Some interpretations claim that Jesus will not ascend to the throne of David until his return in glory when he inaugurates his kingdom. Only then will he commence his rule over the nations from Jerusalem. Whatever authority he has now, his full messianic reign will not begin until after his return in power (cp. Revelation 20:1-10).
Two key messianic psalms portray a future ideal king who sits on David’s throne figure prominent in the New Testament, which applies them to Christ’s exaltation following his resurrection. According to this usage, already he sits on the Davidic throne at God’s right hand; already Jesus has authority over all nations.
- (Psalm 2:7-9) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
- (Psalm 110:1) – “Yahweh said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, Until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The second psalm promised that God’s anointed king would one day rule on His behalf on the throne of David; the New Testament applies it to Christ’s reign over a half dozen times and places its commencement after his resurrection from the dead.
Preaching at a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, the Apostle Paul declared that God had promised to raise up from David’s seed a man to be Israel’s king, a promise fulfilled in a “Savior, Jesus.” Though the Temple leaders conspired to have Jesus executed, “God raised him from the dead,” as it is “written in the second psalm, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you.” God, as promised, gave him “the holy and sure blessings of David” (Acts 13:22-40). “This day” in the Greek clause stresses the commencement of this reign at a specific point in time.
Paul wrote to the Romans that Jesus was “born of the seed of David according to the flesh, marked off as Son of God in power, according to a spirit of holiness, on the basis of a resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4). Jesus is Lord, Messiah, and the promised descendant of David. The event that marked the start of his reign was his resurrection.
The author of Hebrews contrasts the Son with angels. As glorious as angels are, “to which of the angels said he at any time, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you?” (Hebrews 1:3-5; 5:5). Jesus has, already, “achieved the purification of sin and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” As God’s Son and designated king, he has inherited a more excellent name than the angels.
At its outset, the book of Revelation declares Jesus to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” present tense, and this status is based on his death and resurrection: “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead” (Revelation 1:4-5).
Consequently, Jesus made his followers “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” The Risen Christ promises the victorious believer that he will receive “authority over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: just as I received of my Father…I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father in his throne.” His accession to the throne is described with past tense verbs (Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10).
Jesus is the Davidic king “who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.” Christ is the living one who became dead but is now “alive forevermore and has the keys of death and of Hades.” He is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” but fulfills that role as the sacrificial Lamb. All creation declares the Lamb, “Worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing…To him that sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the dominion forever and ever.” He is the root and offspring of David who holds the Davidic key (Revelation 1:18; 3:7; 5:5-12; 12:5; 22:16).
In Revelation, it is the sacrificial Lamb who receives authority to rule over the Cosmos and nations, not a militaristic leader who slaughters his enemies.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up to preach his first sermon in Jerusalem after receiving the gift of the Spirit. He declared to a crowd of Jewish pilgrims how–
“God had sworn with an oath that of the fruit of David’s loins he would set one upon his throne. Foreseeing this He spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that neither was he left to Hades nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up…Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this that you see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens, but he says, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool. Let all Israel know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:30-36. Cp. Psalm 110:1).
Peter’s verbs are in the past tense; Christ’s exaltation had already occurred as a result of his death and resurrection. Even now, he reigns as Lord and Christ on God’s throne.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul reminded his readers how God “raised Jesus from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places…and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:20-22). To the Corinthians, Paul declared that Jesus has been raised from the dead and installed to reign; “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. For God put all things in subjection under his feet” (Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
Jesus is the founder of our faith who endured the cross and is “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He achieved the “purification of sins” and, therefore, he now reigns at God’s right hand, “angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him” (1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:3; 10:12-13; 12:2).
The New Testament tells a consistent story. Jesus already reigns at God’s right hand as the Davidic king and Messiah due to his obedience to death and his subsequent resurrection. This reign is not future but present. It is not limited to Jerusalem or to the old land territory of Israel, but he reigns from God’s throne over all nations and the entire Cosmos.
All this is just as Yahweh promised David: “I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”