King of kings

Jesus is called the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth” in the present tense in the Book of Revelation. His sovereignty is based on his past Death and Resurrection, not military conquest. Though at times the “Kings of the Earth” do Satan’s bidding, the slain “Lamb” even uses their plots to achieve his redemptive purposes for humanity and the nations.

Revelation often does the unexpected and presents paradoxical images and truths. The Book is more concerned with redemption than vengeance or destruction. Jesus is the unexpected Messiah who saves men and bestows life through his self-sacrificial death.

The enemies of the “Lamb” do not move against him without his consent, and by the end of the Book, the “Kings of the Earth” and the “Nations” are found in the Holy City, “New Jerusalem,” giving honor and praise to the “Lamb.”

Castle Twilight - Photo by Xavier Senente on Unsplash
[Photo by Xavier Senente on Unsplash]

  • John to the Seven Churches of Asia: Grace to you and peace from…Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of 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 term refers to his death, and the latter to his resurrection. All three designations - “Faithful Witness,” “Firstborn of the Dead,” and “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth” – 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.”

He gave “Faithful Testimony” in his death, consequently, God made him the “Firstborn” and the “Highest of the Kings of the Earth.” In this way, Revelation anchors his sovereignty on his Death and Resurrection.

In the Hebrew text, the Psalm uses the noun ‘elyôn for “higher,” which is used comparatively to denote that which is “supreme, lofty, highest.” Revelation combines the passage with words from the Second Psalm. The verbal link between the two passages is the clause, “Kings of the Earth.”

In the Psalm, the “Kings of the Earth” conspired against the anointed Son, but their plot backfired since God gave him the “nations” for “his inheritance,” and the “ends of the Earth” for his “possession.” Thus, the Messiah “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 him the archôn or “RULER” of the "Kings of the Earth." The term does not mean “king,” though kings certainly “rule,” but he holds a far higher rank than any king or other sovereign.


The Greek noun archon denotes a “prince,” a “chief magistrate,” or the supreme sovereign. It highlights how much higher Jesus is than the political rulers of this age. The extent of his sovereignty is stressed in the first vision of the Book in which he is identified as the “Living One who was dead and lives forever.” He holds the “Keys of Death and Hades,” and not even the realm of the dead is beyond his reach.

His sovereignty extends over his mortal enemies. For example, Satan is bound from “deceiving the nations” until he is “released from the Abyss.” The “Beast from the Sea” must be authorized to wage “war” against the saints – Revelation 13:7, 20:1-3).

His reign does not immediately negate the hostility of the “Kings of the Earth.” For example, when the “Sixth Bowl of Wrath” was emptied, the “Kings of the Earth” were gathered for the “great day of God Almighty” at the “place called Armageddon” where they attempted to wage war against the “Lamb.” At the end of this last battle, the “Beast” and the “False Prophet” were “cast alive into the lake of fire,” but not the “Kings of the Earth” - (Revelation 16:12-16. 17:10-18, 19:19-21).

The Second Psalm is alluded to in three passages where the original Hebrew verb that meant “rule” is changed to the Greek verb for “shepherd.” Thus, the messianic “son” was destined to “SHEPHERD THE NATIONS.”

This is demonstrated in the vision of the “innumerable multitude” where the “Lamb shepherds” men redeemed from every nation to the “living waters” of “New Jerusalem.” In the vision of the “Rider on the White Horse,” Jesus uses his “iron scepter” to “shepherd the Nations,” not to grind them into dust – (Revelation 2:27, 7:17, 12:5, 19:15).

The image of the redeemer “shepherding” his flock rather than the conquering warrior is startling. While he still wields the “iron scepter” and the “great sword,” he uses them to guide the “Nations” and the “Kings of the Earth” to the Holy City, not to shatter them.

The idea of a glorious end for the “Kings of the Earth” was hinted at in the Second Psalm. After warning of the dire consequences of rebelling against the Messiah, 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).

Shepherding Flock - Photo by Peyman TDR on Unsplash
[Photo by Peyman TDR on Unsplash]

The presentation of Jesus as the “
Lamb” who “Shepherds the Nations” begins to explain how the “Kings of the Earth” are found enjoying the glories of “New Jerusalem.” What kind of Sovereign and Shepherd would he be if he only led his subjects to the “Second Death” in the “Lake of Fire”?

In the Holy City, the “Nations walk amidst its light, the Kings of the Earth bring their glory into it.” Once there, the “Tree of Life… heals the nations.” Thus, the “slain Lamb” Shepherds the Nations so they will receive life in the “New Heavens and New Earth.” He reigns in the present fallen age so he may bring salvation to the nations of the Earth, not their extermination.

  • 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)
  • Salvation for All - (The Good News announced by Jesus of Nazareth offers salvation and life to men and women of every nation and people)
  • The Mission - (The mission of the Assembly of Jesus is to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom to all Nations until he returns – Matthew 24:14)



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant