King of kings and Lord of lords

Jesus reigning
Mosaic from the church of St Stephen’s with St John in Westminster, London.

40 Names of Jesus in 40 days of Lent — Day 16

They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 17:14, 19:15-16 ESVUK

King of kings is used six times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it is used for king Artaxerxes of Persia (Ezra 7:12) and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Ezekiel 26:7, Daniel 2:37).

Lord of lords on its own is used of God (Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:3).

These two ideas are put together in the Old Testament. The apostle Paul puts them together in 1 Timothy 6:15 and John in Revelation 17:14 & 19:16, King of kings and Lord of lords, or the other way round means that a ruler has got the power to exercise dominion.

I find the best way to read apocalyptic passages like Revelation is to picture it in my mind. Even when the pictures seem to contradict, as they do in the two revelation verses, there is no reason to be worried.

Revelation shows the victory parade of a mighty warrior on a white horse. It is the picture of the Roman victory parades. The language of treading the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God is that of the victory parades too. In Revelation 19 the victory has been won. This is the language of victory, it is the language of celebration after the war, it is not about gloryfying in anyone’s death, but there is justice. Those who do not wish to live in God’s kingdom get what they want.

The battle itself does not use this language, in Revelation 17 it is a lamb who wins the victory. A lamb is a sacrificial animal that does not pose a threat. Jesus, who gave up life in heaven, have up equality with humans to serve them, gave up his life for all people at all times to win all people has shown that victory is by giving up on behalf of others. Jesus humbled himself and that humiliation has led to his glorification and our glorification. We are asked to also live like that and serve each other and the world. (Philippians 2:5-11).

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