Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King. If indeed Christ is a king, and he is, then he necessarily has a kingdom. That kingdom is the Church, His own Body. When He established His kingdom, He did so based on the model of the Old Testament Kingdom of David. The Kingdom of David had a visible dimension with a hierarchy as well as an invisible spiritual dimension. Likewise, Christ’s Kingdom, the Church, has a visible dimension with a hierarchy as well as an invisible spiritual dimension.
One of the aspects of the Davidic Kingdom was the office of the Prime Minister. This office was one of succession, meaning that when one prime minister left the office it did not remain empty, but another took his place. We see this in Isaiah 22: 15-25. Also in Isaiah, we see that the Davidic Prime Minister possessed the keys to the kingdom as a sign of his authority. The Prime Minister had the highest authority in the kingdom, second only to the King. It was the Prime Minister who ruled when the king was away. Isaiah also tells us that the Prime Minister “shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”
Christ the King establishes Peter as the Prime Minister of the restored Davidic Kingdom, the Church, in Matthew 16: 18-19. In doing so, He quotes directly from Isaiah 22. Christ gives Peter the keys to His Kingdom, so that Peter can rule when He is away. The office of Christ’s Prime Minister is also one of succession. It doesn’t end with Peter. Linus takes over after the death of Peter and then Clement, and so on down to the current successor of Peter, Benedict XVI. Just as the Old Testament Davidic Prime Minister was a father to his people, so is Christ’s Prime Minister. In fact, the word “Pope” (or in Latin “Papa”) means “father.” The Pope is the principle of unity for Christ’s Kingdom while He is away at the right hand of the Father and the Pope is running the Kingdom until Christ the King comes back in glory at the end of time.
To reject the King is to reject the Kingdom. We see this in Scripture with the Israelites who were to be a kingdom of priests with God as their King. The Israelites wanted to be like the other nations and have an earthly king to rule them. They rejected God as their King and thus rejected the Kingdom.
In the New Testament the Jewish leaders also reject their King. They cry, “We have no king but Caesar” and send the true King to the Cross. In rejecting the King, they reject the Kingdom.
Christ only established One Kingdom, One Church. It is an historical fact that the Church He established is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the Body of Christ, His Kingdom. For a thousand years there was only one type of Christian—the Catholic Christian. Then the Eastern Orthodox broke away from the One Church established by Christ. About 500 years later, the Protestants also left this Church.
Christ the King is intimately connected to His Kingdom, which is His Body, the Church. Thus, not only does it hold true that if you reject the King, you reject the Kingdom, but also if you reject the Kingdom, you reject the King. I would argue that the Eastern Orthodox did not so much reject the Kingdom, for they kept all the Sacraments, as reject the authority of Christ’s Prime Minister. The Protestants led by Luther, however, rejected the Kingdom entirely. They claimed that the Catholic Church was overcome by Satan and that the Pope was the antichrist.
Let’s return back to Matthew 16, the point where Christ sets up the office of Prime Minister in His Kingdom. Not only did He establish Peter as the first Prime Minister, but He added a promise—the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church, His Kingdom. But if Luther is right, if the Church has gone astray, then that means that the gates of Hell HAVE overcome His Church and it makes Christ out to be a liar! Certainly, no Protestant would be willing to say that, but that is precisely the logical consequence of saying that the Church that Christ established has gone astray and is now taken over by Satan.
If Christ is our King, then we should believe His words. If He says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church and that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth, then it is so. Thus, to reject His Church, His Kingdom, is to reject Him, the King.
Listen to the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lecture 18.26:
“But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly [Acts 19:14]), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to you now the Article,
And in one Holy Catholic Church; that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it [Ephesians 5:25], and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all [Galatians 4:26]; which before was barren, but now has many children.”