Happily Ever After
Most of us have grown up with a strong affection for books that finish well and fairytales that conclude with ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Whether it’s ‘Beauty and Beast’ or ‘Snow White and her Handsome Prince’, we don’t enjoy reaching the final page, with a sense of the outcome left hanging or the future appearing bleak or mournful.
With its concrete hope of the future the bible does not disappoint. Though the plan of God starts brightly, the narrative of sin introduces a negative twist, meaning the long journey through the Old Testament, is bumpy at best, if not harrowing and heartbreaking at times. There are lamps to light the route, with bright promises of hope. After the holocaust of Calvary, light dawns at resurrection. From that time on the dimmer switch turns up. Along the New Testament path, there are, of course, tornadoes to hide from and cloud bursts to dampen spirits. As a general trend however, the Gospel beams blaze brighter, as we draw closer to the Day, and as wait in anticipation for the full revelation of glory at the appearing of King Jesus.
I’ve been doing a little research on ‘The End’ of the Kingdom of Christ. That day when the clouds above will part, skies will roll up like a scroll, and departed saints and elect angels will shine in the wake of our Saviour. Presently our exalted glorious king exercises Mediatorial Dominion over all nations. King of Church and State will conclude His royal rule with all His sheep gathered in. Presently all authority belongs to Jesus by divine donation as Mediatorial King. Currently employed to sovereignly steer history for the spiritual salvation, direction, maturation, completion and glorification of the church, then it will be delivered to the Father, having finally served its purpose.
A ‘decisive end’ to Christ’s Kingdom is what many have concluded Paul intends to depict concerning the termination of history, after the moment of final judgment, in 1 Corinthians 15.24-27. “Then comes the end when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father, after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Christ, some say, will, at that juncture, be divested of His Mediatorial Office. His mission will now be successfully completed so that “God may be all in all.”
If this is what Paul actually means, that would certainly be a happy day. To be fixed in the blissful state as we gaze on God forever, in Christ the Divine King, would spell raptures for the redeemed blessed by the ‘Beatific Vision.’ Yet one wonders if this ‘termination-of-mediation’ scheme does justice to the full scope of biblical revelation. There are certainly compelling reasons for modifying this view.
Most writers on the subject are unanimous in their opinion that, with believers glorified, there is no need for further saving mediation. Perfection has been attained through our spiritual union by grace alone, through faith alone, with Christ alone. Yet, many are also agreed, that many texts in Scriptures speak of the reign of Christ, as Mediator, as never-ending and everlasting. This reign is not that, merely, of Christ as God; for when Jesus took our flesh, to become the Mediator, this was a one-way action, by which the Son of God irreversibly became God-Man, one Person with two distinct natures forever.
Psalm 45 would seem to push us in this direction. In verse 6 of Christ’s epithalamium we are told “Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” If some suggest that this speaks of the rule of Christ as God, and not as Mediator, the Psalm also speaks of the Davidic King v1, who has a human nature v2, anointed above companions, v3, so it seems very clear, this speaks of Christ as the Mediatorial King.
Surely perpetuation of His Mediatorial Office is what is intended by the apostolic favourite text, of Psalm 110.1 & 4: “The LORD says to my lord, ‘sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’.” This does not confirm the ‘termination’ view, as verse 4 goes onto show. “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’” which means without beginning or end, from everlasting to everlasting, yesterday, today, forever the Mediator and King.
We could multiply the texts which would appear to proclaim mutation and continuation to the Mediatorial Kingdom of the glorified Man Christ Jesus. We will continue to gaze of the face of our Redeemer, as through our spiritual union with Christ, He mediates ever-increasing heights and depths of glory, teaching, and progress in our knowledge of His Father. It is by mediation of His kingly authority and power that will be the means whereby we share His in His dominion for ever.
This is surely what is hinted at by John in Revelation 21.23 & 22.3-5. “And the city has no need of sun or more to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb.” We will be reflectors of God’s glory that is refracted through the Lamb. “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
Isaiah also speaks of His reign in glowing last-through-ages terms in chapter 9.6-7 of his prophecy: “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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and 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 forever more.”
Some have suggested He will simply present the consummated Kingdom to the Father, and in some way or other His own Kingship will continue. Others push this further and explain how this will happen. In my view Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, p. 482, makes the most convincing distinction. His Mediatorship of Reconciliation, and all that belongs to this aspect of His office as Prophet, Priest and King, will, on that day, reach its divinely appointed end. Yet His Mediatorship of Union will continue undisturbed and without interruption.
“What remains is the Mediatorship of union. Christ remains Prophet, Priest, and King as this triple office is automatically given with his human nature, included in the Image of God, and realised supremely and most magnificently in Christ as the Image of God. Christ is and remains the head of the church, from whom all life and blessedness flow to it throughout all eternity. Those who deny this must also arrive at the doctrine that the Son will at some point in the future shed and destroy his human nature; and for that there is no scriptural ground whatever.”
In what capacity, then, will the Mediatorial Office of Christ be maintained forever? Francis Turretin answers this question in Volume Two of his Elenctic Theology, p. 492.
“As to prophecy ...he will illuminate the saints forever ...as to the priesthood by a perpetual representation of his sacrifice as the foundation of the glory we shall possess ...not only to be purchased but also conserved forever ...as to the kingdom, he will also reign in the church as her head and surety by an indissoluble union.”
Is it possible to conceive of a day when, in glory, we will not look upon Christ, God-Man forever, as the Lamb of God slain from eternity to eternity, the source of eternal wonder, blessing and praise? Can it be ever thought that after the marriage supper on the day our groom returns, the result will be a honeymoon that is never consummated or enjoyed throughout the ages in a perpetual loving union? ‘What God has joined together let no man separate.’ Both corporately and individually we will surely always be united to the Lord in ever more joyful, peaceful, happy union. Dabney sums it up, stirringly, on pp. 552-553 of his Lectures in Systematic Theology:
“The whole tenor of Scripture seems to imply that the peculiar relationship, not only of gratitude and affection, but also of spiritual union, formed between Christ and His people, is to be everlasting. He is their ‘Alpha and Omega’. His life is the spring and warrant of their life. It is their union to Him which ensures the resurrection of their bodies, and the eternal life of both body and spirit ...The change made in the method of God’s governing the universe, by means of the incarnation, will continue in some respects to all eternity, as a standing monument to Jesus Christ’s victory and grace ...the restoration of the Church to the Father, as an accomplished enterprise, is to be received, not as implying a severance of Christ’s headship, but as a surrendering of Himself along with it, body and head, as an aggregate ...the Son’s most appropriate reward may be, that He shall continue the immediate Ruler and Benefactor of the restored subjects.”
So there will be no final chapter that starkly reads ‘The End’ but as the Bride of Christ, united to our Lamb-Groom, we will live ‘Happily Ever After’. No tongue has told, no human mind conceived, what God has kept in store for those who love Him ...but God, blest be His Name, has revealed it by His Spirit, so we belief, in faith, hope, love, the raptures to be enjoyed in Jesus, our Prophet, Priest and King, will long outlast the sun.
Consoled by the Lamb, quieted by His love, our song shall ever be in the married state of bliss: ‘I am His and He is mine ...yesterday, today, forever.'