God’s Sovereignty in a Fragmented World

Why was all authority given to Jesus after His resurrection (Matt. 28:18)? Didn’t He have it before?

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
God’s Sovereignty in a Fragmented World
Photo by Micah Hallahan on Unsplash

I will briefly summarize Jesus’ authority during His earthly ministry, the problem of the cosmic conflict, and the divine granting of all authority to Jesus.


In Matthew the earthly ministry of Jesus is characterized by a constant manifestation of His authority. He has teaching authority (7:29) and even the authority to forgive sins (9:6, 8), anticipating the fullness of His saving work for us. Some Jewish leaders questioned His authority (21:23), but in contrast to them a Roman centurion publicly acknowledged that Jesus had authority to heal the sick (8:5-13). Jesus Himself testifies to His authority to work on behalf of others (21:27) and clearly states that the Father has handed over everything to Him—placed them under His authority (11:27). It is obvious that Jesus had a God-given authority before His resurrection.


During His earthly ministry Christ could not fully manifest His universal sovereignty. A segment of creation had rejected God’s authority, claiming independence from Him. Over that segment of creation, Jesus did not yet have full authority—the capacity to use His power to bring radical change. He taught the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10; NASB),* but that was not yet the case. Satan tempted Jesus to worship him and become his coregent over the kingdoms of this world, but Jesus only rebuked him (4:8-10). The conflict was intense because Satan constantly opposed the work of Christ (13:19; 16:23). Demons questioned Jesus’ authority to impede them to do their work, arguing that He did not have, at least for now, authority to destroy them (8:29; cf. Luke 4:34). Demons seem to have known that a radical change was soon to come.


Things changed as a result of the sacrificial death of Jesus. Now He could implement the divine plan to judge the whole world, separating the righteous from the wicked, to give to each one their eternal reward (25:31-46), and to eventually destroy, once and for all, Satan and his demons (8:29; 25:41). He can now exert His authority to save, and to condemn and exterminate the wicked. There is no longer a segment of creation outside His authority: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (28:18).

By giving His life as a ransom for many (20:28), He legitimized the divine authority to save those who place their faith in Him (26:28; 25:34). The integrity of God’s character could no longer be questioned when saving sinners (cf. Rom. 3:25, 26) or condemning unrepentant sinners (Phil. 2:10, 11; Rev. 5:13). The postresurrection words of Jesus to the disciples contain four main ideas (Matt. 28:18). First, Christ received all authority and consequently there is no one who can validly contend with Him as sovereign Lord. Second, Christ is now coregent with God, crowned as king in heaven. He is the messianic king; the King of kings. Third, He introduces Himself to the disciples as the mediator between them and the Father. The authority Jesus received from the Father He shares with the disciples as He calls them to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:19, 20). Fourth, the phrase “heaven . . . earth” emphasizes the universal extent of the authority of Jesus. There is not a corner in the universe that will not be under the loving rule of God. This rule will be universally displayed at the second coming of Christ.

* Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez