Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

Christ’s Headship

Over the NATIONS.

Excerpted from

The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism

By William Roberts.


On Christ’s Headship over the Nations.

Q. What is meant by the term nations?

A. Civil associations—men existing in civil or political institutions; including the office bearers, by whom the laws are administered, as well as the people at large, for whose good they are appointed to govern.

Q. What is meant by Headship in the present application of the term?

A. A headship of authority and moral supremacy, not a headship of providential rule or physical control.

Q. Are we to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ exercises a moral supremacy over the civil or political associations of men, simply as such?

A. Yes.  Directly in their secular or political character, he claims dominion over them, and demands their public recognition of his authority.

Q. Is Jesus Christ possessed of peculiar moral fitness to exercise dominion over the nations?

A. Yes.  He is the Son of God and the Son of Man—God manifest in the flesh—and as such is qualified to exercise this authority.  Isa. 9.6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Q. In what character does he exercise dominion over the nations in their political relations?

A. In his Mediatorial character, in which alone, as has been demonstrated, he is the subject of a gift.

Q. Is this authority conferred as a gift upon Him?

A. Yes.  It is the gift of the Father.  Christ himself says, “All power is delivered unto me of my Father.” Luke 10.22.  And the Father says, “I will make him my first born HIGHER than the kings of any land.” Psalm 89.27. {64}

Q. Is it necessary that Christ should possess this mediatorial dominion over the nations?

A. Yes.  It is necessary that he should have power over the nations, that he might commission his ministers to go within their limits, and preach the everlasting gospel (Matt. 28.18,19).  Unless his authority were paramount to existing governments, it would have been a usurpation inconsistent with divine perfection to have sent his ambassadors to negotiate with the inhabitants of the earth.

Q. For what other reason should Christ have power over the nations?

A. To make the Gospel efficient.  The mediatory power to make his people willing could not reach into any nation over which his authority did not extend.  The kings of the earth have sufficient forces to banish from their dominions the heralds of the cross; and there is enmity in the hearts of men sufficient to reject the Gospel of God, and to render its preaching altogether abortive, unless the mediatory efficiency accompany the ambassadors of Christ, and the message which they bring.

Q. What other reason makes it necessary?

A. It is necessary that he should rule the nations as the reward of his sufferings. Phil. 2.8,9, “Wherefore” (because he suffered) “God hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name,” &c.  Christ in his humiliation was subject to rulers. Isa. 49.7. He sat before them to be tried and judged, and although perfectly innocent, the Lord of life condescended to suffer the sentence of death, passed by an earthly ruler, to be executed upon himself.  In his exalted state he must be ruler in the kingdoms of men; have a right to demand their submission to his authority, and take such measures as will secure the fulfilment of all his purposes respecting them.

Q. Why is it further necessary?

A. It is necessary that Immanuel should have power over the nations and their respective governments, as the guardian of his Church in the midst of her enemies, and as the terror of all those who are his foes; otherwise his children might be in a situation in which he could not regulate them, and {65} his enemies might act with impunity against him. Psalm 110.l-3, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.  Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”

Q. Are not the promises of the Father to the Son a forcible testimony to the truth of the doctrine of his mediatorial dominion over the nations?

A. Yes.  The Father has given a number of promises to this effect, and they are conclusive proof of his dominion over the nations.  1. Psalm 89.19, 26, 27, “Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.  He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my Salvation.  Also, I will make him my first born higher than the kings of the earth.”  2. Psalm 2.8, “Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen (nations) for thine inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,”—upon which grant the injunction of submission is issued to the rulers and judges—verses 10-12, “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.”  3. Isa. 53.12, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death.”

Q. Does not the prophet Daniel proclaim the fulfilment of the promise of the Father, in his exhibition of the actual investiture of the Lord Jesus Christ with this royal dominion over the nations?

A. Yes.  Daniel in the seventh chapter, verses 13 and 14 of his prophecy exhibits this sublime event. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  And there was given him dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him.”  In the context we have an array of the fierce nations of the earth, as enemies of the {66} church, frowning upon her members.  The Chaldean, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires.  The latter, especially under its antichristian form.  The ancient of days, Jehovah, occupies the throne.  The angels conveying into his presence the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, in our nature, and upon him, by the authority of Jehovah, the Father, dominion is conferred, which extends over all nations.

Q. Was not a similar representation of this sublime scene made to John the apostle while in his banishment to Patmos?

A. Yes.  In Rev. 5. 1,2,5,7.  1. This sealed book contains the mind or purposes of Jehovah, or the outline of providential events, concerning the church and the nations of the earth, from the days of John in Patmos until the end of time.  2. The opening of the seals not only reveals the events recorded in the volume, but with a view also to their actual accomplishment.  This is obvious from the next chapter in which the six seals are broken, by which judgments Pagan Rome is utterly subverted.  3. The placing of the book in the hands of the Lamb to loose its seals, gave the Lamb full power over the book and all its contents, not only as matters to be revealed, but as events to be accomplished.  4. The Lamb deserved this distinction. “He prevailed, conquered, to open the book and loose the seven seals thereof.”  By the merit of his blood as “the Lamb slain,” he obtained the right to administer the kingdom of providence, in order to apply his redemption to its objects.  The same idea is taught in Phil. 2.8,9.  The conclusion is obvious.  The Lamb, the Mediator, has a Lordship over the nations of the earth, as he is the administrator of the kingdom of providence.

Q. Is not the Headship of Christ over the nations implied in the universality of the mediatorial supremacy?

A. Yes.  1. The declarations, Matt. 28.18; Col. 2.10; 1 Peter 3.22: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Christ—which is the head of all principality and power.  Who is on the right hand of God.  Angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject unto him,”—imply very distinctly his dominion over the nations.  2. The idea of universality is often expressed not merely by a general {67} term, but by the enumeration of particulars, and by the exclusion of all exceptions.  Eph. 1.21; Heb. 2.8; 1 Cor. 15.27. “And set him at his own right hand—far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”—“For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him.” When he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that “He is excepted which did put all things under him.”  It must be passing strange if, after these statements, the nations are excepted from the mediatorial rule.

Q. Do not the titles given to Christ clearly demonstrate his headship over the nations?

A. Yes.  They are most satisfactory and conclusive, because it cannot be conceived that the Holy Ghost would dishonour the Mediator with a series of unmeaning titles.  He is “the spirit of truth,” and does not bear false witness.

Q. What is the first title?

A. He is entitled, Psalm 89.27, the FIRST BORNhigher than the kings of the earth.  To the first born belonged the dominion.  It is not as the Son of God essentially considered, but as Mediator, that he is here described as “made” higher than the kings of the earth.  Besides the words might have been rendered Most High, or supreme over the kings of the earth.  עֶלְיוֹן [el-yone'] is often used to express the supremacy of God, and is translated “Most High.” Dan. 4.32-34.  The dominion of Messiah over civil rulers on the one hand, and the subjection of such to him on the other, are thus clearly implied in this title.

Q. Which is the second title?

A. In Psalm 22.28, he is designated “Governor among the nations.”  This psalm unquestionably refers to Christ as Mediator.  The preceding verse foretells the extension of the church of Christ.  “All kindreds of the nations shall worship before him.”  And as what follows is introduced as accounting for the universal spread of the kingdom of Messiah, it must be considered as referring to the same illustrious personage.  “For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is the Governor among the nations.”  This eminent title, consequently, {68} must recognise the mediatorial dominion over the nations.

Q. Which is the third title?

A. In the prophecy of Jeremiah there occurs the following passage: “Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.  Who would not fear thee, O KING OF NATIONS!” Jer. 10.4-7.  Nations here means organized civil bodies.  King is title of office, expressive of supreme rule, or government.  He to whom the title belongs is the true and living God, the God of Israel, as distinguished from heathen idols.  But as the God of Israel is God in Christ, the title may be regarded as equally applicable to the Redeemer.

Q. Which is the fourth?

A. The writer of the Apocalypse proclaims Jesus Christ “THE PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH.” Rev. 1.5.  There can be no room to doubt for a moment, that it is Christ as Mediator who is here spoken of as having the supremacy over civil rulers, supreme and subordinate—all in civil authority, whether in the legislative, judiciary, or executive branches of Government.  Of such Jesus Christ is PRINCE, Μαρχων, ruler, Lord, chief, the first in power, authority, and dominion.

Q. Which is the fifth title?

A. The most splendid title of all remains to be noticed.  It occurs twice in the Revelation of John 17.14; 19.16. “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is LORD OF LORDS AND KING OF KINGS.”—“His name is called the Word of God—and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written—KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  This title teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ has authority over kings as kings.  “King of kings” clearly implies a sovereignty over kings in their regal character, and not merely as private members of his kingdom.  A parallel case illustrates this.  Esth. 7.12, “Artaxerxes king of kings.”  The empire of the Persian monarch was comprised of 127 provinces or minor kingdoms. Now, was Artaxerxes king of all the inferior kings of his empire as men only, and as ordinary subjects? or was he their {69} sovereign in their royal character as they occupied their regal thrones?  In the latter certainly.  Would one of those petty kings of his empire dared to have said, “I am your subject as a man, but as a king on my throne I am your equal, and independent of your authority.” The Persian “King of kings” would have soon crushed him as a rebel.  The title therefore, in its specific import, teaches that Christ is the sovereign of kings in their regal official character and station.  The title further teaches, that kings and the nations which they govern bear the same political relation to Christ, that the nations bear to their immediate kings.  That is, kings and their subjects are the subjects of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and should as such be obedient to his authority.

Q. Does not Rev. 3.7, “He that hath the key of David,” teach Christ’s civil dominion over the nations?

A. Yes.  “The key of David” is the symbol of civil rule.  This is illustrated by the case of Eliakim, Isa. 22.20-22, of whom it is said, “The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder;” and, according to which promise, he was called to the government of Judah and Jerusalem.  It was civil power that Eliakim exercised as treasurer to Hezekiah.  He succeeded to the treasurer’s robe and key of office.  “The key is an emblem of trust; and the expression alludes to the fashion of keys, in old times, which were long and made like a hook, and then laid upon the shoulder, and worn there as a badge of office.”—Lowth.  “The key of the house of David,” is, therefore, the badge of civil rule, and, as applied to Christ, presents him as the son of David according to the flesh, and as succeeding to David’s throne, and exercising dominion as the ruler of the nations.  David was not the head of the church, but of the state; although as the minister of God, he exercised a guardian but not a sovereign care over the church.  He was the type of Christ, as the governor of the nations, making all things contribute to the good of the church—or of true religion.

Q. Was not human society, upon the apostasy of the first Adam, (whom we have seen the first example of civil sovereignty) subjected to another and more distinguished head—THE SECOND ADAM, THE LORD FROM HEAVEN, in order that {70} the race, under him, might be brought back to Jehovah, from whom they had revolted?

A. Yes.  Paul, in the second chapter of Hebrews, quotes the 8th Psalm, which we have adduced as proof of the original dominion of the first Adam, and applies it to Christ the second Adam—the Lord from Heaven thereby teaching, that the crown of dominion which fell from the head of rebel Adam, has been placed upon the brow of Jesus, constituting him “king of the whole earth.” “But now we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.”

Q. Do not “the four living creatures,” the apocalyptic symbols of the faithful ministry, and the “four and twenty elders,” symbols of the united congregations of the Old and New Testament saints, acknowledge Christ’s dominion over the nations?

A. Yes.  They celebrate his praise with joy.  Rev. 5.8,9.  “And when he (Christ) had taken the book, the four living creatures, and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb—and they sang a new song, saying, thou art worthy to take the book and open the seals thereof.”

Q. Do not the innumerable company of angels surrounding the throne of the Lamb, concur with the ministry and church in these praises of the Lamb as governor among the nations?

A. Yes.  They celebrate his exaltation to the throne of the kingdom of Providence, and the government of the nations, with notes of the highest praise.  Rev. 5.11, “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne—and their number was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, saying, with a loud voice, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”

Q. Does not the united acclamation of all other creatures testify their acknowledgment of his exaltation to the dignity of king of kings, and ruler of the heavens and the earth?

A. Yes.  They concur with rapture in the Song of the {71} Angels and of the Redeemed.  Rev. 5.13, “And every creature which is in Heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing and honour, and glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, AND UNTO THE LAMB FOREVER AND EVER.”

Q. Is not this doctrine of the moral supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, as mediator, the great matter of controversy with the nations; the prominent principle of the Apocalypse; and peculiar to the Reformed Presbyterian Church?

A. Yes.  The whole book of the Revelation relates to Christ, as mediator; and his headship over the nations is its most prominent truth.  In the preface to the splendid visions of the book, Christ proclaims himself “PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH;” and in the last conflict with the nations his enemies, amidst the fury of the final battle, he exhibits conspicuously “on his vesture and on his thigh,” the splendid title, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS;” [Rev. 19.16] intimating clearly, that the defence of his claims, as ruler of the nations, is the great object of his warfare, and its acknowledgment the result of the victory which he obtains over his adversaries; and is, consequently, the last article in the testimony of the WITNESSES, and peculiar to them, [Rev. 11,] and remaining to be sealed by their precious blood.  Rev. 17.  “THE LAMB SHALL OVERCOME THEM (the kingdoms of this world), FOR HE IS LORD OF LORDS, AND KING OF KINGS—AND THEY THAT ARE WITH HIM ARE CALLED, AND CHOSEN, AND FAITHFUL.”