One of the promises which Jesus Christ extends to the church is the right of governing the nations. This is a distinctly Jewish privilege, yet, as believers are grafted into Israel (Romans 11) and through grace partake of their covenantal blessings (Galatians 3: 29), saved Gentiles are included in the number of those who shall “reign with Christ.”
In the Apocalypse, our Lord tells the church of Thyatira: “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2: 26-27). Here is a clear allusion to Psalm 2, where the context speaks of Christ’s coming in judgment. Thus, the promise will be fulfilled at our Lord’s second advent.
During Christ’s earthly ministry, He told the apostles: “Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19: 28). The regeneration is the Millennium, at which time the thrones shall be set up, and the servants of Christ reign with Him for a thousand years (Rev. 20: 4-6).
At our Lord’s second coming, the horns of the Gentiles will be cast out (Zech. 1: 20-21) and Israel reconstituted as a nation, which will govern the entire earth. To this the apostles referred when, after forty days of instruction concerning the Kingdom of God, they asked: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1: 3, 6).
They would have been slow-minded indeed to have missed the import of Christ’s teachings, if He meant something opposite to their expectation. But they remembered His promise. And besides that, they were all Jews. The prophet Micah wrote: “And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem” (Micah 4: 8).
Paul, far from denying these promises, confirmed them when he wrote: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6: 2). Likewise he said: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the Fathers” (Romans 15: 8). One of these promises was nations would bow down and serve the seed of Jacob (Genesis 27: 29). This certainly was never fulfilled in Jacob’s own lifetime. But it will be in the First Resurrection.
Now take a careful look at Luke 1: 32-33, 68-75. These are essentially Jewish promises, and should not be indiscriminately applied to the church. In Matthew 25: 31-46, the Lord paints a vivid picture of what shall occur when He comes to judgment. This is not a description of the resurrection, but the fulfillment of our Lord’s very promise made in Revelation 2: 26-27. After the saints are raised, they stand at Christ’s side, as the nations are gathered to receive their judgment. The judgment takes place in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3: 2).
Those on Christ’s right hand enter will into the Millennial kingdom (Matt. 25: 34), while those on the left will be consigned to hellfire (Matt. 25: 41). All the saved nations will then serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and come to Jerusalem yearly to keep the feast of tabernacles (Zech 14: 16).
Outside the city of Jerusalem shall be the “lake of fire” where the enemies of God will burn. “For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the King it is prepared; He hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it” (Isaiah 30: 33; cf. 66: 24).
But the same prophet writes that “the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously” (Isaiah 24: 23). Such is the only power worth striving for. And isn’t Christ’s promise an incentive to press forward in our Christian walk? Isn’t this an incentive to take hold of the Lord’s covenant and embrace the promises made to Israel? This coming judgment, when the righteous shall be rewarded and the wicked punished, ought to make us pay better heed to Christ’s teachings, to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2: 11). Blessed be the day when Jesus Christ comes to reign.