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Jesus had many debates with the Pharisees, who were always seeking to entangle him in his answers, so that they would have an excuse to silence him. The debate often centred around the Old Testament – the whole OT pointed to Jesus’ work (see Luke 24:27). In Matthew 24:41ff the debate concerns Psalm 110, one of the most clearly messianic of the psalms, most often quoted in the NT. We consider Psalm 110 Three Portraits of the Messiah.
1. The Messiah as King (v1-2)
Though most of the psalms first refer to the psalmist’s own day, this psalm is different. ‘The Lord says’ (v1) – the words of God revealed to David by the Holy Spirit. This is a solemn authoritative utterance of God regarding the Messiah. Note:
- His dignity: ‘Sit at my right hand’ – the place of highest honour, sharing the glory of the ruler. The Father is addressing the Son. The NT shows the fulfilment of these words in the exaltation of Christ after his resurrection. Peter quotes the verse on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36). The eternal Son always possessed such dignity, but now he has it as the God-man, the incarnate Son, the Mediator, as a result of the work of redemption.
- His dominion: The Son reigns with the Father – ‘until I make your enemies a footstool’. The Father rules through the Son and so the Messiah’s dominion is universal (Matthew 28:18). Note John’s vision of the final state – he sees ‘the throne of God and of the Lamb’ (Revelation 22:1). ‘He must reign’ (1 Corinthians 15:25) – none can frustrate him.
2. The Messiah as Priest (v3-4)
This King often executes his rule through his people. He requires obedient servants and the provision of a people is bound up with the Messiah’s priestly work. Note:
- His work: ‘You are a priest for ever’ (v4). He has the task of making a unique sin offering, with himself as the sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14). He holds a unique priesthood, not Aaronic but ‘in the order of Melchizedek’. He sits because his offering is complete, but his priestly work continues as he draws sinners to salvation and intercedes for them (Hebrews 7:25). ‘The Lord has sworn’ – there is no possibility of failure.
- His people: The result of Christ’s work is a redeemed people (v3). As the Spirit imparts new life, they are made willing (there are various ways to translate v3). They are ‘a free-will offering’, giving themselves entirely to the Messiah. By grace they are holy people and are like ‘dew’ – continually refreshed and renewed to be like the Lord.
3. The Messiah as Judge (v5-7)
Father and Son work together (v5) – the right hand now is the place of power, action, help and support. As Judge the Messiah pours out ‘wrath’ – enemies are called to account for refusing to submit to him. There is no contradiction between the love of Christ and his holy judgment on the unrepentant. All must appear before him (2 Corinthians 5:10). There is no doubt about the Messiah’s total victory. God’s holiness will be vindicated. Even nations and rulers will be judged (v6). Christ is always fresh for the battle – lifting his head (v7). He is sure of final victory and every knee will bow to him (Philippians 2:10).