The Hope, Meaning, And Promise That One Day “Every Knee Shall Bow”
How can we make the most of His great name with the days we have now?
By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. – Isaiah 45:23
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11
The name Jesus Christ elicits many responses in today’s world. To Christians, it is a name of the Messiah. To non-believers, it is the name of a blasphemer, teacher, or prophet. To many, it is a slang term tossed in profanity. Yet, several times, Scripture declares that one day, every knee will bow and the entire world will respond in unison at the name of Jesus.
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Where Does the Bible Say “Every Knee Shall Bow”?
The Book of Isaiah
The original context of “every knee shall bow” comes from Isaiah 45:23. In this passage, the Lord God vows that every person will bow before him. No gender, religion, race, or status will matter. All will be equally on our faces before God.
Jehovah says, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
The phrase also appears when the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians concerning Christ’s obedience to the Father. His life on earth and his death were the ultimate example for believers to follow in service to one another. As the exemplar in humility, Jesus gave up his rightful seat in heaven and came to earth in human form to suffer death for the sake of man’s sin. Not only did he endure death, but he died a slave and criminal’s death. As a result, the Father raised Jesus in victory over death and gave Him the name above every name.
In the Philippians passage, compared to Isaiah, Paul replaces the Father with the name of Jesus in the seat of exaltation. Therefore, at the return of Christ, all will recognize his authority as Lord.
Christ’s exaltation has already been achieved through his obedience and victory over the cross. It will come into fulfillment when he returns. At that time every being in heaven and on earth will acknowledge him as Lord.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans
The Book of Revelation
In Revelation 5:13-14, John records his vision of the Lamb in the throne room of God. It is he who is worthy to open the seals of the judgment of God. Every creature in heaven, on earth, in the sea, and under the earth give glory to the Lamb and bow in worship. Christ receives his due praise, honor, glory, and power. These events are yet to come. For more information on the context within Revelation 5, look here.
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What It Means That “Every Knee Shall Bow”
So why should believers look forward to the day when every knee will bow to Christ?
The time when most scholars believe that “every knee will bow” is at the Second Coming of Christ, or the Parousia. It is at this time that the Lord will come to judge the earth. While non-believers will bow down in submission to Christ’s authority out of fear, followers of Jesus have the opportunity to do willingly and joyfully. Bowing at the name of Jesus will be a time of celebration rather than judgment for those who have faithfully served the Lord.
In Romans 8:17, Paul states that we as believers are heirs of God and coheirs with Christ. Though we share in his sufferings, we shall also share in his glory. The day when Christ reigns is also the day we will see God’s kingdom fully established. Our shared suffering with Christ will be fully glorified through Him. Finally, the Lord’s prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” will be firmly established.
We have both a hope and a challenge in the knowledge that one day every knee will bow at the name of Christ. The hope is found in Jesus’ promise to return. In that time, he will make things right in the world. All the injustice, immorality, and selfishness will end. The Lord will prove Sovereign over all creation. The wicked will be judged for their deeds. Those who refused to acknowledge God will confess His name.
Yet there is purpose in his delay. The love of God motivates a postponement in judgement so more may come to faith in Him (2 Peter 3:8-9). This perspective leads to a challenge for current believers. If Christians truly loved and cared about their world around them, they should be passionately grieved for its spiritual condition.
When every knee bows and every tongue confesses, not everyone will cheer with joy. Knowing that a personal conversation, invitation, or testimony could help turn a bow of subjugation to a bow of worship motivates me to stop fearing personal rejection and put my faith in action.
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How Should We Live Knowing That One Day Every Knee Will Bow?
1. We rejoice in our present sufferings knowing that they are not in vain.
Every decision we make for Christ matters. Even when the world does not understand why we live differently, the ability to stand firm and endure is not wasted. Colossians 3 encourages us as believers to set our minds on the things of Christ and not live in the way of the world, because when Christ appears, we will also appear with him in glory.
2. We make the most of life to live the difference Christ has mad in our lives.
Jesus told his disciples to be salt and light so that the world would know the difference in them and could be blessed by them. As Christians, the difference Christ has made in our lives is love. As we offer love to the world, hopefully people will want the answer we have.
3. We practice kneeling.
Worship is a lifestyle. It is not meant to be a Sunday event or simply an “experience.” Rather, we kneel before the Lord out of recognition of who He is, what He has done, and how we respond to Him. Kneeling is an attitude of the heart as much as an action of the knees. As we bow our heads, we ask God to direct our path so we can do His work for His glory.
4. We declare the name of Jesus.
If Jesus is the name above every name, we need to make this message known to the earth. While God is merciful, there is an urgency to our message because it is of eternal value. We declare his name through praise, in thanksgiving, and in our testimony of what he has done in our lives. While this may be uncomfortable, the more we practice talking about our faith, the more comfortable we will become with it.
Christ’s Sonship to the Father and his humility and obedience in his ministry on earth will culminate in the day when all creation will declare his greatness. The question for believers today is, how can we make the most of His great name with the days we have now?
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Cortney Whiting is a wife and mom of two preteens. She received her Master of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently teaches at a Christian school and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at her blog, https://recapturefaith.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.