Ruler of Kings

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is designated as the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth.” Moreover, this declaration is made in the PRESENT TENSE, and his present 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 God’s Throne as the slain “Lamb,” and he reigns over all things because of his submission to an unjust death.

In the Book, at times, the “Kings of the Earth” are allied with the “Beast from the Sea” and therefore do the bidding of the “Dragon.” Nevertheless, the “Lamb” uses their plots to achieve his redemptive purposes.

World Map - Photo by Joshua Olsen on Unsplash
[Photo by Joshua Olsen on Unsplash]

Even his enemies cannot move against him without his consent, and by the end of
Revelation, 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).

Jesus 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 applied to Jesus - “faithful witness,” “firstborn of the dead,” “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 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, the “Kings of the Earth.” In the Psalm, the “kings” of the Earth 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 now “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 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, dictator, prime minister, or president.


The noun archôn often denotes someone who is a “prince,” “chief magistrate,” or the supreme sovereign, and that is the sense in the passage. The intent is not to contradict the Book’s later declaration of Jesus as the “King of kings,” but to highlight just how much higher he is than the political rulers of this present 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.” Not even the realm of the dead is beyond his reach, and his absolute authority even over Hades is based on his death and resurrection.

His sovereignty extends also 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”).

But his present reign does not automatically negate the hostility of the “Kings of the Earth.” For example, when the “Sixth Bowl of Wrath” is emptied, they 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 again in three more 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” 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 grind them into powder – (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 benevolent fate for the “kings” was hinted at in the second Psalm. After warning of dire consequences if the “kings” continued 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 image of the sacrificial “Lamb” who now “shepherds the nations” begins to explain how the “nations” and the “Kings of the Earth” come to be in “New Jerusalem.” What kind of shepherd would Jesus be if he only “shepherded” his sheep 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 the “Tree of Life” that “heals the nations” and removes the “curse” caused by Adam’s sin. And so, the Ruler of nations and kings leads many of them to life and salvation in the coming New Creation.


Ekklésia - Assembly of God

Mercy and Enemies