The Glorious Reign of Christ over the Earth & The Church

a brief study of Psalm 97, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 22 Jan 2010


Psalm 97 is not a familiar psalm for most of us. It is one of the few psalms that are not featured the book by R.E. Prothero entitled “The Psalms in Human Life”. Nevertheless, it is an extremely joyful and triumphant Psalm that we should take more notice of.

What is this Psalm about? We can get an idea of its theme from the way that one of its verses is quoted in the New Testament.

 Turn to Hebrew 1:6—

“And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6).


Now, if you have a modern Bible, look at the footnote on this verse, you may find an indication that this is a quotation from the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 32:43. However, if you look at the Hebrew or the English translation of Deuteronomy 32:43; you will not find those words!

Where then are the words “Let all the angels of God worship him” found in the Old Testament? Well, if you compare the Greek of Hebrews 1:6 and the Septuagint translation of the last part of Psalm 97:7 you will see that they are almost exactly the same.

Our English translation of the last part of Psalm 97:7, reads: “Worship him, all ye gods.” However the word ‘elohim’, which is translated here as ‘gods’, may also be translated as ‘angels’ and it happens that in the Septuagint, the phrase is translated as “Worship him, all ye his angels.” Can you see how the apostle is probably referring to this verse?

Now, notice again the way that he quotes it:

“And again, when He [the Father] bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6).


Notice how he is referring to the words of Psalm 97 as the words of the Father about the Son? And what is the occasion? It is the incarnation of the Son! “When he bringeth in the firstborn into the world” he says!

In other words, the apostle to the Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recognises Psalm 97 as a hymn of praise about Christ relative to His incarnation or His first coming! Calvin arrives to this same conclusion from a different angle. This Psalms contains, he says, “a prediction of that kingdom of Christ, which was erected upon the introduction of the Gospel.”

But now, if you read Psalm 97, as a hymn about the coming of Christ, you may feel that the language appears to be more suitable for the Second Coming rather than the First Coming. But you must remember that this psalm was written before the first coming of Christ, and as an eschatological psalm it looks forward to the glorious last days beginning from the incarnation! In other words, the psalm does not look forward only to a part of the last days, but to the last days as a whole. The Second Coming of Christ cannot be divorced from the First Coming. The First Coming is the beginning of the coming of the Second Coming. The Second Coming is the culmination of the First Coming. And moreover, as we shall see, there is a sense that all that is said in this psalm about the reign of Christ is already true!

With this in mind, we may entitle this psalm: “The Glorious Reign of Christ Over the Earth & the Church!”

It has essentially two parts: (1) Let the Earth Rejoice in Trembling; (2) Let the Church Rejoice in Gratitude.
1. Let the Earth Rejoice in Trembling
1 The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator and the Immanuel. He is God. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (Jn 1:3). But all things were also made for Him, for He was appointed from all eternity to be the governor over the entire creation. He reigns. He has reigned since the beginning of time.
But it was only at His incarnation that His reign was clearly displayed for all to see. Before that God had on occasions showed His mighty power. But during the incarnation, the God-Man, the Lord showed His mighty power through one miracle after another. He turned water into wine, healed the sick, caused the blind to see, and the lame to walk, cast out demons, fed the multitude, calmed the storm, raised the dead, and rose from the dead himself! The LORD, He is sovereign over creation.
It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit would have us extol the universal reign of Christ as we reflect on His incarnation.
1 The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.
The LORD, the Immanuel is King. Let all the earth rejoice and be glad in Him. The earth should greatly rejoice in the knowledge that she is ruled by a Sovereign and Holy God. Oh, how much more should the world rejoice in the knowledge that He who rules the world shares our nature and has displayed His mighty power for all to see.
The world does not see His majesty. They saw Him as a hapless babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying on a manger. But they failed to see that the helpless babe was at the same moment ruling the world by the word of His power. And so the world misses the wonder of His incarnation. But the Spirit would not have us to remain silent at the world’s blindness. He would have us paint with our lips the picture of the incarnation that the world fails to see, verse 2—
2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.  3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. 4 His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. 5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. 6 The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. 7 Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.
Christ is not an idol. He is not even an angel. He is the eternal Son of God. He rules powerfully, justly and righteously. Let all with eyes to see acknowledge His majesty and power.
Look! He is no ordinary man. He dwells not in the cares and pleasures of this world. He is heavenly. He dwells in clouds and darkness, and judgement and righteousness are His habitation.
Look! A fire is going before Him. His enemies are being consumed. His lightnings are exposing the world of all her darkness and sin.
Look! The world is trembling in awe as His Gospel makes inroads.
Look! The Lord is advancing in His conquest of the world. He is going forth conquering and to conquer. The hills are melting like wax as they are exposed more and more to the presence of the Lord of the whole earth with each step He takes.
Look! The heaven is declaring His righteousness and the day is coming when all men shall see His glory, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Those who serve graven images and boast of their idols, will be confounded and brought to shame.
The Lord is majestic. Let all angels and powers upon the earth acknowledge Him willingly today, or be compelled to kneel in cringing fear on the day of the wrath of the lamb.
Christ our Lord is already advancing through the world with His gospel. Let none think that they can ignore Him because they do not see Him or refuse to respond to His Gospel. For as our Lord reminds us through John the Baptist:
“The axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire…[The] fan is in [the] hand [of the Lord], and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:10, 12).
Yes, only though the eyes of faith can we see the advance of the Lord through the world; not only those with eyes of faith will be affected by His advance. The fact is that nothing will be untouched by the Lord in His advance, for such as respond not in humble adoration today will be marked for destruction. They will be destroyed when the day of longsuffering is over, when the Lord comes again to gather His people.
So secondly,…
2. Let the Church Rejoice in Gratitude
8 Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD. 9 For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.
The world refuses to see and hear, but Zion, the Church of Christ, heard and was glad. We rejoice because we see His justice and righteousness displayed and being displayed. We rejoice because we apprehend His holiness and transcendence. He is not as the gods of man’s imagination. He is the LORD, the Creator of the heaven and earth who took on our flesh, and suffered and died for us.
Therefore brethren, take heed. Verse 10—
10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
If we love the LORD, let us hate evil for He hates evil. He took on our flesh precisely because He would deal with sin for us. So let us prepare for His coming again by fleeing evil and seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness.
If we do so, we will have the assurance that Lord will preserve us and will one day free us completely from the wicked one and all wickedness (v. 10).
Therefore, let us rejoice gratefully for all that He has enabled us to see and experience:
11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
Beloved brethren and children, the Lord has given you light and righteousness and a new heart. You are enabled to see what the world cannot see and enjoy what the world cannot enjoy. Oh will you not rejoice in the LORD! Oh will you not give praise and thanks unto Him upon every remembrance!
Here then is Psalm 97. The Lord Jesus Christ is reigning. He has reigned from the foundation of the world. But He has entered into a new phase of His reign. He is marching through His realm conquering and to conquer.
Let the Earth rejoice in trembling that the King is riding through her. But let the Church rejoice in gratitude for His love and mercy shown towards them.
For the day is coming, when He shall appear in the fullness of His glory, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord! Amen. Ω