Christian believers will, in some way, some day in the future after Jesus’ return, reign, not in a secular, worldly kingdom but in God’s heavenly kingdom—on the earth.
Once again, I don’t know whether this article should be entitled “Misunderstood Scriptures” or “Ignored Scriptures.” The concept—the idea—at hand, nevertheless, has been addressed in previous posts. The passages we will be looking at in this article do not give us clear vision about that kingdom. However, in light of the admonitions we have dealt with concerning how we should conduct ourselves in the reality of Jesus’ return and the installation of that kingdom, we are pressed to at least ponder these scriptures. The first is from a song that is sung in heaven to Jesus by the twenty-four elders and perhaps the four living creatures:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10). 1
Jesus, who alone is worthy to be praised, has made it possible for Christians to reign on the earth. To be priests. What does this mean? What would it look like? How would it function?
I have no idea.
I do know that this reality of reigning is found nowhere else in the New Testament except the Book of Revelation. Moses, Isaiah, and Peter write how we are and will be priests, (another position about which I have no notion about function), but nowhere are we told this clearly and explicitly that we will reign on earth. We do get a hint of this in a previous passage of Revelation:
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5b–6).
However, we already knew this, didn’t we? Jesus taught, as we have learned, what is required to enter His kingdom. However, as happy as we are to be included in His glorious rulership, we have not been told that we shall reign with Him.
However, perhaps we have not looked closely enough.
When Jesus told the parable of the ten talents in Luke, the nobleman rewarded those who had put what they had been given to good use with cities as rewards. One received rule over five cities, the other, ten. The one who had done nothing had his “talent” taken from him and given to the one who had ten (Luke 19:11-26). And, finally, the nobleman said, “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:27). It seems clear that those who are given talents and accepted the nobleman’s reign were believers and those who did not were unbelievers who suffered disastrous punishment.
What would these rewards that have to do with ruling cities look like in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom?
I have no idea. Nevertheless, this is a passage that should cause Christians to sit up and take notice. Jesus will reward believers when He judges them before His judgment seat, possibly with some kind of rulership.
I leave you with a head-scratcher from Paul, when he was rebuking the Corinthian believers for taking each other to secular courts to judge disputes among themselves. “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:3).
What will that look like?
I have no idea.
However, there it is, right smack dab in the Word of God, along with the other scriptures offered in this article. Do you think believers should take the sure-to-come kingdom of God and the return of their Savior and Judge seriously? We don’t know what that judgeship and rulership will look like, but it is going to be bestowed, possibly in some diminished way for some, at a time in the future of all believers. Jesus spoke of it as positive, something we should desire. And although we do not understand it—perhaps much as Israel could not understand what a land flowing with milk and honey was like—we should desire it, nevertheless.
1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
All I can say is…Amen. I have been pondering exactly these thoughts for many years now, and I’m sure I will probably continue to ponder them for many more, Lord willing.
Ben, the longevity of your ponderings outdistances mine. It took Bruce Hogan to light this fire just a few years ago.
For me, it was Chuck Missler’s book; The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, probably 5-6 years ago. We’ve been continuing to try to take a fresh look at these scriptures ever since to try to come to our own understanding of them and see what our own conclusions are, and I would say this post couldn’t really match up much better with our own thoughts to this point. One other passage I like to add when discussing these things, though, is that favorite of all Christian metaphors – you must be born again. The fact that Jesus chooses this analogy suggests to me that we know about as much about the next life as an infant in the womb does about this life. “Through a glass darkly,” if you prefer, but the idea is really the same.