By Brock Bondurant
Revelation 5:10 – and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
As a Christ-follower, I find it easy to settle into a “going through the motions” type of “following” where I know generally what to do, what to say, and how to act. In this malaise of existence, I can lose sight of the purpose of following Jesus in the first place. Being a disciple of Jesus means to be with him, become like him, and do what Jesus did (the mode of learning he led the 12 core disciples through), but to what end? Why are we to become like him? What is the end vision of apprenticing under Jesus for life?
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12).
This was the reason we were created after all, to reign as God’s vice-regents on the earth. In Genesis 1:28, God gives human beings (his image-bearers) their mission: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. With dominion in hand, it took all but 1 page-turn of our Bible for Adam and Eve to stray from their God-given purpose in Genesis 3. Instead of ruling over the Earth in God’s likeness, they fell for and ate the lie that they could be their own gods.
The rest of the Bible until the ascension of the Christ is about the attempts of mankind to rule themselves on their own terms – some attempts godly yet falling drastically short (see David), and others out of selfish ambition and continuation of the lie of the garden (see Nimrod in Genesis 11).
But the man Jesus of Nazareth came along and bought this opportunity back for us – living the perfect human life empowered by the Spirit, dying the death that would pay our ransom, and ascending on high to begin his kingdom rule. Through his blood, our authority to rule and to reign justly over God’s earthly creation as a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), is restored:
5from Jesus Christ the faithful witness… the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)
Chances are though, our thoughts on “ruling” aren’t the way of Jesus’ rule. We’re called to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). King Jesus calls himself gentle and lowly (Matt 11:29). His version of ruling means taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23), loving our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:25-37), being agents of healing (Mark 6:7-13), and carrying the message of the kingdom to all (Matthew 28:18-20). The way of Jesus is of self-denial.
But you don’t just suddenly decide to do these things one day. To be entrusted with ruling you must become like the Ruler himself, living a life of apprenticeship to him. We abide in Jesus and in his words (John 15), learning obedience as he did (Hebrews 5:8). That doesn’t always lead to green pastures and beautiful views (Psalm 23, John 16:33). A life of self-sacrifice will certainly bring suffering of some kind.
Thinking of our calling and purpose as co-heirs to reign with Christ aligns the way we live our lives. By simply trying to behave and “go through the motions,” I fall woefully short. Truly following Jesus will do something to my heart which will in turn breed good works. Living in obedience to his word and his way over time allows the Holy Spirit to transform me more and more into his image in order that I may one day reign with him forever. A lot of self will need denying along the way, but I believe the way of Jesus will lead me home.