Why Do the Nations Rage?

The conspiracy by the Earth’s kings to unseat God’s Son is applied by the New Testament to the plot to kill Jesus. The Second Psalm is a key messianic passage applied to Jesus several times in the New Testament. But precisely when were its predictions fulfilled, and is the Messiah reigning now on David’s Throne? Or is the world still waiting for his accession to God’s Throne at a future date? What about the “revolt” of nations and kings against Yahweh’s “anointed one”? Is this a prediction of a future conflict between Jesus and the government of the Earth - (Psalm 2:1-6)?

We do not have to search far for answers. For example, in both his gospel account and the Book of Acts, Luke applies these predictions to the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus.

Abandoned Church - Photo by Luc Constantin on Unsplash
[Photo by Luc Constantin on Unsplash]

In
Acts, when the Temple authorities attempt to suppress the fledgling church, Peter and his congregants pray for “boldness” to proclaim the Gospel. In his prayer, he reiterates that the very same authorities that are now venting their rage against the young Assembly also plotted to kill Jesus, and he applies words and phrases from the Second Psalm to that event.

  • (Acts 4:23-28) – “O Sovereign! You are he that made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all things that are therein, Who, by our father, through means of the Holy Spirit, even by the mouth of David your servant, said, Unto what end did THE nations revolt, and peoples busy themselves with empty things? The kings of the earth stationed themselves, and the rulers were gathered together with one intent against the Lord and against his Christ. For they were gathered, of a truth, in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with them of the nations and peoples of Israel; to do whatsoever your hand and your counsel marked out beforehand to come to pass.”

In his appeal, Peter follows the Greek text of the Septuagint version of the second Psalm in which the verb rendered “gathered together” is sunagō, the same term used in Acts to describe the Temple authorities when they hauled the apostles before their “gathering” for examination:

  • And it came to pass upon the morrow, that there were gathered together of them the rulers and the elders and the scribes in Jerusalem” - (Acts 4:5-7).

Thus, in Acts, the same leaders in Jerusalem that conspired to destroy Jesus have “come together” to stop the newly formed congregation dead in its tracks. In doing so, they continue their “revolt against the Lord and his anointed one.”

Peter attributes responsibility for the death of Jesus to Herod, Pontius Pilate, the nations, AND the people of Israel. They all “gathered together” against the “holy child” and the “Messiah” when they rejected Yahweh’s Messiah and became complicit in his death.

AGAINST JESUS


In the synoptic gospels, the same language is applied to the conspiracy by the priestly authorities to destroy the messianic upstart, namely, Jesus of Nazareth. For example, in Matthew, “all the High Priests and Elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death” - (Matthew 27:1-2).

The language from the Psalm is behind the parable that Jesus applied to the Temple leaders concerning the man who planted a vineyard and leased it to “husbandmen.” The owner of the vineyard represented God, and the husbandmen” were the priestly leaders of Israel. In due season, the owner sent servants to collect what was due. In reaction, the “husbandmen” beat the servants and refused to pay what they owed.

Finally, the vineyard owner sent his only “son.” On seeing him, “they began to deliberate one with another, saying: This is the heir. Let us slay him that the inheritance may become ours,” and so, they killed the “son” and heir. That very hour, the scribes and high priests attempted to seize Jesus and destroy him since “they perceived that, against them, he told this parable.” Clearly, they understood the point of the story - (Luke 20:9-20).

In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a crowd about “Jesus, the Nazarene” whom they slew. But God raised him from the dead and exalted him to rule from His Throne, having made him “both Lord and Christ,” the very one whom “you crucified” - (Acts 2:23-39).

Similarly, at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul declared, “They who were dwelling in Jerusalem and their rulers,” though they found Jesus guilty of no crime, delivered him to Pontius Pilate for execution. However:

God raised him from among the dead,” and thereby fulfilled the “promise made to our fathers by raising up Jesus: as also in the second psalm it is written — My son you are, I, this day, have begotten you.”

HIS ENTHRONEMENT


In the Second Psalm, the enthronement of the Son is linked to the declaration by Yahweh: “I, this day, have begotten you” - (Acts 13:23-36, Psalm 2:7-9, 110:1).

  • (Psalm 2:6-9) – “Yet I have installed my king on Zion my holy mountain. Let me tell of a decree, Yahweh said to me, YOU ARE My son. I, THIS day, have begotten YOU. Ask of me and let me give nations as your inheritance and as your possession the ends of the Earth. You will shepherd them with a scepter of iron, as a potter’s vessel, you will dash them in pieces.

The same promise features prominently in the Letter to the Hebrews. Its opening paragraph describes how God spoke with fullness in His “Son,” who, “having achieved the purification of sins, sat down on the right hand” of God. As elsewhere in the Letter, the exaltation of Jesus is connected to his resurrection from the dead, citing the Psalm to substantiate that claim:

  • (Hebrews 1:3-5) – “Who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his very being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places, by so much becoming superior to the angels, by as much as, going beyond them, he inherited a more distinguished name. For to which of the angels said he ever, YOU ARE MY SON. I, this day, have begotten YOUR?” – (also, Hebrews 5:5-8).

Finally, the Book of Revelation declares that Jesus is the “Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the Dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Once again, his present exalted position is linked to his past death and resurrection. He is the “Firstborn of the Dead” and the one who “loosed us out of our sins by his blood.”

The clause alludes to the Second Psalm when “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers took counsel together against Yahweh and his Messiah” - (Revelation 1:4-6).

In the Psalm, God promised to give his Son the “nations for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the Earth for your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron.” Now, Revelation applies that promise to Jesus in his present position. Already, God’s “Anointed One” reigns over the Earth and its “Kings” from the Throne - (see, also, Revelation 2:26-27, 12:5).

Thus, the New Testament applies the predictions in the Second Psalm to the conspiracy by the Temple leaders to destroy Jesus, the same group that manipulated the Roman governor into carrying out his execution.

But God was not taken by surprise. Did He not predict these very events? Instead, He responded by raising Jesus from the dead and installing him as the absolute Sovereign over the nations and the “Kings of the Earth.”

In the New Testament, the messianic reign of Jesus Christ on the “Throne of David” is a present reality that began following his resurrection. Whether the “revolt” of the kings against him was exhausted by this event, that is where the prophecy's fulfillment began.



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