The King and The Beast
“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow per- verting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a king. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.” (Luke 23:1-3)
The King before the Beast!
For, indeed, Jesus is the King!
King He is, not in His own name, nor by the power of the sword, nor by the will of the people, but by the grace of God, and by the will of the LORD of hosts.
Concerning Him it was that God had declared the decree from days of yore: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of men and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7-8). Long ago the people had honored Him in their songs: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow down before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him” (Psalm. 72:8-11). The prophet of the captivity saw Him in the night visions as One like the Son of man, and He “came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his. kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
Art thou a king then? . . . .
O, but indeed, I am a king. Thou sayest it!
King of the Jews, yes; and King of all; King of kings and Lord of lords, anointed unto this supreme office to represent the invisible God in the visible world. And: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” But a King I am, for “to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world that I should bear witness unto the truth”. . . .
The only rightful King that ever was, and Whose dominion for that very reason shall surely be established forever.
And he that here examines Him, and that inquires into His kingship, is the legal representative of the Beast!
Pontius Pilate is Roman governor, and as such he represents Caesar. And throughout the trial it is but too evident that Caesar stands in the background. The question of Christ or Caesar looms large in this legal procedure, is the crucial question. . . .
And, to be sure, in his capacity of Roman governor and judge Pilate represents the sword-power, instituted by God, vested by God’s own dispensation with divine authority even over life and death, for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. And Christ, the King by the grace of God does not dispute this divine prerogative and calling of the Roman governor,. Emphatically he acknowledges this. He even instructs Pilate in regard to this truth,. For when the Roman governor is provoked because this Christ never answers any irrelevant questions, and asks Him whether He does not realize that he has power to crucify or to release Him, He answers: “Yes, indeed, I know that thou hast power over me, given thee from above!”
Yet, the fact remains that the Roman governor is a representative of the Beast!
For in the light of divine revelation the Roman empire was but a part of a whole, a temporal manifestation of the Breast, a historic moment of the anti- Christian world-power, that was from the beginning, that received his power from the dragon, and that will reach his culmination in the latter days. This is evident from the dream-image that troubled the mind of mighty Nebuchadnezzar. For, although the image is composed of different parts, and metals, of gold and silver and brass and iron, and a mixture of iron and clay, yet the image is one, representing the one beast that is principally always the same. And although the stone that is cut out of the mountain without hands smites the image upon his feet, it is, nevertheless, the entire image that is thus demolished. This is also evident from a comparison of Daniel 7 with Revelation 13. For, although in the former passage the world-power appears in the form of different beasts, rising one after another out of the storm-tossed sea, in the latter they appear as merged into one monster with seven heads and ten horns. And the Roman empire is but a part of the dream-image of the haughty Babylonian despot; it is but one of the beasts that are one beast: a historic manifestation of the antichristian political power that always sets itself against the LORD and His Anointed!
The King and the Beast!
O, indeed, moved by the Spirit of revelation, the Church did quite correctly interpret this trial when “they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things ? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. . . .
The Beast judging the King!
God’s Anointed in the clutches of the world-power!
Christ and Antichrist!
For this world-power has its origin in the man of sin, fallen man, that rebelled against his rightful Sovereign and entered into a covenant with the devil. A king God had made man, but king under Him, anointed to rule in His Name, and to function as His representative in the earthly creation. But the servant-king under God became a friend and slave of the devil. And ever since, he is evilly impelled to maintain himself in the world as its sovereign, and strives to establish one mighty world-empire in alliance with the Prince of this world. And for the realization of this purpose he employs the sword, the State, instituted _________ or the punishment of evil-doers. . . .
And this power must needs be anti-Christian.
For God has anointed His own King over Sion, to become heir of all things, and to establish His own kingdom as the obedient Servant of the Most High.
And always the antichristian sword is turned against this Christ and His people in the world,
All through the old dispensation the dragon confronts the woman that is with child: before the flood, at the time of the building of Babel’s tower, in the house of bondage, in the desert, in the land of Canaan. It rises against David and his house to destroy it from the earth.
It reveals itself successively in Babylon, Persia, Greece, the Syrian Antiochus, Rome . . . .
And now, finally, the Anointed stands before the representative of mighty Caesar.
He alone, without an army; helpless, without a sword . . . .
The King and the Beast!
The King over against the Beast!
The Beast with a kingdom of and for this world, maintained by this world,
But the King with a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that does not at all depend for its maintenance upon the power of this world.
For this reason the King’s accusers invent a wicked lie in order to secure His condemnation, not only by the Roman governor as the representative of the antichristian world-power, but also by Pilate as representative of the sword-power that is ordained of God.
O, to be sure, the entire trial of our Lord before Pilate concentrates around the question concerning the kingship. That is the crucial point. The accusation brought against Him is that He perverts the nation by His claim to the throne, that He forbids the people to pay tribute to Caesar, that He claims that He Himself is Christ, a King, that He makes Himself King. And it is emphasized that His kingship opposes that of Caesar, so that one cannot take His part and remain Caesar’s friend (John 19:12). And the governor is deeply concerned about this question. Although being unable to understand a kingship of the kind that is represented by a Man like Jesus of Nazareth, he nevertheless inquires: “Art thou a king then?” He leads Him out and presents Him to the Jews in the words: “Behold, your king!” And the Jewish mob becomes incensed and shouts back: “We have no king but Caesar!” Indeed, as Jesus appear before the Roman governor, the very serious question as to the kingship is the all-important point to be considered!
Yet, His accusers place the antithesis between Jesus and Caesar in a false light.
They put the kingdom of Christ and that of the Roman emperor on the same plane, and present them as operating in the same sphere. They make of the Anointed One of God a pretender to Caesar’s throne, and rival with him for the sword-power, one who, like Caesar rules over a kingdom of brute force, a kingdom of this world. God’s King is presented as a revolutionary, who would establish another world-power on the same level as that of the Beast, and who, for this very reason, must needs forbid to give tribute to the Roman emperor.
A wicked lie!
A deliberate falsehood!
A devilish attempt to cover up the real antithesis between the King and the Beast, and to prevent that in the judgment of the Beast rendered against the King, the world of the Beast itself be judged and condemned forever!
Or did they not know that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world? Had there ever been the slightest suggestion in the entire public ministry of the Lord that could lend support to the notion that He purposed to rise against the sword-power of the Roman empire? Could they produce even the smallest piece of evidence for this accusation? Was not the very opposite true? When they tempted Him with the question concerning tribute, had He not told them to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s? And had they not been witnesses in the garden of His absolute refusal to take up the sword even in His own defense? Ah, they might have produced evidence of the Lord’s revolutionary activity, false though even that would have been, had not the Lord Himself destroyed the evidence by healing the ear of Malchus!
A devilish invention, deliberately made, was this indictment that He was a rebel against Caesar!
Or did they not remember that they had been willing to make Him exactly such a king, on more than one occasion, and that He had always refused?
Or was it not precisely because He did not want to overthrow the earthly throne of the Roman emperor, that they were always offended in Him?
He forbids the people to pay tribute!
He makes Himself a King in Caesar’s stead! . . . .
But on that supposition the Roman governor may not pass judgment on Him. The condemnation of the Anointed One by the world-power may not be based on a misunderstanding. How, then, could the world be condemned? . . . .
Art thou a king then? . . . .
Yes, indeed! Thou sayest it!
But be at rest! My kingdom is not of this world!
I have neither army nor sword! I came to witness of the truth. . . .
For the righteousness of God stand I! Let the issue be perfectly clear, then express your verdict!
The verdict of the Beast!
Victory through defeat!
For, not as representative of the divinely instituted sword-power, but as an instrument of the Beast, the Roman governor expresses his verdict.
Repeatedly he declares that he finds no guilt in Jesus. The issue is clear. As bearer of the sword he has no other “power from above” than to protect the Lord against His evil accusers. Either, He must let Him go as representative of the power that is ordained of God, or he must place himself and his sword in the service of the beast, and crucify Him!
And “he delivered Jesus to their will!”
The Beast has spoken. The King suffers defeat. Delivered He is to the wantonness of the soldiers, that know no king but Caesar, that despise, any other kingship than that which is able to handle the sword and to maintain itself by brute force. And they express their contempt by a purple robe, a crown of thorns, mock obeisance. And presently He is led to the accursed tree of Golgotha, to be utterly defeated and put to naught!
Not a word passes His lips in self-defense. He might have pleaded His cause. He might have protested that His case was clear before all the world, that no accusation had been brought against Him that could be sustained, that His innocence was clearly proved. Even to Caesar He might have appealed. But never a word He spake to escape His utter defeat. Only twice He opened His mouth, both times, not to defend Himself or His cause, but to remove a possible misunderstanding: once to explain the nature of His kingdom, and the second time to remind Pilate that his power was from above. For the rest, He was silent in His defeat. . . .
Yet, this defeat was His victory!
For, first of all, His condemnation was, in reality, the judgment of the Beast. But a few days ago He had announced: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” It was now, indeed, the hour in which He “spoiled principalities and powers,” and “made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” How could the Beast, after this hour of judgment, ever make another pretense of justice and righteousness and justify his claim to handle the sword? How can the world ever make another claim that it is fighting to establish a kingdom of truth and righteousness, after having condemned Him Who came to witness of the truth? . . . .
Defeat, yes, but unto victory!
For in the hour of judgment, the King must hasten to the place of execution, that there Tie may suffer the wrath of God for the sin of His own, and thus establish His kingdom in righteousness! . . . .
And the Beast must be instrumental to lead the King to His victory, and to accomplish his own destruction!
The victory of the cross!
Herman Hoeksema – 1943