James: Since Christ has won the victory over death and Satan, and has ascended up above all heavens, is it true that He rules the world now? Some believe that as soon as He arose He began to reign.
Ben: The short answer is “No”. He has complete title to it, but has not yet taken up His rights. King David is a type of Christ in this area - he was anointed king, but he was given the kingdom for some years. David slew the enemy Goliath, and obtained a great victory, but had to wait. Many scriptures point to the fact that Christ has not yet taken up His kingly rights. Hebrews 2:8-9, “But now we see not yet [my emphasis] all things subjected to him, but we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour”.
In Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27 we are given two similar parables; although there are important differences they both refer to the responsibility of servants during the absence of their lord. The Lord is referring to Himself as the master who goes away. In Matthew, it says that he went away, and in verse 19, “After a long time the lord of those bondmen comes and reckons with them”. This is an indication of the present period. In the parable in Luke 19:12 “A certain high-born man went to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and return”. He is now in heaven, awaiting the kingdom from the Father. His servants were to trade while he was coming, “But his citizens [a different group] hated him, and sent an envoy after him, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us”. The “citizens” were the Jewish leaders; their refusal of Christ and their hatred was sealed by stoning Stephen – in a figure they sent him [the envoy] to glory with the message “we will not have Christ to reign over us”.
James: What is Christ’s position now?
Ben: Scripture tells me that He is seated at the right hand of God – not yet on His own throne. In 1 Peter 3:22 we get – “who is seated at the right hand of God, gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being subjected to him”. These are heavenly beings. There is no mention of the earth or nations being placed under Him. This is supported by Psalm 110:1, “Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet”. This is quoted in part in Hebrews 1:2-3, “the Son … set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high”. Although all things are subjected to Christ in principle or anticipatively, in fact this has not yet happened, as quoted above in Hebrews 2:8-9.
James: The world is in a mess. Recently a person wrote: Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are "having us on", or by imbeciles who really mean it! This situation is not worthy of the reign of Christ. My instincts tell me that He is not reigning now.
Ben: Exactly. However we don’t go by instincts alone, but by the scriptures. The prophets of old tell us of many things that will mark the reign of Christ, and none of these are in place now. We will take them up more fully at another time, but a few of these can be cited now with a minimum of references for the sake of brevity: The Jew will be held in honour (Isaiah 61:5-9), Jerusalem will be the centre of worship and wisdom for the world, the nations shall bring their wealth and tribute (Isaiah 60:1-14); there will be no war - it will be a reign of peace – He is the Prince of Peace; the animal creation will be at rest – they will cease to eat one another, (Isaiah 11:5-10); Israelites will live to a great age – “as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of my people” (Isaiah 65:22). It will be a reign of righteousness, whereas now evil goes unchecked; it is even made legal by our governments. We are told in at least three scriptures that He will rule with a rod of iron - Psalm 2:9, Rev. 2:27 and 12:5. None of these things are in place now.
James: Are conditions going to gradually get better to reach that state? I have heard people say that the leaven [yeast] in the meal in Matthew 13:33 means that the gospel will continue to improve the world and finally the verse in Habakkuk 2:14 will be fulfilled – “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.
Ben: Leaven in scripture is never spoken of favourably. It refers to the secret working of evil. The Lord connects it with hypocrisy in the Gospels. Only once was it allowed in the offerings, and then the two loaves had to be baked – it had to have ceased working. Matthew 13:33 and other verses in that chapter paint a grim picture of the public form that the kingdom would take. It reflects the state of Christendom now. That verse in Habakkuk refers to the millennial reign of Christ. Jesus tells us that the world is already judged. Paul tells us that moral conditions will worsen. They finally become so bad that God cleanses the world by judgment. During that time - the great tribulation - He will secure a great number of people from among the nations (Revelation 7:9-10, 14) and will secure and purify a remnant from Israel who will repent and go into the kingdom.
When God begins a fresh phase in His dealings with mankind, He starts with the best – He starts at the top. Everything in this world degrades. That is just one reason why evolution is nonsense.
James: Well, who does rule the earth now?
Ben: Before answering we must acknowledge that God is in ultimate control. However it can be said that He is not ruling directly. He allows Satan certain scope. It may come as a shock, but at the moment, it seems that Satan is allowed to rule, within limits set by God. In John 12:31 Jesus speaks of Satan as “the prince of this world”. In John 14:30 Jesus refers to the devil, “the ruler of this world comes, and in me he has nothing”. In John 16:11, “because the ruler of this world is judged”. In the second temptation of the devil in Luke 4:5-8, the Lord Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time. The temptation was that “I will give thee all this power, and their glory; for it is given up to me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If therefore thou wilt do homage before me, all of it shall be thine”. As a model for us, Jesus met it with a scripture. Just pause and consider the devil’s words. The Lord did not deny that claim at all. Now we know the reason for the chaos.
James: Why does God allow it?
Ben: I can only offer a few suggestions. God allows man to go his own way; he allows the evil to become fully developed, before He acts in judgment in a broad sense. This principle is established clearly in Genesis 15:16, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full”. Abraham was told that his seed - the nation of Israel - would inherit the land where he was then only a sojourner or pilgrim. God would not then displace the inhabitants of that land - as represented by the Amorites. Why not? Their evil doings would not be full blown for another 400 or more years. So all down the ages – universal judgment is visited upon society when wickedness reaches its peak. To give a common example, the police will often wait a long time while they keep a watch on a drug syndicate. They monitor activities until they see the whole scope of the operation and obtain strong evidence. So it will be in our age. God is waiting in grace for men to repent, but when finally one sits down in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God – an act signifying full blown apostacy - then “the day of the Lord”, judgment begins. See 2 Thess. 2:3-12, Matthew 24:15, etc.
MM September 2008