Why do the Nations Rage?

In the New Testament, the conspiracy of the kings of the earth to destroy the Son is applied to the plot to slay Jesus – Psalm 2:1-6

Stormy Sea Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash
The second Psalm is a key messianic prophecy that is applied to Jesus consistently in the New Testament. But precisely when were the predictions from the Psalm fulfilled? Has the Messiah been installed on the Throne of David, or is this prediction still waiting for a future fulfillment? What about the “
rage” of the nations against Yahweh’s “anointed one”? - [Stormy Sea Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash].

We do not have to search far for answers. For example, in both his gospel account and Acts, Luke applies the Psalm to the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus.
  • (Psalm 2:1-6) - “Wherefore have nations assembled in tumult? Or should people mutter an empty thing? The kings of the earth take their station, and grave men have met by appointment together, against Yahweh and against his Anointed One, saying, Let us break asunder their bonds, and cast from us their cords! He that is sitting in the heavens will laugh, My Lord will mock at them. Then will he speak unto them in his anger, and in his wrath confound them. Yet I have installed my king, on Zion my holy mountain.”
When the Temple authorities attempted to suppress the fledgling church in Jerusalem, Peter and his congregants prayed for boldness to proclaim the gospel despite any opposition. He recounted how the very same men also had conspired against Jesus, and he applied the language from the Psalm to that event:
  • (Acts 4:23-28) – “But when they had been let go, they came to their own friends and told as many things as to them the High-priests and Elders had said. And they, having heard, with one accord, uplifted voice to God and said, O Sovereign! You are he that made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all things that are therein, Who, by our father, through means of the Holy Spirit, even by the mouth of David your servant, said, UNTO WHAT END DID THE NATIONS RAGE, AND PEOPLES BUSY THEMSELVES WITH EMPTY THINGS? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH STATIONED THEMSELVES AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER WITH ONE INTENT AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST. For they were gathered, of a truth, in this city against your holy servant Jesuswhom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with them of the nations and peoples of Israel; to do whatsoever your hand and your counsel marked out beforehand to come to pass.”
In his appeal, Peter followed the Greek text of the Septuagint version of the second Psalm in which the verb rendered “gathered together” is sunagō - (Strong’s - #4863), the same term used in Acts to describe the Temple authorities when they hauled the apostles before their “gathering” for examination:
  • (Acts 4:5-7) - “And it came to pass upon the morrow, that THERE WERE GATHERED TOGETHER of them the rulers and the elders and the scribes in Jerusalem; also, Annas, the high-priest, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and as many as were of high-priestly descent. And setting them in the midst, they began to enquire: In what manner of power or in what manner of name did you do this?
The same Jewish leaders that conspired against Jesus “came together” to stop the newly formed church dead in its tracks.  In doing so, they continued in their “rage against the Lord and his anointed.” Peter attributed the plot to destroy Jesus to Herod, Pontius Pilate, the nations, AND to the people of Israel; all of them “gathered together” against the “holy child” and the “anointed one.”

In the synoptic gospels, the same language is applied to the conspiracy by the priestly authorities to destroy the messianic upstart, Jesus:
  • (Luke 22:1-2) – “And the feast of the unleavened bread, which is called a Passover, was drawing near. And the High-priests and the Scribes were seeking how they might get rid of him; for they feared the people.
  • (Matthew 27:1-2) – “Now, when morning came, all the High-priests and Elders of the people TOOK COUNSEL AGAINST JESUS, so as to put him to death: and binding him, they led him away and delivered him up unto Pilate the governor.
The language from the second Psalm is behind the parable that Jesus applied to the Temple leaders concerning the man who planted a vineyard and leased it to “husbandmen.”  The owner of the vineyard represented God, and the husbandmen” the priestly leaders of Israel. In due season, the owner sent a servant to collect what was due. In reaction, the “husbandmen” beat the servant and refused to pay what they owed. They did the same when the owner sent other servants.

Finally, the vineyard owner sent his only “son.” On seeing him, “they began to deliberate one with another, saying: This is the heir. Let us slay him that the inheritance may become ours.” And so, they murdered the “son” and heir. That very hour, the scribes and high priests attempted to seize Jesus to destroy him, for “they perceived that, against them he had told this parable” - (Luke 20:9-20).

In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a crowd about “Jesus, the Nazarene” whom they slew. But God raised him from the dead and exalted him to rule from His Throne, having made him “both Lord and Christ,” the very one whom “you crucified” - (Acts 2:23-39).

Similarly, at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul declared, “They who were dwelling in Jerusalem and their rulers,” though they found Jesus guilty of no crime, delivered him to Pontius Pilate for execution. However:
  • God raised him from among the dead,” and thereby fulfilled the “promise made to our fathers by raising up Jesus: as also in the second Psalm it is written — MY SON YOU ARE, I, THIS DAY, HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.”
In the Psalm, the enthronement of the Son is coordinated with the declaration by Yahweh - “I, this day, have begotten you” - (Acts 13:23-36, Psalm 2:7-9, 110:1).
  • (Psalm 2:6-9) – “Yet I HAVE INSTALLED MY KING on Zion my holy mountain. Let me tell of a decree, Yahweh said to me, MY SON YOU ARE. I, THIS DAY, HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU. Ask of me and let me give nations as your inheritance and as your possession the ends of the earth. You will shepherd them with a scepter of iron, as a potter’s vessel, you will dash them in pieces.
The same promise features prominently in Hebrews. Its opening paragraph declares that God has spoken with fullness in His “Son,” who, “having achieved the purification of sins, sat down on the right hand” of God.

And as elsewhere in the letter, the exaltation of Jesus is coordinated with his past resurrection from the dead, citing the Psalm to substantiate the claim:
  • (Hebrews 1:3-5) – “Who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his very being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places, by so much becoming superior to the angels, by as much as, going beyond them, he inherited a more distinguished name. For to which of the angels said he ever, MY SON ARE YOU. I, THIS DAY, HAVE BEGOTTEN YOUR?
  • (Hebrews 5:5-8) – “Thus, also the Christ glorified not himself to become a high priest, but he that spoke to him, MY SON ARE YOU. I, THIS DAY, HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.”
At the outset of the book of Revelation, Jesus is declared the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH.”

His present position is linked to his past death and resurrection. He is the “firstborn of the dead,” the one who “loosed us out of our sins with his blood.” This clause alludes to the second Psalm where “THE KINGS OF THE EARTH set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against his anointed” - (Revelation 1:4-6).

Yahweh promised to give him the “nations for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron.” Revelation applies this same promise to Jesus in his present exalted position:
  • (Revelation 2:26-27) – “He that overcomes and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give authority over the nations; and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”
  • (Revelation 12:5) – “And she brought forth a son, a male who was to shepherd all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God and to his throne.”
Thus, the New Testament applies the second Psalm to the conspiracy by the leaders of Israel to destroy Jesus, the same authorities that manipulated the Roman governor to carry out his execution.

But God was never taken by surprise. Had He not predicted these same events? Instead, He responded by raising Jesus from the dead and installing him to rule over the nations and the “kings of the earth,” indeed, over the Cosmos. Thus, the authors of the New Testament consistently portray his messianic reign on the “throne of David” as a present reality.



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