And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”  (Matthew 28:18-20).

After a life of humble obedience and an agonizing death on the cross, the resurrected Lord Jesus declared that He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  All authority.  There is nothing that is outside of Christ’s dominion.  He is now the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Yet, not everyone recognizes Him as King.  This is the oft-forgotten context of the great commission.  Namely, since Jesus is Lord over all, those of us who know Him have an obligation to tell the world.  Christ’s disciples are to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey all of Christ’s commandments.  We are to encourage people to repent of sin and to obey Jesus.  We are to warn them of the consequences of disobedience.    

These verses should be a constant source of joy and comfort for God’s people, particularly in difficult times.  And yet, there are two misconceptions that might prevent us from enjoying the blessings of Christ’s reign.  Some believers seem to think that Jesus really meant to say, “All authority will be given to me in heaven and on earth (sometime in the future).”  In light of the evil of our present age, it is tempting to think that Christ’s reign is something that is entirely future, rather than being a present reality.

Certainly, the Bible teaches that there will be a time in the future where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10).  And clearly, that time has not yet come.  There are still enemies of Christ in this world.  But does that mean that Jesus not currently King of kings and Lord of lords?  Does the failure of wicked men to recognize Christ’s authority somehow nullify that authority?  Clearly not. 

The other misconception is that Christ really meant to say, “All authority has been given to me in heaven, but there’s not much I can do about the earth.”  Again, because wicked people do wicked things in this wicked world, we are tempted to think that Christ is not in control.  We are tempted to think, “Surely if Christ could do something about the evils in this world, He would.  Right?”[1] 

But both of these misconceptions stem from the same unbiblical presupposition: that God would never allow evil to exist for a time if He had the power to do something about it.  We fail to recognize that God does allow evil to exist, and that He has a good purpose for it.  God allows the tares to grow alongside the wheat, and this is for the benefit of the wheat (Matthew 13:29-30).  Sometimes God allows wicked men to live and prosper because He plans to save them.  God is patient and merciful, and will often delay judgment for the purpose of granting repentance and salvation to sinners (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:25).  Other times He allows the wicked to prosper for a while in order to demonstrate His power. 

The Scriptures are full of examples of God using evil intentions and actions to bring about a greater good (Genesis 50:20).  The most spectacular example is the crucifixion of Christ.  This was the most wicked thing that wicked men have ever done.[2]  Yet, God planned it and used it to accomplish the salvation of all His people (Acts 2:23).

And what about wicked kings, and other wicked rulers?  In our shortsightedness, we tend to think, “But surely God wouldn’t allow evil men to rise to power and oppress their own citizens if He could prevent it.  Right?”  However, the Bible is clear that God can and does raise up wicked leaders for His divine purpose.  Romans 9:17 states, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.’”  God used the wicked obstinance of Pharaoh to demonstrate His power to the Egyptians, the Israelites, and everyone who would hear about it.  God can use (and has used) wicked nations to punish the disobedience of His own people to induce repentance (Deuteronomy 28:15, 49; Leviticus 26:13-14, 17, 25, 33-35; 2 Chronicles 36:19-21). 

Christ will eventually destroy all of His enemies, the last of which is death (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).  But the Bible teaches that this does not happen instantly when Christ begins to reign.  Indeed, the Bible prophesied that Jesus would rule in the midst of His enemies (Psalm 110:1-2).  Therefore, Christ rules in such a way that He allows His enemies to continue to exist for a while.  And He uses them and their evil actions to bring about a greater good.  Of course, this does not justify their sin.  And if they fail to repent, they will experience the full wrath of God.

The Lord is very patient.  But He is also a just King and righteous Judge.  Therefore, He will eventually punish every sin that has ever been committed.[3]  It is in this context that we must warn all the people of all the nations to repent of sin and obey the Lord Jesus.  Wicked leaders may prosper for a while.  But if they fail to repent, their destruction is certain.  Psalm 2:10-12 states, “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”

[1] This is the same fallacious reasoning used by many atheists to argue against the existence of God.  Namely, “If God exists, then why is there evil in the world?”  It doesn’t seem to occur to them that God might have a morally commendable reason for the evil He allows to exist.  The argument really boils down to this: “God doesn’t do what I would do, therefore God does not exist.”  But that is absurd.  I wouldn’t put pineapple on a pizza, but does this disprove the existence of people who do?  And it never occurs to the atheist that concepts of “good” and “evil” are meaningless in an atheistic universe; what one chemical accident does to another is morally irrelevant.  The existence of evil therefore proves that God does exist.

[2] Since all men have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and since the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), all deserve death.  Our sinless Savior was the only person ever to die who did not deserve it.

[3] Those who refuse Christ’s offers of mercy and salvation, those who die unrepentant, will pay for their own sins forever in the lake of fire.  However, Christ has paid for all the sins of all those who repent and trust in Him.