The Glory and Dominion of His Kingdom
Nov 24, 2015
Revelation 1:6 continues to speak of Jesus, saying,
6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever [aionas ton aionon, “for the ages of the ages”]. Amen.
The purpose of releasing us from our sins (vs. 5) is first to make us into a kingdom. It is comparable and directly related to the day that God established His kingdom in Exodus 19:6, which says, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This is how we are to understand Revelation 1:6 as well, although the NASB translators did not seem to understand this. Perhaps they were thinking in Greek, rather than in Hebrew.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1502, in its commentary on Revelation 1:6, tells us,
“The statement that Christ has made us to be a kingdom of priests unto God (v. 6) is from the basic declaration in Ex. 19:6, quoted centuries later by Peter (1 Pet 2:5, 9).”
This kingdom is formed in two stages, the first being a Pentecostal kingdom whose type and shadow is the kingdom of King Saul. The second stage is the Tabernacles kingdom whose type and shadow is the kingdom of King David. Saul himself was crowned on the day of “wheat harvest” (1 Samuel 12:17), that is to say, Pentecost. David was crowned on the 59th Jubilee from Adam.
The Pentecostal kingdom is a legitimate, but leavened kingdom (Leviticus 23:17). The solution to the leaven was to give the church the baptism of the fire (Matthew 3:11, 12), so that the “chaff” might be burned up. Those who truly receive this baptism of the fiery presence of God are the ones truly keeping Pentecost.
Secondly, Christ is making us to be “priests.” Here again, there are two kinds of priests described in Scripture—one good and one bad. Ezekiel 44 speaks of both in the context of the Old Covenant, but yet prophesying of a later time when the church too would have priests that were both good and bad.
In the Old Covenant era, Eli and his sons were the main types of bad priest. Ezekiel 44:10-12 calls them idolatrous. The good priests are “the sons of Zadok” (Ezekiel 44:15). Zadok, of course, was the high priest who replaced the last of the line of Eli (1 Kings 2:27, 35). This story prophesies how the Melchizedek Order would replace the Levitical Order of priests that had become corrupted. The name Zadok appears in Melchizedek.
And yet Ezekiel was also prophesying of a later time when the priesthood in the church would also corrupt itself. Those priests have reverted back to Old Covenant practices and thought patterns, disqualifying themselves from the Melchizedek Order. Hence, the message to the seven churches sets forth “him who overcomes,” contrasting them with those who do not overcome. The overcomers are the ones that Christ is forming into the priesthood in the age to come.
Hence, even as Abiathar (the last of Eli’s line) was disqualified under the Old Covenant, so also is there a priesthood under the New Covenant that will be disqualified. In both cases, those disqualified will be replaced by those who are found worthy. This is one of the key issues at the time of the first resurrection in Revelation 20:6, where the overcomers are raised to immortality as king-priests of the Melchizedek Order.
This priesthood theme is rooted in the types and shadows long before Christ came. Those types were explained further by the prophets—especially Ezekiel. The book of Revelation completes this progression of revelation. John can hardly be understood without knowing what Ezekiel was telling us, along with the stories of Eli and Zadok which form the foundation of his prophecy.
In fact, the qualifications for priesthood are set forth in the law. Leviticus 21:17-21 disqualifies Old Covenant priests on the basis of physical defects, but because “the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14), the same law applies in a spiritual way to priests under the New Covenant. Each physical defect has a corresponding spiritual defect that disqualifies people from the Melchizedek Order.
Forever and Ever
Revelation 1:6 (NASB) reads, “to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”
Many translations make this error. Other translations are more correct:
“to Him be the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen.” (The Emphatic Diaglott)
“to him is the glory and the power to the ages of the ages. Amen.” (Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible)
“Unto him be the glory and the dominion, unto the ages. Amen.” (Rotherham, The Emphasized Bible)
“to Him be glory and might for the eons of the eons. Amen.” (The Concordant Literal New Testament)
No one disputes the fact that Christ will have glory and dominion for eternity. Yet the phrase aionas ton aionon is based on the indefinite word aion, which is an eon or age. In the end, however, we must define the term according to its Hebrew equivalent, olam, which means “hidden, indefinite, unknown.” By themselves, neither aion nor olam can be used to express infinite time. Indefinite is not the same as infinite. Indefinite might refer to infinite time, but only if the context demands it.
In the case of Revelation 1:6, where Christ’s glory and dominion is said to be aionas ton aionon, we know that His glory will never end. Neither will His kingdom end, because Daniel 2:44 tells us that “in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.”
Even so, John’s wording in Revelation 1:6 is not so clear in regard to Christ’s “dominion.” If he means the Kingdom, then certainly it will never be destroyed, but will endure forever. But 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26 says,
25 For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Paul says that Christ’s “reign” will end in some way. How will this end? The answer is found a few verses later in 1 Corinthians 15:28,
28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.
It is not that Christ will cease to reign, of course, but this shows that something new will be brought in after death is destroyed. Christ will present the perfected Kingdom to the Father. In that sense, one might say that the kingdom will no longer be Christ’s, but the Father’s Kingdom. The “dominion,” in its absolute sense, will shift from Christ to the Father.
Knowing this, we may ask ourselves what John meant in Revelation 1:6, when he tells us that Christ’s “dominion” is for the ages of the ages. We may interpret this in two ways. First, we may say that the context demands that the indefinite “ages of the ages” be understood as never-ending, since Jesus Christ will always enjoy dominion, even when he is second in authority to the Father. Second, we might argue that John deliberately used the indefinite phrase, “ages of the ages,” in order to show that Christ’s “dominion” was to be presented to the Father in the far future when the last enemy is destroyed.
Both views are true, but in my view we do not have sufficient evidence to prove precisely what John meant.
John’s “Amen” at the end of this verse gives his affirmation and agreement with what has been said.
He Comes with the Clouds
John continues in Revelation 1:7,
7 Behold, He is coming with [meta] the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so, Amen.
The concept of the Messiah “coming with the clouds” is a reference to Daniel 7:13, 14, where the prophet speaks of the time where the nations are judged:
13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom…
Jesus applied Daniel’s prophecy to Himself at His trial before the Council. When the high priest adjured Jesus to speak the truth (according to the law in Leviticus 5:1), Jesus was obligated by law to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Matthew 26:64 says,
64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest, assuming that Jesus was an imposter, tore his robes and sentenced Him to death on a charge of blasphemy (perjury). But John asserts that Jesus’ testimony was true. Jesus is indeed the One coming to be presented to the Ancient of Days to receive “dominion, glory, and a kingdom.”
While some may claim that this prophecy was fulfilled when Christ ascended to the throne in heaven, it is my belief that it was fulfilled only partially at that time. Consider Jesus’ parable about the nobleman going into a far country to receive for Himself a kingdom and to return (Luke 19:12). It was one thing to be granted authority, but quite another to receive the kingdom. Taking the kingdom from the usurpers is what Christ must yet do at the time of His second coming.
Herod is a good example of how this principle works. He went to Rome to obtain backing and authorization to be king. Then he returned to take it from Antigonus, his rival. Hence, receiving authorization from a higher power is not the same as actually taking possession of the kingdom. So is it with Christ Himself. He ascended to heaven to receive the kingdom, but He must return to wrest it from the usurpers and physically take possession of it.
The interim kingdom between the two comings of Christ is depicted as a Saul kingdom, ruled by the tribe of Benjamin, rather than of Judah.
Hence, Christ not only approached the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom, but He also comes “with the clouds” to take possession of the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. In doing so, He takes dominion over the final forms of the beast nations, “that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him” (Daniel 7:14).
This is part 8 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones