“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor 15:24).
“Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).
A friend sent me this great question:
I was reading in 1 Corinthians when I was puzzled by a passage. 15:24 and 15:28 describe Christ as giving up His kingdom and becoming subject to the Father. I know His (and believers’) reign is eternal because the end of Revelation makes that clear. So, how do Paul’s statements factor in?
I’ve been puzzled by those verses as well.
We do know, as my friend points out, that Jesus’ reign is eternal. See the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, esp. chaps. 21-22.
But we know that He gives the kingdom to His Father.
First Corinthians 15:24 is an allusion to Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’”
Putting those together leads me to this conclusion:
The eternal reign of Jesus will be not only His reign, but also and especially the reign of His Father who sent Him for this very purpose.
Dave Lowery implies this sort of interpretation in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT edition, 1 Corinthians, p. 544.
Leon Morris says something similar in the Tyndale 1 Corinthians commentary (p. 213).
The best quote I found was in the IVP Commentary on 1 Corinthians by Alan F. Johnson (p. 293). He writes: “Joost Holleman seems to catch the right nuance: ‘Yet the idea behind the image [Ps 110:1] is that the king and God are so closely related that, although the king is the actual ruler, it is God who exercises his power through the king…Although it is Jesus who actually destroys every rule, authority, and power, it is God who acts through Jesus…'(Resurrection and Parousia: A Traditio-historical Study of Paul’s Eschatology in 1 Corinthians 15. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 84. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1996, p. 60).”
As an aside, while I know of no verse which says that the Holy Spirit will rule in the kingdom, it seems likely to me that all three members of the Godhead will reign. But they do so through the person of Jesus Christ.
If this suggestion is correct, then the kingdom rule will be Trinitarian.
I might note in closing that Jesus’ work is divided into periods of time. We could divide His work into many phases, but I’ve chosen to highlight three phases.
He ruled in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8). He appeared to Abraham, Moses, the three men in the fiery furnace, and many OT saints in His preincarnate form. He became a man, lived a sinless life, ministered for three years, then died on the cross in our place. Phase one of His ministry was accomplished when He completed the work of atonement: “It is finished” (John 19:30).
But there was more work to be done. Not for atonement. But to establish His kingdom.
Jesus then spent three days in Sheol, rose from the dead, and appeared to many people over forty days. He now sits at the right hand of the Father, awaiting the day He will return and establish His kingdom (rapture, tribulation, Millennium).
After the Millennium, He will then deliver the kingdom to His Father. When He does that, phase two of His ministry will be complete. He will have completed the work of atonement, and He will have delivered the kingdom to His Father.
Phase three, if we might call it that, will be His eternal rule. Jesus will rule forever from the New Jerusalem. But as Paul says in 1 Cor 15:24, 28, Jesus’ rule will be the rule of God the Father who sent Him for this very purpose.