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Reigning with Christ — What Does the Bible Say?

“If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2Tim 2:12, ESV).

Almost every Christian knows that they receive salvation and eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10; John 3:16). We know that it comes by His grace, not by our own righteousness or good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). But beyond that, the Bible has much to say about our individual purposes. First, we are to represent Christ to others now, on earth:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1Pet 2:21).

Because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:30).

It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Even More in the Future

It is a wonderful and awesome task to represent Christ now, but the second purpose of Christians is even more astounding: We are to reign with Christ at His return! It is doing the same work, but with more power and ability. When the apostles “straight up” asked Jesus what their reward would be, here is what He said:

Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:27-29).

In simple terms, we are representing Christ now in a limited way, still subject to our human limitations, but we will represent Christ in His judgement of the world—including all the secret things that people thought they “got away with” (Romans 2:16; Mark 4:22; Matthew 16:27). The apostle Paul explained this relationship between our works and rewards, and salvation which is independent from it.:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:11-16).

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:1-3)

Who Are Saints?

Do not be confused by the words “saints”. It is not a special class of Christians that requires a religious body to nominate or certify in some way. It is from the Greek word hagios which is more often translated “holy” in verses like 1 Peter 1:16, where God says: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (). A quick check of a concordance or Bible search program will show that “saint” is used for ordinary Christians like you and me.

Is Judgment Loving or Livid?

In the Scriptures about the return of Christ and His judgment with the saints, some will talk about stern judgments and ruling with a “rod of iron” while others mention love, delivering the poor, renewing the earth, etc. Which way is it going to be? The answer is, “both!” This is why it is usually called “judgment” not “punishment time” or “reward time”. Everyone will receive what they justly deserve. There are some very evil people who need to be put in line! Other oppressed people need healing and lifting up! Doing justice will require a lot of saints and a lot of time. But as you read, be aware that some scriptures may mention only restraints and punishments while others emphasize gifts and rewards. A few mention both together.

Reigning with Christ in the Old Testament

From the time of Genesis to Revelation, the Bible has numerous references to the Christ returning to reign with the saints. We will let the Bible tell its own story, with a few explanatory comments as necessary. We start with the book of Jude because it contains a prophecy from a man named Enoch, mentioned in Genesis 5:18-22 as one who “walked with God”. What did this righteous man prophesy?

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 1:14-15)

Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David (Psalm 122:3-5).

Remember the promise to the apostles that they would sit on 12 thrones judging the tribes of Israel!

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 149:4-9)

Dan 7:18 “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.... But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them ” (Daniel 7:18; 26-27).

Reigning with Christ in the Gospels

“For, the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father, with his messengers, and then he will reward each, according to his work” (Matthew 16:27, Young's Literal Translation).

While most translations will say “angels”, the Greek word agellos used here is frequently translated either “angel” or “messenger”. The Greek does not tell us if it is a divine (“angel”) or human messenger—so the translators must use their best understanding. Sometimes the choice is obvious, but here it could go either way. Christ's saints could certainly be his messengers. The same word choice issue also exists in the verses below, but there we have the added Greek word hagios, which means “holy” or “saint”.

“And whenever the Son of Man may come in his glory, and all the holy messengers with him, then he shall sit upon a throne of his glory; and gathered together before him shall be all the nations, and he shall separate them from one another, as the shepherd doth separate the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).

“When he [Christ] returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities’” (Luke 19:15-19).

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).

This teaching was given on the seventh day of the Feast, representing the seventh thousand years of man’s existence (1 Peter 3:8). It emphasizes the restorative ministry of the saints, being full of the Holy Spirit and able to impart it to others—much more powerfully than we do now.

Reigning with Christ in the Epistles and Revelation

And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17).

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

So that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)

Priests emphasize the aspect of spiritual teaching and nourishment in addition to judging.

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father (Revelation 2:26).

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne (Revelation 3:21).

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).

Let Us Be Ready for His Reign

These 22 Scriptures show us God’s plan for Christians to reign with Christ at his return. It does not really matter which church groups or individuals believe it. God will carry out his perfect plan no matter what. Those who have given themselves to Christ in this life will certainly be ready to humbly follow His lead in the next.

But the apostle Paul strongly indicated that Christians ought to know that they will be judging the world and even angels in the next life, and ought not to shrink back from practice—judging situations that are brought to us in this life:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:1-3)

When people are not getting along in your family, school, workplace or church congregation, if they try to bring you into the matter to help solve it, what is your approach? Is it: “Oh, no, another dispute”? Or is it: “Why can't these people grow up?” Or maybe: “leave me out of this”?

We should welcome the opportunity to practice judging righteous judgment. Yes, it will probably be inconvenient—these things usually are. But it is probably part of the teaching God wants us to have, so that we may be one of the saints ready to stand with Christ to judge the world. We only have the “down payment” of the Holy Spirit in our hearts now (2Cor 21:22). But when we judge with Christ, “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2) and able to judge in true righteousness (Acts 17:31). What a blessing!