There is indeed a future, “not yet” element of Jesus’ kingdom. But there is also a present, “already” element. Believers may suffer and even die, but the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. The cross precedes the crown. Death precedes resurrection. This blessed hope allows the Christian to live in spiritual warfare while enjoying unshakable peace. It is only in view of this inevitable victory of the kingdom of God that we can “live quietly… mind your own affairs, and… work with your hands… so that you may walk properly before outsiders, being dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
Earlier this week, I was on a walk in my neighborhood with my three children when I happened across our Roman Catholic friends. After briefly bantering about politics and the chaos of the election, I made a comment to this effect: “Whatever the outcome is, at least Jesus is still Lord.” The wife responded, “You know, I’ve been seeing my friends post that more on social media lately.”
I was grateful to be reminded that this seed of gospel truth is indeed spreading right now, even amid cultural upheaval in the US. Yet I couldn’t help but immediately think: Surely that statement must sound trite to an unbeliever or a casual, nominal Christian. To many of our neighbors, after all, doesn’t “Jesus is Lord” sound as clichéd as “God loves you” or “everything happens for a reason”—vestiges of a forgotten Christian vernacular?
It’s true that Christians often throw around such catchphrases in a hackneyed manner revealing our pie-in-the-sky pietism. Sometimes, tossing out a pithy, spiritual-sounding aphorism is a way for a professing Christian to justify disengagement. “Well, God is in control,” we might blithely sigh while neglecting our duty. The statement is true, but the person saying it is false.
Yet “Jesus is still Lord” is anything but trite. And we ought not to be afraid of repeating it for fear of appearing passé. There are three reasons why.
1. “Jesus is Lord” means that the Lord Jesus Christ governs the affairs of men in history.
If for us “Jesus is Lord” has become a stale mantra, perhaps it is because we take it to mean, that Jesus is Lord out there somewhere—in heaven, in the spiritual dimension of life, in the church, or in my heart. And Jesus certainly is master over all these places. But his dominion spans vastly beyond the realm of one’s interior religious life.
Jesus Christ is a real man, God in human flesh, who lived perfectly, died sacrificially for sinners, and rose physically from the dead. Upon completion of this redemptive work, Jesus physically ascended into heaven, where he sat down in a place of authority over the entire created cosmos. Because he is the eternal Son of God, Jesus always had divine authority, even before his incarnation. Yet a unique, kingly authority was also conferred upon him by God the Father in light of his work on earth in his death and resurrection.
This is why before Jesus ascended, he announced, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). And as the biblical story progresses, we see that this authority is not merely ethereal or religious. A few years later, when King Herod receives worship from his subjects and refuses to acknowledge God, the Lord Jesus Christ strikes him dead (Acts 12:20-23).
King Jesus directs the flow of history. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). He has fixed the borders of nations and charted their rise and fall (Acts 17:26). The appellation “ruler of kings on earth” is applied to Jesus now(Revelation 1:5). Jesus’ authority is not exclusively future, hypothetical, or bound up within the walls of the church. It touches down into our daily reality and extends to every world event.
2. “Jesus is Lord” means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the judge of all nations and men.
We despair when injustice prevails in a society. Evil is called good and good is called evil (Isaiah 5:20). From the chaos of the streets to corruption in the upper echelons of a nation’s leadership, we long for true, final justice. Yet any human efforts to conjure up this sort of ultimate, cosmic accountability fall woefully short and inevitably spur further injustice.
To confess “Jesus is Lord” is to recognize that every nation, governing body, ruler, citizen, and subject will personally face the Judge of the universe, and only justice will be done. “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
The Apostle Paul proclaimed to the Greek pagans of his day that God “commands” all the non-Christian peoples of the world to repent “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Every being in heaven, on earth, and in hell will recognize Jesus’ authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Every sin and misdeed will be judged justly—whether in the flame of eternal torment, or retroactively in the cross of Crist. No wrong will not be righted.