Christ the King
Unlike a typical king, Jesus Christ did not come to assert his will over others, but to reveal the mercy of his Father. This is evidenced by the fact that, although he is equal with the Father, he “emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and…being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:5–8). While he is by nature eternal and unable to suffer, he came to suffer and die at the hands of his own creatures in order to redeem them. As he tells his apostles, “[T]he Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). Thus, his kingship is rooted in selfless love, not the selfish will to power that so often defines human relations. Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrated his extreme humility through teaching and healing, and by not responding in kind to the deception and violence arrayed against him. Even during his arrest, he tells St. Peter not to defend him with force, reminding him that the Father would grant him “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt 26:53) to defend him if he were to ask. And later, when Pontius Pilate asks if he is a king, Jesus responds, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). His realm is not like any earthly kingdom, and his rule is not like that of any earthly king.
After his resurrection on the third day, Jesus Christ remained with his disciples, preparing them for their coming mission. He tells them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18), and he instructs them to go into the world teaching and baptizing all who would trust and believe in him. Then on the fortieth day, he ascended into the heavens where he “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2), enacting his eternal reign as the risen and glorified Lord. And finally, on the fiftieth day, the Day of Pentecost, he enabled his disciples to spread his Kingdom to the four corners of creation by granting them the gift of the Holy Spirit—the living presence of God within each baptized believer. By cooperating with God’s will, the Spirit would empower them to embody and enact Christ’s selfless love. The visible community of these men, women, and children would be called the Church.
The reality of Christ’s eternal reign is not something apparent to all. The Scriptures assert that the Father has already “put all in subjection under him,” and yet “now we do not yet see all things put under him” (Heb 2:8). In our present age, we stand between the first and second coming. Creation is always on the brink of the great judgment, and yet time ticks on. The heavenly Kingdom has already been ushered in by our Lord, and yet the world does not recognize it. It remains a matter of faith: Christ must reign through the heart of each believer and in the community of his saints. To those who submit themselves now to his rule, they are already “seated…with him in the heavenly places” (see Eph 2:5–7). And yet, the apostle warns we must “endure” if we also want to “reign with him” in the age to come (2 Tim 2:12).