One of the most outrageous statements penned by the writer of Revelation is this:
Jesus Christ … the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Rev. 1:5)
How could John claim that Jesus was the ruler over the vicious Christian murdering Roman king Domitian? Show me any other king in the world who came to the aid of persecuted Christians before Emperor Constantine. I don’t know of any king today who appears to be ruled by Jesus either. Surely, the collective Emperor called the U.S. Congress does not follow the rule of Jesus Christ.
Do you doubt that Congress is king of a kingdom? Several years ago when new Congress was being sworn into office I caught the last part of the speech and prayer of the high ranking military chaplain, a black general, who was officiating over the ceremony. He instructed Congress to rule the kingdom they were inheriting well. There also seems to be a consensus among political analysts, economists, historians, theologians, journalists, and other scholars that America has achieved the status ruler over a global empire, and most regard it as an economic one. Some historians have shown how similar our federal government is to the Roman Empire at its terrible apex. Satan gave Jesus the tempting opportunity to rule over both the Roman Empire and all other earthly kingdoms as well. (Mt. 4 and Lk. 4)
Back to my question–how then could John make such an outrageous statement? Unless he saw Christians reigning with Jesus after the yet to occur resurrection, he could not be referring to Christ’s faithful followers. The world experienced what Christian rule was like. In the end, the Church ruling empire was not very Christ-like, just ask Martin Luther, John Calvin, or any of the dearly beheaded.
John may have meant that when Jesus returns he will reign over the kings of the earth. This would conform to the Hebrew prophets, the gospels, epistles, and Revelation 11:15-19.
However, I believe John is making a literal declaration not merely a prophetic one, which is supported by the gospels and epistles as well.
For Jesus to rule of the kings of the earth, Satan would have to loose his right and authority to do so. Jesus never disputed Satan’s right or authority to give him authority over all the kingdoms of the earth. (Mt. 4; Lk. 4) In fact, Jesus acknowledges the rule of Satan over the world. (Jo. 14:30; 12:31) The apostle Paul also acknowledged this rule. (Eph. 2:1-2) The thing to notice is this: Satan’s rule over the earth was from heaven, but he was thrown out of heaven to the earth. (Rev. 12:7-11; Jo. 12:31) The mission of Jesus was not just to restore willing humans the benevolent rule and kingdom of God. His mission also was to destroy Satan’s works and end his right to rule over repentant humanity. (1 Jo. 3:8; Heb. 2:14) Jesus accomplished the first by dying to satisfy justice fully for our moral crimes against God’s law. Having paid that price, he accomplished the second when God raised from the dead and gave him all of the authority both in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18). Paul describes this best in his letter to the Colossians:
For [God] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…. When [Jesus] had disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through [God]. (Col. 1:13; 2:15)
Everyone throughout the Roman Empire would have understood Paul’s meaning. It was common practice by the Roman generals to parade before all leaders and citizens of Rome the kings and leaders of conquered peoples and nations. All who read or heard Paul’s words understood that Jesus not only defeated his enemies but that he and heaven celebrated Satan’s and his followers humiliating defeat.
According to Peter, Jesus could not ascend to the throne of God until after angels, authorities, and powers had been subjected to him. (1 Pe. 3:22)
This may explain why Jesus appeared off- and-on to the disciples for forty days before his ascension. (Ac. 1:3, 9-11)
Paul further explains that after his resurrection, Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, created anew all spiritual and physical positions of authority and their powers. (Col. 1:16) This means no matter how many may rebel against the order and authority of Jesus’ rule the world will in the end bow to his world order. (Php. 2:9-11)
Though Jesus has authority over all powers as well as over all flesh (Jo. 17:2), but not all spirits or humans intend to submit to the kingly rule of Jesus Christ. The republican form of constitutional democracy may very well have reflected the rule of Lord Jesus. It certainly was shaped and informed by biblical principles. The noble idea of a nation that shines the biblical based light of law and freedom may have inspired many peoples; but,today, national and global trends indicate a determination not toward a messianic world but rather toward the kind worthy of judgment as previewed in Revelation.
The new types of ruler and kings of the earth cannot win by opposing the biblical reign of God’s risen Messiah. They certainly will never create a world of peace, justice, and prosperity for all by following the model of Rome or Satan. As any ruler worthy of the title, Jesus will have the last word concerning all of their schemes and plans.
Jesus died so that all of us could have an abundant life in good standing with the Supreme Judge of the world. Therefore, he is adamantly opposed to the abundance of choices for death, immorality, and injustice–social, economic, or any other kind. The wisest choice would be for a culture oriented to life, which is by definition messianic, and Jesus–a Jew–still agrees even after 2,000 years.