Advent Midweek 1
The Kingdom of Power
December 2, 2015
Trinity Lutheran Church – New Haven, MO
In the name of + Jesus.
The season of Advent began last Sunday with a prophecy: Behold, your King is coming to you (Zech 9:9; Matt 21:5). We sang with the Psalmist, Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates/Behold the King of Glory waits (TLH #73), but there is also David’s question, Who is this King of glory? (Ps 24:8). The Lord of hosts, mighty in battle, he answers. But this is not as one-dimensional an answer as it first seems. There is a depth and a breadth to the reign of the Lord that is revealed in the King who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, who is robed in mockery, crowned with thorns, and enthroned on a cross.
The kingdom of our King is threefold. Not that He has three separate kingdoms, or that His reign is divided into thirds, but that He reigns as a king in three distinct ways. Theologians have named these three distinct kingdoms the Kingdom of Power, the Kingdom of Grace, and the Kingdom of Glory. In each of our three Advent Midweek Vespers, we will meditate on this threefold kingdom and the comfort that it brings for Christians.
The first and most extensive reign of Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of Power. The Kingdom of Power extends to all of creation. It’s a kingdom that is governed by God’s Law. But it’s also a kingdom that finally works in service of and for the good of God’s elect.
Jesus Reigns over His Kingdom of Power by His Almighty Power
When we speak of a kingdom, we generally mean some sort of static location, some lines on a map, something defined by boundaries and treaties. This is true when we speak of the kingdoms of men, but the Kingdom of Christ cannot be contained by boundaries or political documents. It’s not even limited to the kingdoms of the earth. The reign of Jesus in His Kingdom of Power extends to all of creation.
Every kingdom of man is subject to the kingship of Jesus. In St. Paul’s conclusion to his letter to St. Timothy, he calls Jesus, King of kings (1 Tim 6:15), a title that is taken up again in the Revelation to St. John. Caesar, the king of the Roman Empire, is called a servant of God in Romans 13. Not only kingdoms, but also democracies and republics are subject to the reign of Christ’s power. Beloved monarchs and cruel dictators alike have authority only because it is given to them from above by the One who holds all authority in heaven and upon the earth.
The Kingdom of Power isn’t just reign over earthly kingdoms, but it also extends throughout all creation—from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell. St. Paul writes to the Philippians, at the name of JESUS everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth should kneel, and everyone should confess, “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” and so glorify God the Father (Php 2:10-11 AAT). The almighty power of Christ governs angels as well as demons, irrational creatures as well as rational. All things are given to the reign of Jesus Christ, the King of Creation.
Jesus reigns over His Kingdom of Power by His almighty power, hence the name. It is a kingdom governed by laws. This is what makes creation consistent with itself, and, coincidentally, what makes science possible. You can only derive a Law of Gravity or a Second Law of Thermodynamics from repeated observation if you’re reasonably certain gravity will always work and that you can only build order with the addition of energy. Likewise, the sun rises every day because the earth always rotates. Rain always falls when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, and so on. These laws are not just random happenings of an impersonal universe, but they are words of creation’s King. He upholds all things by His Word of power (Heb 1:3b), the epistle to the Hebrews states.
His Word also governs the actions of us rational creatures, as well. The Law of God is His Word of command for what we ought to be as His good creation. But the Law never creates love. You may do what the Law commands, but only grudgingly or for fear of punishment. The Kingdom of Power is coercive to the rebellious. The sun always rises and apples always fall downward from trees because that’s what God created them to do. But we who were created to love God and love our neighbors—this is the summary of the Law—have to be driven to do the works of the Law by threats of punishment. Because it’s not something that comes naturally to sin-corrupted flesh.
There is no escape from the Kingdom of Power. There is no asylum in a friendlier kingdom. Because the Kingdom of Power extends to all creation, the King’s Law extends to all creation. And His Law is not lenient. It demands absolute obedience. You cannot hope for the King’s favor for a partially kept Law any more than the sun can decide to skip a day to rise. If you are not perfect, even as the Father in heaven is perfect, then you are under His punishment.
Now this may all sound horribly depressing, and you may now be considering whether to cry out in despair or to just give up the whole church thing and enjoy yourself for the few short years you have left on this earth before the King comes to judge the living and the dead. But hold on a bit. There is good news here, and in fact, Christ’s reign in His Kingdom of Power is in service to the Good News, that is, the Gospel.
All things work together for the good of the elect, that is, those who love God and are called by Him (Romans 8:28). Because Christ reigns over the angels and the devil alike, every inch He gives the devil must be for your good. Because Christ rules over the winds and the waves and the forces of nature, every natural disaster must work for your good. Because Christ is the King of kings, even the wicked rulings of corrupt politicians must serve for the good of the Gospel. To our eyes it seems to be just the opposite, that evil is subduing Christ and the Gospel. But, dear Christians, this is an article of faith that must be believed. Christ is King of all creation and so all things in creation must work together for the good of the next kingdom.
Because power, law, and punishment is not the only way Christ reigns. There is a peculiar kingdom and reign that Jesus establishes when He comes in the flesh. It’s a kingdom unlike any the world has ever seen. It is this kingdom—the Kingdom of Grace that is the peculiar reign of Christ for Christians. Everything in Christ’s Kingdom of Power, everything in heaven and on earth must serve the one purpose of gathering and preserving the Church.
In the name of +Jesus.