Why Do the Heathen Rage?
Why don't we take the apostles word for it when they say a thing is so, or it is complete, or it is fulfilled?
"Kiss the Son..." And be made complete!
Many times in the New Testament the writers will quote an Old Testament passage. What do they intend when doing this? Is it significant? When the New Testament writers interpret the Old Testament passages do we need to pay attention at all?
In the book of Acts chapter four we have one of those interesting instances of this very event, Luke the writer of Acts is quoting King David from Psalm 2. We find the account of Peter healing the lame man at the gate "Beautiful" in chapter 3 and then in chapter 4 we have the reaction of the priests, the Sadducee's and the Captain of the Temple. Their response was to try to shut up Peter and the rest of the apostles, and this miracle of making the lame man whole was just too much for them to handle. Peter of course did not just sit idly by and allow them to shut them down. He defended what they were doing, saying that it was the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth by whom this crippled man had been healed. (Acts 4:10)
After a bit of back and forth between Peter and John and the rulers in Jerusalem, the rulers decided to just threaten them and let them go. Upon being released, they went back to their friends (Acts 4:23), and approximately 5000 believers (Acts 4:4) and they shared with them all that had happened and all that the chief priests and elders had said, (Acts 4:23). When the crowd heard these things they lifted their voices to God and praised him with these words:
"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, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus" (Acts 4:24-30)
They begin by quoting Psalm 2. Now maybe it is because they are Jews and the Psalms were the praise and worship music of their nation, and perhaps they were so moved as to break out in song…perhaps? But why this Psalm? And why this particular Psalm for this occasion?
As I was reading through this text a few times to try to become more familiar with it, I noticed that this was not Peter speaking and preaching at this point, this was the crowd. And the crowd was declaring (probably very loudly and publicly) that this Jesus was the "Anointed one that David referred to in this Psalm, and that Herod, Pontus Pilate, other gentiles and the People of Israel were the people who plotted in vain and the rulers who had gathered against the Christ (anointed one). They are basically declaring that at the crucifixion, this Psalm of David was fulfilled.
We know that Luke recorded and wrote of these events by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so we know that these events occurred as they are recorded, and we know that the people quoted this particular Psalm. But did you notice the change that the crowd made as they quoted it? Or at least did you notice the change that was recorded (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) by Luke?
In Psalm 2 verse 1 we have written:
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?"
But in Acts 4 and verse 25 Luke records it just a bit differently:
"Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?"
The difference is in the tense. Psalm 2:1 says "Why DO…"
Acts 4:25 the people said, "Why DID…"
The people in Acts 4 are looking back at the crucifixion of Christ, by Herod, Pontus Pilate, the leaders of Jerusalem and Israel and they are saying that the thing which David said was "going to happen," HAS happened.
So since the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record this in the past tense, shouldn't we accept that Psalm chapter 2 was fulfilled in Christ at the crucifixion? Let's continue to look at this passage with a little verse by verse and phrase by phrase comparison.
Palm 2:1 "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?"
Acts 4:25 "Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?"
Psalm 2:2 "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,"
Acts 4:26 "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ (or Anointed one)."
Acts 4:27-28 "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, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."
Here the crowd interprets David's Psalm for us as Luke records for us their interpretation. The similarity and the actual repetition of the language used in Psalm 2 that is used in Acts 4:27-28 makes this comparison unavoidable.
They admit that it was indeed Jesus who was the anointed one, (the Christ). Then they name names, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were "Gathered" (the exact language of Psalm 2). This gathering of unlikely allies, the Jewish leaders, the people, the Gentile leaders and other Gentiles, all working in conjunction to "Do what thy (God's) hand and they (God's) counsel had determined would be done." Here we have David prophesying that these groups would come in a conspiracy against God's anointed, and yet we have by way of the inspired commentary on this verse telling us that they did nothing more than what God had intended for them to do, which was to crucify the Son of God. Just as Peter told them on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:22-23
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:"
So here in Acts 4 we have another inspired declaration that God did what God had intended and he used those people to do it who he had prophesied would participate in the doing of it. And we have in Acts 4 the declaration that it was done. "Why DID (past tense) the heathen rage…"etc.
Since we have recorded for us the completion and fulfillment of this prophecy, why is it that many bible interpreters claim that this event, "the heathen raging" the kings of the earth setting themselves against the Lord and his anointed is yet in our future.
This is the position of the teaching of dispensational pre-millennial futurism. This system teaches that this event depicted in Psalm 2 has not yet happened, and that it will happen at some future battle of Armageddon. But if that is the case will Jesus be crucified there at that battle, again?
In Acts 4:28 part of the fulfillment was that the kings of the earth and the people of Israel in fulfilling Psalm 2 did that which was predestined to take place, which was the crucifixion. Either this was fulfilled completely; once and for all at the cross, or the inspired writer Luke must have gotten something wrong.
But since we know that Luke really did record this account for us accurately, we must dismiss the dispensational paradigm that tries to push this off into our future. We also must see the rest of the passage from Psalm 2 as completely fulfilled in Christ. In verse 6, David said; "I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." This is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant of the seed of David taking his throne. This also happened in the first century, see Acts 2:29-34 where Peter (by inspiration) declared just that.
And you can go verse by verse through the rest of Psalm 2 and recognize that all these things were fulfilled at the time when Luke said that the Heathen were raging and the kings of the earth were setting themselves against the Lord and against his anointed. Clearly this is at the cross. So we can with boldness and clarity tell people without hesitation: "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
This invitation of God to sinners, to "Kiss the son", is still open today because Jesus has fulfilled all the requirements for us to come. Embrace him today.