Text: Psalm 110
The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head.
What is the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament? Some of you know because we have asked this question before in other places. For others, you’re probably surprised at the fact that this seems like such a strange question. But why is it strange? Shouldn’t this be kind of important? The Old Testament was the only Scripture that the writers of the New Testament even had, and so the verses that they found to be important are probably pretty important, right? So again, what is the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament?
I’ll give you a hint. It comes from the Psalms. Think about all of the famous Psalms there are. There’s Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” There’s Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” There’s also Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” But the answer isn’t any of those. Which psalm do you think comes up the most in the New Testament? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s Psalm 110. Psalm 110:1 is the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament. That’s right, Psalm 110, you know the one! Oh wait, you don’t know that one? How does it go again?
“LORD” and “Lord”: Who’s Who?
Psalm 110:1 says this, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” Have you heard that before? The grammar can be a little confusing, since there are two instances of “Lord.” The first one is actually “LORD”—all capital letters—which means that in the original Hebrew here, we find the name Yahweh. Whenever you see “LORD” in your Bibles, that’s what’s going on. It’s literally a reference to Yahweh. Thus, Psalm 110:1 says, “Yahweh said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
If the first “Lord” is Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, then who is the second “Lord”? That’s actually a big question, and it explains what the rest of the psalm is all about. You might initially think that the second “Lord” is David, and that this psalm was meant as a praise song for the people of Israel to sing about David. But it wasn’t about the present king of Israel. No, it was about a future king. It was a prophesy about the messiah, and this was certainly how it was understood by the time of the New Testament.
Now this raises more questions about who, or what, the messiah would be. We this in the New Testament, when Jesus asks how the person being spoken of in Psalm 110:1 could be both David’s son, his descendant, and David’s Lord. (Matt. 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44). His point was that this “Lord” actually hold a greater status than David and that this “Lord,” in some way, actually predates David. The messiah was heavenly and from the beginning.
What Psalm 110 is really about is the enthronement of the messiah. Yahweh, the God of Israel, says to the messiah to “Sit at My right hand,” and during the time of His enthronement, God promises to defeat all of the messiah’s enemies, making them a footstool. This is how the messiah’s kingdom would spread and how He would achieve victory, by God’s own action. The rest of Psalm 110 explains the way in which God would carry this out, sending the rod of strength out of Zion and executing those kings who oppose the messiah. It says quite graphically, “The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries” (Psalm 110:5-6). This is what the messiah and His coming is all about.
When Was Psalm 110 Fulfilled?
Psalm 110 is so important for the New Testament because it prophesies about the messiah’s reign, and it lets us know that the messiah has a special origin. He is a king that is granted rule in heaven, at the right hand of Yahweh, and this gives Him a sort of divine status. The fact that David calls Him “Lord” also shows that the messiah has an exalted position. But on top of all of this, the messiah is a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4). As the Epistle to the Hebrews explains, this means that the messiah’s office is granted to Him directly by God and gives Him the authority of eternal salvation to “all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9-10).
So when was Psalm 110 fulfilled? If it wasn’t about David, and it wasn’t about one of the other earthly kings of Israel, then when did it come true? Who was the messiah— who was it that God exalted to His right hand? The New Testament tells us that the answer is Jesus, and Peter mentions Psalm 110 explicitly in his sermon at Pentecost. Listen to Acts 2:32-36:
This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
“The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
So, Psalm 110:1 is about Jesus, and the events it predicts actually happened at the ascension. After His death and resurrection, God the Father invited Jesus to come and sit at His right hand in heaven. Once Jesus takes that position, God then begins making all of His enemies His footstool. That’s why Peter’s audience responds to this news like they do.
Those men of Israel put everything together. They realized exactly what Peter was saying and what it meant for them. Jesus, the man whom they had just helped put to death, was actually the messiah of Psalm 110. That Jesus, whom they had made their enemy, is now sitting at God’s right hand in heaven and is waiting for His enemies to be conquered and put under His feet by the very power of God. And they realize that they are His enemies. “they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37) They knew that they were in trouble and needed to be saved.
What Does This Mean For the Church?
If Psalm 110:1 occurred in the 1st century, when Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, then what does that mean for us today? Quite simply, it means that Jesus is presently reigning, having been given His inheritance, and that God is presently putting all of His enemies under His feet. This includes Satan, as well as all unbelievers who resist the rule of Jesus. And finally, as 1 Cor. 15:25-26 tell us, “He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”
So, put it all together. When did Jesus being to reign? At the ascension, when He went to the right hand of the Father. How long will He sit there? Until God makes all of His enemies His footstool. What’s the last enemy? Death. And so, how long will Jesus sit at the right hand of the Father, until the final resurrection.
This is essential doctrine for our understanding of what Christ’s kingdom is and what Christ is doing right now. Christ is reigning in His kingdom now, and while He is seated in heaven, God the Father is carrying out the conquest on earth now. This is progressive, and it will continue until all of the enemies of Jesus have been defeated, including death itself. “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (Psalm 110:1). This kingdom begins within the domain of Christ’s enemies, and the progression works from the inside out: “The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (Psalm 110:2). That’s what’s happening now, and the Church is instrumental to this process: “Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power” (Psalm 110:3), or as Jesus puts it, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
So, Jesus is reigning right now, and God is currently putting His enemies under His foot. This reign begins “in the midst” of Christ’s “enemies,” and His people, the Church, “shall be volunteers” in that conquest, advancing against the forces of Hell until they trample down its gates. That’s not something that’s going to start in the future. That’s something that has already started. It’s going on right now. We are located in the middle of Psalm 110, and that means the volunteers in the day of Christ’s power are us!
And where will those enemies be put? They will be put under the feet of Jesus Christ. That’s quite fitting, because back in the beginning, God had promised that the “seed of the Woman” would crush “the seed of the Serpent” with His heel (Gen. 3:15). And did you know that the book of Romans says that we, the Church, are now Christ’s feet? Romans 16:19-20 says, “be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” When God places Satan under Christ’s feet, He will also place Him under our feet in the Church. We share in Christ’s victory because we share all of His rewards through our union with Him.
In fact, God actually uses us as a means by which He subdues these enemies. Through the spiritual power of the Church, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). As the Church worships, prays, fellowships, and loves one another, Satan’s kingdom falls.
Psalm 110 teaches us about Christology, that is the person and work of Christ. It teaches us about eschatology, as it teaches us that those prophetic end-times activities have already begun. And perhaps most practical of all, Psalm 110 teaches us about ecclesiology, the role of the Church in all of this, which is to say, the role of you and me. We are living this action out right now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Church seeks to advance the kingdom of Christ on earth each day.
Psalm 110 teaches us that the ascension of Christ was His heavenly enthronement. On that day, nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus took His seat at the right hand of the Father, and now all that remains is for God to complete the conquest and defeat of all of His enemies. Some of us remember being conquered and defeated in the process, and we were blessed enough to be transformed into friends. And now we continue to go forth, volunteering in Christ’s kingdom as His reign of power expands through all the earth.
Psalm 110 teaches us about the future, and it teaches us about the present. The Lord reigns, go out in His power. The Lord reigns, God is putting down all of His foes. The Lord reigns, God is putting down all of our foes. Jesus Christ reigns, and His kingdom shall have no end.
Let us pray.