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2 Timothy 2:11-13 (RSVCE) has:

The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;

if we endure, we shall also reign with him;

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

How are we to understand 'we shall also reign with him'?

One difficulty, if all reign, who are the subjects?

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Some good questions to answer before exegeting the passage you've quoted include the following:

  • What is the time frame indicated? Is it now or at some time in the future when this reigning will take place?

  • Who are the "we" in the passage?

  • Is the "reigning" in this passage related to Jesus' announcement of the "Kingdom of God" (or the "Kingdom of Heaven")?

There are perhaps other questions we could ask which would aid us in answering what appears to be your central question (viz., what does reigning involve? and who are the subjects of those who reign?), but these three seem to me to be foundational.

Now, or Then?

I opt for then. Reigning is part of kingdom vocabulary, to be sure. Jesus announced a kingdom, but that kingdom resided within each believer:

"Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, 'The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, "Here it is," or "There it is," because the kingdom of God is within you'" (Luke 17:21-22 NIV).

In other words, Jesus seems to be teaching that the reign of God's kingdom is within the heart of each believer. Each believer is a subject of the King. Jesus does not seem to be teaching that the King of the Kingdom of God is like any earthly potentate. His kingdom is not maintained through military might and the threat of force.

"Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place'" (John 18:36 NIV).

The phrase "from another place" seems to indicate an other-worldly kingdom, and its reign which is currently in the hearts of its subjects will undergo a transformation when it appears in its fullness to the entire world, and not just to the King's believers. John's Revelation of Jesus Christ speaks of that aspect of the Kingdom of God:

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever'" (11:15 KJV).

Who are "We"?

"We" are believers who "endure." Endure what? Endure the hardships which come from being a subject of the King now, in this life, not the next. We find the theme of endurance in many places in the New Testament, and biblically speaking, endurance (or perseverance, 2 Peter 1:6 and Romans 5:4) is the product of a training process. Much as an athlete develops endurance through rigorous physical training, so do believers develop their spiritual muscles in Jesus' boot camp. Spiritually, that training process for believers includes trials, tribulations, and dying to self, or as Jesus put it,

"'If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me'" (Matthew 16:34; see also Matthew 10:38; Mark 8:24 and 10:21; and Luke 9:23).

Jesus did not promise a primrose path to his disciples. He did, however, promise rewards to those who 1) endure patiently everything the world throws at them for being his followers; and 2) serve others faithfully, just as Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45).

The Reign of God's Kingdom

The reign of God's Kingdom in the church age, during which Christ is building his kingdom one soul at a time until his work of building is complete, will one day experience a transformation. At that time, the exact time of which is shrouded in mystery, the Kingdom's subjects will then become co-regents with the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The Greek word for reign is the word from which we derive our word basilica. A basilica in ancient Rome was a public building used as a courtroom, an assembly hall, and an administration building for conducting the business of the empire. (Related to the word reign is another Greek word, basileus, or king.)

At some future time, all those who have been disloyal to the King in this life will have been judged at the Great White Throne (see Revelation 20:11 ff.). If at this judgment their names are not found written in "the book of life," they will be thrown into the lake of fire, also known as hell.

Since each believer will also be judged at the judgment seat of Christ (the bema; see Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10) and be rewarded by Christ for the good works performed during his or her lifetime, we can safely assume that each person's reward will not be the same.

Since at the judgment seat of Christ, believers' works will be tested by fire, only those works which Paul refers to as gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) will survive the purifying process. For this reason, the true motives for those "good works" will be exposed. If the motives originated in self-aggrandizement, pride, selfishness, or some other base desire, those works will not survive the fire of judgment.

On the other hand, those works which emerge from the fire unscathed will be those which were performed out of love for the Savior and for people. Those works comprise the gold, silver, and precious stones.

All this to say, since the Kingdom of God will be populated by a great throng of saints from every tongue, tribe, and nation (see Revelation 7:9-10), each saint will be given work to do within God's eternal kingdom.

The "basilica," as it were, for this kingdom in whatever form it takes will be the scene of the administration of God's kingdom. I suggest that those who endured a great deal as believers in the kingdom of the heart will have more responsibilities than those who endured little. Likewise, those believers whose good works survive the fire of judgment at the bema will also be entrusted with much. On the other hand, those believers whose works are mostly burned up in the fire of judgment, will be entrusted with little.

Jesus' teaching on the theme of "to whom much is given is much required" (see Luke 12:48), as well as his parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14 ff.), are of some relevance in this regard, because God expects a return on his investment in each of his children. Since we do not all have the same gifts, he does not expect as big a return from those possessing modest gifts as he does from those possessing greater gifts. He does, however, expect faithfulness from each person, regardless of gifts, in using them for his glory.

I suggest that believers look forward with great anticipation to hear those words from the Master,

"Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, [so] I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master [or lord]" (Matthew 25:21 and 23).

The key words in these verses vis a vis your question are in charge of. A person in charge of many things is a person who reigns over, or administers, the affairs of the Master. Through his teaching in the parable of the talents Jesus seems to be saying that during the eternal reign of God in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1), those who were once subjects of the King will then be both subjects and co-regents of the king.

In conclusion, all believers in the eternal kingdom, as it will be established in the new and restored earth, will be subjects of the King. God's enemies will have been put under his feet, and humankind's last enemy, death, will have been abolished. Then the Father and his Christ, along with those saints who endured to the end, will reign eternally to God's glory. Here is how Paul envisions God's reign on the new earth:

"And when all things have been subjected unto him [i.e., the God and Father], then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all. For, He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all things unto him. And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28 NAS).

In conclusion, I envision God's eternal kingdom embodying a perfect egalitarianism. Since all the King's subjects owe their existence in that kingdom to the grace of God, no one who is there deserves to be there. Along with this perfect egalitarianism, however, will be a heavenly hierarchy of redeemed saints, if you will, through whom God will reign (there is that word again!) and administer the affairs of his kingdom. Christ's parable of the talents hints at this when the master in the story says,

"I will put you in charge of many things" (op. cit.).

Within this heavenly hierarchy, unlike every earthly hierarchy, there will be no jockeying for position, no resentment of one's "superiors," and no "passing of the buck" in doing God's will. Each of us will be occupied with worshiping the King by accomplishing the King's bidding with joyful hearts. The work we do will bring fulfillment to us and glory to God as together we travel the universe, possibly, discovering new and thrilling aspects of God, of His creation, and of His kingdom.

Then and only then will God's will be done perfectly "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

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  • @FMS: You're welcome. Thank you for your encouragement. Don Oct 4 '14 at 22:28
  • I have been thinking that Gen 1:26 finally gets fulfilled as God had intended and then some, perhaps filling the ranks of the fallen angels.
    – FMS
    Oct 4 '14 at 23:44
  • @FMS: Very good observation! Oct 5 '14 at 0:57
  • That was some very good stuff you put together. I appreciate the effort that went into it since this question has been hanging for quite some time. Thank you so much!
    – FMS
    Oct 5 '14 at 1:03
  • @FMS: Again, thank you for your encouragement. Notice I've added some meat to the concluding section of my answer, in hopes of painting a mental word picture of what reigning with Christ will entail when the body of Christ, free of the presence of sin, pain, suffering, and death, will truly be liberated. In the words of TV's Star Trek (paraphrased!), "Heaven, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the King's subjects. Their eternal mission: to explore new worlds, to seek out the beauties of God's creation, to boldly go where no man has gone before, all for the glory of the King." Oct 5 '14 at 11:51
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How are we to understand 'we shall also reign with him'? As co-kings, subordinate kings under the King. In other words, He would reign through His Body.

One difficulty, if all reign, who are the subjects? Since this passage is conditional: IF we endure... it is referring to the 1000-year kingdom (Rv 20) of Christ on the old earth, before the new heavens and new earth. Which is a reward to Christians. Not a given. (Eternity in the new heavens and new earth is the 'given' to us.) In either case, in both cases: the subjects will be the unregenerated nations. In the 1000 years they are composed of the 'sheep,' who cared for His Body during the 3 1/2 year end-time tribulation.

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, at that time He will sit on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in, naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when have we seen You hungry and have fed You, or thirsty and have given You a drink? And when have we seen You a stranger and have taken You in, or naked and have clothed You? And when have we seen You sick or in prison and have come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of these, the least of My brothers, you have done it to Me. Then He will say also to those on the left, Go away from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you did not give Me anything to eat; I was thirsty and you did not give Me a drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer, saying, Lord, when have we seen You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, neither have you done it to Me. And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

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What does 'reign with him' in 2 Tim 2:12 mean

2 Timothy 2:11-13 (RSVCE) has: The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

How are we to understand 'we shall also reign with him'?

"We shall also reign with him'? Where?

In God's Heavenly Kingdom.

Jesus taught his followers to pray for Gods' Kingdom to come. Matthew 6:9-13

9 "So pray this way: Our Father[m] in heaven, may your name be honored, 10 may your kingdom come,[o] may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God will assert his authority over “the kingdom of the world,” setting up a new expression of his sovereignty toward our earth. He gives to his Son, Jesus Christ, a subsidiary share in that Kingdom so that it is termed “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”

Revelation 11:15-16 (NASB)

The Seventh Trumpet—Christ’s Reign Foreseen

15 "Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,

God's kingdom is a heavenly kingdom, in 2 Tim 4:18 we read that Paul expressed the hope of being transferred into this heavenly kingdom. He wrote:

2 Timothy 4:18 (NASB)

18 "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

Who is the King of God's Heavenly Kingdom? Paul wrote that it is Jesus.

1 Timothy 6:15 (NASB)

15 Which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (Compare 1Tim 6:14 )

Revelation 19:16 (NET Bible)

16 He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Similarly, Daniel in his vision wrote that all nations and peoples will serve him, "Jesus."

Daniel 7:14 (NASB)

14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and [a]a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every [b]language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed."

Jesus will not reign alone.

From Paul's words to Timothy, "We shall also reign with him," means that Jesus will have co-rulers in heaven to rule with him. Jesus was resurrected to life in heaven, and shortly before ascending to heaven, said to his faithful disciples:

John 14:2-3 (NASB)

2 "In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."

Revelation 20:6 (NASB)

6 "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years."

How many will have this privilege?

John in his vision Revelation chapter 14 saw the Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion, Jesus's position in heaven.

Revelation 14:1,4 (NASB)

1 "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they [b]have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.

Those purchased from among men/women from every tribe and nation are referred to as "first fruits" to God and to the Lamb. What will they do in heaven?

Who are the Subjects?

The Psalmist David uttered the following prophecy regarding Jesus, God said: "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession" Psalm 2:8 (NASB). Jesus spoke of this inheritance when he said: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5 (NET Bible)

During the Judgment Day, Jesus will judge and separate the sheep from the goats (Mat 25:31-40, the sheep are judged worthy of being on Jesus' right-hand sight, thus they will be the subjects. Verse 40 reads: "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." The expression "least brothers of Mine" (and women naturally included ) refers to those chosen by God to reign with Jesus. (Mat24:31 YTL)

New heavens and a new earth:

2 Peter 3:13 (NASB)

13 "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells."

The old heavens and earth, refer to the present governments and mankind under their control, will be gone. They will be replaced by what? The expression “new heavens and a new earth” means that there will be a new government and a new earthly society over which that government rules that is God's Kingdom under Jesus Christ

Psalm 37:10-11 (KJV)

10 "For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace."

Revelation 21:3-4 (KJV)

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

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