Text: Psalm 110
The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” …
Here at Christ Church, we are trying to create new clichés. This means you might hear some repetition from our ranks, but it’s all in an attempt to give us new “obvious” and “automatic” assumptions about the Bible. We want to identify some basic Bible 101 information, and we want to keep harping on it so that it sticks in your mind and so you can, hopefully, share it with others. So, with that in mind, here’s a Christ Church catechism question for you: what is the most quoted Old Testament Scripture in the New Testament?
Answer: The most quoted piece of Old Testament Scripture in the New is Psalm 110.
That might surprise you if you’ve never looked into the question before. It makes sense that it would be form the Psalms, as they contain prophecies about Israel and the messiah. But is Psalm 110 one of the main ones we think about? Is it even on most people’s radar? I would guess not. If people know any psalms, they know Psalm 23 and then maybe Psalm 51. After that, it’s hard to say which psalms are well-known, but I would still guess that Psalm 110 is way down the list. Yet, it is Psalm 110 that shows up in the New Testament more than any other. Why is that?
This morning we are going to look at Psalm 110 and see what it’s all about. We’ll try to understand why it is so important, and in doing so, we’ll also understand the New Testament better. The divine messiah will become both a king and a priest, and God the Most High will reward Him with victory over all His enemies. This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in His first coming, and so it ought to have profound impact on how we think about human history, ourselves, and the church.
Psalm 110 in the New Testament
Where do we see Psalm 110 in the New Testament? It is directly quoted in four places: a parallel passage in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20, a second time in Acts 2, a third time in Hebrews 1, and then a fourth time in Hebrews 5,6, and 7. Some of those are clusters, but we’ll treat them as a single instance, since they are a united argument.
First, Matthew 22:43-54, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke 20:41-44 tell us about the same event, and so we’ll count them as one. In those passages, Jesus is disputing with Pharisees, and He asks them how the messiah could be both David’s son and David’s lord. That’s important because it shows us a common understanding of Psalm 110 in the 1st century. All of the Jewish parties agreed that Psalm 110 was about the messiah, and they all also agreed that this messiah would have some sort of heavenly or supernatural status. The LORD, that is “Yahweh,” speaks to the messiah and promises Him His reward. The fact that this messiah is both David’s son and David’s Lord is the point which Jesus highlights to raise the obvious question, what sort of messiah should you be looking for?
The second place we see Psalm 110 quoted in the New Testament is in the book of Acts, Acts 2:33-36. This is the conclusion of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, and in it, Peter applies Psalm 110 to Jesus and, in doing so, scares the daylights out of his audience:
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.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:32-37)
In Acts 2, Peter is saying that Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of Psalm 110, and he’s also adding the obvious implication that the people who put Jesus to death are now those “enemies” who will become the Messiah’s footstool.
The third place we see Psalm 110 quoted in the New Testament is in Hebrews 1. Hebrews 1:13 cites Psalm 110:1 as evidence that God has given world not to angels but to His own Son. This Son is Jesus, and that means that Jesus is higher than the angels. Jesus is the divine Son of God who now stands to inherit the whole world.
The fourth quotation of Psalm 110 in the New Testament is also in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 5:6, 7:17, and 7:21 all quote Psalm 110:4. And really, once you look at the larger section of Hebrews, you can see that all of Hebrews 5-7 are seeking to explain Psalm 110:4 and its significance for the New Covenant. It’s an extended commentary on that verse. What they say is that Psalm 110:4 teaches a new covenant and a new priesthood.
The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
If the messiah is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, then this means He is not a typical Aaronic Levitical priest. He does not get His authority through that line, nor does He carry out His priestly work in the same way. Melchizedek was a priest and a king at the same time, and so the messiah will also be a priest and a king. He will intercede for us before God, and He will also reign on the throne. Psalm 110 teaches an eschatological transformation of the religious order, and the book of Hebrews says that that happened with Jesus Christ. This means that the Christian Church will be different from the Old Covenant temple order, as well as the nation of Israel, though it will continue the substance of both. It will be a kingdom of priests united in the messiah.
In addition to those four direct quotes, there are many more places which seem to allude to Psalm 110 in a more general way. There are lots of places which talk about the “right hand of God” and Jesus’ being seated there. We hear routinely about things being placed beneath Jesus’ feet. Readers should hear echoes of Psalm 110 in those statements.
Also, Psalm 110 concludes with a military victory:
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. (Psalm 110:5-7)
We see precisely this scene described in the book of Revelation. At the end of Revelation 6, the kings of the earth and the mighty men are hiding in caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and they say, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come” (Rev. 6:16-17). The day of His wrath is what Psalm 110:5 speaks of. Then, in Revelation 19, just prior to the millennium, the beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire. After that, it says that all who followed after them were “killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:21). That’s the great slaughter of Psalm 110:6.
The end of the New Testament ends in the same place that Psalm 110 ends. The messiah has conquered. God has put His enemies down. The saints inherit the earth along with the messiah, while the enemies of the messiah lie slaughtered.
Psalm 110 Began with Christ’s Ascension
Clearly Psalm 110 is a big deal. It tells us about Jesus messianic office, and it tells us about His kingdom. God is going to put down all of His enemies while Jesus sits at His right hand. So when does this happen?
We can answer this by asking the more obvious question, “When did Jesus sit down at the right hand of God?” When did our Lord sit at the LORD’s right hand? This happened immediately after His ascension. Peter tells us that the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was proof that Jesus had ascended to the right hand of God:
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. (Acts 2:32-33)
Ephesians 1 emphasizes this time-frame as well, saying:
[God] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly …and He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:20-23)
So when did Psalm 110 happen? It happened in the first century, after Jesus completed His work of redemption and ascended into heaven. When Jesus sits down, He sits on His throne. It was at that point that God the Father began to put Jesus’ enemies under His feet, and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was proof that that action had begun. This should profoundly affect how we think of our present time in human history, and it should affect how we view the church and the nature of its mission.
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.” (Psalm 110:3-4)
Again, Melchizedek was a priest and a king, and this means that the messiah is a priest-king. To say that His people “shall be volunteers in the day of Your power,” means that they will be actively involved in the battle. Therefore we learn that we, the church, are not waiting for Jesus to subdue our enemies, but instead are in the process of subduing all of the enemies of the messiah. We have been given power to achieve this, the power from on High, the very power of God Almighty (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8).
Christ is King Now
If all of this is true, then the modern church needs to dramatically rethink its identity. Psalm 110 tells us the messiah will be a priest-king and that God will defeat all of His enemies. Psalm 110 also tells us that that God will use a royal priesthood of volunteers to carry out the battle. The New Testament tells us that this began with Jesus Christ and His ascension, and then the New Testament goes on to tell us that the church is a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), dressed in the armor of God and armed with the “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:11, 17). We will pull down strongholds through our ministry (2 Cor. 10:4-6), and, of course, Jesus promises that the gates of Hell will not be able to prevail against us (Matt. 16:18). We do this through the power of the Spirit and the ministry of the word.
The New Testament calls us to join a Holy War, and it tells us that we must use the sword of God’s Word to slaughter all of the opponents of Christ. This means evangelism. This means preaching and teaching. This means discipleship. This means sanctification. Don’t miss it when Paul says to the church at Rome, “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). We are the tool that God is using to deliver the inheritance to Jesus.
And the New Testament tells us how this is going to end. “We do not yet see all things put under him” (Heb. 2:8) “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). Psalm 110 has already begun, it is playing out now, and we know how it will end. The confidence of Psalm 110 is confidence for the church! God will defeat the world through the church by the ministry of the Word, and this will unfold progressively, reaching its conclusion prior to the abolition of death and final resurrection of the dead.
Psalm 110 means that the expression “Jesus is Lord” is immediately practical. We do not and must not say, “Oh well, at least Christ is still on His throne,” as if it is some sort of consolation prize when the ways of the world don’t seem to be going well. No, we must say, “Christ is on His throne,” as a call to war every day, no matter how things look.
We do not walk by sight but by faith, and we know the truth. We know who runs the show. We know the almighty power of God which works in and through us to bring about His perfect will. We know that God has promised to give the nations to His Son, and we know that that is happening now.
Let us pray.