I find it fascinating in discussions with many Christians that when the topic of Christ’s reign is mentioned, thoughts proceed directly to some point in future history. I think we have been conditioned to see the rule and reign of Christ during a future period of redemptive history and fail to see that Jesus is ruling and reigning today from His throne. What is the biblical perspective on this? Although many passages could be mentioned, I direct your attention to a few.
First, if we take a moment and analyze Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, we would discover that he believed that at the ascension of Christ, Jesus assumed His rightful place to rule as David’s greater Son. Peter says, ” Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:29-33 ESV)
What was promised to David has been fulfilled in Jesus. But when? At some future reign from His throne? No, Jesus is reigning today from David’s throne. Where is this throne? It is in heaven at the right hand of God.
Second, consider Paul’s words at the end of Ephesians 1, “…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his [God the Father's] power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that 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 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. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:19-23 ESV)
The great promise of the Old Testament is that Messiah would bring all things in subjection to Himself. Paul says that this was fulfilled when Christ was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God. When does this reign occur? Not only in this age (the present age between the two advents of Christ), but also in the one to come (the fulfillment in the New Heaven and Earth). All things are under the feet, that is, subjected to Jesus today. Until the consummation, they will continue to be put in subjection until the last day, when Christ hands the kingdom over to the father, according to 1 Corinthians 15:15-28. When will this take place? At the return of Christ and the redemption and transformation of our bodies.
Let me reiterate that this does not exclude a future reign of Christ. But it also does not mean that the future reign is Christ’s only reign. Christ is reigning over all today as the risen and exalted One.
Lastly, let me mention a controversial passage, Revelation 20:4-6. It is popular today to see these verses as pertaining only to the future. Allow me to provoke you to another possible and historical understanding of these verses: Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6 ESV)
Without addressing every nuance and subtlety of interpretation, it would appear that in the book of Revelation, the throne of God (and other thrones) except that of Satan and the Beast are located in heaven. This is because John’s imagery is taken from Daniel 7:9-28 (I highly encourage you to read this passage). The Daniel passage speaks of the Son of Man (Jesus), coming before the Ancient of Days (God the Father) to receive a kingdom. According to the Jesus’ and the Apostle’s testimony, this took place at the ascension of Christ (e.g., Matthew 26:64). So it is no stretch to acknowledge that Revelation 20:4-6 is looking at the same scene.
If these thrones are in heaven, and not on the earth, then it would indicate, according to Revelation 20:4, that those who die for their testimony of Christ reign with Christ for a thousand years (which I take as symbolic of the inter-advent period). Implied–that Christ is reigning now! And when we die and go to heaven, we also will reign with Him. In fact, we don’t have to wait until then because we, as believers, have already been seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). So we are reigning with Christ in His kingdom today!
There is grace for life in the fact that we are seated, according to Ephesians 2, by the grace of God alone. He saves us through the death and resurrection of Christ, He places us in heavenly places with Christ, and He, through the Spirit, empowers us to express Christ’s rule in and through our lives today. To what end? That in all things, God may be glorified on this earth through the lives of people who have received and continually receive His glorious grace. We rule by preaching and living the gospel of Christ passionately as we live in Him.
How are you, by the grace and power God, bringing the reality of the kingdom of God to every aspect of your life today. How are you showing the great reality expressed by Abraham Kuyper, who stated so well, ““In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign,does not declare,’That is mine!’”? How are the people around you seeing the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will soon return, and to whom every knee will bow and tongue confess as Lord? May we trust in grace each day to exalt the lordship of Christ who rules and reigns over all things today!