Lord of All

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

Globe in Hand - Photo by Eliott Van Buggenhout on Unsplash
At the start of
Revelation, Jesus is called the “ruler over the kings of the earth,” and in the present tense. His absolute sovereignty is based on his past sacrificial death and resurrection, NOT on any hereditary rights, economic or military might. He is the anointed king appointed by Yahweh to reign from the “throne of David” - [Photo by Eliott Van Buggenhout on Unsplash].

And in the book’s prologue, the book of Revelation makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is at present the sovereign over the earth due to his past death and resurrection, that his victory was achieved on the Cross, and his exaltation is the direct result.

At times in the book, the “kings of the earth” are allied with the “Beast” and do the bidding of the “Dragon,” yet Jesus manipulates their plots to achieve his purposes. Even his enemies cannot move against him without his consent. And by the end of the book, the same group is found in “New Jerusalemwhere they give honor to 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).

FAITHFUL WITNESS

He is also 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” in death, Yahweh 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,” a term 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 rebel and conspire against Yahweh’s anointed king. But their plot backfires since God has given the nations to His Son for “his inheritance,” as well as the “ends of the earth” for his “possession.” And thus, “he 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 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 he is the “king” or even a king among kings, but that he holds a far higher rank than any king.

SOVEREIGN

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

The extent of his sovereignty is stressed in the book’s first vision when Jesus calls himself the “living one who was dead and lives forevermore,” and therefore, he now holds the “keys of death and Hades.” Thus, not even the realm of the dead is beyond his grasp. And that 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.” 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).

KINGS OF THE EARTH

But his sovereignty over the earth 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 to the “great day of God Almighty” at the “place called Armageddon,” although the text does not say what happened to them once there.

And at that “war,” the “kings” and their “armies” are gathered along with the “Beast” and the “false prophet” to wage war against the one who is “riding on the white horse.” However, 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 this final “battle,” the “Beast” and the “False Prophet” are “cast alive into the lake of fire,” but that was 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” that was “proceeding out of his mouth.” While this suggests their deaths, that is not necessarily the case.

In the book’s salutation, the second Psalm is alluded to (“ruler of the kings of the earth”), but it is echoed more clearly in three additional passages where the original Hebrew verb for “rule” is changed to the Greek verb meaning “shepherd.”

Thus, the messianic “son” is the one who is destined to “shepherd the nations,” and what this means is demonstrated in the vision of the “innumerable multitude” when the “Lamb shepherds” the men who are redeemed from every nation to the “living waters” in New Jerusalem.

Moreover, 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).

SHEPHERD

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

Shepherd - Photo by Biegun Wschodni on Unsplash
[Photo by Biegun Wschodni on Unsplash]

The idea of a more benevolent future was even hinted at in the second Psalm. After warning the “kings of the earth” 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 earthare later 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 there, John saw the “tree of life” that “healed the nations” and removed the original “curse” caused by Adam’s disobedience. Both the “kings” and the “nations of the earth” are among the residents of New Jerusalem - (Revelation 21:24, 22:1-5).



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