Everyone Wants to Be King
King Arthur. Raised by a man who was not his father, he pulls a sword out of a stone, and discovers he is actually the lost son of Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne of England.
Clark Kent. Raised by simple Kansas farmers, he discovers he is actually Kal-El, an orphaned Son of Krypton, and becomes Superman.
Luke Skywalker. Raised by his aunt and uncle, he discovers he is the orphaned son of Queen Amidala (ok, she was just a senator at the time), and Darth Vader.
Harry Potter, Peter Parker, Bambi, Bruce Wayne, Simba, Conan, Aladdin, Anna, Elsa, Cinderella, and Snow White. All orphans. All overcome great odds, and great suffering, to finally ascend to positions of great power and authority.
Do you see a pattern?
Do you see a common story?
It’s a story that keeps getting repeated (and keeps making money), because for some reason it appeals to us. No matter how many times we hear it, we don’t get bored. Something about it rings true. Why is that?
Is it because we all have the basic desire to live lives of significance? Is it because we all have the sense that we were destined for something important?
If so, why?
Where does that desire come from?
Why does it seem implanted in each of us?
Myth and Fact
When people say, “Christianity is just a myth!” I think most of us would respond defensively by objecting, “No, it’s not!”
But not C. S. Lewis.
Lewis would have answered enthusiastically, “Yes it is a myth! And it’s also a fact.”
While we would define the word “myth” as a story that isn’t true, for Lewis, whose profession was teaching this type of literature, a myth is a story that tells us what is most true.
Not every story is meant to teach us truth. Some have no deeper point other than to elicit a quick chuckle, or to scare us, or just to pass the time for us.
But myths are different.
According to Lewis, myths are the stories a culture tells its people in order to teach them their most important standards, values, and aspirations. And so, Lewis would say the Christian story is both a myth—because it tells us what is most true about ourselves and about reality—and it is fact, because the events it describes actually happened.
I want to suggest to you that the story of the high-born orphan who overcomes great odds to take their rightful place in positions of power and authority is a myth in that second sense. It resonates with us, because it communicates something deeply true about our God-given purpose and destiny. That story echoes the truth that God created you to be kings and queens. He created you to rule.
But where, exactly, does the Bible teach that?
To Reign With Him
Let’s start with a curious phrase in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, where he told his young protégé that a goal of the Christian life was to rule with Christ:
This saying is trustworthy: For if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us (2 Tim 2:11-12, emphasis added).
If you endure, you will reign.
That’s your goal, or should be—to rule with Jesus.
Admittedly, it’s not a goal you will hear very much about in most churches, or read about in most commentaries. In fact, most churches and most commentaries skip over this verse because their faith traditions don’t have a theological context that would make sense of this passage.
You see, in order to make sense of “ruling with Christ,” you need to believe that Jesus is going to rule. But unfortunately, most churches and commentaries deny that. In fact, many of them even think it is positively heretical to believe Jesus will return to establish and rule in a literal, earthly kingdom. So when Paul mentions ruling with Christ, they don’t understand what he could be talking about. So they skip that verse.
But Paul didn’t skip it. It was a crucial point for Timothy to understand. There’s more to life than just getting born-again. We are called to be disciples and discipleship has a purpose and a goal in mind—it is training to rule with Christ.
As Dr. Earl Radmacher famously quipped, “This life is training time for reigning time.”
So Paul told Timothy that if he endured—if he kept on believing and following despite the doubts, objections, and scorn that would come his way—if he endured, he would reign with Jesus.
If you endure, you will reign with Jesus too. You will live the life of significance that God intended for you all along. But only if you endure.
That’s what Paul clearly taught.
But where did he get that idea from?
Is ruling with Christ a revelation unique to Paul?
Was he the first to speak about it?
Jesus Taught His Apostles about Ruling with Him
Paul received the teaching of ruling with Christ from Jesus Himself. It was a subject the Lord addressed several times during His ministry.
For example, consider the Parable of the Minas, in Luke 19:11-21. “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return,” Jesus explained. But before he left, this nobleman gave money to his servants and asked them to invest it for him. When he returned, he evaluated how the servants performed. Notice what the reward for faithful service is:
“Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities’” (Luke 19:16-19, emphasis added).
The nobleman who received the kingdom rewarded his faithful servants with positions of rulership within it. He would rule over the kingdom. They would rule over cities within it.
Obviously, in this parable, Jesus is the nobleman and the kingdom is the Messianic kingdom.
Jesus was teaching His disciples that if they remained faithful, their reward would be to rule with Him in the Messianic kingdom.
It was a theme Jesus returned to often. To take another example, He promised the apostles they would rule with Him over Israel:
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:28).
When Christ will sit on His throne, the apostles would rule from their respective thrones. That was the expectation Jesus had for them. It was also the ambition they had for themselves. Even the moms understood the importance of ruling with Messiah:
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached Him with her sons. She knelt down to ask Him for something. “What do you want?” He asked her.
“Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.”
But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
“We are able,” they said to Him.
He told them, “You will indeed drink My cup. But to sit at My right and left is not Mine to give; instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father” (Matt 20:20-23).
When the moms recognize that ruling with Messiah is important, you know you aren’t dealing with an esoteric piece of theology that only scholars and doctoral students can understand.
Ruling with the Messiah in His future kingdom is “bread and butter” theology.
It’s part of what everyone should understand.
It’s Christianity 101.
Unfortunately, it’s not bread and butter theology in most churches today.
Most churches today reject the idea that Jesus is going to rule over anything real, and so they have no concept, let alone an expectation, of faithful believers ruling with Christ.
And yet, that teaching comes straight from the mouth of Jesus.
And notice, Jesus was telling the apostles—or rather, their mother—that if they wanted that kind of position, to rule at that level, they would have to suffer, they would have to drink the same cup that Jesus did (cf. Matt 26:36-46). And because of it, because ruling was conditioned on their faithfulness through trial, Jesus couldn’t promise to give them positions of authority. They had to prove themselves first, by suffering. Or to use Paul’s terminology, they would rule if they endured.
So Paul received the idea of ruling with Christ from Jesus Himself. But where did Jesus get it from? Did it originate with Him, during His earthly ministry, or was it an earlier teaching in the Bible?
The Dominion Mandate
The importance of ruling goes all the way back to the very first chapter of the Bible, to Genesis 1.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
…So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth” (Gen 1:26-28, emphasis added).
Do you know what a purpose statement is? It’s a declarative sentence that summarizes your goal for a company, club, church, mission, or whatever.
Genesis 1:26 is God’s purpose statement for man.
God created man to rule.
God didn’t create man to rule over God, but to rule under Him, over creation.
That’s God’s purpose for men and women.
That’s God’s purpose for you.
It was His plan from the very beginning.
A Unifying Biblical Theme
It’s no accident that one of the most important, recurring themes in the rest of the Bible is how ordinary believers come to positions of great power, rulership, and dominion.
Abraham started off as a nobody in ancient Sumeria (Gen 11:31), and despite numerous trials, became the wealthy patriarch of a growing, powerful tribe (Gen 13:2).
Ishmael went from being cast out of his father’s house, to becoming the father of a nation (Gen 17:20; 25:12-18).
Joseph went from being orphaned by his brothers, to ruling over Potipher’s household, and then ruling over the whole of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.
Moses went from slave to a prince of Egypt, and then to leader over Israel.
Esther went from orphan to queen of Babylon.
David went from being an expendable, neglected, shepherd boy to king over Israel.
Daniel went from royal orphan (Dan 1:3) to ruler in Persia, then Babylon.
Do you see a pattern?
Those stories aren’t in there by accident. They aren’t in there simply because God thought they were interesting. Rather, they illustrate God’s purpose statement for man in Gen 1:26-28. They illustrate how ordinary believers fulfill the original dominion mandate by obeying God and rising to power to become godly rulers.
The New Eden
The dominion mandate in Genesis 1 became more defined over the course of redemptive history. As we trace the scarlet thread of redemption from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, we find that all of God’s purposes find their climax in Christ, and that holds true for the command to rule.
The first Adam was commanded to rule, but fell. As a result, God promised to send a second Adam, Jesus (1 Cor 15:47), who would do what the first Adam failed to do. He would have dominion over the whole of creation, and rule in a renewed Eden (cf. Rev 22:1-5).
But just as Adam was never meant to rule alone, neither will Jesus rule alone.
The Lord promised that faithful believers will sit with Him on His throne (Rev 3:21) and together “they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:5).
If ruling with Christ is not your goal, your hope, or your ambition, then it is time to change your priorities and get them in line with Jesus.
The Biblical evidence about ruling with Messiah should not only spark your imagination, it should also enlarge your ambitions.
Sadly, I’ve spoken with many Christians who confess they aren’t interesting in ruling with Christ. They’re content with just “getting into heaven.” That’s enough for them.
Please understand, that’s not enough for God.
He didn’t create you to just get by.
He created you to rule.
That’s the target He commands you to aim for.
If you’re content not to rule with Christ, that’s not a sign of your humility, but of your disobedience. It means your desires are wrong and they need to come into line with God’s desires.