One does not need to read the Bible for long to discover that Christ has a Kingdom. Matthew refers to the Kingdom of Heaven over 30 times. The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs 75 times in the New Testament.
Christ’s Kingdom is so central to the message of the gospel that the New Testament often refers to the gospel as the gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel message is a proclamation about the Kingdom: the King came to earth and made a way for everyone to get inside the safe walls of the Kingdom. For a little while, he has gone away, but he is coming again.
The gospel message is a proclamation about the Kingdom.
The message of the Kingdom separates people into two categories.
First, there are the rebels. They hate the King and reject his authority. The rebels belong to another kingdom—the kingdom of darkness. They are enemies of the Kingdom of God. When the King comes the second time, he will destroy his enemies and the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven will be closed forever.
Second, there are the sons. The sons of the Kingdom are heirs to everything that belongs to the King. They love the King. They kiss the King. They serve the King with fear and rejoice with trembling.
People are either in the Kingdom or not in the Kingdom. There is no middle ground.
The Kingdom perspective is helpful when approaching Psalm 2. In verses 1-3, we read about the rebels who oppose the Lord’s anointed. In verses 4-9, we read the King’s decree: the reign of the Lord’s anointed cannot be overthrown. Finally, in verses 10-12, the King warns the rebels to submit quickly or be destroyed.
1 Why do the heathen [nations (ESV)] rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed [Anointed One (HCSB)], saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex [terrify (ESV)] them in his sore displeasure.
6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [nations (ESV)] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed [warned (ESV)], ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little [quickly kindled (ESV)]. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him [take refuge in him (ESV)].
A Word on Messianic Psalms
If you are familiar with the New Testament, you may have already picked up on several allusions to Christ in this passage. When the Old Testament teaches us about something far-off about Jesus—through prophecy, foreshadowing, or types—it often does so in terms of something that is near.
For example, in the Old Testament, King David—the hero of Israel who defeated God’s enemies—is a type of Christ. Jesus is the ultimate King David who defeats death and the devil. Old Testament writers will often speak about David and Jesus at the same time; or, they will speak about David one moment and then suddenly switch gears without any warning and start talking about Jesus.
Reading the prophetic books or the Messianic Psalms, like Psalm 2, can often be confusing. But if you keep this in mind, it will help you to make sense of the close connections between what is happening in the here-and-now of the Biblical text, and the future happenings of Jesus Christ.
Human Rebellion (v.1-3)
With that in mind, look at verses 1-3. The first four lines describe an alliance between several military nations:
“The heathen rage” — they make a lot of noise as they assemble together.
“The people imagine a vain thing” — a plot hatches in their minds. (The Psalmist calls it “vain” because he knows that God will never allow it to come to pass).
“The kings of the earth set themselves…the rulers take counsel together” — they are rallying together around a common cause.
The purpose for this alliance is to rebel “against the Lord, and against his anointed.”
“The Lord’s anointed” refers to the King of Israel. Whichever kings and nations were forming an alliance against him were evidently under the control of Israel at this time in history. They were subjects of the Kingdom. But in this Psalm, they become rebels. They hate being under God’s authority. They refuse to submit to His rule. They wanted to break God’s cords and bonds (v.3).
In Hosea 11:4, God talks about these cords and bands; he says, “I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.”
The kings who were resisting God’s authority didn’t see it that way. They wanted to be in full control of their lives. They thought that true freedom was a life without rules. They didn’t want to answer to anyone.
Scholars have debated which King of Israel and which group of rebels this Psalm refers to. Many have concluded that it refers to the situation in 2 Samuel 5 when the Syrias, Phoenicians, and Philistines joined together against King David.
Regardless, we can already feel the tension between what is happening in the here-and-now of the Biblical story and what the Psalm is telling us about Christ. The kings arise against “the Lord’s anointed” and the word anointed means “Messiah.” In the near sense, we read about a king of Israel; in the ultimate sense, we read about Christ the King.
New Testament Connection (Acts 5:23-28)
Acts 5:23-28 explores the connection in more detail. After Peter and John were arrested, “charged not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus,” and released, the believers pray for boldness.
23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ [anointed].
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
In Psalm 2, there is an actual event happening: there are present kings and present nations allying against the Lord’s anointed, the King of Israel. But the disciples recognize that the Psalmist also had in mind future kings and future nations—Pilate and Herod, Jews and Gentiles—plotting together against the Lord’s anointed, Jesus Christ whom they crucified.
Throughout history, people have rebelled against God’s authority. They killed the King of glory. Even to this day, those who walk away from Christ “are crucifying once again the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:6).
God’s Response (v.4-6)
God isn’t threatened by man’s rebellion. “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord holds them in derision” (v.4). In his perfectly balanced anger, he looks down from heaven at man’s plans, schemes, academic institutions, scientific achievements, technological advancements, and political structures, and he scoffs at them.
The Psalmist knew what the apostles spelled out in Acts 5: the rulers of the earth can do nothing more than “whatsoever God’s hand and God’s counsel has predetermined should be done.” No matter how powerful and secure man feels, he is never more than clay in the hands of the Potter.
The Lord God has established his anointed, and no one can overthrow him (v.5-6). God’s anointed king will reign forever on Mt. Zion. God has said that it will be so, and it is as good as done. There is nothing that the rebels can do to thwart God’s plans. God’s anointed cannot be defeated, even by ten thousand legions of armies.
The Son’s Kingdom Established (v.7)
In verses 7-9, the Psalmist goes into more detail about the decree that his anointed will reign. Verse 7 is especially precious: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Again, we see a near and a future fulfillment.
In 2 Samuel 7, the Lord promised David, “When [you pass away], I will raise up your offspring after you, [your own son]…and I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
The Lord’s decree that the anointed will reign is in keeping with his promise to David that the throne of his son Solomon will be established. But the Psalmist is also speaking of God’s only begotten son, Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate Solomon, who will reign forever on the throne of his Father.
When the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews is writing about the preeminence of Jesus, he quotes from this verse in Psalm 2: “to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you” Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’?”
Psalm 2:7 is the first clear Old Testament reference to the Father-Son relationship in the Trinity. Jesus is God’s only begotten son, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is not “begotten” in the sense that he is created; Jesus has existed forever and ever. Jesus is not a created Being. Rather, Jesus finds his life in his union with the Father. He is eternally begotten.
Jesus, the son of God; Solomon, the son of David. In both cases, the son’s kingdom will be established. The Lord’s Anointed One will reign.
Crushing His Enemies (v.8-9)
In verses 8-9, the God the Father is still speaking directly to His Son. He says, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
The Son shall break His enemies. There is no doubt about whether or not it will happen. He is the supreme Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Revelation 2:7 says the same thing of Christ when foretelling His 1000-year reign: “he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to small fragments.”
Handel said it well in his famous work, The Messiah:
The kingdom of this world;
The kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ
And of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever
And He shall reign forever and ever
And He shall reign forever and ever
Daniel 7:14 confirms, “there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Kiss the Son (v.10-12)
Psalm 2 concludes with a solemn warning to those who would try to oppose the kingdom of God’s anointed: “Now therefore, O ye kings, be wise: be warned, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (vv.10-12).
Everyone who is not part of God’s Kingdom will be utterly consumed by God’s wrath when he cleanses the earth in judgment. The rebels will be crushed and only God’s Son and his servants will remain.
The only wise thing to do is to heed God’s warning, repent of our rebellious ways, and turn to the Son of God. Those who want to be sons of the Kingdom will do several things:
First, those who want to be sons of the Kingdom will “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”
Fear and joy—reverence and rejoicing—motivate our submission to the Lord’s anointed. Hebrews 12:8-9 says, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire,” while Romans 14:17 teaches that “the kingdom of God is…joy in the Holy Ghost.” We rejoice because we are safe in Christ! We are secure under the blood! But our confidence is not careless. This is why Paul tells the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
Second, those who want to be sons of the Kingdom will “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.”
The King James translation is misleading for modern readers: “his wrath is kindled but a little.” The text means, “his wrath is quickly kindled.”
This does not mean that God is temperamentally angry. The Bible tells us over and over again that the Lord is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” What the Psalmist means is that when rebels persist in their rebellion, they will be surprised when his wrath breaks out in swift and terrible judgment. We should not play fast and loose with an Almighty God.
Kiss the Son, because God is jealous for his Son. Just as the curse is terrible on those who rebel against the Son, the blessings overflow to those who receive the Son, adore the Son, love the Son, and worship the Son.
The Psalm concludes with a beatitude: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The sons of the Kingdom have come to the Son with nothing to offer, put their trust in him, and endured to the end. They have kissed the Son.