IS “DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS” A SCRIPTURAL TEACHING? IS IT DISPENSATIONAL?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Strangely, when people see an elected politician they like, they say, “That person is God’s will for us. God selected him or her to assume the office.” But, then, when they see an elected governmental official whom they do not like, they never claim that “God’s will” was fulfilled in that unwanted politician assuming power! Well, is God selecting our politicians or is He not? It sounds like God’s will only operates sometimes. Surely, this is not God’s current operation with mankind, is it? Does God choose our political leaders? Is there such a thing as “the divine right of kings” in Scripture? In this study, we will search the Scriptures and see what God’s Word really says about it.
We find this instruction in Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” This can be a very difficult piece of Scripture if we do not read it carefully. People claim this verse says that God directly chooses (or chose) our government officials. But, that is not what the verse said. The Bible did not say, “Our governmental leaders are ordained of God.” It did not say, “The people in office are ordained of God.” The Bible says, “…there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” This is talking about the power that government officials exercise, not the officials themselves. What a difference!
Friends, Romans 13:1 is best understood in light of Colossians 1:16: “For by him [the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, of verse 13] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Notice, however, this speaks of offices of government, not people serving in those offices. The offices, not the people, are “ordained of God.” “Thrones” refers not to kings, but the kings’ offices. “Principalities” are the realms over which princes reign; the word does not apply to the princes themselves. Now, we just carry this pattern into Romans 13:1 and the term “powers” is understood with astounding clarity.
Looking back at the opening verses of Romans chapter 13: “ Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Once more, the “power”—the authority—is what is ordained of God, not the people who exercise that power. Go back to Colossians 1:16. The word “powers” refers to the authority, the offices of the individuals— “The powers are ordained of God.” God established nationalism (national government on Earth) back in Genesis 9:4-5 in order to carry out capital punishment, establish order, deter crime (especially murder), and so on (cf. Romans 13:3-4). Government was originally intended to be good, to glorify Jesus Christ (cf. Colossians 1:16). It is only when sinful man took over did government become evil. Notice in Psalm 82 how God rebukes corrupt human leaders—called “gods.” They were originally meant to fulfill His will while ruling, but they were neglecting their responsibility, and misleading Israel.
When Satan corrupted the governments of Heaven and Earth with sin, God began His plan to restore the Earth unto Himself. That was the primary reason why God formed the nation Israel. Members of Israel—the Jews—were to fill the offices of government in the Earth that Adam and Eve had lost to Satan and sin. Let us look at this in great detail now.
WHEN GOD DID (WILL) CHOOSE EARTHLY GOVERNMENTAL LEADERS IN SCRIPTURE
Note Jesus’ words to Judaean governor Pontius Pilate in John 19:11: “Thou couldest have not power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” God had given Pilate, a servant of the Roman government, governmental authority. The Graeco-Roman government came to rule over the nation Israel because of Israel’s repeated wickedness many centuries earlier. That was prophesied in the book of Daniel about 600 B.C.
Note what the Holy Spirit said through the Prophet Daniel in chapter 4 of his book: “ This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men….  That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” These were God’s words to Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the man God had appointed to rule over Israel and her Holy Land many centuries before Christ. Media-Persia conquered Babylon, and Greek King Alexander the Great overran Media-Persia, with Rome (an extension of Greece) ruling over Israel by the time of the New Testament and Christ’s earthly ministry.
In Israel’s program, God did not merely ordain the offices of government. There are verses in Scripture that explicitly teach that He actually chose the individuals who occupied those offices. Let us look at some examples. Observe, in time past, how God appointed Moses to lead His people Israel out of their grueling Egyptian slavery. We read in Exodus 3:10: “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” God did not just want any leader to guide Israel. He specifically chose Moses. This needs no further explanation. It is quite simple, friends, if we just let the verses speak. This is about the nation Israel, not us! Verses similar to this are numerous. Let us look at others.
Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 17:14-15: “ When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;  Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” This was a reference to King Saul, but could also be applicable to his successors—David, Solomon, et cetera. We will talk more about them now.
Centuries after Moses, the LORD God appointed Saul to be king over Israel. Reading 1 Samuel 9:15-17: “ Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,  To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.  And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.” Who is this regarding? The Bible says Israel!
God also appointed David to be king over Israel after Saul. The Bible says in 2 Samuel 7:8, “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:” Solomon repeats what the LORD said: “Since the day that I brought forth my people out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel” (1 Kings 8:16). Again, this is Israel, Israel, Israel!
Read what the Bible says about David and the LORD in 1 Samuel 16:1,12-13: “ And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons….  And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.  Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.”
Paul repeats in Acts 13:21-22: “ And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.  And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” Certainly, God chose Saul and David to be Israel’s kings. Let me remind you that, in Israel’s program, God is attempting to restore Earth’s governments to Himself, so obviously He will pick the individuals to rule. Moses, Saul, David, and Solomon are the primary examples.
Adonijah (Solomon’s brother, and David’s son) says about Solomon inheriting David’s throne, “it was his from the LORD” (1 Kings 2:15). There were various other kings of Israel that God chose—Jeroboam to be king over the 10 northern tribes, taking them from Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 11:11-13); Elijah the prophet received divine revelation to anoint Jehu as king of Israel (2 Kings 9:1-10); et cetera. Daniel, speaking of God’s dealings with mankind during Israel’s program, says, “He [God] changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21). As we briefly hinted at earlier, the entire book of Daniel deals with the Gentile powers/kingdoms of the world while Israel is in captivity. God gave the Gentiles political power over Israel because of Israel’s incessant wickedness. In the context of Daniel 2:21, Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon was the ruler God put into power over the then-known world. Likewise, Nebuchadnezzar previews the Antichrist, whom God will also appoint over Israel to judge her during the seven-year Tribulation yet future (Isaiah 10:5).
By the way, friends, we must comment on a related misunderstood verse: “A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment” (Proverbs 16:10). On the basis of this verse, it is said that when a governmental leader speaks today, it is “God’s voice,” and that that voice is infallible. Kings of history, attempting to justify themselves and their policies/decrees, have tried to use this verse to argue that the God of the Bible was speaking in and through them, and so they should not be questioned or disobeyed. Beloved, the book of Proverbs has a context, and the context is Israel’s program in operation. Proverbs is not talking about God’s heavenly program with us. It is talking about God’s earthly program with Israel. It is not talking about our mystery program and the Dispensation of Grace. It is talking about the prophetic program. God was ruling Israel through her king. Look at the verses we have already cited in this study. King Solomon wrote Proverbs 16:10 in light of the verses we have just examined—Israel was a “theocracy,” God ruling the nation through human leaders He had appointed. Nothing about this is difficult, provided we leave the verse where it belongs on the Bible timeline instead of forcing it onto us.
So, in summation thus far, there was a time when God did choose leaders on Earth; furthermore, He will do it again in the future. This is not true today. Thus, dispensational Bible study is ever so important. Unless we “study… rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we will never understand the differences found throughout God’s Word. There are Bible verses that say God does choose leaders, but we need to remember that those verses apply to Israel’s prophetic program, not our mystery program that is currently operating. Dispensational Bible study is often ignored, so people will use the following verses to claim God is ordaining leaders today. This is erroneous. We need to leave the verses in their contexts, lest we form wrong conclusions about them. Let us see how our God is currently dealing with Earth’s governments.
WHEN GOD IS NOT CHOOSING EARTHLY GOVERNMENTAL LEADERS IN SCRIPTURE
In our dispensation, the Dispensation of the Grace of God, Father God is restoring the governments of Heaven to Himself. Therefore, He is not choosing earthly leaders today. He is not trying to reclaim real estate on planet Earth. Rather, He has chosen people (He has chosen those who are in the Church the Body of Christ—us!) to one day rule in the Heavenly Places. Remember, God did not only create earth but heaven as well (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16). Today, God is interested in restoring His heavenly authority. This was the mystery (secret) that the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul.
Ephesians 1:8-12 explains: “ Wherein he [God the Father] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
Through prophecy—the Scriptures outside of Paul’s ministry—God had revealed how He would restore Earth unto Himself. We looked at a number of those verses in earlier paragraphs. God kept secret His plan to reconcile the Heavenly Places unto Himself. That secret plan of God has now been made known. We find it in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. The purpose of the Church the Body of Christ is to rule and reign in the Heavens for God’s glory, just as the nation Israel will rule and reign on Earth for God’s glory.
Dear readers, notice the following Scriptures that apply to us today. These verses describe what God is doing with us today, and what He will do with us one day for all eternity:
- 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
- Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
- Ephesians 1:20-23: “ Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
- Ephesians 2:6-7: “ And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
- Ephesians 3:10: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,”
- Colossians 1:18-20: “ And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth [through Israel], or things in heaven [through us].”
- 2 Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
“Divine right of kings” is Scriptural, for we can find it in Scripture. However, it is not dispensational. We cannot find it in our Dispensation of Grace.
In the future, when Israel’s program resumes, exactly as prophecy declares, God will again appoint leaders to rule on Earth, just as He chose Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, and so on. David himself, resurrected, will rule over Israel (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24; Hosea 3:5). The 12 apostles will each rule over one of Israel’s 12 tribes (Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 22:30) and the rest of the believing Jews will rule over the Gentiles (Matthew 25:14-29; Luke 19:12-27). Jesus Christ Himself will rule over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 11:15). He is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16) because He will be over all kings and all lords.
Until the Lord Jesus Christ comes back at His magnificent Second Coming, Satan’s evil world system—its politicians, religious leaders, educators, et cetera—will continue to operate. At Christ’s Second Coming, all the kingdoms of the world will become Jesus Christ’s kingdoms. Here, Satan’s world system will be ultimately destroyed. Then, God will ordain His people to lead the Earth’s governments. My, how this corrupt world needs such an arrangement!
Friend, God is not trying to restore Earth’s governments today. That will happen when Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming to set up His literal, physical, earthly kingdom (see Psalm 2:6-9, Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 11; Daniel 2:44, Amos 9:13-15; Zechariah 14; Matthew 25; Hebrews 1:8-9; Revelation 11:15, et cetera). One day, God the Father will personally “anoint” Jesus Christ as King of Heaven and Earth. But, not today. That is not what God is doing today in our mystery program. This is why there is never-ending conflict in the Middle East. Until God Himself gets involved, personally and visibly intervenes, and gets rid of Israel’s enemies, and restores Earth’s governments to Himself, there will be no true peace in the Middle East or in any other part of this fallen world.
Dear readers, there is nothing in Scripture that says that God is selecting our political leaders today. If we do not “rightly divide the word of truth” as 2 Timothy 2:15 instructs us, we are not going to know where to put Bible verses on the Bible timeline. We are just going to mix all the verses together as if they are applicable all at one time. Those verses will butt heads with one another. Ultimately, it will bring nothing but confusion, heartache, and defeat. Just look around at professing “Christianity” if you doubt me.
Today, in the Dispensation of Grace, God is not choosing our leaders. Romans chapter 13 simply means God established governmental powers, and we choose leaders to exercise those powers. God allows us the free will to choose our leaders. We can choose to select leaders who are godly, or leaders who are ungodly. If God chooses our leaders, then it is pointless for us Americans to go vote on Election Day! Think about it, friend.
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