SYNOPSIS: Christ’s reign has not been postponed; it began with his past exaltation to God’s throne because of his obedience unto death – Psalm 110:1.
The Apostle Paul links the exaltation and enthronement of Jesus to his past Death and Resurrection, and consistently so. Christ achieved the right to rule by his faithful obedience unto death. God vindicated that obedience by raising him from the dead and seating him to reign supreme over the Cosmos from the Divine Throne (Romans 1:1-4, Hebrews 1:1-4).
Jesus already is implementing God’s kingdom and subjugating His enemies. This process continues until the end of the present age when Jesus arrives in glory and defeats the “last enemy,” death. That day will mean nothing less than resurrection from the dead and new creation:
(Philippians 2:8-11) – “And, in fashion, being found as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient as far as death, yea, death upon a cross. Wherefore also, God uplifted him far on high, and favoured him with the name which is above every name,—In order that, in the name of Jesus every knee might bow—of beings in heaven and on earth and underground,—And every tongue might openly confess—that Jesus Christ is Lord, unto the glory of God the Father.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(1 Corinthians 15:20-28) – “But, now, hath Christ been raised from among the dead,—a firstfruit of them who have fallen asleep; For, since indeed, through a man came death, through a man, also, cometh the raising of the dead; For, just as in the Adam all die, so, also, in the Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own rank:—A firstfruit, Christ, after that, they who are the Christ’s in his presence, Afterwards, the end—whensoever he delivereth up the kingdom unto his God and Father, whensoever he shall bring to nought all rule and all authority and power; For he must needs reign until he shall put all his enemies under his feet: As a last enemy, death is to be destroyed; For—He put all things in subjection under his feet. But whensoever it shall be said—all things are in subjection!—it is evident that it means,—Except him who did put into subjection unto him the all things—But whensoever have been put into subjection unto him the all things, then the Son himself [also] shall be put in subjection unto him who put in subjection unto him the all things,—that God may be all things in all.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The sequence of events presented by Paul leaves no room for further partial victories at the return of Christ or another interim stage afterward. His arrival in glory means nothing less than the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for the ages.
The Apostle employs several messianic passages to portray the exaltation of Jesus, especially, Psalms 110:1:
“The declaration of Yahweh to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28, Ephesians 1:22, Philippians 2:9-11).
The Old Testament prophets foresaw a Messiah who would begin to reign over the nations upon his arrival. Paul never refers to this scriptural expectation as a delayed promise; instead, he declares it to be a present reality. Jesus has full authority and, therefore, reigns over all the powers and principalities, whether hostile to him or not (Colossians 1:12-20, 2:10-15).
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul described how Jesus, “Humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, indeed, a crucified death.” God responded to his obedience by highly exalting him, even “giving him the name above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:8-11).
He wrote to the church at Rome, “To this end, Christ both died and rose, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living…As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:9-11).
To the church at Ephesus, he wrote how God–
“Raised Jesus from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the coming one; AND HE PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET…” (Ephesians 1:20-22).
“Far above” means Jesus already possesses the highest authority; his sovereignty is not limited to heaven, restricted on the earth, or delayed until some future point. Note well how in the preceding passage Paul applied the messianic promise from Psalm 110:1 to Christ’s present status.
In short, Jesus reigns now. His sovereignty began following his resurrection and exaltation to God’s “right hand,” and ever since he has been subjugating all his enemies, just as Yahweh promised in the Psalm (“He must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet” – Psalm 110:1, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
This reign will continue until “the end” when he overthrows the final enemy, Death. The consummation of this process will coincide with the “arrival” of Jesus in glory at his parousia or “arrival.” The final defeat of Death will mean the bodily resurrection of the righteous dead and the transformation of saints still alive at the time, as well as the arrival of the New Creation (1 Corinthians 15:51-57, Romans 8:18-23).
In Paul’s understanding, the messianic reign of Jesus has not been postponed until some future event; it began with his past exaltation to the “right hand” of God in response to his faithful obedience. His sovereignty is based on that past act, moreover, he is engaged at present in the subjugation of all forces that are hostile to his Father.
Satan and his forces remain active in the world; however, their powers have been curtailed since the exaltation of Jesus; already, all the “powers and principalities and world rulers” are subject to the universal lordship of Jesus.