Lord of Kings

The faithful witness, Jesus, now reigns supreme over the kings of the earth and even his enemies

And in Revelation, Jesus is called the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” and this is declared using the present tense. His absolute sovereignty over the earth is based on his past death and resurrection, NOT on hereditary rights, economic or military might. He is the anointed king who now reigns from the “throne of David.”

In the book, at times, the “kings of the earth” are allied with the “Beast” and do the bidding of the “Dragon.” Nevertheless, the “Lamb” uses their plots to achieve his purposes.

Even his enemies cannot move against him without his consent, and by the end of John’s vision, the same group is found in the city of “New Jerusalem,” and there, they give honor to the “Lamb.”

  • John to the seven churches in Asia: Grace to you and peace from…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him who loves us and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” - (Revelation 1:4-6).

FAITHFUL WITNESS AND FIRSTBORN


He is also the “faithful witness” and the “firstborn of the dead.” The former designation refers to his death, and the latter to his resurrection. All three designations - “faithful witness,” “firstborn of the dead,” and “ruler f the kings of the earth” - come from the eighty-ninth psalm:

  • (Psalm 89:27, 37) - “I also will make him my first-born, the higher than the kings of the earth His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven.”

His “faithful testimony” was given in his death; therefore, Yahweh made him the “firstborn” and the “highest of the kings of the earth.” In the Hebrew text, the Psalm uses the noun ‘elyôn for “higher,” and it is used comparatively to denote the sense “supreme, lofty, highest.”

But the book of Revelation combines this passage with words from the second Psalm, and the verbal link for doing so is the clause “kings of the earth.”

In the second Psalm, these “kings” rebel and conspire against Yahweh’s anointed king. But their plot backfires since God gave the “nations” to His Son for “his inheritance” and the “ends of the earth” for his “possession.” Thus, Jesus “rules over them with his iron scepter” - (Psalm 2:1-11).

In Revelation, rather than use the Greek comparative adjective for “highest,” the text calls him the archôn or “ruler” over the "kings of the earth." The term does not mean “king,” though kings certainly “rule.” The point is not that he is the “king” or even a king among kings, but that he holds a far higher rank.

SUPREMACY


The noun archôn often denotes someone who is a “prince,” “chief magistrate,” or the supreme sovereign, and that is the sense here. The intent is not to contradict the book’s later declaration that Jesus is the “King of kings,” but to highlight just how much higher he is than the political rulers of this age.

The extent of his sovereignty is stressed in the book’s first vision where Jesus calls himself the “living one who was dead and lives forevermore,” and he now holds the “keys of death and Hades.”

Hence, not even the realm of the dead is beyond his reach. And again, his absolute authority even over Hades is based on his past death and resurrection.

And his sovereignty extends over his mortal enemies. For example, Satan is bound from “deceiving the nations” and cannot do so until he is “released from the Abyss.” The “Beast from the sea” is unable to wage “war” against the saints until he is authorized to do so (“and it was given to him to make war against the saints” – Revelation 13:7, 20:1-3).

But his rule over the earth does not immediately negate the hostility of the “kings of the earth.” For example, when the “sixth bowl of wrath” is emptied, the “kings of the earth” are gathered for the “great day of God Almighty” at the “place called Armageddon,” though the text does not say what happens to them once they arrive at the battle.

At this final conflagration, the “kings of the earth” and their “armies” are gathered along with the “Beast” and the “false prophet” to wage war against the one who is “riding on a white horse.”

But the “Lamb” overcomes them because he is “king of kings and lord of lords” - (Revelation 16:12-16. 17:10-18, 19:19-21).

At the end of the battle, the “Beast” and the “False Prophet” are “cast alive into the lake of fire.” But that is not the fate of the “kings of the earth.” The “rest were killed with the sword of the one who was riding on the white horse,” and the vision identifies it as the “word of God” that is “proceeding out of his mouth.” While this suggests their deaths, that is not necessarily the case.

SHEPHERD


The second Psalm is alluded to again in three additional passages where the original Hebrew verb for “rule” is changed to the Greek verb that means “shepherd.” Thus, the messianic “son” is destined to “shepherd the nations.”

What this means is demonstrated in the vision of the “innumerable multitude” where the “Lamb shepherds” the men who have been redeemed from every nation to the “living waters” in New Jerusalem.

And in the vision of the “rider on the white horse,” the royal figure uses his “iron scepter” to “shepherd the nations,” not to grind them into powder – (Revelation 2:27, 7:17, 12:5, 19:15).

The change from the image of conqueror to benevolent ruler who “shepherds” his flock is unexpected and paradoxical. While he still wields an “iron scepter” and a “great sword,” he uses them to guide the nations and the “kings of the earth” to something other than their destruction.

The idea of a more benevolent fate for the “kings” is hinted at in the Psalm. After warning them of dire consequences if they continue in their rebellion, the Psalmist exhorts them to fear Yahweh and “kiss His son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way” – (Psalm 2:9-11).

The presentation of Jesus as the sacrificial “Lamb” who now “shepherds the nations” begins to explain how the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are found enjoying the glories of “New Jerusalem.” And what kind of sovereign and shepherd would he be if he only leads his subjects to their doom?

In the holy city, the “nations walk amidst its light, the kings of the earth bring their glory into it.” And in “New Jerusalem,” John sees the “tree of life” that “heals the nations” and removes the original “curse” caused by Adam’s disobedience.

And so, the “slain Lamb” shepherds the nations and guides many to life and salvation in the “new heavens and new earth.”


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