The Hatred of Christ
Psalm 2 1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!”
Psalm two is a remarkable Messianic Psalm that sets forth God’s Anointed Son-King in four stages: vv.1-3 reveal the hostility against Christ, vv. 4-6 reveal His confidence in the face of such opposition, vv.7-9, reveal the covenantal character of Christ’s mission, and vv.10-12 spell our the dire warning issued to all the earth concerning Christ. Here we see the first stage in the opposition that Christ faces from the world (vv.1-3). This Psalm is a pivotal section of Scripture that connects us to the over plan of redemption and how it relates to God’s kingdom and Christ. This psalm reminds us that the initial hostility that resulted from the Fall is still in operation. Even though God has called out a people, chosen a people, formulated a nation and established a kingdom; the king is still opposed by all.
What is so remarkable about this psalm is its explicit identification of the king as the Lord’s “Anointed”, “King”, “Son”, and the “begotten” One who is the Messiah. It leaves no doubt that the hostility of the nations, who are under the control and dominion of the evil one, have been hostile with the seed of the woman from the beginning (Gen. 3.15). That hostility is here explicitly understood Messianically. Typologically, and even as David wrote, he realized that as the nations raged against him and against Israel, in reality this was owing to a deeper hostility on a much grander scale. Man’s ultimate hatred of God’s people is finally rooted in a hatred for God himself (cf. Rom. 1.30; 8.7; see also, Num. 10.35; Ps. 81.15; Prov. 8.36). In fact, what we see here is a universal, united, and moral opposition to God and His Son-King, Jesus Christ.
The Universal Opposition To Christ
The first thing to see here is the universal scope of the godless anti-Christ opposition of Psalm 2, “Why are the nations in an uproar” (לָ֭מָּה רָגְשׁ֣וּ גוֹיִ֑ם). This question shows the universal upheaval against God, His law, and His Son-King from all the nations of the world. This question calls attention to the fact that this hostility has endured through the centuries of biblical times as it even until now. Not only did the seed of the woman face persecution from the outset of the promise as Cain killed Abel leading to the division of those who built a city (Gen. 4.17) and those who dwelled in tents and built altars and called on the name of the Lord (cf. Gen. 4.26; 8.20; 12.7; 13.4; 18.18), this hostility was also seen in Abraham’s life as he contends at the battle of the four kings (Gen. 14). And again, Israel also faced the great global power Egypt that persecuted God’s son (Ex. 4.21-23). Down to the day of David himself when Israel was surrounded by enemies and would continue to face one hostile force after another (cf. Dan. 9.26).
But in Psalm 2, David takes this universal hostility to the Messianic level. By doing this he also introduced the concept of eschatology because in reality this hostility will not end until the final consummation of all things (cf. Ps. 110; Heb. 10.11-14). This is why the apostles applied this very passage to their own time:
Acts 4:24–29 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples devise futile things? 26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ 27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,
Notice the response of the church in the face of such hostility, “grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence.” We do not shrink away in the face of this hostility, we do not cower in the face of opposition and even persecution rather we pray for boldness to keep declaring the gospel to a dying and hate-filled world (cf. Mt. 10.22; 24.9; Lk. 21.17; 1 Cor. 4. 11-13). We will see the utter futility of this upheaval again in v.4, but here the psalmist decries this feeble fantasy as “a vain thing” (רִיק). The plans of the wicked are ultimately futile and empty because regardless of their hatred for God and His Son-King, they are unable to overthrow them and as v.4 makes clear they cannot even enter into a serious battle with the Lord for, who can contend with the Almighty? This is universal opposition leading to universal frustration.
The United Opposition To Christ
Ultimately this opposition is diabolical and insane. Not only on account of God’s power but also on account of the fact that nations who hate each other attempt to unite against the Lord. The “kings” and “rulers” of this world might come together for the purpose and within the rubric of the same worldview to fundamentally oppose God’s rule, God’s law and God’s sovereignty over them; but their united opposition to Christ will only serve the ultimate purpose of glorifying God’s Son-King and the prevailing reality of God’s eternal kingdom. In one sense, this rebellion is due to their abject ignorance that comes from a satanic influence that undergirds the entire force of evil that motivates today’s cosmic powers:
1 Corinthians 2:7–8 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;
2 Corinthians 4:3–4 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
1 John 5:19 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
There is a satanic influence, that old serpent who was set in enmity to the Seed of the woman from the beginning (Gen. 3.15), that does account for the spiritual condition of the present evil age. But this ignorant blindness is not tantamount to innocence. It only makes matters worse but there is nevertheless a calculated hatred of the “Lord and against His Anointed” (עַל־יְ֝הוָה וְעַל־מְשִׁיחֹֽו). Whenever God and His Son are brought into the equation you see this universal united hatred of God. Two things become crystal clear, the world’s opposition is aimed directly at God, and the world is often willing to set their personal differences aside in order to unite against Christ. Just think about who was united in Acts 4— Jews and Romans who hated each other with the vilest hatred yet not as vile at that which was universally directed at Gods’ holy Son (cf. Acts 4.27; 23.6ff. also 3.14; Mt. 26.65-68).
If we back up and think about the context of Ps. 2 which was a coronation psalm in Israel, a psalm that would have been read over a king at his installation with the kingdom gathered around him; David is writing in the historical realization that the surrounding nations hate God and the king of Israel. This historical reality was a mere shadow. The hostility that Israel’s king faced was a mere picture of the universal, global, and cosmic opposition that Jesus Christ, God’s true King and His kingdom would face. Every battle and enemy that Israel faced was typological of the greater spiritual battle that rages on today (cf. Eph. 6.10ff.). This is deeper than visible persecution, it is the invisible principle of hostility and hatred that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. It is anti-Christ spirit that moves them to madness so that there is no fear of God before their eye (cf. Ps. 36.1; Rom. 3.18). It is the same hostility that motivated Saul to conspire to destroy the Church (cf. Gal. 1.13). The persecution of the Church in Christ’s eyes was a persecution of himself so that when the world persecutes the believer they are in reality attacking Jesus himself. This was Jesus’ own view of persecution:
Acts 9:3–5 3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
The rage of the nations is anti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-Church. This will be the case until the end of the age. Once the wicked have been condemned and consigned to hell, then and only then will the kingdoms of the earth become the kingdom of our God (cf. Rev. 11.15-19).
The Moral Opposition To Christ
But what precisely is it about God that the world hates? Verse 3 helps us to answer that question, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” The verse utilizes the imagery of constraints that were used either in farming to control oxen and would be leather straps to control the yoke on the beast of burden or it was also used by conquering kings to enslave their captives. The imagery ultimately refers to constraint, control and authority. The world, meaning this present evil age and everyone who belonging to it in an unregenerate state, desires above all to be autonomous.
Autonomy is the illusion that Satan and sin have promised from the beginning. It began with attempting to think independently of God. The serpent asked Eve, “has God really said?” The question posited man’s reason above God’s; this was the serpent’s goal the whole time, to get Adam and Eve to assert their thinking, their sense of right and wrong, their morality, and their will above their sovereign Creator-Lord who made them and covenanted with them by giving them His law (cf. Gen. 2.15-17). But the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6.23). And it is this accountability that the world all around us hates. From the pornographic cartels in Hollywood, to the corrupt politicians in Washington and around the world, to the leaders of cults and false religions, down to your coworker in the cubicle next to you; their nature is to rebel (cf. Lk. 19.14):
Romans 8:6–8 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
From the redemptive-historical perspective and how we trace the developing story of God’s plan of redemption throughout history, we could say that the issue in Psalm 2 is about the kingdom of darkness versus the kingdom of light (cf. Lk. 4.5). In fact, Scripture tells us that by virtue of having been transplanted out of the kingdom of darkness and placed into God’s kingdom, the animosity of the world will intensify:
John 15:19 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
But we give thanks for this:
Colossians 1:12–13 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Is it any wonder that this psalm joins God and His Christ together in describing the world’s opposition? After all it is God’s kingdom and Christ’s authority that is at issue here:
Revelation 12:10 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
The world detests Christ’s authority, Christ’s ethics, His standards and morals. By the world’s standards, Christ is an intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, transphobic, Islomophobic, Zenophobic, narrow-minded, judgmental, ‘holier than thou’, religious zealot with really nothing to offer the world other than Christmas and Easter for the kids (and even then must churches prefer the “Easter” bunny). In other words, the true Jesus of Scripture is so intolerable to this world, regardless of what nation, race, religion, political party, philosophical beliefs; the Jesus of Scripture is totally unacceptable so the world has to make a Jesus that is more palatable, manageable, marketable, politically correct, inclusive, loving and accepting. Anything but an all-authoritative sovereign King on His holy throne before which all of humanity must bow:
Philippians 2:8–11 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
CONNECT TO CHRIST
1. Christ Fulfills This Psalm In His Incarnation
This Psalm reminds us that David is a type of Christ and that his earthly kingdom was typological of Jesus’ eternal kingdom. Calvin wrote:
“That David prophesied concerning Christ, is clearly manifest from this, that he knew his own kingdom to be a mere shadow… David’s’ temporal kingdom was a king of earnest to God’s ancient people of the eternal kingdom, which hat length was truly established in the person of Christ…”
Because this is the case, the NT author had no problem in using this Psalm not only in its original Christological thrust but also to signify an escalation of its fulfillment (Acts 4.25-28). Of course this psalm will be finally fulfilled as God judges the world through the Son (cf. Rom. 2.16). But it reminds us that the typical state of the earthly kingdom and people were ultimately persecuted not for ethnic reasons but Messianic. Even as Israel faced its opposition due to its identity with this typical kingdom, so too, our identity with Christ’s eternal spiritual kingdom will result in global opposition that will last until all of God’s enemies are subdued beneath Christ’ feet (Ps. 110.1).
2. Christ Warns The Church Of The World’s Hatred
Because of our union with Christ, His Church being His body; Jesus assures us that we will share in His persecution:
John 15:18–19 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
The same godless anti-Christ hatred that was leveled at Jesus is also aimed at His people because we have been set apart by Him and for Him. This should give us a great sense of privilege and blessing for who are we to receive the privilege of suffering not only for Him but with Him (cf. Phil. 1.29; 3.10-11; Acts 9.4-5)? This reminds us of the cost of discipleship (cf. Lk. 14.25ff.). To be a follower of Jesus is not a promise of ease, or the absence of suffering. This would be in effect an over realized eschatology; something Paul strongly rejected (cf. 1 Cor. 4.8ff.). Biblically it’s the complete opposite; we are promised trials and tribulations in the kingdom of God’s Son (cf. John 16.33).
3. Christ Exposed The Moral Depravity Of The World
The world is hostile to Christ not because He was not good, but because He was too good. Holiness is not to be confused with goodness. Goodness is something that can take place on a common grace level. Evil rulers can be good to their subjects. Dishonest business men can be generous to their employees; but holiness is something all-together distinct from the common grace. Holiness is that which conforms to God’s laws and His own moral perfections. This was why the world ultimately opposed God’s Son— they refused to submit to His holy rule and authority:
John 7:7 7 “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.
People may in fact pay lip service to God and say they respect religion, but when you begin to bring the conviction of sin, the sweetest seemingly most humble person will reveal the poison of an asp that lies beneath their breath and in their heart (Rom. 3.13). Of course this is because they are in dire need of a new heart and that is precisely what Jesus offers in the gospel (Mt. 15.19; John 3.3-8).