Jesus Christ Came To Turn Theocracy Upside-Right

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Right at the heart of the Christmas story, in Luke 1:26-33. ESV, we read of the coming True Theocracy: the kingship of Jesus Christ.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

He will sit on David’s throne forever; and lest the language of the final verse be a cause of confusion, he will not only reign over the house of Jacob but over all. He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and to him every knee will bow. Philippians 2:9-11 tells us,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is True Theocracy.

There are other theocracies, for example the version I call rhetorical theocracy, so named because it has nothing whatever to do with true theocracy, but is the product of persons trying to score rhetorical points against believers. When believers in God bring their moral and spiritual values with them into the political process, it isn’t theocracy, it’s democracy. It’s a matter of believers doing what everyone does, for everyone brings their moral and spiritual values with them when they enter into democratic political processes.

Then there are actual human theocracies like Calvin’s Geneva or modern Islamic states. These fit the dictionary definition of theocracy “1. A government ruled by or subject to religious authority. 2. A state so governed.”

I wonder: would you choose to live under one of these theocracies?

No one lives under rhetorical theocracy, for it is nothing but a rhetorical construct. Actual human theocracies always tend toward corruption, as their leaders falsely assume the authority of God. I certainly wouldn’t want to live under those conditions, and I’m sure you wouldn’t either

And then there is true Theocracy, where God (Theos) himself rules.

When God rules, there is no assumption of authority, for he owns it eternally by nature of his Godhood.

And I wonder: would you choose to live under God’s theocracy?

Consider this: What you and I both hate about human theocracies, he hates too. God turns theocracy upside down, or more accurately turns it upside-right again.

Humans who falsely claim rulership  in God’s name become puffed up in pride, elevate themselves above all others, and become corrupt in their use of power. Jesus, in contrast, claims a throne as God himself; but he humbled himself, emptying himself as low as all others to rule in justice and peace. The aforementioned Philippians 2:9-11 passage is preceded by Philippians 2:5-8, one of the great theological explanations of Christmas; and it makes all the difference:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Consider also another famous biblical passage on the birth of Christ, the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

His reign will be one of wonderful counsel and eternal peace, upheld with justice and righteousness. When True Theocracy comes, it will be very, very good.

Do you welcome his coming as king? Do you look forward eagerly to a world of peace and justice under his rule? Then Christmas is your day of celebration.

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4 Responses to “ Jesus Christ Came To Turn Theocracy Upside-Right ”

  1. We all agree that Islamic theocracy is bad. Do you think Calvin’s theocracy in Geneva was also bad? Did Calvin tend toward corruption? Did he falsely assume the authority of God? I’m just wondering what the modern evangelical attitude is about this.

    Also, there’s an on-going question about how religious believers can be politically active without either (1) checking their beliefs at the door or (2) tending toward (human) theocracy. Maybe you’ve discussed these questions in previous blog posts …

  2. I hear conflicting views about Calvin’s Geneva, John, but my impression is that Calvin held off the temptation to corruption about as well as anyone has. You have to take the times into account. It wasn’t anything like a modern liberal democracy. But (again, this is an impression) I think he did pretty well at holding off the tendency toward being self-serving in his leadership position.

    Did he falsely assume the authority of God? No. He knew that God was God, and that he wasn’t.

    There is a strong tendency toward corruption with power. Some withstand it, but not very many. Even if some individuals are successful, still I have very strong reservations against the power of the church being too closely mixed with the power of the state.

    I hasten to add, that’s completely different from the church bringing its influence to bear upon the state through democratic processes in a pluralist society.

  3. Tom, regarding your thoughts on power I think you would be interested in the latest podcast by the Storymen (just iTunes the word). It’s an interview with Andy Crouch (christianity Today) on his new book Playing God. I’m tying this on a tiny phone and it’s a painful experience so I’ll leave it there

  4. When believers in God bring their moral and spiritual values with them into the political process, it isn’t theocracy, it’s democracy. It’s a matter of believers doing what everyone does, for everyone brings their moral and spiritual values with them when they enter into democratic political processes.

    So John when you asked “Also, there’s an on-going question about how religious believers can be politically active without either (1) checking their beliefs at the door or (2) tending toward (human) theocracy.”

    Were you ignoring what Tom said in the above or did you just not bother to read it?

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