The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is the term Kings of the Earth an Idiom?

The appearance of the kings of the earth in New Jerusalem is often used by Universalists as an argument for the reality of post-mortem conversion. But when this argument is presented to traditional Christians, a common criticism is these saved kings are not the same evil kings of the earth described earlier in Revelation. This criticism makes the point that there are other favorable references to kings, thrones, and priests in Revelation, and these are the kings that enter New Jerusalem, not the evil ones earlier described as kings of the earth.

I think this criticism is weak because it ignores the possibility that the term kings of the earth, as used in Revelation and perhaps elsewhere, is an idiom. An idiom is a combination of words that have a figurative meaning separate from their literal meaning. In Revelation, kings of the earth could well be an idiom for evil leaders of the earth, for it is consistently alluded to in negative ways in Revelation (17:2, 18:3, and 18:9). This negative treatment continues in 19:19-21 where these men are assumed to be thrown into the lake of fire because of their evil ways. But after that, for the first time, these kings of the earth are cast in a favorable light as they are described as entering New Jerusalem (21:24).

Now, there are several direct and indirect references, in Revelation and elsewhere in the Bible, to other kings who acted on earth, and some of these men are cast in a positive light. But these men are not described specifically as kings of the earth, so they are not encompassed by the idiom. In an idiom, it’s the word combination, not the individual words, that captures the figurative sense typical of the idiom. So, if the term *kings of the earth *is indeed an idiom, the mention in Revelation of other kings, thrones, and priests who are good is irrelevant to the argument.

An example of a common idiom that is very similar to the biblical term *kings of the earth *is ladies of the evening. The term refers not just to any ladies associated with the evening, as a literal sense would denote. No, the term ladies of the evening has a distinct, figurative sense that differs from the literal sense. The term means “prostitute,” while other women who are in some way associated with the evening are not typically prostitutes.

So, to continue with this analogy, let’s say Revelation repeatedly refers to ladies of the evening in a negative way, culminating with their being thrown into the lake of fire. But then, in a complete reversal, they are described as entering New Jerusalem. This reversal would be significant and would imply that being thrown into the lake of fire purifies and saves these women. One would not think that these women of the evening are different from the negatively described women of the evening alluded to earlier. They would be thought of as the same because they are described with the same idiomatic expression: ladies of the evening. This view would not be negated by other references to ladies in Revelation, even if they are in some other ways associated with the evening. No, it’s the specific term *ladies of the evening *that has a figurative meaning apart from the literal meaning of the words making up the term, just as it’s the specific term *kings of the earth *that has a figurative meaning apart from the literal meaning of the words.

Does anyone have any insight on the possibility that the term *kings of the earth *is indeed an idiom, as used in Revelation or anywhere else?

Agreed; I’ve argued for years that “kings of the earth” is an established idiom in RevJohn. But I very much like your comparison to “ladies of the evening”. :sunglasses:

This part of the revelation is paralleling an older prophecy from Isaiah or Ezekiel (I forget which at the moment, maybe both? – in a bit of a hurry and no time to look up), where the kings coming into the new Jerusalem are definitely former enemies of the people of God, now repentant and reconciled with the faithful people of God in the Day of YHWH: pagan kings humiliating themselves in repentance for how they treated Israel, and accepting blessings under Israel.

The external contextual reference thus strongly supports the internal contextual argument that the “kings of the earth” at the end of RevJohn are the same kings opposing God and oppressing His faithful people all throughout the preceding text, who got slaughtered by Christ and fed to the birds (and presumably went into the lake of fire with their masters, the Beast, the False Prophet and Satan).

Wow, Thanks Lancia and Jason! I had never thought of it that way, and of course it makes perfect sense – and certainly strengthens the argument immeasurably that the kings of the earth are just like those ladies of the evening! :laughing:

Thanks for that response. The parallel with an older prophecy is fascinating and would seem to seal the case that the example of the kings of the earth is indeed solid evidence of post-mortem repentance. I look forward to reading those references.

That was a great set of comments on the Kings of the earth, Lancia, well presented.

Earlier commentators on Revelation, such as Primasius and Oecumenius, felt differently, which does not rule out a later repentance either way. Those who are unfaithful kings now will not necessarily be kings in the new earth. Those who are faithful kings now may actually be kings in the new earth. Our station in life is very much part of our spiritual test and refinement. "By “Kings of the Earth” he means all of the saints, of whom it is written, “When the heavenly one scatters kings upon it, they shall be made white as snow in Selmon.” (Psalms 68:15) “…Therefore, since these possess glory and honor that comes from virtue–they shall carry it into the Holy city. This is as though he said, the blessings arising from virtue shall dwell with the saints.” (Oecumenius, Commentary on the Apocalypse).

Just a possible alternative in explaining these passages…


Back at the office; my notes indicate the ref is to Isaiah 60. Some other interesting things in that chapter, too, regarding rebel Israel being reconciled to God, not just pagan kings being reconciled to Israel and to God.

The context is that they are reconciled at the first coming of Christ, as the gentiles were now given the same access to grace. The summation pointing to Revelation is simply that - a summation.


Can you tell me which verses are most relevant here to the kings of the earth example? It seems that verse 60:14 may be one of them: “The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel."

Ironically, those scriptures in Isaiah were used by the Catholic church to designate and explain why the rulers of Europe would become christian during the Holy Roman Empire (and post-Constantine), which is what happened. This was the basis of Augustine’s City of God, and the post-millennium doctrine.

The Kings of the Earth are the Saints.

Yes, there are good ones and bad ones.

Of the 12 most important “kings of the earth” 2 are good and 10 are bad.

Read Genesis Chapter 49 to confirm this.

Also Micah Chapter 3

Just like Judas Iscariot was a “bad” Apostle.

There will be 10 “bad” Apostolic figures (sons of Jacob) in the end times.


Just bumping this thread up as I didn’t see abe’s post to approve it until this morning… :wink:

In regard to Micah Chapter 3 a good excercise is to make a list of all the adjectives and nouns being used to describe the behavior of the sons of Jacob.

For example:


Now compare these nouns and adjectives to the ones you find describing the fourth wild beast in Daniel Chapter 7.

The wild beast with 10 kings.

The Sons of Jacob are “kings of the earth”.


The Apostle Paul seemed to be very comfortable with the notion that he too, is a “king of the earth”:

1 Corinthians 4:8

*8 YOU men already have YOUR fill, do YOU? YOU are rich already, are YOU? YOU have begun ruling as kings without us, have YOU? And I wish indeed that YOU had begun ruling as kings, that we also might rule with YOU as kings. *

a king without a kingdom.


The thing about an idiom is that the words in it are used together. If they are not, then the idiom is not expressed or intended. Nothing in Genesis 49 or Micah 3 is even close to the expression kings of the earth. Again, the thesis I presented above is the words kings of the earth must occur together for it to be construed as an idiom. Just the words king or kingdom or ruler do not thus qualify as the idiom.

Again, presence of all the words is how we recognize an idiom. Thus, if the term kings of the earth is an idiom, then all of the words must appear for it to be interpreted as the idiom. The word kings does not qualify because it is only one of the words in the expression kings of the earth.

exactly,agreed…‘Kings of the earth’ is an idiom…no offence to Abe but I think Abe is missing the point entirely.