Often a biblical passage may be used to establish a variety of points and, while the point made by citing the passage may not be the principal thrust of the verse, deductive reasoning from the verse may lead to that proper conclusion. One such passage is Psalms 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
This Psalm from David is quoted several times in the New Testament and additional references are made to it in other passages. It is a passage of much significance and was used by New Testament writers or preachers to establish different truths.
It was quoted first by Jesus after he had been intensely questioned by the religious leaders of his day. They questioned him about what authority he did the things he did (Mt. 21:23). He was questioned by the Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees (Mt. 22:15-22; 23-33; 34-40). At the end of their questions, after he devastated their objections, Jesus then asked them a question: “What think ye of Christ, whose son is he?” (Mt. 22:42). After they had responded that he was David’s son, Jesus then quoted Psalms 110:1 and asked: “If David then called him, Lord, how is he his son?” (Mt. 22:45). Jesus’ antagonists had no answer: they had not perceived that although the Messiah was to be the son of David, He was also God, thus David’s son and Lord.
Psalms 110:1 is quoted by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 1:13. In that chapter the writer, having declared that Christ had “become by so much better than the angels,…” showed with extensive quotations that angels were inferior to Christ. His last quote was the Psalms passages in which he asked: “But of which of the angels hath he said at any time ‘Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:13).
Paul made specific reference to Psalms 110:1 (although he did not quote it entirely) when he wrote “for he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). Then the apostle commented, “The last enemy that shall be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). In this chapter, Paul combated the teaching which had circulated at Corinth, that there was no resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12). He produced argument after argument to prove there would be a resurrection, appealing to Psalms 110:1 which declared that Christ would sit at the Father’s right hand till every enemy was subdued under his feet. Since death is the enemy of all mankind, it too must be fully subjected (all the dead must be raised) and Paul’s appeal to Palms 110:1 was both logical and proper.
However, it was Peter who used the passage in its principal significance. He recounted how the Jews had crucified Jesus but God had raised him up. He said, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:33). He then observed, “For David, himself ascended. not into heaven but himself said, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet” (Acts 2:34f). Jesus’ claims all authority in heaven and earth (Mt. 28:18). He has been given a name above every name and whatever men do, must be done in his name (Phil. 2:9f; Col. 3:17). And this is precisely what Psalms 110:1 avows.
Psalms 110:1 does show the unique character of Jesus. It does prove Jesus is higher than angels; it does prove that Christ will someday raise the dead, but its primary teaching is of the exalted rule and authority of Jesus the Lord.