“You are my son; today I have become your father,” (Psalm 2:7).
By itself, this little piece from the second psalm doesn’t look like much—certainly not a prophecy of the resurrection. (It actually looks more like a birth announcement). Be that as it may, Paul nonetheless quotes this text in support of the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 13:33. It’s subtle to be sure, but then there’s an under regarded strength to subtlety that is often lost in our in-your-face culture. For example, telling someone “I love you,” is meaningful, always popular, but sadly lacking in substance at times. On the other hand, while showing someone love through our actions might be less direct than telling them, it’s difficult not appreciate.
In the psalm, God and His anointed are being opposed by the “kings of the earth” (v. 2). Initially we might think the anointed refers to David, Solomon, or one of the other kings of Israel, but as we make our way through the psalm we find it is too broad and expansive to apply to any earthly ruler (v. 8-9, 12). The “anointed” is the Messiah/Christ.
And when was Jesus opposed by the kings of the earth? It would be in the events leading to His crucifixion when the Jewish leaders colluded with the Romans to bring about the execution of Christ. This is the way early church understood this psalm (Acts 4:24-27). Furthermore, since Rome ruled the world the phrase “kings of the earth” fits quite well for in Rome all the nations are represented.
The Messiah’s enemies want to thwart the rule of God through Jesus (v. 3). Yahweh’s response is intimidating and chilling—He laughs at their impudence in thinking they can successfully rebel against Him and mocks their impotence (v. 4). His plans to rule through Jesus aren’t affected in the least by their actions (v. 6). His response to the crucifixion is to proclaim, “You are my son; today I have become your father.” Now the psalm is shaping into something that looks more like a resurrection text because the only way God can laugh at such rebellion is to know that He will raise His anointed from the dead. This is precisely how Paul uses the text in Act 13.
Jesus is “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection” (Romans 1:4 NASB). Who makes this declaration? God does is saying, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.” The whole world can look at the empty tomb and know that the Father loves the Son (John 3:35, 5:20). Yet as we’ve noted, this is no ordinary resurrection text (supposing that there could be such a thing), for as we’ve noted, it is couched in the language of a birth announcement.
Through the resurrection Jesus is born again to a new manner of life. In His first appearance Christ came to bear the sin of the world. At the cross He said “It is finished.” In His resurrected life He is free from this connection with sin since it was dealt with during His earthly life (Romans 6:10). The Hebrew writer speaks of Him appearing a second time “not to bear sin” (9:28).
The new birth of Jesus to a life apart from sin is exactly what His resurrection means to us. After Paul establishes the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 13, he goes on to say that “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from sin” (v. 38-39). His new birth brings about ours. As Paul will later write in his letter to the church at Rome, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification” (4:25).
What have we said in this little piece? We’ve established Psalm 2 as a resurrection text. It doesn’t look like a prophecy concerning the resurrection because it is given in the form of a birth announcement to emphasize that the resurrection was the beginning of a new manner of existence for Jesus–one that was free the connection with sin He had during HIs earthly life. What all of this means to disciples is that He’s alive and we’re forgiven.
That’s something worth celebrating and sharing.