How to Build a Footstool
Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 in Luke 20:42, 43 saying,
42 … The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand 43 until I make thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.”
The first “LORD” in Psalm 110:1 is actually Yahweh, which was often read as Adonai in order to avoid using the sacred name so as not to desecrate it. Hence also the Greek Septuagint, which was translated three or four centuries before Christ, uses Adonai twice in this verse, saying “the LORD” and “my Lord.” Hence, Luke quotes the Septuagint in Luke 20. But we get a better sense of the meaning of this statement when we understand the Hebrew text of Psalm 110:1 and see that the two “lords” are different people.
There are two main concepts set forth in this passage. First, “my Lord,” that is, David’s Lord, was to sit at the right hand of “the LORD” (Yahweh). This statement was a foundation truth in Paul’s writings, especially in Heb. 1:13. Paul reinforces this basic truth by using Psalm 8:6, “Thou hast put all things under His feet.” Paul quoted this verse (in various forms) more than any other in his writings. (See Hebrews 2:8; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22.)
The second concept in this passage is the idea of making a footstool out of the Messiah’s enemies. Isaiah 66:1 says, “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” A king’s throne was normally set on a platform, and it was customary to rest his feet on a footstool. In 2 Chron. 9:18 we read of Solomon’s throne: “And there were six steps to the throne and a footstool in gold attached to the throne.”
His father David had considered the temple itself to be “a permanent home for the ark of the covenant and for the footstool of our God” (1 Chron. 28:2). Thus, the temple represented the earth itself, which was God’s footstool. Hence, the temple was to be a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7), not only in the sense of opening it up to foreigners, but also suggesting the reconciliation of all mankind.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary says,
“To be under the feet,” means subject to a king, or as a servant to the master (Ps. viii. 6; Heb. ii. 8); derived from the symbolical act of a conqueror who placed his foot on the neck of his subdued enemies in token of triumph (Josh. x. 24), as may be seen in the sculptures on the ancient monuments. (p. 107)
Paul tells us that putting all things under the feet of Christ means that God is “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Likewise, Paul says, the term “all things” (ta panta) excludes only the Father Himself, who will not be put under the feet of Christ (1 Cor. 15:27). In Phil. 2:10 Paul defines it more fully, saying,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.
In Col. 1:16-22 Paul says,
16 For by Him all things [ta panta] were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things [ta panta] have been created by Him and for Him…. 20 and through Him to reconcile all things [ta panta] to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
First Paul says that “all things” were created by Him, and then he concludes that the same scope of “all things” were reconciled to God, whether they be “things on earth or things in heaven.” The Colossian believers themselves had already been reconciled to God, Paul says, for at one time they had been “hostile” to God but were now at peace with Him. They were among the first fruits of this reconciliation.
Paul says in Phil. 2:11, that not only will every knee bow to Him, but also every tongue will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Paul was quoting from Isaiah 45:23, which reads,
23 I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
This scene pictures God taking an oath in the divine court that His plan for creation will be fulfilled, in which He will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to take an oath of allegiance to Him. There are two oaths mentioned here. The first is God’s oath to bring about this plan, and secondly, the plan promises that all men will indeed swear allegiance to Him.
Here we see both the Old and New Covenants in action. The Old Covenant was man’s oath to God, as we see in Exodus 19:8, where the people swore, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” The New Covenant, however, is God’s oath to us, known as the promises of God to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
See also Deut. 29:12, 13, where God repeats the same promise to Israel under Moses. It was God’s oath not only to those standing there, but also to those who were absent. In other words, it was God’s oath to all of creation, whether in heaven or in earth, for God created both the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).
Man’s responsive oath, when made by all of creation, each in their own time, will mark the completion of the divine plan in history. Most will not do so until all the dead have been raised and summoned to the Great White Throne. But there they will see and know who God is. They will bow and confess Him as Lord, Paul says, “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11). Not only will they be justified by faith in that day, but they will also be filled with the Spirit, for Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:3, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
Even so, they will be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13) and made subject to God’s “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2 KJV). They will have to learn righteousness through God’s judgments as Isaiah 26:9 tells us. In the end, however, at the great Creation Jubilee, “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
This is the meaning of putting all things under the feet of Christ. It means ending all hostilities and reconciling all things to Himself. The temple, as God’s footstool, represented all the people of the earth, and the oath of God bound Him to make them all His people, whether Israelite or alien, and whether present or not present (Deut. 29:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). Here we see too that genealogical Israelites did not have an exclusive right to be called God’s people.
The Divine Goal
Many think of God’s will as being just a desire (or wishful thinking). Nowhere is this more evident than in the NASB’s translation of 1 Tim. 2:3, 4,
3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Here the KJV is more accurate in rendering verse 4, “who will have all men to be saved.” The KJV translators apparently understood the concept of God’s sovereignty better than those of the NASB. They do not seem to understand that God has taken many oaths to save all mankind. Oaths are not mere desires, and no one with intelligence vows to do something without the power (and control) to fulfill the vow. Even as men’s oaths bind them to fulfill what they have vowed, so also do God’s oaths bind Him to fulfill what He has vowed. Eccl. 5:5 says,
5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.
How much more should God not make such vows to save all mankind, if He did not have the power to make it happen! God’s vows should not be confused with His “desires,” unless one believes that God’s will is stronger than man’s will. If one believes that man’s will can thwart the will of God forever, then God ought to have kept His mouth shut and not vowed to do the impossible.
But Scripture presents God as having the power to accomplish His will and plan. The Old Covenant oaths of men are subservient to the New Covenant oath of God. There is no way that the will of man can prevail against the will of God, because man is not sovereign. Man is owned by God, because God created them, owns them, and is thus responsible for all that He owns. Such is the biblical law of ownership.
In Psalm 110:1 David does not say that God made a vow or oath to “my Lord,” but we know that David spoke prophetically that Yahweh intended to make all of Christ’s enemies into His footstool. Since every word from God is truth, it is the equivalent of a vow, for God cannot lie. God will fulfill His word as easily as His vows or oaths.
Luke 20:42, 43 tells us that Christ was to be seated at the right hand of God UNTIL all enemies were made into this footstool (temple). This shows that the divine plan would take time to be accomplished. Jesus Christ was seated on the right hand of the Father when He ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9 on the fortieth day from His resurrection. Though He was enthroned, He still lacked one vital part of the divine plan—the construction of His footstool.
All true believers in Christ become His footstool by faith. Each believer is a temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16), but there is also a corporate temple in the larger sense, which Paul describes in Eph. 2:20-22. This corporate temple will not be complete until the end of time, when all things are put under His feet.
Then, when all hostility ceases and peace reigns in heaven and in earth, Christ’s footstool will be the place where He may rest His feet. This is the great Sabbath, wherein men cease from their own labors (Heb. 4:10) and do only what they see their Father do.
We will then learn what God intends to do as His next great project.