King of Kings

Because of his “faithful witness,” Jesus now reigns supreme over the kings of the earth and even over his vilest enemies

From the start, the book Revelation declares Jesus to be the “ruler over the kings of the earth.” His present sovereignty is based on his past death and resurrection, and NOT on any hereditary rights, economic power, or military might. He is the “King of kings” anointed to reign from the “throne of David.”

At times, the “kings of the earth” are allied with the “beast” and do the bidding of the “Dragon,” yet Jesus manipulates their plots and actions to achieve his purposes. Even his enemies cannot move against him without his consent.

Moreover, by the end of the book, the same earthly rulers are found in “New Jerusalem,” where they, the “kings of the earth,” honor the “slain 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).


He is the “faithful witness” and the “firstborn of the dead.” The former refers to his death, and the latter to his resurrection. All three designations are derived 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.”

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


But Revelation has combined this passage with words from the second Psalm. The verbal link for doing so is the clause, “kings of the earth.” In the Psalm, they conspired against Yahweh’s anointed king.

However, their plot backfired, and God gave the nations to His Son for “his inheritance” and the “ends of the earth” for his “possession,” and he thus “ruled over them with his iron scepter” - (Psalm 2:1-11).

In Revelation, rather than use the Greek comparative adjective for “highest,” the text calls Jesus the archôn or “ruler” over the "kings of the earth." The term does not mean “king,” though kings certainly do “rule.”

The point is not that Jesus is the “king” or even a king among kings, but instead, that he holds a far higher rank. Moreover, the noun archôn often denotes someone who is a “prince,” a “chief magistrate,” the supreme sovereign, and that is the sense here.

The intent is not to contradict the book’s later declaration that he is the “King of kings,” but instead, to highlight just how much higher he is than the political rulers of this age.


The extent of his sovereignty is stressed in the first vision where Jesus calls himself the “living one who was dead and lives forevermore.” Therefore, he now holds the “keys of death and Hades.” Not even the realm of the dead is beyond his grasp. And again, the text stresses that his absolute authority is based on his past death and resurrection.

His authority extends even over his mortal enemies. For example, Satan is bound from “deceiving the nations” and cannot do so until he is “released from the Abyss” by an angel from heaven.

Likewise, the “beast from the sea” is unable to wage “war” against the saints until authorized to do so (“and it was given to him to make war against the saints” – Revelation 13:7, 20:1-3).

His authority extends even 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 Christ’s sovereignty over the earth did not immediately negate the hostility of the “kings of the earth.”

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.” At this “war,” they have assembled along with the “beast” and the “false prophet” to wage war against the one who was “riding on a white horse.” But the “Lamb” overcomes them because he is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” - (Revelation 16:12-16. 17:10-18, 19:19-21).

At the end of this “battle,” the “beast” and the “false prophet” are cast “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,” which the vision identifies as the “word of God.” While this suggests their death, that is not necessarily the case.


The second Psalm is echoed in three verses where the original Hebrew verb for “rule” is changed to the Greek verb that means “shepherd.” Thus, the messianic “son” is the one who is destined to “shepherd the nations.”

What this means is demonstrated in the vision of the “innumerable multitude” when the “Lamb shepherds” the men 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 dust – (Revelation 2:27, 7:17, 12:5, 19:15).

The change in imagery from a conqueror to a benevolent ruler who “shepherds” his subjects is paradoxical. While he still wields an “iron scepter,” he uses it to guide the nations and the “kings of the earth” to something other than their destruction.

The idea of a more benevolent future was hinted at in the second Psalm. After warning the “kings of the earth” of the dire consequences if they continued in their rebellion, the Psalmist exhorted 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 led his subjects to their destruction?

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



Revolt Against the Son

Suffering Servant