JESUS CHRIST THE KING
MATTHEW was a Hebrew, whose calling in life was that of a tax-gatherer under the Roman government. His writing evidences his acquaintance with the Hebrew Scriptures, and especially with those which foretold the coming of the Messiah King. Thus, both in his religious thinking and in the prosecution of his daily calling he was familiar with the idea of government.
His story of the life and work of Jesus is naturally therefore a setting forth of the King and His Kingdom. The book falls into three parts. In the first Matthew introduces the Person (Chapter 1. – Chapter 4: 16); in the second he tells the story of the Propaganda (Chapter 4: 17- Chapter 16: 20); and in the last chronicles the events of the Passion (Chapter 17: 21 - Chapter 28.).
A. THE PERSON OF THE KING
The King is presented to us in a threefold relation: to earth, to heaven, and to hell [Hades/Sheol].
As to the first, after the manner of His nation, the genealogy
which sets Him in purely Jewish legal relationship is given. Then follows the account of His birth, and it
is the only account of the origin of the unique Personality of Jesus which is
at all able to satisfy the reason. In a
mystery passing our comprehension, the King is Son of God, and Son of
Mary. Chronologically there is a great
gap between the birth and the baptism, which is filled by the years of human
growth and development at
Crowning the ministry of the herald, the King appeared, and
was baptized in
Immediately from the lofty experiences of anointing and attestation the King passed to the lonely conflict of the wilderness. Here He came into grips with the arch-enemy of the race, the conspirator against heaven’s order. The devil attacked Him in the threefold fact of His human personality, the material basis, the spiritual essence, and the vocational purpose. In every case victory was on the side of the King, and that by simple submission to the law of God. Thus His royalty was created and demonstrated by His loyalty.
Behold, this is our King! Sharer of our nature, and yet bringing into it the Divine nature. Appointed to rule by God Himself, and equipped for administration by the Plenitude of the Spirit. Meeting every onslaught of the foe, and triumphing! Surely we may trust Him. The only adequate expression of trust is obedience.
B. THE PROPAGANDA OF THE KING
The next division contains the account of the propaganda of the King, in which there are three movements: the enunciation of laws, the exhibition of benefits, and the enforcement of claims.
He first gathered around Him a nucleus of disciples. Some of these had been called in the earlier Judaean ministry, which Matthew does not record. They were now called to abandon their fishing in order to be with Him.
After a period of teaching in the synagogues of
While the King had described His Kingdom to the faithful few in the hearing of the multitude, His will was that it should include all men within its embrace. His mission was not to compel by force of arms, but to constrain to willing submission to Himself. In order to do this He went forth, working to illustrate the benefits which must come to such as lived within His Kingdom. This working of wonders was no merely spectacular display on the part of Christ. It was a setting forth of the fact that He was King in all the realms by which their lives were affected. There are three distinct movements noticeable, each culminating in an effect produced upon the crowds.
In the first He demonstrated His power in the purely physical realm by healing leprosy, palsy, and fever, and with an astonishing ease, all that were sick. Thus the King of righteousness in ethical ideals, proved Himself able to correct all disability in the physical realm resulting from sin. The result of this first manifestation of His power was a spontaneous and apparently enthusiastic determination to follow Him on the part of some. Following, however, is not easy. He immediately presented the difficulties of the way, and yet insisted on the absolute importance of coming after Him by calling men to break with every other tie rather than fail in this matter.
In the second movement the King’s power was seen operating in other spheres. He was Master of the elements, He exercised imperial sway in the mystic spirit-world, He claimed authority in the moral realm. The result produced upon the multitude by these manifestations was that they were afraid, and glorified God.
The third manifestation included the first two in its exercise of power, in both physical and spiritual realms. He recalled the [animating] spirit of the child of Jairus to its clay tenement, and by the healing of a woman, revealed His method of answering faith by the communication of virtue. The result produced upon the multitudes now was that they were filled with wonder, and the Pharisees suggested an explanation, to which they gave more definite voice later.
The section dealing with His enforcement of claims opens with a brief paragraph, full of suggestiveness, revealing the King’s heart, as in the presence of all the need of men He is ever moved with compassion. He now called twelve of His disciples, and commissioned them as apostles. His charge to them included instructions which affected their immediate work, and indicated the lines of the work of their successors to the end of the age. This commissioning of the apostles was immediately followed by four illustrations of the kind of obstacles which confronted the King in His work. The perplexity of the loyal was manifest in the question of John; the unreasonableness of the age in His description of its children; the impenitence of the cities in His denunciation of them; and finally, the blindness of the simple.
The King is then seen in conflict. Opposition to Him became active. Twice the rulers attacked Him concerning His attitude to the Sabbath. They attempted to account for His power by attributing it to complicity with the devil. With supercilious unbelief, they asked a sign. Moreover, He had to contend with opposition which must have been more painful to Him than that of His avowed enemies. His own mother, unable to understand Him, sought to persuade Him to abandon His work.
In the presence of this increasing opposition the King uttered His great parables of the Kingdom. These may be divided into two groups: first, those spoken to the multitudes; secondly, those spoken to the disciples only. In the first there are four parables, revealing the method of the King, the method of the enemy, the worldly growth of the Kingdom, and the introduction of the corrupting influence of leaven. In the second there are four parables, the first three viewing the kingdom from the Divine standpoint, the last teaching the responsibility of those to whom the revelation was committed.
Proceeding with His work the King encountered increasing opposition from His own, from the false king Herod, from the Pharisees. In the intervals of this clearly marked growth of antagonism there were remarkable manifestations of Kingly power, revealing to such as had eyes to see, how beneficent was His rule.
At last a crisis was reached. At Caesarea Philippi He gathered His disciples about Him, and asked them in effect what was the result of the work He had been doing. Their answers were remarkable, but none of them, reporting the opinions of the multitude, satisfied His heart, and He challenged them as to their opinion. Peter’s confession opened the way for the King’s entry upon His final [redemption] work. He had fulfilled the first movement of His ministry, that of revealing to at least a handful of souls the truth concerning His Person, and His relation to the Divine economy. Henceforth there would be a new note in His teaching, a further revelation in His attitudes.
C. THE PASSION OF THE KING
The King practically broke with the multitudes at Caesarea Philippi. Henceforward His principal work was directed to leading the little group of His own into deeper appreciation of the meaning of His mission. The multitudes, however, perpetually broke in upon His teaching, and He always answered them in blessing. With regard to His own, His teaching now centred around the Cross. At once they became afraid, and a distance between Him and them is observable. To three of their number He granted a marvellous revelation of His glory. Yet even there the central thought was that of the Cross. During the days that followed, all the disciples pre-conceived notions of royalty, of greatness, of the value of material things, were rudely shaken as He declared to them the way to the crown must be that of the Cross. Yet let it be carefully observed that He never mentioned the Cross without also announcing the fact of [His] resurrection.
As the end approached, the King went to
Having officially rejected the nation, He, again devoted
special time to His disciples. His
For us the Via Dolorosa is always bathed in the sunlight of the resurrection. It is a little difficult to observe those dark and awful days in which the earthly ministry of the King ended. The ultimate victory is always sounding its triumphant music in our ears. And yet we must walk this way with Him meditatively, and in some senses experimentally, if we would share the travail that makes His Kingdom come. Therefore, as we read and ponder the tragic story, let us pray for such illumination of His sorrows by the Spirit as shall give us to have some fuller consciousness of the cost at which our royal Master won the glorious victory. In proportion as we are able to do this, our songs of triumph will be richer, fuller, when striking death to death, He comes forth, never again to know defeat, but to move with sure and unerring progress to the ultimate victories.
A solemn awe takes possession of the spirit as the final movements in the progress of the King are considered. No more radiant light ever fell from human love upon the sorrowing Christ than that of Mary’s appreciation of His sorrow as expressed in her act of worship, and no more terrible darkness ever came to Him from human selfishness than that of Judas’ treachery. A sad and solemn gathering, yet thrilling with hope, and merging in music, was the Passover feast. There the types and shadows of the past had their fitting ending in the presence of the Antitype and the Substance.
And now the King passed into the darkness. We cannot accompany Him. We may reverently stand upon its outer margin, and listen with bowed heads to the sob of the unutterable deep, as in a death‑grapple in the darkness, He took hold upon the spoiler of His people. In the garden the last shadows of temptation fell, and the final triumph of devotion was won. Terrible beyond all human comprehension was that to which the King passed. Glorious beyond all finite explanation was the stern triumph of the will which yielded itself at cost to the accomplishment of the One and only Will. That vast sea of sorrow broke in angry and hissing waves upon the shore, and from that surf we gain some faint and far-off notion of the sea. Then solemnly we follow Him by reading again and again the awful story of the mind of love, stronger than death.
All sorts and conditions of men were gathered about the cross, and though at the moment they did not realise it, it was in their midst, the King’s great throne, at once a throne of judgment and a throne of grace. From it they parted, some to the right, others to the left, according as they crowned or crucified.
Man’s last and worst was done. The King was dead. From the moment of His dying none but tender hands touched Him, and from the moment of His burial none but loving eyes saw Him.
The night has passed, the day has dawned. A new glory is on the whole creation. It will be long years, as men count time, ere the groaning cease, and the sob is hushed, but the deepest pain is passed in His pain, and the wound of humanity is staunched at its centre. Strange new glories break in the dawning of the first day of the week.
The King’s followers, discouraged and scattered, were gathered together, while a new heroism possessed them. For one brief while He tarried, and at last, with a majesty of authority such as man had never known, He uttered His commission, and declared His abiding presence.
Reverently, and with meaning such as mortals never knew, there pass our lips in His presence words often uttered, but never before with such confidence or courage, “Long live the King,” and in answer we hear His words spoken, a little later, to a lonely man in an island of the sea, “I am alive for evermore.”
* * *
OF JESUS CHRIST
THE only satisfactory introduction to the book of Revelation is found in the text thereof, which deals with authorship, nature, origin, method, and intention. Its earliest phrase constitutes its title, and indicates its content. It is the “unveiling of Jesus Christ.” Our analysis is based upon the supposition that the key to the interpretation of the book is found in the final charge of Jesus to John, “Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass after these.”
There is first a Prologue (1: 1-3), followed by an Introduction (1: 4-8). Then follow the three main divisions dealing with the unveiling of Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ Himself (1: 9-20); Jesus Christ and the Church (Chapters 2. & 3.); Jesus Christ and the Kingdom (Chapters 4. - 22: 5).* The book closes with an Epilogue (22: 6-21).
[* That is, both His Millennial and Eternal kingdom which will follow “the thousand years”.]
The foreword constitutes a key to the study of the book as it declares its nature to be that of the unveiling of Jesus Christ; its origin, that God gave the things to His Son to show; and its method, that He signified them by an angel to John. It closes with a blessing pronounced upon those who read, and hear, and keep.
The apostle introduced his writing of the message received with a double benediction; grace and peace to the churches, glory and dominion to Jesus Christ. He then declared that the hidden One is yet to be revealed, and pronounced the Divine name in all its majesty.
A. JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF
The first division
of the book deals with what Christ referred to by the phrase “the things which
thou sawest.” The
apostle described the occasion of the coming to him of the unveiling. As to earthly conditions, he was in
[* NOTE. “And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord; because all those men which have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them see it:” (Num. 14: 21-23, R.V.). See also Psa. 95: 11; Heb. 4: 1. “For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. … Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience:” (Heb. 4: 8, 9, 11, R.V.).]
B. JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
There can be no doubt that the seven letters contained in this
division were directed to churches actually in existence in the days of
John. Nevertheless they reveal a
seven-fold condition, lasting through the dispensation of the Church, and
almost certainly indicate a process in Church history. That to the church at
[* NOTE. There can be no doubt in the minds of God’s enlightened people as regards the nature of the present-day apostasy, when the vast majority of regenerate believers are openly denying their Lord’s rule of righteousness and peace upon this earth for “a thousand years,” (Rev. 20: 4)! Six times, God has used the expression in His Revelation; and the Anti-millennialists continue in their disbelief of the numerous divine prophecies which point us forward to His “Sabbath-rest,” when the curse of Eden will be lifted: “For,” (as a result of the fall) “the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. … For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8: 19-21): and its ‘pain’ will continue to increase until the time of the birth of righteous souls from the Underworld of ‘Hades’ at the time of “the resurrection [out] from the dead,” (Phil. 3: 11; Luke 20: 35; Rev. 6: 9-11; John 3: 13, etc.).]
C. JESUS CHRIST AND THE KINGDOM
The final division of the book opens with the phrase, “After these,” which is another translation of the same phrase rendered “hereafter,” in the commission to John. It indicates that all that is to follow takes place after the conditions described in the previous division, that is, the end of the Church period. In it we see the unveiling of Jesus Christ in the movements which establish the Kingdom in the world. It falls into three sections. The first deals with millennial preparation, and is by far the largest; the second in very brief sentences describes the millennium; while the third has to do with millennial issues.
The subject of millennial preparation is introduced by preliminary pictures of the heavenly order and the earthly administration, and then becomes a symbolic description of the procedure. At the centre of everything a Throne is established and occupied. In closest connection therewith are four living ones who in ceaseless worship attest the holiness of the One Who occupies the Throne. Circling around these, four-and-twenty elders declare Him worthy to receive the glory, and the honour, and the power of all created things.
In the hand of the One Who sits upon the Throne lies the programme of events. It is written but sealed, and none can know it. The Lamb by virtue of victory won is able to take the book and unseal it, that the programme may be carried out. This fact is heralded by the songs of living ones, of elders, of countless thousands of angels, and of the whole creation of God. Thus in preparation for a description of the perplexing events which are to follow, it is revealed that holiness is established upon the central Throne, and that it acts through Him Who is the Exponent of the infinite Love.
That part of this section dealing with the procedure of millennial preparation is the most intricate in the whole book. It is a symbolic prophecy of movements occupying seven years, during which evil works itself out to final issues under the government of God. In this there are two great movements, the first dealing with the first three and a half years (chapter 6. to chapter 11.). In this there is an interpolation (chapter 10.-11: 14). The second movement (chapters 12. to 18.) covers the last three and a half years, and is introduced by an interpolation (chapters 12. to 14.).
The events immediately following the end of the Church dispensation are symbolically set forth. The first seal is opened, and one representing false authority is seen going “forth conquering and to conquer.” The second seal is opened, and carnage and bloodshed follow as the outcome of military despotism. The third seal is opened, and famine follows in the wake of commercial despotism. The fourth seal is opened, and death in its most terrible forms reigns. In the opening of these first four seals the true nature of evil is graphically set forth, as to its strength and weakness. At the opening of the fifth seal the cry of slaughtered Saints is heard, and to the martyrs are given the white robes which are the reward of fidelity. The opening of the sixth seal is immediately followed by premonitions of the coming One. The first of four seals revealed the development of lawless government. The fifth gave the cry of the saints, and the answer in heaven. At the opening of the sixth, signs are given of the established order of true government, notwithstanding the apparent victory of the false. Restraining angels are now seen holding in cheek the hurricanes of Divine judgment, while the scaling of an elect number of the servants of God takes place. From this sealing the seer turns to contemplate a great vision in heaven of a vast multitude lifting the song of salvation. In response to the inquiry of the seer, the angel declares that these have come out of the great tribulation. At last the seventh seal is opened. Heaven is sensible of the stupendous importance of this seal, and its songs are hushed, and prayer is silent for half an hour. Then seven archangels receive trumpets, and prepare themselves to sound.
How long a period elapses between the sounding of the trumpets we cannot tell. The rapid grouping of the first four would seem to suggest their quick succession. The sounding of the first is followed by a storm and tempest over the earth. The second sounds, and another convulsion more terrible than the first, follows. The third sounds, and by the touch of a star God changes the character of a third part of the waters of the earth. The fourth angel sounds, and the earth is affected by a display of power among the heavenly bodies. Between the sounding of the fourth and fifth trumpets there is a pause. A flying eagle proclaims a threefold coming woe, and the proclamation is an evidence of the long-suffering of God. At the sounding of the fifth trumpet the procedure of judgment takes on a new form. New forces of a spiritual nature produce physical pain and death. The sounding of the sixth trumpet introduces a period in which an army of evil spirits hitherto held in bondage are loosened.
Under the period of the sixth trumpet we have an interlude which chronicles the events preparing the way for the sounding of the seventh and last. A strong angel, full of glorious dignity, gives to the seer a book, and charges him to eat it. Following this, John measures the temple, and two witnesses deliver their testimony for three and a half years. It must be remembered that John is not now describing what he sees, but writing what he is told. The testimony of the witnesses is not a brief one given between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets. Between these soundings he is told that they exercise their ministry during three and a half years. At last the message being so fully delivered that men know it, the witnesses are slain. The seventh angel at length sounds, and the period ushered in includes all the remaining pre-millennial process.
At the sounding of this seventh trumpet John is given a series
of visions dealing with the great facts and conditions leading up to the things
actually following the sounding of the trumpet.
They constitute a re-statement of subjects already dealt with in
slightly different form. The sign of the
woman and the man-child is, as to the woman, that of the external manifestation
of loyalty to God, which includes all ages and dispensations; and as to the
man-child, that of the coming out of the Church of the Firstborn at the call of
Christ from that which was external only, at the end of the Church period, at
the beginning of the seven years. Then follows the war in heaven, and the casting out of Satan half
way through the period of tribulation.
The scene of conflict is now upon the earth, and Satan is seen against
the woman. Still reviewing the processes
of the past three and a half years, the seer describes the beasts, and then his
attention is turned again to the heavenly order. There we see once more the one hundred and
forty-four thousand surrounding the Lamb, while angels in succession set forth
the supremacy of God, the fall of
Before commencing the detailed description of the final
processes of judgment, John beheld a vision in heaven revealing the prepared
order. Standing by a sea of glass,
mingled with fire, is a great host of those who have overcome the beast. They are singing the song of Moses and the
Lamb. Following this vision of the
victorious hosts John beholds the opening
The judgment of
In the next section we have a brief description of the millennium. This is introduced by an account of heavenly rejoicing. There are three great movements of praise. The first is that of a great multitude in heaven. The second is that of the elders and the living ones. The third is that of a mighty chorus, which John describes by a threefold symbol, as the voice of a great multitude, of many waters, of mighty thunders. Immediately following, the marriage ceremony of the Lamb is described, and Jesus is manifested to the world. It is the coming of the true King into His Kingdom. His name is “The Word of God,” that by which He was known when He appeared full of grace and truth. Man in his rebellion is gathered to oppose Him. The battle is immediately joined. There is no indecision, no varying fortunes. It is quick, sharp, decisive, terrible. The King and His armies are supernatural. It is the hour when heaven is touching earth. The spiritualities which men have refused to acknowledge are carrying out a judgment due to blasphemous denial. Victory having thus been obtained over all the manifestation of godlessness on earth, Satan is arrested and imprisoned.
Then follow in brief sentences the only account which this book contains of the actual millennium. It will be a time of perfect, earthly government, an absolute monarchy, that of the God-appointed and anointed King.
The final section deals with millennial issues. During the period of perfect government no active rebellion will be possible, but there will still exist an un-manifested capacity for rebellion. At the close of the period Satan will be loosed in order that once again hidden evil may be brought to light for final destruction. Then follows the last apostasy, and fire devours its armies.
John now saw that last assize when the dead, small and great,
will be gathered before the Judge.
Finally Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, and John beholds
beyond it the beginning of the great [eternal] Kingdom of the Son, that glorious reign of the Lamb
in association with His Bride, over a [‘new’] earth and a [‘new’] heaven from which all evil has been finally
banished.* Toward a city of
[* NOTE. The “New heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21: 1), is not a restoration of this present earth which will be destroyed after Christ “shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father” (1 Cor. 15: 24, R.V.); and “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3: 10, R.V.).]
The great unveiling is accomplished. What follows is of the nature of ratification and enforcement. The final words of Jesus declare all to be faithful and true, announce His advent, call all trusting souls to Himself, and utter solemn warnings. The final word of John is that of assent and invitation to his Lord, and the benediction pronounced upon all the saints.
“Cast not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience [perseverance, endurance], that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise.” (Heb. 10: 35, 36, R.V.).