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When we consider the three-fold office of Christ, we would be wise to remember the progression. While it is true that as we speak of Christ being Prophet, Priest, and King that He is always all three of these things, that He is yet the Word of God, that He yet makes intercession for us, and that He yet reigns, nevertheless we can see a progression in His public ministry.

The ministry of Christ begins with the work of the prophet. Like John the Baptist before Him, Jesus began preaching the kingdom of God. Even the great miracles that He performed functioned not first to demonstrate His rule, but to demonstrate, as Nicodemus proclaimed, that He was “a messenger sent from God.”

As Jesus enters into His passion, the focus of His ministry becomes more priestly. Indeed, unlike the priests who came before, Jesus the Priest not only makes the sacrifice, but is the sacrifice. He, the Lamb of God, lays down His own life.

But from that grave that could not hold Him, the tide turned. Jesus, on that Resurrection morn’, moved from humiliation to exaltation. At the Resurrection, He took back what was His. Forty days later, He ascended to His throne. He was always the rightful King. Indeed, when He was still but a babe, the wise men asked, as wise men still ask, “Where is He who was born King of the Jews?”

In Reformed theology we struggle with some of that same tension. We speak of the kingdom of God in terms of the already and not yet. The kingdom is already established, but it is not yet consummated. The very progression of history is moving the not yet into the already. Sometimes our language about that process, however, betrays further confusion. We want to be about the business of building the kingdom of God, of expanding its borders. But such we cannot do. All authority on heaven and on earth has been given unto Him. Instead, our calling is to make manifest, or visible, His reign.

The rebellious Sheba not only is no king, but is under a king. David is his king, even as Sheba proclaims “We have no share in David.” More troubling still for Sheba, he is under the King. He rebels in the face of the greater Son of David.

So, too, do all those who have not yet bowed the knee. But professing the Lordship of Christ does not make Him Lord. Rather, it acknowledges what is already true. He rules all men, those who serve Him and those who rebel against Him, now and forevermore.

Jealous for Royal Favor

The Sin of Rebellion

Keep Reading Prophet, Priest, and King: The Offices of Christ

From the December 2003 Issue
Dec 2003 Issue