The words “kings” and “lords” are mentioned over 10,000 times throughout the Scriptures, over 300 times to represent the Lord God. But “King of kings and Lord of lords” is revealed only three times. Who is this King of kings and Lord of lords? Jesus Christ.
Where Does the Bible Call Jesus “King of kings and Lord of lords”?
“…which He will display at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords….” (1 Timothy 6:15)
“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.” (Revelation 17:14)
“On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:16)
What Does It Mean That Jesus is “King of kings”?
It’s important to note the ESV, NIV, and other translations use “King” and “Lord” for Jesus but “kings” and lords” for earthly leaders. This difference distinguishes Jesus as supreme King and Lord over all creation (Colossians 1:15-20).
To understand Jesus more fully as the King of kings, we must look back at the first king in the Bible: Adam. This differs from our common understanding of a king, but we must look at this role through the Scripture’s lens. Ben C. Dunson explains it this way:
“Kingship is at the heart of the commission that God gives to Adam: he is granted dominion over all animal life on the earth (Genesis 1:26); he is told to have many children in order to subdue the earth and take dominion over it (Genesis 1:28). He is given control over all plant life (Genesis 1:29) and again over every animal on the earth (Genesis 1:30). In short, Adam is to rule over the whole world as a subordinate king underneath God, the true king over all. He is to spread God’s own dominion outside the boundaries of the ordered garden of Eden so that it branches out to the farthest reaches of creation. In this sense, God reigns over His creation in and through Adam.”
When we reach the time of faith prophet and priest Samuel, we discover Israel had departed from God and instead followed foreign gods (1 Samuel 7:3). They came to Samuel and said, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:4-5).
God’s answer to Samuel is stunning, given the nation’s lack of love for and obedience to Him: “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7).
Saul was chosen as Israel’s first king, and he reigned forty years over the combined nation of Israel. God took the reign from him when He positioned David as king but not until a succession of other kings ruled the divided nation after Saul.
Eventually, David (part of the line of Christ) became king over all of Israel for 40 years. He was far from perfect, but God called him a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). God’s promise to King David in 2 Samuel 7 describes the coming King (Jesus): “and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son” (2 Samuel 7:12b-14).
Solomon later built the house for God’s name, but the coming Messiah (Jesus) would establish David’s kingdom forever. Hebrews 1:8 says, “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.’”
Jesus, as the Messiah (John 1:41, 4:25), the Word (John 1:1), and the Son (Matthew 17:5), is the long-awaited King. Peter proclaimed Him as Lord in Luke 5:8.
Matthew presents Jesus as preaching the kingdom of God. Who can preach the kingdom better than the one who reigns? In His sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27), Jesus gave the commands and behaviors of kingdom dwellers. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). He “taught as One who had authority” (Matthew 7:29).
In John 18:36-36, Jesus proclaims His kingdom as “not from this world.” His Kingship is far above any earthly realm, and He is sovereign.
If we regard the context of the passage in 1 Timothy, we notice the verse includes, “He who is the blessed and only sovereign.” Verse 16 allows us to contrast Jesus’ eternal reign with an earthly ruler’s temporal position and authority. The verse says Jesus, “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Because Jesus is God (Mark 12:29, John 10:30), His position as King is characterized partly by His immortality. He was and is and is to come (Revelation 4:8). A king/ruler of the earth passes away, leaving nothing but a memory. Jesus is the eternal one who will never pass away.
Jesus dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. In our present state as sinners, we cannot physically approach our holy God (Jesus). Yet, when He paid the price on the cross, the temple’s veil was torn from top to bottom. Those who believe in and love Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords will one day see Him face-to-face as our Savior when we enter heaven in a glorified state. Unbelievers will see Him as He who separates them from his sheep.
Again, regarding Jesus, to Him belong honor and eternal dominion. Eternal—that’s forever. No one and nothing can remove Him from office. Ever. An earthly king or ruler either abdicates, loses his office to another, or dies. But Jesus is alive forevermore (John 1:1-2, Revelation 1:18) and is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is the King of glory. His kingdom will have no end (Isaiah 9:7) and His reign supersedes all earthly rulers or government entities. That is why He is King of kings.
What Does It Mean that Jesus is “Lord of lords”?
Just as kings reign over others, lords do too (albeit in lesser roles). The word “lord,” as used in the Bible, takes on three different forms: lord, Lord, and LORD.
Written in this manner, “lord” is a term of deference for one who has authority over another. The Hebrew word refers to an authority, such as a husband. We see this example in Genesis 18:12 when Sarah uses the word to refer to Abraham. Any time you see “lord” written in all lower case, it refers to a man or an action of a man.
We cannot look at Scripture as authoritative without first considering the Lordship of the author. God has revealed Himself as Lord, and, as such, He desires to be known as LORD. In Exodus 3:14-15, it’s easy for us to miss that God gave Moses the three forms of His name. Theologian John Frame describes God’s self-designations as long – I AM WHO I AM, medium – I AM, and short – LORD (Yahweh). Frame says, “These are all related to the name Yahweh…In the ESV, the term Lord representing both yahweh and ‘adon in Hebrew and kyrios in Greek, is found 7776 times, in 6603 out of 31,086 verses in the Bible. Most of these refer to God or (significantly) to Christ. Clearly, this is a term to be reckoned with.”
We see “Lord” refers to deity, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word is Adonai.
He is our Lord; He is sovereign over all, and throughout Scripture, God, after enacting a supernatural deed, proclaims men will “know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 4:35; 2 Kings 19:19, etc.). He will share His glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8).
Lord God speaks to God’s covenantal relationship with humanity. He is Who initiates and maintains His relationship with humanity based upon His promises. He is the suzerain (ruler), and as our LORD, He is the superior one who sets the conditions. Therefore, He is LORD, and He is over all, no matter a king or lord’s human stature. Frame writes, “God’s sovereignty over everything He has made is a covenantal lordship.”
As King of kings and Lord of lords, John Frame further indicates, “God’s authority is absolute: (1) beyond question (Job 40:1-5; Romans 4:18-22), (2) transcends all other loyalties (Deut. 6:6-9; Matt. 8:19-22, 10:34-38), and (3) covers all areas of life (1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 14:23; Colossians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 10:15).”
In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:4 encapsulates the whole of its message. In the same way, the proclamation “Jesus is Lord,” as seen in Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:3 (among others), captures the New Testament’s message. Both testaments proclaim Him as Lord of all.
In recognizing our sinfulness, Jesus’ Lordship over all is further revealed. Luke 5:8 illustrates this, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
The dénouement of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords is in Revelation 17:14 and 19:16. These passages show Jesus as the revealed-to-everyone King of kings and Lord of lords. In chapter 17, the kings of the earth seek to destroy “the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them (Jesus, of course, is the Lamb).” Revelation 1:7 says, “every eye will see Him.” No one—including kings and lords—will be able to hide or say they do not see Him.
And when heaven is opened, and He makes His glorious appearance (Revelation 19:11-16), no one can make a mistake about who He is: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Because of who He is, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).