and I’ll let you draw your conclusions about what this says about Christians of our day.
Many American Christians are quite unaware that the writers of the New Testament had a favorite passage and that it is Psalm 110. Depending on how you figure it ties with references to the 10 Commandments & the Shema (Love God with your all), but by most counts, references & allusions to Psalm 110 far surpasses those other passages. And these references to Psalm 110 are not just incidental comments, but points of high theological significance: A riddle by Jesus that permanently silenced the Jewish rulers, the answer to Pilate’s most important question at Jesus’ trial, the Jewish ruler’s reason for Jesus’ death, the clinching point of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and more. The scandalous thing is that most Christians haven’t heard about Psalm 110 and even if you tell them the passage they have no idea what it contains. Clearly the NT writers and our emphasis has shifted! Not to keep you in suspense, lets look at Psalm 110:
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool...Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek… –Psalm 110:1,4
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. 4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. 7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
We won’t take time to explain the whole passage here (even though it is well worth the time) but just want to cover some of the most important ideas:
- Jesus Has All Power in the World Now
- Jesus is now King of the World
- Jesus’ Kingship is Characterized by Peace & Justice
Jesus Has All Power
For the first Christians something shocking had happened to the earth: It had received a new King. The world had a new President. This was staggering news that shook the world. It made the stars of world that then was fall from the sky. The importance & power of Roman emperors who were always headline news were suddenly eclipsed by a blinding light from heaven & a new reality: Jesus of Nazareth had become the supreme ruler of the world. Paul in Philippians 2 talked about this earth shattering fact in this way: “God hath highly exalted Jesus and given him a name which is above every name…which the whole world will worship…”
Jesus Has All Power Now
When is Jesus Lord, when is Jesus King, and when is Jesus all powerful? Now. All Power is given Me in heaven and earth. (Mt 28:18)In Paul’s day already Jesus had been given a name that is above every name. (Ph 2) And Psalm 110 notes this would happen while enemies are still being subdued. Contrary to common conceptions it seems Jesus can have all power while allowing enemies, which demonstrates that Jesus’ power is of a similar nature to God’s power & nature who is all powerful but at the same time allows human choosing.
Jesus Now Has All Power on Earth
Many are fine saying “Jesus is Lord”, and that Jesus has all power in heaven, but get a little uneasy to make the claim which Mt 28:18 does, which is to say Jesus has all power on earth. How we account for Jesus having all power on earth while He is still “conquering”? I think the key is how God & Jesus wield “All Power”. Which brings us to the last point…
Jesus Now Has All Power On Earth…And It Looks Like Justice & Peace
Who is this Melchizedek guy which Jesus’ rule would be “ordered after”? He holds the key to what kind of rule the all power Christ has and which will inevitably conquer the world. He is the king of Peace. He is the one whose name means king of Justice. (Melek=king; tsadeq=justice) He is the priest of the “most High God”. He brings “bread & wine” which is incredibly hard not to associate with the broken body & shed blood of Christ. After Abraham’s communion with the king of Justice & Peace he adamantly refuses to benefit from war in any way. Some writers note that after Abraham’s meeting with the king of Justice & Peace he saves those in the city by pleading with God instead of killing the enemy.
Why have Christians lost an awareness that Jesus is Lord? Perhaps because we have lost the emphasis that is now sitting at the right hand of God and that Jesus is now truly Lord of the World? Perhaps because we are not convinced that Jesus has All Power, That Jesus has all power Now, That Jesus has all power now in heaven & In Earth. And that Jesus’ all power, now, in heaven & earth looks like Melek of Tsadeq & Shalom and that this power is conquering the world even as we speak. And as Psalm 110 describes, Christ will not stop until there is total victory. If we are really convinced of this, taking a special day to commemorate & worship this ascended Lord seems a very appropiate (if strange to our culture) thing to do.
I’ll have to read that psalm again, it’s been awhile. Thanks for the post.
Typo: Jesus can have all power *while* allowing enemies
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Amen! This has become a favorite scripture of mine ever since discovering it was a favorite of the apostles. The Lord reigns! Let the earth be glad!
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Amen & Hallelujah. 😉 It is a passage that interprets & gives color to many others. (Including Revelation :P) Interestingly the Hallelujah of Revelation is said precisely in the context of the Psalm 110 event: Jesus is Lord! Jesus Reigns! The decisive defeat of the enemy has already happened. I find it intriguing that in spite of various prophetic timelines putting this “Hallelujah” in the future, these very same people intuitively sing this Hallelujah right where it prophetically belongs: in Jesus’ work on earth.
Hmm. I would need to think more about the prophetic timeframe of Revelation 19. There is a tension throughout all of the NT between Christ’s present reign and how he is still waiting for all his enemies to lie beneath his feet.
Ephesians 1 is a passage that cites Psalm 110 and describes the present reign of Christ–a reign where his enemies are already under his feet: “he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.”
In contrast, consider this from 1 Corinthians 15:
“24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”
That passage cites Psalm 8, a psalm that Hebrews 2 uses to explain Psalm 110. Both here and perhaps also in Hebrews 2 there is a “not yet” aspect to Christ’s reign.
Even Psalm 110 itself contains this already, not-yet tension: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Jesus is enthroned according to this passage, but there is the suggestion that his enemies are not yet all under his feet.
So I would tend to see Revelation 19 as still future, but urge us to live confidently with the certainty that it will happen–as certainly as if it already has happened.