9. The Cosmic Christ

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture lesson is from Isaiah 11:1-9, and our subject: ‘the cosmic Christ.’

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

And a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and might,

The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD:

And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,

Neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor,

And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:

And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,

And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

And a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed;

Their young ones shall lie down together:

And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,

And the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:

For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD,

As the waters cover the sea. 1

In Isaiah 10:5-34 God singles out Assyria, the great world power of that day, for very sharp judgment. God says that He raised up Assyria to judge “an hypocritical nation.” In verses five and six of Isaiah ten we read:

O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger,

And the staff in their hand is mine indignation.

I will send him against an hypocritical nation,

And against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge,

To take the spoil, and to take the prey,

And to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 2

God therefore raised up one of the most evil powers of all history, with deliberate intent as a judgment on the smug and complacent peoples of that age, and in particular the covenant-people would become “an hypocritical nation.” But Assyria whose power was indeed phenomenal because they were a very small people numerically, yet they extended their power over a vast area. Assyria ascribed its power to itself, it failed to see God’s power behind its role and power. As a result, as Isaiah said:

For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it,

And by my wisdom; for I am prudent:

And I have removed the bounds of the people,

And have robbed their treasures,

And I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: 3

Assyria had come to see itself as the motivating force in history. And this is the error and the evil of men throughout the centuries, it is an aspect of man's sin, man's humanism. Man's original sin is to say he will be his own God and determine good and evil for himself. It is a part of man's madness to see himself as the source of things, and, as he looks at what he has done to see nothing in it but his own power. The word here directed against Assyria is given also as a general principle. It applies to every church and to every nation which sees itself only in terms of itself, and refuses to see the hand of God behind its calling and its destiny, it very definitely applies to the nations of our time. We can put it on this basis: I can replace my tools, I cannot replace my arm. It is a sin to imagine that we are more than tools in God’s hands, and to imagine that we are His arm, and basic to His being.

God says He will destroy the arrogant instrument. Shall the clay say unto the potter, Paul tells us, “Why hast thou made me thus?” 4 Can the clay declare its independence of the potter and say: “I have shaped myself, and I am what I am, by my own ordination?” As a result, God says He will destroy every arrogant instrument. Assyria is compared to a mighty forest whose trees are all cut down by the wrath of God. In the last two verses of chapter ten, verses thirty-three and thirty-four, we read:

Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts,

Shall lop the bough with terror:

And the high ones of stature shall be hewn down,

And the haughty shall be humbled.

And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron,

And Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one. 5

Assyria here represents the whole world power. God speaks to every nation in all time. The alternative to faith and obedience is madness and revolution, war against God, and God cuts down all who wage war against Him.

Immediately after this judgment, Isaiah gives one of his most glorious messianic prophecies:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

And a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 6

This is a remarkable prophecy, because we are not told that the Messiah will come out of David in this context, but out of the stem of Jesse. It envisions a time when the house of David is fallen and is no more. Isaiah was writing at a time when the house of David was ruling in power, but he looks beyond the time of the Davidic royal house and its power, and he sees, even as Assyria is cut down, the house of David cut down, and out of its origin, out of its source, out of Jesse the father of David as it were, a small shoot comes from the root cut down, from the trunk cut down, and He will be the world ruler, the Messiah whose reign brings in all the glory of God’s kingdom.

We have here, as Hengstenberg, one of the great Old Testament scholars at the very beginning of the last century said, a picture of the political Christ.7 The term seems strange in our day, and by and large men have abandoned the idea and it smacks almost of modernism. But what Hengstenberg meant was that Christ shall be the ruler over everything; politics, church, state, school, all things. The prophecy does not speak of a world state, no union of all nations, but the submission of all to the Messiah and His law.

This ruler is given as directly the expression of the Spirit of God, the Spirit rests upon Him. Both the Spirit and the Son, the Messiah, have the fullness of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of strength, of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. Moreover, we are told that His is an infallible wisdom,

[H]e shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,

Neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 8

Man needs sight and hearing in order to be able to assess evidence, but the Messiah shall know all things. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made,” 9 and therefore He does not need evidence as men do, His is infallible wisdom and knowledge. Perfect justice shall mark His rule, as well as omnipotence.

[W]ith righteousness shall he judge the poor,

And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:

And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 10

This is echoed in Proverbs 29:14

The king that faithfully judgeth the poor,

His throne shall be established for ever. 11

The word of the Messiah is the creative word, His breath is the expression of His justice. In Him, righteousness and faithfulness go hand in hand; His is supernatural power. Moreover, He is not here presented as Lord and king only over the church, that is a modern heresy. All too commonly today we are told that the Lordship of Jesus applies only to the church, or is only to come into being with the Millennium. But we are told that He shall judge all, that He shall rescue those who need justice, and:

[H]e shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

In other words, His rule is total.

Now the word ‘righteousness’ is used again and again as it applies to the Messiah. It is an important word in both the Old and the New Testaments, it means both the law of God and the salvation of God. In other words, it refers to both law and grace, so that when we encounter the word ‘righteousness’ in both Old and New Testaments, it has reference to the law or the justice of God, and also the salvation or the grace of God. It also means the moral conduct of believers. Paul in one epistle uses the word ‘righteousness’ in three ways. in Romans 9:31 Paul uses righteousness to mean the law of God. In Romans 6:16 it means the obedience or the works of faith. In Romans 3:21 Paul uses the word ‘righteousness’ to mean the salvation of God through Jesus Christ. The word ‘righteousness’ is therefore one of the key words of Scripture, meaning ‘justice,’ ‘God’s law,’ ‘God’s salvation,’ and our own faithfulness, our obedience to the Lord.

The whole earth thus is to be judged, it is to be saved; the perfect king demands a perfect world. The work of the first Adam is to be undone. Paul in Hebrews 12:18-29 speaks of the great shaking which the Messiah, which Jesus Christ brings in. The first great shaking began in the world when the law was given, and ended with His death and resurrection. The second great shaking began with the Fall of Jerusalem and shall continue until all the things which can be shaken are shaken and done away with, and only the unshakable shall remain.

Then, in verses six through nine Isaiah describes the Messiah's kingdom. It is both literal and figurative. The precondition is verse nine:

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:

For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD,

As the waters cover the sea. 12

When the “earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord” as the waters cover the sea, then we shall see a changed world; the knowledge of the Lord means here not only knowing the Word of God, making it a part of our being; so that the knowledge is a part of our life, it is the air we breath, it is everything we are and do. Then the whole world shall be changed.

The world was changed by Adam’s fall. God told Adam: “...cursed is the ground for your sake.” 13 Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all of the creation groans and travails, waiting for the liberation of the sons of God, 14 so that the very ground beneath our feet and all of animal and vegetable creation, somehow has in its being the knowledge, the awareness, that there is something better intended. And even as plants turn toward the sun, all of them turn towards the fullness of the kingdom of God, knowing that therein is their liberation. Just as creation was affected by the Fall, so shall it be affected as the kingdom of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

The very natural world shall be changed, the weather shall be changed, animal life will be changed in all its habits; because man has been changed. This should not surprise us, this is made clear over and over again in Scripture. Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28, is a great statement of this, what happens when men disobey and when men believe and obey. And so, image upon image is piled upon one another to give us the glorious picture of the change, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the calf and the young lion, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear, the lion eating straw like the ox, the asp and the scorpion, having changed their nature and become harmless.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:

For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD,

As the waters cover the sea. 15

The focus of the Messiah's work is total. We cannot limit the scope of Christ’s rule, nor His kingdom. He is the cosmic Lord. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” 16 Revelation concludes with a vision of a new heavens and a new earth, because He is the cosmic Lord.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, we come to thee confessing that too often we are mindful of the things of this world that are evil, and unmindful of thee, forgetting that thou madest all things for thy purpose. Thy Word shall not return unto thee void, and thy Word declares that the knowledge of thee shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, that thy glorious purpose shall be fulfilled in time and in eternity. O Lord our God, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law; that we may not be blinded by this world, but by thy Spirit may know thy greatness, thy purpose, and thy calling for us. Bless us ever in thy service, and make us joyful in hope. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *


[Audience Member] I would say that our courts were built on the foundation of Scripture. How did our courts change so?

[Rushdoony] Well, our courts have changed from seeing themselves as they did in early America as guardians of the covenant, to seeing themselves as representative of man, of humanism, of the state, or whatever a particular judge may see himself as being. The reason for this has been a change of religion. What a man believes is going to determine his life, and modern man is humanistic to the core of his being. Our education, from grade school on to law school is humanism. In the California Vanguard Alert which is in your hands or on the lectern in the back if you have not yet picked it up, we are told about the textbook which is being adopted Education for Human Sexuality. Now, the whole purpose of this book is to educate, not for family life, but away from biblical faith and morality into the humanism of the Sexual Revolution. It is a religious book, but its premises are to the core humanistic, anti-Christian.

Now, it is the logical conclusion of everything we have today in our culture and in our educational system, so we should not be surprised at what’s happened; the change will only come as we recreate institutions which are godly; this is the whole point of the Christian school movement, and the reason why the movement is feared by the humanists. It is rather amusing to see that now the humanist association in its magazine talks about being persecuted by the Christians. They are very good at taking people to court and prosecuting them, but they can’t take any criticism, and they already have a paranoid feeling about being persecuted.

It is a battle.


[Audience Member] At what point in our country did the courts change?

[Rushdoony] When did they change? Yes. The change was a gradual one. Now one of the sad facts is that when revivalism began early in the last century, it placed all the emphasis on Christian action on the revival. As a result, it opposed Christian schools, it regarded all such activity as Christian schooling a waste of time. “Let’s concentrate on soul winning.” Well, we still have many that have that attitude, although many evangelicals have since realized that that attitude is wrong. But it was that attitude that led to the progressive withdrawal of Christians from education, from politics, from one area after another. So it led to the steady de-Christianization of one area of life after another.

So, even when the bulk of the people were still churchgoing and law-abiding, we had de-Christianized most of our institutions. Well, after World War II, the de-Christianization of American society proceeded at a very rapid pace. But it was gradual, it began in the early 1800’s as Christians withdrew from all these areas.


[Audience Member] I was talking to somebody who went to a Unitarian service in Santa Monica, and the whole service was about Calvinism and how bad it was; and Unitarians are extremely involved in humanist activities.

[Rushdoony] Yes, for the Unitarians the great evil is the Reformed faith, no question about it. Yes?

[Audience Member] Can you explain Ecclesiastes 7:16?

“Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” 17

[Rushdoony] Yes. The key to understanding Ecclesiastes is that it speaks of ‘goads and nails.’ Now, the whole of the ‘goads and nails’ was an ancient teaching device. In the ‘goads and nails’ instructional method, a series of statements would be made attacking a position, or trying to bring out what might be wrong with the position, and then the nail would answer them. So that what we have in Ecclesiastes is a whole series of goads and nails. So not every passage is intended to be one you accept; you accept the nails. For example, “‘vanity of vanities’ or ‘futility of futilities’ saith the preacher, all is futility.” We don’t believe that, but the whole series of goads and nails has as its purpose to list the attitude of cynicism, of skepticism, of pessimism, and then to answer it with the word of faith. Perhaps the thing for me to do some time is simply to run off the goads and nails structure of Ecclesiastes and pass it out, would you like that? I will try to remember, I will make a note to do so. It won’t be original with me, the great scholar who did the work here was Dr. Weingarten some years ago, I believe.

I will try to remember to have that, if not, next week the next time I come, after that. During this week I will be in Washington so I may not be able to in the brief span of time that I am home to take care of it. Yes? Another question?

[Audience Member] Premillennialists and amillennialists often reference Matthew 24 as evidence of the fact that conditions will become worse and worse till the coming of Christ, could you comment upon that?

[Rushdoony] Matthew 24?

[Audience Member] Matthew 24, Paul also said in one of his epistles, don’t be deceived, that Christ is not going to come until there is a great falling away. Can you comment on this with connection to the text today?

[Rushdoony] Yes. Well, first of all, Matthew 24 would take quite a while to go into it, I have dealt with it in my book Thy Kingdom Come. There is a very fine analysis of it by Marcellus J. Kik in An Eschatology of Victory, in fact one whole section of the book is on Matthew 24, and I urge you to read it. Most of Matthew 24 deals with the Fall of Jerusalem. It is only the latter part after verse thirty-six, that deals with the last times.

Now, when Paul in Thessalonians speaks of the great falling away, it is a mistake to believe, necessarily, that it is inevitably in the future. After all, there are two thousand years almost between us and Paul; nineteen hundred years. And there are scholars, great scholars, who have held that that falling away has already taken place. So, it is a question of interpretation. I think you will find the entire book by [Marcellus] Kik an excellent and a very carefully worked out answer to these questions.

Any other questions or comments? Well, if not let us bow our heads for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Is 11:1–9.

2 Is 10:5–6.

3 Is 10:13.

4 Romans 9:20.

5 Is 10:33–34.

6 Is 11:1.

7 See reference to a Political Messiah in Hengstenberg’s Christology of the Old Testament. Vol. 2. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1856, 97.

8 Is 11:3.

9 Jn 1:3.

10 Is 11:4.

11 Pr 29:14.

12 Is 11:9.

13 Genesis 3:17.

14 Romans 8:23.

15 Is 11:9.

16 Jn 1:3.

17 Ec 7:16.

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