King of Kings and Lord of Lords
The double title "King of kings and Lord of lords," or the reverse order "Lord of lords and King of kings," is found three times in the New Testament and is used in reference to only one person—the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 17:14, 19:16, 1 Timothy 6:15).
The single title "King of kings" is found several times in the Old Testament and always refers to kings who through military conquest became rulers of worldwide empires. Nebuchadnezzar is referred to by God as a "king of kings" in connection with his overthrow of the king and kingdom of Tyrus (Ezekiel 26:7). As "king of kings", Nebuchadnezzar's dominion was declared to be "to the ends of the earth" (Daniel 4:22), and "wheresoever the children of men dwell" (Daniel 2:38). Although Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the kings and nations of the world by military power, Daniel reminded him that he is a "king of kings" on the basis of the overruling hand of the Most High God (Daniel 2:37).
As a new world monarch, Nebuchadnezzar's mind was occupied with concerns about the future. Doubtless he was concerned about what would be next on the world scene and especially about the future supremacy of his now universal kingdom. As he pondered these things while lying on his bed, he fell asleep (Daniel 2:29). Suddenly his sleep was broken by a startling dream (Daniel 2:1). That the dream embodied unusual significance, there was no doubt in the king's mind.
Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream an awesomely huge image in the form of a person whose "brightness was excellent.. .and the form thereof was terrible." It was a four-metal image. From the head to the toes, it was made of gold, silver, brass, and iron, and a mixture of iron and clay in the feet and toes. The image, Daniel revealed, represented the outward glory and greatness, as well as the rise and fall of a number of Gentile world powers from the time of Nebuchadnezzar unto "the time of the end" (the end of Gentile world powers).
The final Gentile world power was represented by the feet and toes of the image. The ten toes were interpreted to be kings that shall be ruling when a stone cut out of the mountain without hands will smite the feet of the image resulting in the collapse of the whole gigantic and glorious structure. As the stone smote the image, the image crumbled and the stone became a great mountain and "filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:35). The interpretation, Daniel declared, was that in the days of the "toe" kings, "shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom," which, unlike the other world kingdom before it, "shall never be destroyed," but "shall stand forever."
Daniel, the man of God, also had a vision of world kingdoms. Just as Nebuchadnezzar had seen a glorious four-metal image of world powers, so Daniel saw a four-beast vision of world powers. And just as the last part of the image had ten toes, so the last iron-toothed beast that Daniel saw had ten horns, declared to represent ten kings. This beast, including the ten horns and another horn-like king, are destined to be destroyed by "one like the Son of Man" (Daniel 7:7, 11-14, 23-26). This conquered kingdom shall then "be given to the people of the saints of the Most High," and the scope of the kingdom "shall be under the whole heaven" (Daniel 7:27).
Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's vision were a portrayal of events in advance. Much of the great drama revealed to Daniel now stands recorded on the pages of world history as a testimony of the omniscience of God; of the overruling power of God, and of the "sure word of prophecy."
Now as we leaf through the pages of Holy Writ and come to its closing chapters, we find another prophet being given a revelation with similarities to that of Daniel's visions.
John the prophet, saw a beast coming up out of the sea. This beast also has ten horns (Revelation 13). The ten horns are interpreted to be ten kings giving their power and strength to their beast-king leader (Revelation 17:12).
The two references in Revelation to the "King of kings and Lord of lords," as in Daniel's prophecy, are associated with world conflict and world conquest. We are told that the ten kings of the beast "shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:12-14).
We have a further description of this end time conflict in which John saw Jesus Christ in conflict with "the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies" described in chapter 19:11-21. "And the beast was taken and with him the false prophet… These both [two personalities] were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 13:11-17; 16:13; 19:20). And the remnant were slain by the One who "hath on His vesture and on his thigh a name written King of kings and Lord of lords."
Following the consignment of the beast and the false prophet to the lake of fire, Revelation 20 portrays the capture of the devil in person, and his consignment to the bottomless pit for what the Bible calls a "one thousand years" term of imprisonment. The purpose stated for his confinement is "that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled." Shortly before this, it is said of the devil that he deceiveth (deceiveth meaning continuously deceiving) the whole world (Revelation 12:9). All the nations of the world are presently his deceived victims.
Now that the Stone cut out of the mountains has smitten and destroyed the great image of world governments, the Stone becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth. Now that the beast and his horns who made war with the saints and the Lamb has been "destroyed and given to the burning flame" (Daniel 7:11,21; Revelation 19:20), the "saints of the most High" shall take the kingdom and possess it forever (Daniel 7:18, Revelation 20:4,6).
A final attempt to overthrow and seize the government from the glorious ruling King of kings and Lord of lords is revealed in Revelation 20:7-10. When the designated one thousand years of Christ's reign are fulfilled, Satan shall be loosed out of his bottomless pit prison, at which time he will marshal his troops for an invasion against the camp of the saints and the beloved city. "And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." And the devil, the king of the demon world and enemy of God and His people, was cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet are, there to be punished forever for his rebellion against God. This time the effort to overthrow the existing reigning power and take over the kingdoms of this world which "are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15) shall be met with defeat and eternal destruction. The established kingdom of the "King of kings and Lord of lords" will then be "delivered up.. .to God, even the Father," (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) the Moderator of eternity and of all that is good, and shall go on unchallenged forever.
"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:7). Yes, the now invisible King will someday be displayed as "The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.. .to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen" (1 Timothy 6:15,16).
Aaron M. Shank