What did Jesus mean when He said “All authority has been given to me”?


What did Jesus mean when He said, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18)?


Because Jesus said He was given “all power…in heaven and on earth” does not suggest that He is supreme over all the galaxies and universes through space. Jesus’ kingship is repeatedly described in relation to the earth and His very own statement following the one quoted above is, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations”–the people on the earth.

The Bible uses the term “heaven and earth” to refer to those in authority and those ruled over, as well as to the physical structures of the heavens and earth. A typical example is in the first chapter of Isaiah where we read, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth” (verse 2). And a few verses later we read a parallel statement, “Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah” (verse 10). Another example of this type of speech is in Deuteronomy 32, where Moses, addressing the Israelites, says: “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.” Moses would have had no purpose in addressing anyone in heaven, but he was speaking to the Israelites, requesting the attention both of those in authority and those among the common people. The literal “heavens” and “earth” would not have “ears to hear.”

A God of such vast power as to create myriad worlds in countless galaxies has not limited His work to one small planet called Earth. He has purpose and direction in all His creation, far, far beyond our farthest imagination. What is revealed to us pertains to the work on our planet, which, we read, “God…did not create it in vain, [he] formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18). Jesus 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” (Col. 1:18). But His position as described in the Bible is relative to the earth, not to the vast reaches of space. Under Christ’s direction, “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa. 52:10). Under Him, the “whole earth [shall] be filled with his glory” (Ps. 72:19). Christ’s work will be to create “a new heaven and a new earth,” new rulers and new populace on the earth (Isa. 65:17), and in these new heavens and earth will dwell righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13).