William Varner on whether Jesus Christ is king
Dr. William Varner, Professor of Bible & Greek at the Master’s College, stated in his recent post Prophet-Priest-King that Jesus is a prophet, a priest, and a king. He wrote: “As the anointed one of the Lord, Jesus was, is, and always will be the Prophet, the Priest, and the King at the same time.”
Jesus is Lord and king of the saints who reign with him, and also their high priest, and the mediator of the New Covenant.
Varner also stated in his article, “Following His return to earth, during His millennial reign, His role as king will be stressed (Rev. 19:16). The point is that Jesus is always the anointed king, but He enters into His public office as king during the Millennial Kingdom.”
In another post on The Promises to Israel, Varner argued that the promises to Israel can not apply to the church. He wrote:
The Apostle Paul is clear on the great privileges that God has granted Israel. He wrote in Romans 9:4: “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.” Paul nowhere intimates that these great privileges have been annulled, forfeited, or cancelled. As a matter of fact the three chapters of which this verse is a part (Romans 9-11) have as one of their purposes to emphasize that God has not cancelled His promises to Israel or transferred them to some other people!
In Romans, Paul explained that Jews who have rejected the gospel of Christ are branches broken off from their tree. Clearly, while the promises to Israel remain intact, one must remain attached to the root and trunk of the olive tree, which represents those in Christ, to whom all the promises apply. And in Ephesians 2:11-13, Paul said “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
Specifically, what are those promises to Israel? Well, they ultimately are derived from those to “Father Abraham” in Genesis 12:1-3. To sum them up, they are basically the promises of a people, a land and a blessing. The Book of Deuteronomy and the later prophets unite on the affirmation of these promises to Israel. Chapters 28 and 29 of Deuteronomy clearly delineate the dire consequences if Israel disobeys the Lord-there will be drought, exile and suffering-to name only a few of the judgments. But even if the promises of judgment are fulfilled, that does not cancel the promises of Israel’s future blessings found in Deuteronomy 30. As we will emphasize again in this brief article, to view the promises of Israel’s judgement as having been literally fulfilled while attempting to spiritualize and then transfer the promises of her blessings to the Church involves an inconsistent hermeneutic.
By faith in Christ, Gentile believers are grafted in to the metaphorical olive tree, representing the true Israel of God. In the same way, Jews who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and king, and believe the gospel, may be restored into that same olive tree. Varner continued:
As an example of many such illustrations of this principle, consider just the prophets Hosea and Micah. In Hosea 3:4 there is a promise of judgement on Israel which already has been literally fulfilled: “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.” If that verse has had a literal fulfillment in Israel’s history of the last two thousand years, what about the next verse embodying a promise of blessing for Israel?: “Afterward the children of Israel shall return, seek the LORD their God and David their king, and fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.” If Israel was punished literally, they will be blessed literally!
The northern kingdom of Israel ceased at the time of the Assyrian invasion. The dynasty of David ended with the exile in Babylon. Either of these are a fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy. Jesus ascended to heaven, and he reigns there as king, and in the hearts of those who yield themselves to him. They are the saints who John described as “beheaded,” a metaphor, that possibly alludes to the renewal of ones mind. Paul said, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” [Romans 12:2]
Or consider the dual promises of judgment and blessing in Micah 3:12-4:2: “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” The promise of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was literally fulfilled. Why would anyone then spiritualize the promise of restoration and blessing for Jerusalem and the Temple in the very next verses?
Micah’s prophecy about the mountain of the Lords’ house becoming established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, was fulfilled, I suggest, when Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection. In the New Testament, Jerusalem is located in heaven. Paul referred to “the Jerusalem which is above,” in Galatians 4:26. Hebrews 12:22 says that believers have come to the “heavenly Jerusalem.” The holy city was “exalted above the hills,” and all the mountains of the earth, to heaven. Paul said the saints “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6]
It follows that up until the end of the ministry of Jesus, prophecies about the city of Jerusalem apply to the earthly city, but after Jesus ascended to heaven, those prophecies apply to the heavenly one. But Varner was unaware of this. He wrote:
Now, someone may say that although the OT prophets may have stated that, now in the NT the Church is the so-called “New Israel” and the Church really spiritually receives those future promises of blessing to Israel. But this cannot be proved from the NT either. Already we have referred to that great chapter on Israel’s future, Romans 11. Throughout that chapter the word “Israel” refers to the Jewish people. Therefore, when Paul affirms the future blessings for Israel in Rom. 11:26-27, why would he then inject the word with a different meaning? “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Paul actually bases his theology of blessings for a literal Israel on OT prophecies (Isa. 59:20,21 and Jer. 31:33,34).
Contrary to Varner’s claim, Paul said, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” [2 Corinthians 1:20] Thus, the promises of God to Israel are all inherited by Christ. Only through Christ may we become part of the olive tree, that represents the Israel of God. Varner continued:
Why should the plain and natural sense of a text be jettisoned? In Luke 1:31-33 seven promises were given to Mary. Five of them have already literally been fulfilled. Why is someone authorized to say that the remaining two will not also be literally fulfilled? Indeed, Christ shall receive the throne of His father David, and He shall rule over the house of Jacob forever, literally.
Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to the words of a layman who understood the nature of language very well, the poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson: “I cannot understand how you theologians and preachers can apply to the Church Scripture promises, which, in their plain meaning apply to God’s chosen people, Israel; and which consequently must be future. The prophetic books are full of teachings which, if they are interpreted literally, would be inspiring, and a magnificent assurance of a great and glorious future; but which, as they are spiritualized, become farcical … as applied to the Church they are a comedy.”
Varner must have forgotten that he elsewhere wrote: “As the anointed one of the Lord, Jesus was, is, and always will be the Prophet, the Priest, and the King at the same time.” Whether Varner believes it or not, the angel Gabriel’s promise to Mary, that God would give to her son the throne of his father David, was fulfilled. [Luke 1:32] Peter said to the Jews, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” [Acts 2:36] If Jesus is Lord and Christ, he has fulfilled the Messianic prophecies. Jesus called Jerusalem “the city of the great King.” His city is the heavenly Jerusalem; his throne endures forever.