Why do the Nations Rage?

The Second Psalm is a key passage applied to Jesus by the New Testament. When were its predictions fulfilled, and is the Messiah reigning now on David’s Throne? Is the world still waiting for his enthronement at a future date? What about the “revolt” of nations and kings against the Son of God? Is it a prediction of a coming war between Jesus and earthly governments - (Psalm 2:1-6)?

Cross sunset - Photo by Jonas Allert on Unsplash
[Photo by Jonas Allert on Unsplash]

In the
Book of Acts, when the Temple authorities attempted to suppress the fledgling church, Peter prayed for “boldness” to proclaim the Gospel. He declared that the same authorities that were venting their rage against the Assembly also plotted to kill Jesus, and he applied phrases from the Second Psalm to stress the point:

  • (Acts 4:23-28) – “O Sovereign! You are he that made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all things that are therein, Who, by our father, through means of the Holy Spirit, even by the mouth of David your servant, said, Unto what end did THE nations revolt, and peoples busy themselves with empty things? The kings of the earth stationed themselves, and the rulers were gathered together with one intent against the Lord and his MESSIAH. For they were gathered, of a truth, in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with them of the nations and peoples of Israel...”

Peter followed the Greek text of the Septuagint version of the Psalm. The verb translated as “gathered together” is sunagō, the same term applied in Acts to the priestly leaders that hauled the Apostles before their “gathering” for examination:

  • It came to pass upon the morrow, that there were gathered together of them the rulers and the elders and the scribes in Jerusalem” - (Acts 4:5-7).

The same authorities that conspired to destroy Jesus “came together” to stop the Church. In doing so, they continued their “revolt against the Lord and his Anointed.”

Peter attributed responsibility for the death of Jesus to Herod, Pontius Pilate, the nations, and the people of Israel. They all “gathered together” against the “holy child when they rejected the Messiah and became complicit in his death.

The same language from the Second Psalm is applied to the conspiracy to destroy Jesus elsewhere in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, “All the High Priests and Elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death” - (Matthew 27:1-2).

Peter preached to a crowd on the Day of Pentecost about “Jesus, the Nazarene” whom they slew. However, God raised him from the dead and exalted him to rule from His Throne. He made him “both Lord and Messiah the one whom you crucified” - (Acts 2:23-39).

At the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, the Apostle Paul declared, “They who were dwelling in Jerusalem and their rulers” found Jesus guilty of no crime yet delivered him to Pontius Pilate for execution. However, “God raised him from among the dead,” and thus fulfilled the “promise made to our fathers by raising up Jesus: as also in the second psalm it is written — My son you are, I, this day, have begotten you.”


The Second Psalm links the enthronement of the Messiah with the declaration by God, “I, this day, have begotten you” - (Acts 13:23-36, Psalm 2:7-9, 110:1).

  • (Psalm 2:6-9) – “Yet I have installed my king on Zion my holy mountain. Let me tell of a decree, Yahweh said to me, YOU ARE My soN. I, THIS day, have begotten YOU. Ask of me and let me give nations as your inheritance and as your possession, the ends of the Earth. You will shepherd them with a sceptre of iron, as a potter’s vessel, you will dash them in pieces.

The opening paragraph of Hebrews describes how God spoke in His “Son,” who, “having achieved the purification of sins, sat down on the right hand” of God. His exaltation is connected to his past victory over sin, and the Second Psalm is cited to confirm this:

  • (Hebrews 1:3-5) – “Who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his very being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places, by so much becoming superior to the angels, by as much as, going beyond them, he inherited a more distinguished name. For to which of the angels said he ever, My Son arE You. I, this day, have begotten YOUR?” – (also, Hebrews 5:5-8).

Finally, the Book of Revelation declares that Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” His exalted position is linked to his Death (Faithful Witness”) and his Resurrection (Firstborn of the Dead”). The clause alludes to the Second Psalm in which “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers took counsel together against Yahweh and his Messiah” - (Revelation 1:4-6).

In the Second Psalm, God promised to give his Son the “nations for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the Earth for your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron.” Revelation applies this promise to Jesus in his present position.

Already, he reigns over the Earth and its “Kings” from “his Father’s Throne” - (see, also, Revelation 2:26-27, 12:5, and especially Revelation 3:21).

Thus, the New Testament applies the predictions of the Second Psalm to the conspiracy by the Temple leaders and Roman authorities to destroy Jesus of Nazareth. However, God was not taken by surprise. Did He not predict these very events? He responded by raising Jesus from the dead and installing him as His absolute ruler over the nations and the “Kings of the Earth.”

In the New Testament, the Messianic reign of Jesus on the “Throne of David” is a present reality that began following his resurrection. Whether the “revolt” of the kings against him was exhausted by those historical events, his Death and Resurrection are when the fulfillment of the prophecy began.

  • Lord and Messiah - (The present reign of Jesus began with his exaltation to the Messianic Throne following his Death and Resurrection – Psalms 110:1)
  • Reigning from Zion - (Following his resurrection, Jesus began his reign from the Messianic Throne as prophesied by David – Psalm 2:6-9)
  • Ruler of Kings - (The faithful witness, Jesus, now reigns supreme over the Kings of the Earth and even over his enemies, and he is shepherding the nations)



The Word Made Flesh

Language of the New Testament