Summary: This truth of the present reign of Christ can transform our motivation and make us optimists no matter how powerful the forces of evil.

Queen Victoria if England often expressed her wish that

Christ would return before she died so that she could cast her

crown at His feet. When she did die, her son Edward VII

ascended to the throne as king. He had been a rather wild

man in his younger years. A man by the name of John Knox

McEwen was concerned about the king enough to write him

a letter asking him if his majesty was born again in Christ.

He received a gracious reply in which the king said he was

the first man in all of England to express any concern for his

soul, and he gave a simple testimony of how he had, like his

mother, surrendered his heart and life to the King of kings.

John McEwen was 70 years old, and at 93 he was still telling

others of his letter from the king.

John the Apostle is also in his 90's as he tells us about his

letter, not from the king who bowed to the King of kings, but

from the King of kings before whom he bowed. John says in

verse 5 that Jesus is the ruler of kings on the earth.

The Hapsburg family once ruled half of Europe. Today,

only one Hapsburg still rules over the tiny land of

Leichenstein. It is a 61 square mile country, and is the 4th

smallest in the world. Jesus, however, has gone from a

carpenter who didn't even own a plot of ground to be buried

in to the ruler of kings on earth. You talk about a success

story. There is not another to match this one. We can think

of ourselves more highly than we ought, but we can never

exalt Jesus beyond what he is worthy. We too often do not

exalt Him to the place He should rightly have in our minds

and hearts.

If a hunter got out of a car and asked you to do

something, you would not respond with the same enthusiasm

as you would if a ruler or dignitary asked you for service.

The higher the authority the more we respond, and that is

why it is important to stress the Lordship and Kingship of

Christ. It is easy to see why the world does not acknowledge

Jesus as King. Jesus is a total mystery to the world, and His

success story is beyond their comprehension. Helen Kramer

expressed it so well in her play titled For Heaven's Sake.

Two well dressed business men with attache cases meet in a

bar. One has just been handed a track with the title Carry

Christ Into Your Work. He looks at it and sings this song of


"He was a flop at 33! His whole career was one of failure and

of loss, But the thing that so distressful Is He could have

been successful, But instead of climbing up, He climbed a


He was a flop at 33! He jumped from carpentry to preaching

to the mob. He never was adjusted So He spent His whole

life busted,

And He never got promoted on the job!

He never saved a single cent,

And Dun and Broadstreet wouldn't list Him on their list,

He could not establish credit And you might as well be dead

At 33 as have your credit not exist!

He spent His time with fisher folk,

When there were more important contacts to be made.

He would contemplate on flowers And ignore the cocktail


Its no wonder that He never made the grade!

Now you and I have never flopped,

And yet our names are never dropped

The way that they've been dropping His since He's been


We've fought our way to the top.

We're both established as successful men of worth,

So the thing that puzzles me,

Is why that flop at 33

Is called the most successful man to live on earth?"

It is easy to see why Jesus is a mystery to the world. But it

is hard to grasp why even Christians sometimes ignore or

deny the Kingship of their Lord. Many commentators just

skip over these words of verse 5 like they are a mere minor

matter of no great significance. John says that Jesus is three

things here. He is the Faithful Witness, the first born from

the dead, and the Ruler of kings on the earth. The first two

are handled quite well by most commentators, but the third

one is so radical and shocking in all of its implications that

men are afraid to look at it honestly. Many just skip over it

in embarrassment. The Living Bible robs it of its force by

saying, "He is far greater than any king in all the earth." That

is a weak translation, for John says, "He is the ruler of

the kings of earth."

Hal Lindsay in There's A New World Coming says, yes,

He is what John says He is, ruler of the kings of the earth,

but He is not now exercising His authority. In other words,

He is a ruler who is not ruling. That is like saying somebody

is the king of comedy, but he is just not telling any jokes

now. It is absolutely amazing how many different ways men

try to find to avoid the truth of the present Lordship of Jesus

Christ in history. The big question the book of Revelation

answers is the question, who in the world is in charge? Who

is in control? Is history run by evil forces or good? Will light

triumph, or darkness? John says right from the start that

Jesus is Lord and King, and only those who submit to His

Lordship will come through as victorious winners.

After His resurrection Jesus said it as plain as human

language can say it: "All power in heaven and on earth is

given unto Me." All we have to decide is whether Jesus just

exaggerated, or did He really mean it? I believe He said what

He meant and He meant what He said. When He ascended

in His glorified humanity to the right hand of God He

became the supreme ruler of men. He is not going to be the

ruler of kings on earth, He is now the Kings of kings. The

fact that His Lordship will be clearly manifested to the

nations in the future is no reason to deny the present reign of

Christ. The fact that so many do, however, is the reason I

reject all man made systems of interpretation as absolute

guides. All of them have values, but none of them are

absolute and infallible. Those who lock themselves into any

one system are forced to do too many foolish things with the

Word of God.

For example, the reason why so many refuse to see and

rejoice in the present Lordship of Christ in history is

because, if they do, it will support a postmillennial emphasis.

The postmills stress that Jesus is Lord of history and that He

will work through His church to take the Gospel into all the

world and win this world out of darkness into light. Many of

the greatest theologians of American history were postmills.

The first president of Bethel was postmill, and Augustus

Strong, whose Systematic Theology has been the standard

text in Baptist schools and seminaries all over the land, was


When the two world wars of this century shook man's

faith in the progress of history the Postmill view was forsaken

by a great many Christians who became premills. The big

mistake of the premills, however, was in assuming that

everything in the Post-mill system had to all wrong. The fact

is, they had an emphasis that is so Biblical that to deny it is

to close your eyes to the light of the Word. They emphasized

the present Lordship of Christ in history that gave the

church encouragement and strength to keep fighting for

victory with assurance that whatever the cost and however

great the odds, they would be victorious. This positive

Biblical attitude is far more beneficial to the church than the

negative pessimistic attitude that evil is supreme in the world,

and the forces of darkness are overwhelming everything, and,

therefore, about all we can do is hope the ship doesn't sink

for us before the Lord finally comes to rapture us out of this

hopeless mess. This kind of theology has left many Christians

paralyzed. They become indifferent to missions and any

effort to change the world, for why fight a losing battle?

This is not the theology of the book of Revelation. I am

not a Post-mill, but when they emphasize what is a Biblical

truth, then that is the fountain I drink at. Why should we

care which system is the best? What we should care about is

what is the Bible saying, and the system that brings more

light out of any verse is the system I will follow on that verse.

On this verse 5 many of the pre-mills, which we will be

following most of the time, have really missed the boat. Part

of the problem is the self tendency to ignore all other

Christians of history and interpret this book in the light of

your own limited concern.

Can you imagine how important this revelation of the

present Lordship of Christ in history meant to the first

Christians who received it? They had to bow to Caesar, or in

many cases die. John is saying here that Jesus is Caesar's

king. Do not fear Caesar, and bow to no one less than the

supreme ruler of men-Jesus Christ. What an encouragement

to those who had to die in the battle of light against darkness.

It is so much easier to die when you are assured you are

under the supreme authority. In verse 18 Jesus tells John to

fear not. He says, "I have the keys of death and hades." In

other words, as King of kings, there is no force on earth you

need to fear, for I am Master of all, and whatever they do to

you will not take you out of my control. That may not be a

crucial issue for us, but it has meant everything to millions of

Christians who have faced persecution down through the


Ellicott in his commentary says, "The disposition to dwell

on the future and more visibly recognized reign of Christ

hereafter, has tended to obscure the truth of His present

reign." The wise Christian does not pick one of the two and

ignore the other. He prefers to live by every word that

proceeds out of the mouth of God, and not every other word.

And so He emphasizes both reigns, and could not care less

which system is being supported. Paul said that Jesus must

reign till all enemies are put under his feet. He is reigning

now, therefore, but not all are submissive to His Lordship.

That is why history is a battleground of light and darkness.

Nevertheless, the king of light is the Supreme and Sovereign

Ruler, and when it is all over, every knee will bow and every

tongue will confess that He is indeed what the Bible claims

that He has been all along-the Lord or Ruler of kings on


You do not have to know much about history to know

that Jesus Christ has been the greatest influence in history.

There has never been a ruler that has ever been anything but

a loyal, or rebellious, servant of Jesus. The kings and rulers

of the world date all their documents by the date of the birth

of their Sovereign-the Lord Jesus. Napoleon wrote, "An

extra ordinary power of influencing and commanding men

has been given to Alexander, Charlemagne, and myself. But

with us, the presence has been necessary, the eye, the voice,

the hands. Whereas Jesus Christ has influenced and

commanded His subjects without visible bodily presence for

1800 years." Napoleon admitted in his writings that Jesus

was the greatest ruler ever. What ruler has ever lived with

such world wide power, and with such a vast army of soldiers

willing to die for Him?

Charlotte Kruger spoke her allegiance in poetry:

Beautiful Savior, Thou art my King,

Sharon's sweet Rose and the Lily of spring,

Star of the morning, fairest of fair,

Light of this world in its gloom and despair.

The world is full of beautiful poetry that acknowledges

Jesus Christ as King, but the danger is that we will, as

Christians, limit His kingship to being the head of the

church. John gets into that in depth later on, but here in

verse 5 the stress is on the fact that Jesus is the Ruler of the

Kings on earth. He does not limit it to godly kings, but

makes it a universal statement. It is so easy to spiritualize

this idea and rob it of its literal meaning and impact. Terese

Lindsay wrote-

He built no kingdom, yet a King from youth

He reigned, is reigning yet; they call His realm

The kingdom of the truth.

This is true. Jesus is the King of truth, and also the King

of love, hope, light, and any number of other virtues, but

none of these cover what John is saying when he says, "Jesus

is the Ruler of Kings on earth." What John is saying is that

Jesus is right now the King of kings. We don't have to wait

until the future for Jesus to be Lord, for He is Lord now. It

is foolish to reject this clear revelation of the New Testament

just because we have the hope of a visible reign of Christ in

the future. So many Christians feel obligated to ignore the

present reign of Christ because they are looking to a future

reign. This is to ignore a major New Testament emphasis.

What did Peter emphasize on the day of Pentecost in his

great sermon? He stressed the fact that in the resurrection

and ascension Jesus ascended to the promised throne of

David, and that He was right then the reigning King.

Acts 2:30 says of David, "Being therefore a prophet, and

knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he

would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw

and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ...." Peter clearly

proclaims that Jesus has ascended to the throne of David,

and he concludes his sermon in verse 36, "Let all the house of

Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made Him both

Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Peter did

not say, He will make Him Lord and Christ, but He has made

Him Lord and Christ. He is right now, and was from His

ascension, Lord of all.

The Apostle Paul also makes clear that the future reign of

Jesus is no reason to reject or ignore His present reign. He

stresses both the future and the present Lordship of Christ in

Eph. 1:19-21. "And what is the immeasurable greatness of

His power in us who believe, according to the working of His

great might which He accomplished in Christ when He raised

Him from the dead and made Him sit at His right hand in

the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and

power and dominion, and above every name that is named,

not only in this age, but also in that which is to come."

Peter, Paul, and John all say Jesus is King of kings now,

and in the future there will be a visible manifestation of what

is already a reality. Commentators who stress one or the

other only, not only fail to be Biblically balanced, they distort

the truth by saying half the truth is the whole truth. Since

most systems of interpretation do this, I reject them as

adequate guides in all understanding of this book, and choose

to listen to the Biblical text, and get all the light possible from

it without concern as to which system it supports or hinders.

The goal is to get light and not to bolster any system of men

who tend to ignore the light that does not fit their system.

This truth of the present reign of Christ can transform

our motivation and make us optimists no matter how

powerful the forces of evil. Jesus is a King who does not

conquer the world by force, but by the power of the Gospel

and the Holy Spirit. The New Testament tells us that

members of Herod's and Caesar's household were active in

the early church. In more modern times we can look at

Stalin, that godless and ruthless ruler who was responsible

for the murder of millions, and see that even evil at its worse

cannot keep the power of Christ from working. His

daughter, Svetlana, who escaped to America wrote in her

book Twenty Letters To A Friend, "I was brought up in a

family where there was never any talk of God. But when I

became a grown person, I found that it is impossible to exist

without God in one's heart." The kingdom of Christ was

present even in that life surrounded by darkness.

The universe is foolproof. Many fools come onto the stage

of history and say in their heart there is no God. They start

wars to try and take control of history out of the hands of the

Lord of history, but in the long run we always see history

crush these tyrants, and like Satan, the first rebel against the

King, they fall. In spite of all the godless rulers of history,

nearly a third of the human race closes their prayer in the

name of Jesus; a name that right now is already a name

above every name.

When Elizabeth II of England was crowned at her

coronation at Westminister Abbey these words were spoken

as she received her crown: "Receive the orb set under the

cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the

power and empire of Christ our Redeemer." The sun never

use to set on the English Empire, but like many of the past

empires, it too has now been diminished from its glory. Only

the kingdom of Christ shines with its original glory, for His

Kingship never fades or diminishes. He has been; He will be,

and He is now the Ruler of kings on the earth. Dr. Robert

Mounce, who was my professor at Bethel, wrote a

commentary on Revelation and he writes, "Although there

will be a outbreak of satanic activity in the last days, history

remains under the sovereign control of God. Redemption has

already been won by the Lamb, who conquered through

death..." To hear and heed this truth is to know the secret of

optimism in a dark world.

Rita Snowden expresses the whole of the message I am

conveying in her poem Through Open Windows.

Life can never be dull again

When once we've thrown our windows open wide

And seen the mighty world that lies outside,

And whispered to ourselves this wondrous thing,

We're wanted for the business of the King.

Who in the world is the King? The Lord Jesus Christ is

right now the King of the world. We are not waiting for a

king, for we have a King, And how we live reveals just how

much we really believe it.