Ruler of Kings

In Revelation, Jesus is called the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth,” a declaration made in the present tense since his existing sovereignty over the Earth and its nations is based on his past death and resurrection, NOT on any hereditary rights, economic power, or military might. He sits on the Divine Throne as the slain “Lamb” whence he reigns over the entire Universe, including “Death and Hades.”

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 redemptive purposes. Even his enemies cannot move against him without his consent. By the end of Revelation, the same group of “kings” is found in the city of “New Jerusalem,” where they give honor and worship to the “Lamb” - (Revelation 1:4-6).

Globe Map - Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash
[Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash]

He is the “
Faithful Witness” and the “Firstborn of the Dead.” The former designation refers to his death, and the latter to his resurrection. All three labels - “Faithful Witness,” “Firstborn of the Dead,” and the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth” – are 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.” It is used comparatively, denoting the sense of “supreme, lofty, highest.”

But 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 Psalm, the latter conspire against God’s anointed King, but their plot backfires since He gave the “nations” to the Son for “his inheritance” and the “ends of the Earth” for his “possession.” Therefore, Jesus now “rules over them with his iron scepter” - (Psalm 2:1-11).

Rather than use the Greek comparative adjective for “highest” in the passage, 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 that he holds a far higher rank than any king, dictator, prime minister, or president.


The noun archôn often denotes someone who is a “prince,” “chief magistrate,” or supreme sovereign, and that is the sense in the passage. 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 any of the political rulers of the Earth.

The extent of his sovereignty is stressed in the first vision where Jesus describes himself as the “Living One who was dead and lives forevermore,” and he now holds the “Keys of Death and Hades.” Not even the realm of the dead is beyond his reach, and his sovereignty is based on his past death and resurrection.

His reign 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” cannot wage “war” against the saints until authorized to do so (“and it was given to him to make war against the saints” – Revelation 13:7-10).

His present reign does not necessarily negate the hostility of the “Kings of the Earth.” For example, when the “Sixth Bowl of Wrath” is emptied, the kings are gathered for the final battle against the “Lamb” on the “great day of God Almighty” - (Revelation 16:12-16. 17:10-18, 19:19-21).

The Second Psalm is alluded to in three more passages where the original Hebrew verb for “rule” is replaced by the Greek term for “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 redeemed from every nation to the “living waters” in New Jerusalem. Moreover, in the vision of the “Rider on the White Horse,” that royal figure uses his “iron scepter” to “shepherd the nations,” not to pound them into dust – (Revelation 2:27, 7:17, 12:5, 19:15).

The change from the image of the conqueror to the 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 positive fate for his political opponents was hinted at centuries earlier in the Second Psalm. After warning of dire consequences if the “Kings of the Earth” persisted 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).

Daybreak - Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash
[Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash]

The image of the sacrificial “
Lamb” who “shepherds the nations” begins to explain how the “nations” and the “Kings of the Earth” will find themselves in “New Jerusalem.” What kind of shepherd would Jesus be if he only “shepherded” men and women 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 it is found the “Tree of Life” that “heals the nations” and removes the “curse” caused by Adam’s sin. Thus, the Supreme Ruler of nations and kings will lead many of them to life and salvation in the coming New Creation.

  • The Shepherd King - (The Lamb’s reign commenced with his death and resurrection, and since then, he has been shepherding the nations toward New Jerusalem)
  • Sovereign over All - (The New Testament applies messianic promises in the Psalms to the present reign of Jesus who possesses all authority)
  • Shepherd of the Nations - (Jesus is the promised King from the line of David who is shepherding the nations to redemption and residency in New Jerusalem – Revelation 12:5)



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