The first reference is seemingly a paraphrase of Psalm 132:11. It could simply be a summary of several Old Testament passages. The final passage is Psalm 110:1. Both texts serve to drive home the same point: Jesus is the promised king from the line of David.
Psalm 132 in Context
Psalm 132 is a Psalm of Ascents. It would have been sung by faithful Israelites on their way to the Temple to worship. This particular psalm calls on the Lord to remember His promise made to David. This promise included:
- God providing a king from David's line to rule on the throne forever
- God choosing Zion as His habitation forever
- God's blessing upon His people for their faithfulness to the covenant
- God bringing shame upon the enemies of His king
All of these hopeful truths are found repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. This psalm served as a reminder of God's promises and a stimulus to faithfulness on behalf of the ones singing the psalm.
Psalm 110 in Context
Psalm 110 is a psalm of David. This puts its dating in the same window as Psalm 16 which Peter already cited, approximately 1000 years before the birth and crucifixion of Jesus.
Psalm 110 starts with a conversation between God the Father and His Messiah. The Father tells the Messiah to sit at His right hand until He makes the enemies of the Messiah a footstool for His feet. The psalm ends with a picture of the victorious Messiah lifting up His head and seeing peace in the land after taking a drink from the brook.
In between the first and last passage is a description of the Messiah's people submitting freely to His reign. We also see the striking contrast of the carnage wrought upon the enemies of the Messiah. Those who persist in their rebellion against Him. He fills the nations with their corpses (Psalm 110:5-6).
This passage paints a vivid picture. Of a conquering warrior king and a peaceful prince. However, the Prince reigns in peace after the destruction of His enemies.
How Peter Uses His Texts
Building upon the dramatic events of Pentecost and the foundation of Jesus' resurrection from the dead in fulfillment of prophecy, Peter turns to these two passages to emphasize the implications. These events are not simply happening to cause a stir. They are happening to call people to a decision: submit to Jesus or perish under His wrath.
Peter explains that Jesus is the promised king from the line of David. Contrary to the common expectation of a Messiah that would reign on earth immediately, this king has ascended to heaven. Taken His seat at the right hand of the Father on high. He has taken His seat and He will remain there until the coming day of wrath when He will fully establish His kingdom on the earth.
The establishment of His kingdom will include two major tasks:
- The gathering of His people
- The destruction of His enemies
These implications are immediately understood by Peter's audience. They respond by asking, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Peter directly tells them the appropriate response:
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
(Acts 2:38-40, NASB)
Jesus is not simply some guy that people can pay attention to if that makes them happy and ignore if that makes them happy. Everyone is accountable to Jesus as Lord. Whether they like it or not. That's what a king is.
What people often do not understand - and certainly many misunderstood in the first century - is the nature of Jesus' kingship. As Messiah, He came first to lay down His own life. To shed His own blood. To save all who will trust in Him. He did this already. It is finished. But He is coming again.
After Jesus ascended to heaven in His resurrected body, He went to wait for His second coming. When He will return to judge the nations. To establish His kingdom on earth. To gather His people to Himself. And to shed, not His own blood, but the blood of His enemies. Peter cited Psalm 110 to show that Jesus has begun the second part of His ministry by sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
The present time - extending from the moment Christ ascended to the moment He returns - are described in this prophetic psalm. Psalm 110:5-6 describes the second coming of Christ which is described again in Revelation 19:11-21. Read both carefully and humbly.
We live in the time between the first and second coming.
As a result, we are responsible to solemnly testify. To warn our hearers that this Jesus, whom we crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ. He has made two promises:
- He will save all who repent of their rebellion and call on His name to save them
- He will destroy all who persist in their rebellion against Him
Therefore, we must lovingly urge our hearers to be reconciled to God through Christ. If they do not heed this urging we must warn them that they will perish under His wrath.
Peter understood well the difference between Jesus' first coming and His second. We are terribly mistaken if we believe Jesus' return will be as peaceful as His first.
John combines the contrast with striking symbolic language. Look at the reaction of those who fail to repent before Christ returns:
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
(Revelation 6:15-17, NASB, underline added)
We don't usually think of "lamb" and "wrath" in the same sense. A lamb seems gentle. Jesus was meek and mild in His first coming. He is patiently giving time for people to respond to His invitation to salvation, purchased with His own precious blood.
He will not wait forever.
Jesus is King. He is coming back. Are you ready?