33, 34.Pilate entered in therefore again into the Praetorium, and called Jesus, and said unto him - "Thou art the King of the Jews?"  Jesus answered him - "Of thyself sayest thou this; or did others say it to thee about Me?"’

Pilate’s words should be read as an interrogation put in the form of affirmation, as when we say - ‘You are going to London next week?’  Jesus would know, in what sense the question was put on Pilate’s part.  And here I am somewhat in doubt in regard to the Saviour’s first question to Pilate.  It may mean, I think, either (1) 'Have you, as governor, felt any jealousy against Me and My pretensions and proceedings, as if I were a seditious man, setting Myself up as a rival to Caesar’s rule over Palestine?’  Or (2) ‘Do you say this, as your own belief, founded on testimonies of the Law and prophets - that a king of Israel shall arise, who shall rule over all; and that I am that king?’  Both these are very reasonable, and both in contrast with the next question.  ‘Or is it merely an accusation against Me put into your mouth by My foes?’ (1) ‘Is it a question of faith, or of unbelief on your part? (2) Or, Is it a question which has arisen out of fear of My designs?  Or merely a pretext suggested to you, of which there was previously no trace in your mind?’

We may state it thus - ‘Dost thou put the question of thy own proper motion?’  Then that may arise (1) from faith, accepting the Scriptures of the Jews, as foretelling a universal king of David’s line; or (2) from Roman and political unbelief; through jealousy of Jesus’ pretensions, as hostile to the Emperor.

The Roman’s reply seems to be especially directed primarily to negative the first of these points.  And the second part of the reply removes the other.  Thus He leaves the Jews as the sole authors of this accusation.

35,36. ‘Pilate answered - "Am I a Jew?  Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee up to me: what hast Thou done?"  Jesus answered - ‘My kingdom cometh not of this world; if it were out of this world, then would My servants have fought, in order that I should be delivered up to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from hence.

The first part of Pilate’s reply is a proud denial of his having any sympathy with Jewish fables and superstitions.  He neither knew nor cared anything about Moses and the prophets.  He was a servant of the fourth great empire of Daniel, and believed nought about any greater empire of God, that should dash to earth that of Rome.

He tells Jesus, that the accusation was put into His mouth by the nation and rulers of Israel, who had led Him thither to be judged.  Thus tacitly He answers the other question which we supposed - ‘That He had not had His eye on our Lord as if He were a seditious man, harbouring the thought of setting up Himself as a king against Caesar.  No such ideas had been suggested to Him by any of the Roman subordinate officers.  The cry against Him as making Himself King, came wholly from His own nation, and from the chief authorities of it.’  Yet Pilate knew also, that the Jews would have been delighted had Jesus lifted up a warlike banner against Rome, and would have been willing to follow Him to battle and to death in pursuance of such a project.  Their choice of the rebel Barabbas was proof positive of that.  He saw, therefore, that it was a mere pretext on their part, because they thus would make our Lord odious in His eyes, and obnoxious to death by Roman Law.  But how little the Roman Emperor and his Governor need fear a King, who was accused to him by His own nation of treason against the Emperor!  How should He be feared, when His own people took part against him?

The Saviour’s reply is one which is much quoted by anti-millerians.   To their eyes it demolishes all ideas of any [millennial] reign of Christ in person over Israel and the earth.  ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’  Thereby they understand, that the sphere of the Lord’s reign is never to be on [this] earth.  But that is a sense derivable solely from the ambiguous character of the English translation.  A glance at the Greek dissipates the argument.  Then it is seen that our Lord’s reply is, ‘The source of My kingdom is not out of this world.  If it were, I should call on My subjects to erect the kingdom by the usual means open to men - the sword of earth.  Had it been so, I should have called on all my disciples to fight for me, against any arrest by the Jews, with design to deliver Me to death.’

These words refer not only to the twelve and our Lord’s prohibition of the sword in the Garden to them; but also to His refusal to attempt to set up the kingdom of God by human might, when the multitudes led Him in triumph into Jerusalem.

How shall we take the ‘now’ in the Lord’s closing words?  1. Is it a particle of time?  ‘For the present My kingdom is not from this world.’ No!  For the source of the Lord’s kingdom would always abide the same; always would its source be heavenly.  The Father’s will is to bestow it on the Son, and His decree is that it should be established, not by the armies of men, but by the host of angels from on high.  (2) The last clause, ‘not from hence,’ establishes the rendering here given; and the sense - ‘Heaven, not earth, is the source of our Lord’s future kingdom.’

For the Saviour could not deny that His kingdom was one day to rule over the land of Palestine, and over the earth in general as its sphere.  For the Scriptures had in places not a few declared, that the [now present] earth, and all lands, and kings, shall be subjected to Him.  Thus it is written, that at the seventh trump the kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdom of God and of His Christ (Rev. 11: 15).  So the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse speaks of the reign of Christ asthe Prince of the kings of the earth,’ and as ruling over the whole worldSo the eighth and seventy-second Psalms affirm.  The interpretation here given accords also with the reason assigned by our Lord; and it was as fitted as the usual one, to quiet Pilate’s mind concerning our Lord Jesus’ kingdom refused the might of men to set it up.  O, then, Pilate and the Emperor might lie on their oars in full security.  Neither of the two reared any battalions of the heavenThey were the dreams of enthusiasts alone!

Our Lord does not answer the question, ‘What He had done?’ till His next reply. What is the Saviour’s kingdom?  A kingdom,’ most [of the regenerate] reply, ‘in the hearts of His people.’ Nay, the kingdom is to be seen when He is beheld coming in the clouds, with power of His angels, casting His foes into the furnace of fire, and rewarding His well-behaved and faithful servants (Matthew 24. 25.Says Pilate, ‘Thy people, O king, have themselves delivered Thee up to me, as an offender to be slain!’  And Jesus, while owning Himself ‘King of the Jews,’ as the Prophet had declared, must yet say, that on worldly grounds His servants would have fought against the Jews, as against enemies. ‘All the foundations are out of course.’  That ‘Jesus is the King of Israel’ had been declared at His birth (Matt. 2: 2).  He had owned it in the mouth of Nathaniel (John 1: 49, 50).  He had presented Himself purposely as their King, in His entry into Jerusalem on the ass.  He describes Himself as judging all the nations of earth as King (Matt. 25: 31, 34).  In Rev. 1: 5, He is ‘Prince of the kings of the earth.’  In Rev. 20.  He is seen reigning.

37.  ‘Pilate saith therefore unto Him, "Thou art a King then." Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a King.  I was for this purpose born, and for this purpose came into the world, in order that I should bear witness to the truth.  Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice."

 Jesus had thrice spoken of ‘His kingdom.’  But if so, He owned Himself to be a King.

Jesus admits it.  In what sense?  Some pervert His words, as if the following sentiments of our Lord were descriptive of the nature of His kingdom.  As though He had said, ‘I am King in a figurative sense.  I reign spiritually in the hearts of My people.  I am King: but My realm is that of grace and truth.’  Now if this were the only passage, there might be some appearance of truth in such a view.  But when we bring [in many] other passages, it is apparent that this is a mistake.  The only shelter which the sentiment can find lies in this, that the present time is the time of the kingdom in mystery, and the present day is that of ‘the word of the kingdom.’

But it must never be forgot, that both in the other Gospels and in this, Jesus was asked whether He were ‘the King of the Jews.’  To that question Jesus answered in the affirmativeTherefore it is certain, that Jesus’ kingdom is not only or chiefly a figurative one, but a real and literal one [hereafter], (1) over the nation of Israel, and (2) over Jerusalem.  It was in the foretold manner of the King of Mount Zion, that Jesus entered it, according to the prophet’s word (Zech. 9: 9).  He spoke, too, of Jerusalem being (one day) ‘the city of the Great King’ (Matt. 5: 35).  He was born in David’s city, as heir to His throne, according to the word of the angel to Mary (Luke 1: 32, 33).  Lastly, our Lord in the messages to the churches speaks of His future reign over the nations of the earth, and invites His [redeemed] people to seek a place with Him therein (Rev. 2: 26, 27; 3: 21).

The nature of the kingdom, then, is wholly misapprehended by those who make it something figurative and present.  This is not truly the time of the Saviour’s [coming millennial] kingdom.  We are to pray for its coming; not for its extension.  The kingdom, generally, means the kingdom in manifestation, not ‘the word of the kingdom’ only.  It is to overturn the kingdoms of the earth when it comes; not as now, while in mystery: its adherents lying passive in the hands of the kings of the earth, and refusing to take power in, and over, the world.*

[*This is why Christians should refuse to vote or take part in World Politics.  By participating in political activity, they spoil their testimony relative to the coming millennial kingdom of Christ: and their actions demonstrate their mistaken notion that this world’s conditions can be improved. Our Lord and the scriptures tell us the contrary; that the world and its inhabitants are becoming more and more wicked and corrupt.]

Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world by Satan, and He might have taken the kingdom over Israel by the impressment of the Jews.  But both the sources were impure.  He will receive neither from man; both from the hand of His Father.

This was ‘the good confession’ before Pilate, which cost our Lord His life, (1Tim. 6: 13).

(1) In Daniel 7: 14-27, ‘the Son of Man’ as ‘Ancient of Days,’ puts down by force and justice the fourth empire, and its blaspheming King; while He gives the kingdom which He has taken away from the Blasphemer, to His fellow-kings.  (2) So in the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19.)  The nobleman is gone to heaven to obtain His kingdom.  He does not exercise it while in heaven: it is only at His return, after the reception of His kingdom, that He exercises it.  And how does He manifest it?  By exalting His friends and faithful servants; and by destroying His foes.  That is, His kingdom never means an inward and invisible kingdom in the hearts of [regenerate] believers.

(3) While Paul* proclaims Jesus as being now the ‘Priest after the order of Melchizedek,’ he speaks also of the day when the Kingly side of that title shall appear.  For Melchizedek was both Priest and King, of which the history of Abraham gives us a typical glimpse.  He brings blessings to Abraham and his sons, after their Gentile foes are cut off (Heb. 7: 1).

[*There is no clear evidence that Paul was the writer of Hebrews.]

(4) His kingdom is to manifest itself in resurrection [of the dead, and in rapture of the living (Rev. 20: 4; 1 Thess. 4: 15, 16)], at His coming with the trump of heaven.  It is to be based on the principle of righteousness; in opposition to that of mercy, now in force.  Christ is to reign, not only spiritually over friends, but specially in the putting down by power and righteousness, all enemies.  So says Paul, 1Cor. 15: 24-28 - ‘Then cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He (God) hath put all things under His (Christ’s) feet.  But when He saith, all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him.  And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.’ (5) The same thing appears in Rev. 11: 15-18, when the seventh trump sounds; then the kingdoms of the earth became, by the putting forth of God’s might, and the recalling of the power lent in Noah’s day to the sons of men - ‘the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ.’  At that time the nations are not converted and obedient, but are angry with God, and God is angry with them, even to the cutting off of their armies by battle (Rev. 19: 11-21; Isaiah 34.). Then appears the other side of the matter - the kingdom comes, as the time of the reward prepared for God’s [worthy] saints of [all] previous dispensations.*  (6) Accordingly, the thing is shown in the Apocalypse in detail by Christ coming with His armies out of the sky; when, finding the hosts of earth arrayed against Him under two leaders of especial wickedness, He casts the two into the lake of fire, and slays the rest; His title then becoming openly ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Rev. 19: 16). (7) After that, and the imprisonment of Satan, the kingdom is fully manifested.  Christ reigns, and His martyrs who suffered for, and served, Him, sit on thrones, and reign with Christ (20: 4-6).  They then exercise justice: - not as now, suffer oppression patiently.

[That is, all whom our Lord will judge worthy to be with Him at that time: “For I tell you (‘disciples’, verses 1 & 2) that UNLESS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS surpasses that (standard of righteousness) of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, YOU will certainly not enter:” (Matt. 5: 20, N.I.V.).  The Pharisees taught the law but did not practice it; and to interpret the “righteousness” in this context, as implying it is the impeccable and imputed righteousness of Christ, would make nonsense of our Lord’s teaching and warnings to His own disciples!]

The kingdom,’ therefore is to be taken in its usual and literal sense.

(1) The future kingdom of Christ’s glory is to be local - that is, it is to have its place on earth and over heaven.  Of this Psalm 8 is a witness. (2) It is to be exercised on the principle of righteousness: the contrast to the present dispensation (Heb. 1: 8, 9). - ‘But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a septre of righteousness is the septre if Thy kingdom.  Thou hast loves righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore, O God, Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.(Greek.) (3) It is to be personal.  Christ, as King of the kings of the earth and of the twelve tribes of Israel, is to reign over Jew and Gentile.  His kingdom will rule over all, whether friends or foes (Phil. 2: 10, 11; Matt. 19: 28).  It will be both material, and spiritual.  (4) The earth is to be beautiful, as never since the fall; the creatures are to experience a change; human life is to be prolonged; the fields are to give their increase, as never before.  (5) But it has also its spiritual side.  Men are to know the Lord, and go up to worship Jehovah in Jerusalem (Zech. 14).  Peace is to be established in all the earth (Psalm 72: 3; Isaiah 9: 6, 7); the idols are to be destroyed.  Israel is to be a nation of priests to God and all righteous (Isaiah 61: 6; 60: 21).

But to return to our Lord’s words.  Lest Pilate and others should imagine that His kingly aspect was the only one attaching to Him, He proceeds to assert at greater length that side of His mission, which John’s Gospel especially unfoulds - His being a witness to the truth of God as the Only-begotten Son.  This feature can only belong to His kingdom during the time of mystery.  The receivers of the witness of Christ in this day are preparing to be fellow-kings (not merely ‘subjects.’  As is generally said) with Christ ‘They lived and reigned with Christ,’ who suffered with Him in the day of mystery (2 Tim. 2: 12; Rev. 20: 4-6).

Jesus then, sets Himself forth in a new light, and that in a way adapted to lead to the salvation of Pilate as the man.

Jesus is the Witness.  So Isaiah said He should be (Isaiah 55: 4), ‘Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.’  This is a passage taken from the general call of the prophet to the sons of men, to seek in the Son of God that satisfaction which can be found alone in Him.  There also is, first, a reference to the millennium in the expression ‘the sure mercies of David’ - that is, the restoration of His kingdom for ever,* as God promised.  Then comes the notice of the Lord’s establishing Christ as a witness to the nations (Rev. 1: 5, 6).

[* That is, for as long as this present earth exists.  After the millennial kingdom ends and a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev. 21: 1) are created, Christ’s kingdom is eternal.]

Jesus was ‘born’ a king, and with an object before His own mind, as well as before His Father’s.  He existed before He was ‘born.’  He came into the world in pursuance of an object given Him of the Father.

The then present work of our Lord was that of the peaceful, suffering witness, testifying to unpopular truth.  This testimony is carried on still in Christ’s members; by the [Holy] Spirit given to testify to [eternal] salvation now, and to the [millennial] kingdom to come.  This attitude is something quite different from kingly rule and power.  It is ‘the word of the kingdom’ now; the power of it comes only when Christ returns (Matt. 13: 19).

Jesus, then, in verse 37 is stating to Pilate, not the aim of His kingdom; but of His coming the first time in the flesh.  It will be another thing by and bye, when He comes ‘the second time’ in His kingdom, of which the Transfiguration was a type (Matt. 16: 13; 17: 9).

To bear witness to the truth.’ Many in our days profess to be fond of the truth, and to be seeking it, but to be sceptical of finding it.  Jesus came not to seek it; but, as having full possession of it before He was born.  He came to dispense it to others by His testimony.  The truth’ - means that it is a great body and one system; religious truth concerning God and man. Here was the answer to Pilate - ‘What hast thou done?’

Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.’

Here was the appeal to Pilate that he might be saved.  Jesus’ witness was delivered not to Israel alone; as, indeed, ‘the truth’ must take in a far wider sweep than any one nation.  And since the one nation, that seemed especially God’s, was rejecting the truth, Pilate was as welcome to the truth as John.  The new name of God - ‘Father’ - embraces all those as sons who ‘honour the Son even as they honour the Father,’ and worship God in spirit and truth... Faith accepts the tidings, that far away out of sight, the rejected Jesus is seated by the Father on His own throne, and is set at the head of all principality and power.  It looks onward, too, to the near day, when God shall display this King of kings, and put down all other power.