The Once and Future King

Jonathan Landry Cruse
Friday, October 21st 2022

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of ordering food at a restaurant, let’s say a burger, and you ask for the kitchen to hold the bacon (why you would do such a thing, I have no idea, but hey, it’s your order, not mine) and are promptly informed that this particular establishment permits no substitutions or special orders. The food comes the exact way the chef has painstakingly determined it should be prepared. While you might be a bit miffed, you accept the terms. We always do. And yet we seem to have a much harder time receiving Christ as he is presented in the Scriptures than we do a dinner presented on a menu. What do I mean? We are prone to pick and choose the parts of Jesus that sit well with us, and leave the others behind. And most commonly left off the order is his kingship. “I’ll take him as a healer, a teacher, a friend—but hold the king, please.” Are we even able to do such a thing?

Not according to 2 Samuel 7. This chapter records for us the inauguration of the Davidic covenant: God’s promise to establish the throne of his servant David forever. As if that doesn’t sound breathtaking enough, biblical scholars have noted something even more important is going on here. Writes Richard Belcher, “God’s covenant with David represents the culmination of all the promises of the previous covenants. It not only consolidates those promises but sets the stage for the further outworking of those promises in Old Testament history and for their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.”[1] This means that all of the promises of salvation that God has been making since Genesis 3:15 are to be understood through this one promise to David. The hope of Israel, the hope of the world, the seed of the woman and the heir of Abraham, will be the son of David who will reign as king for eternity.

So, the Davidic covenant does nothing less than frame who Jesus is for us. It teaches us that one of the key ways to understand Jesus is as king. And that’s really hard for people. “Tell me he’s a good teacher, fine. Tell me he’s a miracle worker, a philanthropist, a philosopher. Tell me he’s my savior, even. But don’t you dare tell me he’s my king.” We balk at that notion of Jesus as king because it undermines our self-rule, our autonomy. If I say he’s king it means my life needs to change. It means he calls the shots. It means the posture that God wants me to take in life isn’t that of one seated on my throne, but of bowing before his—and that’s hard.

But what the Davidic covenant (and the rest of Scripture) impresses on us is that Jesus is nothing if he’s not king. That’s the whole point. He won’t be anything to you if he’s not your king. Or we could say it like this: He can’t be our savior unless he’s our king. So we need to get over ourselves, and it shouldn’t be that hard if we understand what kind of king he really is! Allow me to share three thoughts about the kingship of Christ that should encourage and inspire us all to readily make him our Lord, receiving all of God’s salvation blessings from him. If for no other reasons, our hearts ought to bow before Christ the King because he is kind, in control, and coming back.

First, because he is kind.

Part of our aversion to authority is that it is often abused. As Lord Acton has said, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But would you believe there’s a king who doesn’t use his power to abuse, use, manipulate, or crush his subjects? Would you believe that there’s a king who uses his power to save them, free them, to actually empower them and make them fellow rulers with him? Isn’t that an amazing thing? Why should we doubt a king who was willing to be crushed for his subjects? Why doubt a king who promises to make us co-heirs with him, who will make us “kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). When you see what Christ has done for you—that he would hang his head on the cross, and hand you and me a crown—namely, when you see his kindness—you will say, “Why wouldn’t I give my life to this king? He will only treat me well. He will only do me good.”

In the 1950s, holocaust survivor and political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote an essay entitled, “What Is Authority?” There she explained that authority is not the same as power or persuasion. She said, “Authority precludes the use of external means of coercion; where force is used, authority itself has failed!”[2] Commenting on the essay, Professor Cassandra Nelson concludes that “authority properly executed doesn’t make anyone do anything. The means of coercion is not external but internal—perhaps in the same way that one’s conscience compels one—and submitting to it involves no loss of freedom.”[3] When we truly recognize the kindness of Christ the King, we will quickly realize he is not making us do anything at all. We will want to do whatever he asks.

Second, because he is in control.

We want this king not just because he’s kind, but also because he’s in control. “Wait a minute,” you might be saying, “that’s the whole problem! I don’t want him to be in control!” But here’s what I mean: Christ is in control whether we like it or not, and whether we acknowledge him as king or not. And if you don’t acknowledge him, your life is one lived in constant conflict and frustration. Because he is reigning.

There’s a war in our day and age against nature. Many people believe that with the right combination of medication, surgery, and affirmation, they will acquire a peace of mind, happiness, and fulfillment that they have not been able to attain naturally. And yet, generally, those same people would never advocate for, say, a killer whale to spend its life in captivity. They know that this is unnatural to the whale, and she needs to be out in the open water to be fulfilled. She needs to live according to her nature. What does this mean for you and me? We don’t want to submit because it doesn’t feel right to us. But that’s our sin nature talking. Here’s the surprising truth: it would be most appropriate to say there is nothing more natural for us to do than to submit to Christ. We were made to be subjects to God, and our life will go better for us when we bow before him.

Beyond there being something natural to this kind of submission, there’s also something very reassuring to it as well. Are you a worrier? If so, why? It’s because you have taken upon yourself something that doesn’t belong to you: the trajectory of your life. We don’t get to say what is going to happen to us today or tomorrow, because we aren’t the king. Worry is essentially the result of a profoundly incapable person stepping into a profoundly weighty role: you and I are unqualified to run the world. Do you want to stop your worry? Then make Christ king of your life; he’s already in control of it, after all.

Third, because he is coming back.

There’s a third and final thing. We want Christ as king because he’s coming again. According to legend, back in the sixth century, Briton’s greatest king died in battle. Now they faced the threat of the invading Saxons without their champion. They felt like without him they had nothing. But a myth began to circulate that gave them hope: this king would come back at their greatest need. So they inscribed on his tombstone what became something of a rallying cry “Hic jacet Arthurus, Rex quondam, Rexque futurus”—“Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.”

Of course, King Arthur is mostly myth. But there’s something that’s very real in this story: the propensity for humanity to put our hope in dead things. And if they die, that means they disappoint. The way the Welsh got over their profound discouragement and fear during days of oppression was to invent a story that said the best king they ever had didn’t actually die, rather he would come back when they needed him most. Christ is the actual once and future King, and there is no such engraving on his tombstone because he doesn’t have one. He lives—right now! And he’s coming back soon. We want Christ to be king because he’s coming back, and since he’s coming back that means he doesn’t disappoint.

Does the return of Jesus fuel you with hope and joy? There’s a curious and convicting line at the end of Psalm 96: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes” (vv. 11–12). The trees will sing at the return of Jesus. Why? Because they know what a good and right and true king he is. They know that everything that God intended for the world, for all creation, is made possible in him. And they will dance and they will sing.

And yet he didn’t die for trees, did he? He died for his rebel subjects. He died for us. So let us give in to that glorious impulse to “hail him as [our] matchless king through all eternity.”[4]

Jonathan Landry Cruse is the pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the author of The Christian’s True Identity and What Happens When We Worship. He is also a hymn writer whose works can be found at

[1] Guy Prentiss Waters, J. Nicholas Reid, and John Muether, eds, Covenant Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 173.



[4] Matthew Bridges, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” 1851.

Photo of Jonathan Landry Cruse
Jonathan Landry Cruse
Jonathan Landry Cruse is the poetry editor of Modern Reformation, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of The Character of Christ and What Happens When We Worship. He is also a hymn writer whose works can be found at
Friday, October 21st 2022

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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