Let All Nations Call Him Blessed
This is the third in a short series of posts dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). If you’re new to this subject (or to my blog), you will want to read the essay with which I introduced the series (just click here).
My goal in this eschatological adventure is two-fold.
First, I want to open up something of the Christ-centered truth and beauty of OTKP to my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Secondly, I want to reason a little with my premillennial brethren. In particular, I want to make the case that we all will best understand, enjoy, and profit from OTKP when we see that its true sphere of fulfillment is: 1) Christ, 2) the New Covenant he instituted by his blood, 3) the two-staged spiritual Kingdom he has already introduced (and will soon consummate), and, 4) the New Covenant community he is creating out of elect Jews and Gentiles: the Church.
In short, I would like my premillennial brothers to reconsider the amillennial approach to the interpretation of OTKP.
Since the dramatic closing scenes of the end of the age will soon be upon us, it is vital that Christians stand together as much as possible. Seeing eye to eye on eschatology would definitely help. These essays—and the book in progress from which they are extracted—represent my best effort at contributing to that worthy goal.
Since the prophetic texts I deal with are usually quite long, I have not reproduced them here. You will need to bring an open Bible to each blog. My hope and prayer is that you enjoy them all.
This is another royal psalm, frequently cited as a bastion of premillennial truth.
John Walvoord writes, “Psalm 72 is an unusually complete picture of the millennial reign of Christ . . . The psalm as a whole pictures the peace and righteousness and universal rule of the King of whom it is predicted, ‘Yea, all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him.’”
Similarly, Wayne Grudem states, “(This psalm) speaks of an age far different from the present age, but short of the eternal state in which there is no more sin or suffering.” In other words, it speaks of the millennium.
However, a close look at the psalm itself seems to tell a different story.
To begin with, it is not obvious that this is an OTKP. Following the AV and the NIV, Walvoord and Grudem read it (or portions of it) as serial predictions about the Messiah and his millennial kingdom. In other words, they read it as straight OTKP.
However, in all translations, verse 1 clearly marks it as a prayer. And indeed, some translations, such as the NASB and the ESV, render much or all of the psalm as a prayer; as a series of petitions, presumably written by king David (v. 20), asking God to bless not only his son Solomon, but also the entire royal seed, in such a way that they may fulfill the divine purpose for the chosen nation.
In short, this may well be a liturgical prayer, designed for the coronation of any royal son of David, expressing David’s ideal conception of the character, career, and global impact of Israel’s king(s), and asking God to bring it all to pass.
What would such a reign look like?
Turning to the psalm itself, we learn that it would be marked by justice (vv. 2, 4), prosperity (vv. 3, 16), a healthy fear of God (v. 5), righteousness (v. 7), widespread peace (v. 7), the global dominion of Israel’s king (vv. 8-11), his special solicitude for the poor and the weak (vv. 12-13), his sure retribution against their oppressors (v. 14), prayer for the king (v. 15), blessings invoked upon the king (v. 15), the everlasting renown of the king (v. 17), and joyful universal adoration of the king (v. 17).
Notably, David concludes his prayer urging God’s people to bless the LORD, who alone does wondrous things; who is well able to give Israel—and all the world—just such a king; and who, through him, could readily fill the whole earth with his glory (vv. 18-19)!
So then, is this an OTKP, as Walvoord and Grudem claim? Technically, no, since it does not appear to be the kind of predictive prophecy we find in Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel.
Nevertheless, I would concur with my two brothers to this extent: Using language and imagery drawn from the Law and Israel’s life under the Law, the psalm does indeed give us a “mysterious” glimpse of the Messiah and the eternal Kingdom he will usher in. However, to understand what the Spirit actually meant by that glimpse, we must turn to the NT, where we learn that this—and ALL—OTKP is actually fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the two-fold spiritual Kingdom he introduced on the Day of Pentecost (Luke 1:32, 67-79, Mt. 13:36-43).
For example, there we learn that even now the High King of Heaven defends the cause of the poor (v. 4, 1 Cor. 1:26-30, James 2:5).
Even now, through the work of the Spirit, he gives deliverance to the oppressed and needy (v. 4, 12, Eph. 2:1-10, 1 Thess. 1:10, Titus 3:3f).
Even now, by that same Spirit, he is to his spiritually thirsting people as showers that water the earth (v. 6, Acts 3:19, 1 Cor. 12:13, Phil. 1:19).
Even now, through the faithful preaching of the Gospel, he extends his far-flung dominion from sea to sea, and to the ends of the earth (v. 8, Mt. 13:33, Acts 1:8, Col. 1:23).
And that is not all.
At his return, when his dominion becomes absolute, the rest of the psalm will be fulfilled: His enemies will lick the dust (v. 9, Luke 19:27), all kings will fall down before him (v. 11, Phil. 2:10), and he will crush every remaining oppressor, including death itself (vv. 4, 14, Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 15:25).
And after that, in the completed Kingdom that he himself will usher in (Phil. 3:20-21), the mountains will bring forth perfect prosperity (v. 3, Heb. 12:18f, Rev. 21:10), the people will fully blossom like the grass of the field (v. 16, Rev. 22:2), the saints will forever praise his name (v. 17, Heb. 13:15), and all the nations of the redeemed will call him blessed (v. 17, Rev. 5:6-14).
Yes, long shall he live, and long shall his saints live with him, in the glorious, everlasting Kingdom of God (vv. 14, 15, Rev. 1:18, 21:3-4)!
In sum, the New Covenant Hermeneutic enables us to see that this majestic Messianic psalm does indeed have rich prophetic significance. It does not, however, depict conditions in a temporary earthly millennium, but rather, in a mystery, the eternal two-staged spiritual Kingdom created by Christ under the New Covenant.