Saturday Psalm Series: Ruling In The Midst Of His Enemies—Psalms 2 & 110

If you have been watching this space or listening to the Heidelcast, you will be aware that various contributors and friends of the Heidelblog have been paying some attention to the renewed interest in postmillennial eschatology and to its child, the theorecon movement. In the last two weeks, I have been contacted by at least seven different people, all independent of each other, to ask for help because a friend, a church member, an elder, or someone else has become enamored with postmillennial eschatology, the theorecon movement, or Moscow, ID and the Kirk therein. As I was on the way to the studio to record the Heidelcast episode for the week of Sunday, February 12, 2023, in which Chris Gordon and I were going to discuss this very issue, I had a phone call from a dear friend with just this problem. In the episode, Chris and I answered emails from two correspondents about this question.

The TheoRecon movement, of which Moscow is now the head and the center, rests on a postmillennial eschatology. The postmillennialists anticipate a future earthly glory age, in which Christ conquers (almost) all of his enemies before he returns. That eschatology, in turn, rests on unstated assumption: that Jesus is really reigning when he has defeated all (or nearly all) of his enemies on the earth, through the church, before he returns. Psalms 2 and 110, however, paint a rather different picture. Those Psalms on their own terms and as understood and applied by the New Testament authors would have us think differently.

Psalm 2: The Nations Are Raging

Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son,

lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Save Me, O My God (ESV).

There is no superscription but, to observe the obvious, the nations (i.e., the Gentiles) are “raging” against God’s King. He is King and he is ruling but he is also under siege. Calvin takes David as the author on the strength of Acts 4:25, “who through the mouth of our father David, your servant” who, they confessed “said by the Holy Spirit.” So, we have an inspired, infallible, inerrant interpretation of this Psalm. They understood it to have been spoken by David, originally about himself and perhaps his coronation, in the midst of his enemies (Ps 110:2; below). Derek Kidner (1973) observed, “It is much quoted in the New Testament, both for its high claims for the Person of God’s Anointed and for its vision of his universal kingdom.” Kidner does not take it as a coronation psalm as much as a reflection of a later time in David’s life, when, though king, he was besieged by enemies.

A prima facie seems to justify the New Testament appropriation of this psalm. How could they not? Jesus had been arrested, abused, falsely accused, falsely convicted, and murdered, but God raised him from the dead, vindicated (1 Tim 3:16). The Pharisees and the priests had become “the nations.” They had conspired and plotted a vain thing against Yahweh and against his Christ, his Messiah. God had raised him from the dead and set him at his right hand, in power, as King, who will one day hand his kingdom to his Father (1 Cor 15:24). The victorious Christ is ruling now, in the midst of his enemies.

He was ruling when Stephen was martyred (Acts 7 [all]) and when Pliny the Younger (c. AD 114) ordered those female Christian servants to be beaten in order to gather intelligence against the Christians and when Decius ordered Christians arrested and martyred. He has always ruled in the midst of his enemies, as the nations rage.

The language about the Messiah being made, as it were, God’s Son, is the language of royal coronation. The begetting in David’s context was figurative, but Christ, we confess, is the only and eternally begotten Son of God. With him it has been “today” from all eternity. With respect to his coronation, however, we must think of his ascension. The Gentiles are his inheritance. The Father has given to him the world as his dominion and, at the end of the age, he will give it back, as it were.

According to the Psalmist and our New Testament authors, he is already reigning with a rod of iron and one day, at the close of history—and not a second before—he will use that rod to smash his enemies. The New Testament (contra the liberal critics) does not have an over-realized eschatology. It has an inaugurated eschatology. Christ is ruling now but now is not the time for smashing. That comes at the judgment. Now is the day of repentance. There will come a day when there will be a dashing of pots. Now is the time for warning, just as the Psalmist does.

Now is the time to “kiss the Son,” i.e., to bow the knee and acknowledge him as God the Son, King, and Messiah. Those who do not do so now will do so then (Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10).

Ps 110:2: Rule In The Midst Of Your Enemies

I keep using this expression, ruling in the midst of his enemies. This language and thought comes from Psalm 110, which is one of the most frequently quoted Old Testament passages in the New Testament.

Yahweh sends forth from Zion

your mighty scepter.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

It is always applied to Christ. He is the Adon (Lord) to whom Yahweh (Lord) says, “Sit at my right hand.” He took his royal, reigning throne in his ascension. Contra those Dispensationalists who deny that Jesus is reigning now, the New Testament has a different view. Our Lord Jesus appropriated this Psalm for himself (Matt 22:44). Peter applies it to Jesus at Pentecost (Acts 2:34–35). According to Jesus and Peter, Jesus is reigning now. According to Hebrews 7:21, Jesus is the one about whom Ps 110:4 said, “Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” That priest is a royal, Melchizedekian Priest-King. He is a presently ruling King.

The New Testament simply knows of no parenthesis when Christ is not reigning after his ascension. He is not waiting to begin his reign. He is not waiting to inaugurate the figurative millennial reign (Rev 20:6). The millennium was inaugurated at his resurrection and ascension. These are the “Last Days” (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; 2 Pet 3:3). Christ is reigning in the midst of his enemies, including the Evil One, who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8). He is reigning and we are in exile awaiting the fire-flood to come (1 Pet 1:1; 2 Pet 3:12). “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes” (Luke 17:26).

His enemies are being made a footstool for his feet (Heb 10:13) but that was true when Christians were martyred. It does not become true when things are “going our way.” It is true now. That is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:25 that Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” As Steve Baugh explains in his marvelous chapter on this in Majesty on High, the point of saying “until” is to say that he will always have enemies until the end. God has put all things under his feet (1 Cor 15:26) but that happened at the ascension. His accession to the throne does not mean that he has no enemies. The nations will continue to rage until he comes again. Christ is reigning. All things are under his feet and Paul is in danger every hour (1 Cor 15:30). To have an eschatology that is consistent with the New Testament, we must affirm both things simultaneously.

He is not ruling now after all his enemies have been visibly conquered. He is ruling in the midst of them. They attack, they besiege, but he has won. The Germans mounted a last-ditch offensive after skies cleared and the air support arrived and the frozen troops were delivered. The Battle of the Bulge was over, the war was, in principle over, but there was a lot more suffering to be endured before the end.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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