Long lay the world in sin and error pining; till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Rev 12:5). John’s quick snapshot of Jesus’s entire life—his miraculous birth and his victorious ascension—confirms the child’s destiny as ruler over the earth (Ps 2:7-9; Rev 2:26-28).
What does it mean that Jesus “rules all the nations with a rod of iron”?
The imagery here comes from shepherding. Shepherds cared for their flock with two utensils: a wooden staff and a rod made of iron. The staff kept the sheep in line; but the iron rod kept sheep safe in desolate pastures where bandits, hyenas, jackals, and lions often lurked. The rod of iron was the shepherd’s weapon to defend himself and his sheep.
In Psalm 2:9, the imagery is taken further. In receiving the nations as his inheritance, God’s Son “shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Another ancient Near Eastern custom comes into play here. People used to take broken pottery and grind it down to fine dust (called “homrah”). Once it was ground to powder, the homrah was ready to be used for new purposes.
Just like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream presents the world’s kingdoms as a dazzling impressive statue, a heaven-cut stone suddenly appears and pulverizes it (Dan 2:31-35)! The dream ends with the stone becoming a great mountain on earth, filling creation with heaven’s glory. Like broken pottery ground into powder, the kingdoms of the world will become homrah, that is, they will be redeemed into a new and indestructible cement that endures forever. All the broken pottery of human history will be reduced to dust to create a new and imperishable “city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (cf. Heb 11:10). “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed … it shall stand forever” (Dan 2:44).
The iron rod of Christ guarantees that the world we’ll enter in the Age to Come “is not another world; it is this world, this heaven, this earth; both … renewed. It is these forests, these fields, these cities, these streets, these people, that will be the scene of redemption. At present they are battlefields, full of the strife and sorrow … then they will be fields of victory, fields of harvest, where out of seed that was sown with tears … will be reaped and brought home” (Ed Thurneysen). History will not be eradicated but redeemed. All the glory and honor of history will be brought to the Lord and then utilized in the Age to Come!
“The world to come will not be a blank sheet” with all your accomplishments “simply crumpled up and tossed in a cosmic incinerator.” It will take the totality of your life, “purged and disinfected of all the poison and corruption of your fallenness, as the starting point of an unimaginable future—an eternity of new creation and new creativity, totally glorifying to God and satisfying to you, to be enjoyed forever” (Christopher J.H. Wright).
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices; for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!