The Promise of His Return, Rule, and Reign
“THE PROMISE OF HIS RETURN, RULE, AND REIGN”
Zechariah 14:4, Genesis 49:10, 2 Samuel 7:16, Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 7:14
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as the “D-S-M”, is the handbook employed by health care professionals as the authoritative guide in evaluating psychological and psychiatric issues with patients. It contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria in helping them to determine maladies related to mental health.
Many of those difficulties relate to depression and anxiety. One such disorder is known as “seasonal affective disorder”—or by its acronym, “S-A-D.” It is an emotional state related to changes in seasons of the year. For most people, symptoms of extreme tiredness and unprovoked moodiness tend to start in the fall of the year and intensify during the winter months...reaching their peak near Christmas and New Year’s.
Mental health professionals tell us that one of the reasons that some people encounter depression during the holidays is because their hopes and high expectations are left unfulfilled. Our consumer-minded society begins marketing Christmas from before Halloween and whips us into a purchasing frenzy in the days leading up to every 25th of December. When the “big day” finally arrives and doesn’t deliver what has been promised, there can be a major “let down.” And, depending on the level of one’s anticipation, the disappointment can easily morph into depression.
Aren’t you glad that the promises of God—so filled with hope and expectation—are always fulfilled in the precise manner that He has said? Over the past several Sundays, we have been looking at many of the Old Testament prophecies related to Jesus’ coming, His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. Every one of them has been fulfilled according the manner in which God said they would occur...often against insurmountable odds.
Today we arrive at the final message in this series: the promise of Jesus’ return, rule, and reign. Of all of the “Christmas promises” we have considered, this one remains to be fulfilled. When Paul spoke of it with Titus, He called it “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The word “hope” carries the idea of “confident expectancy.” We can refer to the fulfillment of our Lord’s future promises with assurance, based upon the manner in which His other promises have already been fulfilled. Jesus Christ is coming back...and when He does, He will rule and reign as King forevermore. We have God’s Word on it.
To begin our discussion, I would like for you to turn with me to Zechariah 14 and verse 4. It is here where we find the promise that...
Jesus Christ will return (Zechariah 14:4).
Zechariah was one of the last of the Old Testament prophets. He wrote to the returning exiles from the Babylonian captivity, encouraging them to complete the project of rebuilding the fallen Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah had more to say about the coming Messiah than perhaps any of the other prophets. As he nears the end of his prophecy, he looks beyond the Lord’s first coming to that day when He will appear a second time. Of that latter revealing, he writes in Zechariah 14:4...
“On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.”
Two generations earlier, another prophet named Ezekiel described how the Lord removed His glory from His people because of their refusal to repent of their sinful ways and return to Him. In describing the departure of the Lord’s presence, Ezekiel (11:23) writes that “the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.” That “mountain” was the Mount of Olives.
Moving ahead six centuries, Jesus Christ preached one of His most memorable sermons on that same mountain. That message has come to be known as “the Olivet Discourse.” It was so important that it was recorded by all three of the synoptic Gospel writers (cf. Matthew 24:1-25:46, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-36). It was a message dealing with future events. Primarily, it was a call—a warning, actually—to be prepared and ready.
Following His resurrection and just prior to ascending back to the Father, Jesus gathered His apostles together on that same Mount of Olives. We read of that in Acts 1(:4-12). Before departing from them, He charged them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit, who would be sent to empower them in carrying on His mission in His absence. And then, beginning in Acts 1:9(-12), we read...
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” The same Jesus would return in “the same way”!
Verse 12 then adds, “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.” Did you catch all of that? This same Jesus is coming back “in the same way” to the same place!
It is that yet-future event of which Zechariah writes. Notice again Zechariah 14:4: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.”
Putting all of these passages together, we see that when Jesus Christ returns, He will bring with Him the glory of God. Why? Because He is that glory! What’s more, the fact that He will “stand on the Mount of Olives” tells us that His presence will be physical (not merely “spiritual”) and, as we are told in the Book of Revelation (1:7), “every eye will see him.”
Jesus’ second coming will not be a quiet arrival to a humble Jewish couple and a few lowly shepherds. It will be “with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30), just as He foretold in the Olivet Discourse, and in just the manner in which Zechariah describes that event. He will not be returning as a sacrificial Lamb, but as a conquering hero to claim what is rightfully His.
In other words, Jesus will rule and reign as King. Those two words, “rule” and “reign,” appear at first glance to mean the same thing, but we should perhaps note a distinction. Technically speaking, “rule” speaks of “the authority or supremacy” that one exercises over another individual or group. “Reign” is a word that is used to refer to the time, extent, and nature over which one rules. It may help to think of the “rule” as the “what,” and “reign” as the “how.” Hopefully this will become clear as we apply both terms to Christ in light of the Scriptures.
Let’s first consider the fact that...
Jesus Christ will rule (Genesis 49:10, 2 Samuel 7:16, Isaiah 9:7).
At the close of the Book of Genesis, the patriarch Jacob is nearing death and calls his sons together in order to bless them, or as he expressed it at the time, “that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come” (Genesis 49:1). One by one the sons stand before him and the father tailors a specific message for each. His word to Judah is stated in Genesis 49, verses 8 through 12. In verse 10, Jacob leaves with him these prophetic words:
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
A “scepter” is a rod held in the hands of a king as a symbol of authority. It implies that the one holding it possesses sovereign authority within the realm he oversees. It is here that fulfillment of the Messianic promise is narrowed to a single tribe within the nation of Israel. In other words, the Messiah would descend from the tribe of Judah.
The third line of this verse is difficult to translate from the Hebrew. The English Standard Version reads, “until tribute comes to him,” which is somewhat unclear until we look at its parallel phrase found in the fourth line. There we read, “and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” When we hold those two lines side-by-side, we are able to see the link between “tribute”—something paid by subjects—and “obedience”—which is owed to the Messianic King. Perhaps a better and clearer reading of the third line would be, “until He possesses that which belongs to Him.”
Let me explain. In His role as Messiah, the first coming of Jesus Christ was to stake His claim over what was His. When he returns, He will take full possession of and rule over that He has claimed. It was His already by virtue of creation, but now it is doubly His because He has redeemed it.
We know that not only from this passage but from others as well. Let’s note two of them in which the genealogical line of the Messiah is narrowed still further. If you will turn over to 2 Samuel, chapter 7, we find the great promise that God gave to David, At the time it was in the king’s heart to build a temple that was worthy of His Lord. But instead, it is God who steps into the role of Giver. The Lord’s covenant pledge to David begins earlier in the chapter, but I want to direct your attention to verse 16, where we read:
“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”
This is an amazing promise because it reveals that the Messiah would arise from a specific family from within the tribe of Judah...namely, the family of David. Notice, if you will, the three aspects of God’s promise. David is told that his “house,” “kingdom,” and “throne” would abide perpetually...“forever.”
But David would one day die, so how was the Lord’s pledge to find fulfillment? Clearly, through one of his descendants whose rule would be without end. If we were to look at Luke 1, verses 32 and 33, we would discover just who that One is. There we read in the “birth announcement” given by the angel Gabriel to Mary regarding the Divine Son that she would carry in her virgin womb...
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Three hundred years after David, further detail was added regarding the rule of this coming King. It is found in chapter 9(:7) of the prophetic Book of Isaiah:
“Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end
On the throne of David and over his kingdom
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
Isaiah here confirms the Lord’s promise to David, and reveals that it will be a rule of “peace,” “justice,” and “righteousness.” Unless our depraved hearts carry us to the far end of the spectrum, are not these among the conditions we crave most our in own hearts and in the society that we share together? Jeremiah (6:14) wrote that men long for “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” And the Scriptures abound with the testimony that there are no “just” and “righteous” among us (cf. Psalm 14:1-3, Isaiah 59:14-15, Romans 3:10-18, et al). And yet how we earnestly desire them.
That emptiness that we feel inside, that void we all experience, was not a part of God’s original creation. It is a distortion brought about when sin invaded Paradise and stole from man his relationship with God. Jesus Christ came to restore that relationship and to repair the breech. This He did in His first coming, making its benefits available to all who are willing to turn from sin and entrust themselves to His Lordship.
And when He returns, He will rule over those who are His “forevermore.”
In the last line of Isaiah 9:7, we are told that “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will” bring this about. The word for “zeal” (“qinah”) is actually translated more often than not by as “jealousy.” And while our understanding of “jealousy” generally connotes a negative disposition, when it is used of God it is altogether fitting. Several times the Scriptures tell us that He is “a jealous God” (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19), that He “will be jealous for (His) holy name” (cf. Ezekiel 39:25), and even that His “name is Jealous” (cf. Exodus 34:14).
God can be “righteously jealous” because He is the only One who is perfect in all His ways and is, therefore, the only One who is worthy of all honor and praise. He is the most glorious Being in the universe, and He will not share His glory with another (cf. Isaiah 42:8). He alone has every right to be “jealous.”
And He will demonstrate that when His Messiah—who is both “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” and “the Root of David” (cf. Revelation 5:5)—will establish His rule with absolute sovereignty.
And that brings us to one final related thought. In His return and rule,
Jesus Christ will reign (Daniel 7:14).
As we wrap up this message and bring this series to a conclusion, I ask that you turn with me to the Book of Daniel, chapter 7. Daniel is one of the most difficult books of Scripture to understand and to interpret. Perhaps that should not surprise us, since at the end of the book Daniel is commanded to “Shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4). That is not meant to imply that what Daniel writes defies interpretation and comprehension, but it does suggest that we tread carefully and make certain that our understanding does not exceed the bounds of other Scripture.
In chapter 7, Daniel has just received a vision of four succeeding world kingdoms that would in time be replaced by Kingdom of God. The prophet sees One whom he describes as “the Ancient of Days” who is seated in judgment. Beginning in verse 13, Daniel writes,
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
“And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.”
The term “son of man” immediately alerts us to the Messianic character of this passage. It is that title by which Jesus referred to Himself more than any other. This One is pictured as coming “with the clouds of heaven,” forecasting the angelic announcement that we saw in Acts 1(:11) that Jesus would return precisely in this manner (cf. Acts 1:11).
Verse 14 says that “to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom”—in other words, ruling authority—and, in addition, adds the extent of His reign. It would be over “all peoples, nations, and languages.” The language is reminiscent of the scene that we find in Revelation 5(:9) and again in Revelation 7(:9), where people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” are gathered before the throne of God in worship to Him. And there it is said that this chosen group will “reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10) with the One who has conquered and become their King.
What an amazing prospect! Not only will this company “serve him,” but they will reign with Him...forevermore! Daniel adds, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Every other kingdom in Daniel’s vision would be overcome by another, but the Kingdom of our Lord will eternally endure. Jesus Christ will reign forever!
What God promises, He always delivers. The ascension of the Lord Jesus to the Father teaches us to keep our eyes fixed heavenward...not looking for “signs of the times,” or even to the end of our own lives, but rather to that future day when He will rule and reign. The next great event of “God’s calendar” is the return of Jesus. No one can predict when that will occur. Until it does, you and I have been given the mandate to know Him and to make Him known. Alfred, Lord Tennyson called it, that “One far off divine event to which the whole creation moves.”
The best and most biblical way for us to live is in light of the possibility that Jesus could come back within our lifetime...perhaps today before we enter another year...perhaps not. Our focus and our task, therefore, must be not on “date-setting,” but on “Christ-proclaiming.” The question we should be asking on this final day of the year is, how well are doing in making known to other who Jesus truly is?
Over these past several weeks we have looked together at the promises of Christmas, as foretold by God through the writings of the Old Testament prophets. Every one of these promises have been kept by the One who gave them. So, let’s take a moment and review.
- Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the family line of David. His birth was a miracle because God Himself, by means of the Holy Spirit, brought it about through the womb of a virgin.
- A man named John the Baptist announced the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and pointed to Him as the One who had come to rescue our rebellious world from sin.
- Jesus lived His entire life in perfect obedience to God the Father, demonstrating that He was indeed the promised “Immanuel,” “God in our midst.”
- The precious Son of God humbled Himself on our behalf as He walked the earth, calling people to turn away from sin and follow Him.
- Most people did not believe that this lowly man could be the long-awaited King, so they rejected Him.
- Although He was perfectly innocent, Jesus laid down His life willingly as His accusers put Him to death.
- They pierced His hands and feet as they nailed Him to a wooden cross. But God intended this evil act for a greater purpose: by His death, Jesus became the true Passover Lamb by taking upon Himself sin’s penalty for all who trust in Him.
- Not only did He take our punishment upon Himself, He also credited His perfect obedience to our account, making a way for us to be brought into God’s family.
- God was so pleased with Jesus’ perfect sacrifice that He raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to His heavenly throne, where He reigns forever for the glory of God.
Jesus, the long-expected mighty Rescuer, has crushed Satan and now welcomes into His Kingdom all those who will forsake sin and trust Him completely. One day—perhaps soon—this Jesus will return to make all things new, to do away with sin and sadness forever. He has promised this and, as we have seen, He is the God who not only makes promises but keeps His promises perfectly.
As we close out another Christmas season and face the challenges of a New Year, I want to leave with you words from a 19th-century hymn, written by Benjamin Russell Hanby. Permit these words to encourage you as you “keep our eyes on the skies” and await the returning King:
Who is He, in yonder stall,
At whose feet the shepherds fall?
Who is He in Jordan River
Takes our place as tho’ a sinner?
Who is He, in deep distress,
Fasting in the wilderness?
Who is He whose clothes now shine
On the mountain top He climbed?
Lo! at midnight, who is He
Prays in dark Gethsemane?
Who is He, on yonder tree,
Dies in grief and agony?
Who is He, that from the grave
Comes to heal, and help, and save?
Who is He that from His throne
Rules the world of light alone?
Who is He who comes from heaven
Ushers in the new creation?
‘Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
Tis the Lord! The King of glory
At His feet we humbly fall;
Crown Him, Crown Him Lord of all.
Please bow your heads, close your eyes, and picture this scene:
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom an might
and honor and glory and blessing!’
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’
“And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:11-14).
other sermons in this series