The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. (Revelation 21:24 NRSV)
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. (Revelation 22:14 NRSV)
This essay briefly explores the implications of "the kings of the earth" getting slaughtered by the sword while opposing the return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:19-21) before "the kings of the earth" enjoy the bliss in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:24). This article concludes that John the Revelator used these images to teach that various kings of the earth and other people in heaven died lost before enjoying salvation.
John the Revelator borrowed the phrase "the kings of the earth" from various Old Testament passages. For example, 1 Kings 10.23 says Solomon possessed more riches and wisdom than all the kings of the earth. And Psalm 2:2 says the kings of the earth oppose the Lord and his anointed one. And Psalm 89:27 refers to King David as the firstborn among the kings of the earth. And Psalm 102:15 says the nations and the kings of the earth will fear the Lord. And Psalm 138:4-5 says the kings of the earth will praise and sing to the Lord.
The New Testament uses the phrase "the kings of the earth" nine times while John the Revelator used it eight of those times. First, a prayer in Acts 4:24-30 refers to the kings of the earth opposing the Lord while quoting Psalm 2:2. Second, Revelation 1:5 declares Jesus Christ the ruler of the kings of the earth. Third, Revelation 6:15 says that the kings of the earth hide in caves to dodge the wrath of God. Fourth, Revelation 17:2 says the kings of the earth have sex with the great whore. Fifth, Revelation 17:18 says the great whore, Babylon the great, rules over the kings of the earth. Sixth, Revelation 18:3 repeats that the kings of the earth have sex with the great whore. Seventh, Revelation 18:9 says that the kings of the earth will weep and wail over the destruction of the great whore. Eighth, Revelation 19:19-21 says the beast and the kings of the earth gather to fight against the return of Christ before the army of Christ throws the beast into the lake of fire and kills the kings of the earth. Ninth, Revelation 21:24 say the kings of the earth bring their glory into the New Jerusalem in heaven.
The Bible teaches remarkable paradox about the kings of the earth. For example, the Old Testament teaches on one hand that the kings of the earth oppose the Lord and on another hand they will sing praises to the Lord. And Revelation paradoxically implies the following: Christ rules over the kings of the earth while the great whore rules over them; Christ rules over the kings of the earth while they fight against the return of Christ; the kings of the earth transition from getting slaughtered by the returning Christ to enjoying the bliss in heaven.
REVELATION 19:11-22:5 & 22:14-15
Revelation 19:11-22:5 teaches about the culmination of human history with vivid images. These verses teach about the return of Christ, the Battle of Harmagedon, the first resurrection, the thousand-year banishment of Satan into the bottomless pit, the thousand-year reign of Christ and his saints, the final satanic battle, the great white throne judgment, and the nations enjoying the bliss in heaven.
Revelation 19:11-16 teaches about Christ and his heavenly armies preparing for the triumphant return of Christ. And Revelation 19:17-21 describe the notorious Battle of Harmagedon (Armageddon), which gets its name from the satanic plot against the Lord in Revelation 16:13-6. Verses 19:17-18 say an angel prophesies that many people great and small who oppose Christ will die. Verse 19:19 follows by quickly describing the demonic beast (Antichrist) leading the kings of the earth with their armies while they gather to battle against Christ. Then verse 19:20 quickly describes the capture of the beast and the false prophet, which finishes with the two of them getting thrown alive into the lake of fire. And verse 19:21 describes the destruction of the kings and armies that oppose Christ.
Revelation 20:1 describes the appearance of an angel holding the key to the bottomless pit and a chain. And verse 20:2-3 says that the angel captures Satan, binds him with the chain, and throws him into the bottomless pit for a thousand years.
The first sentence of Revelation 20:4 describes various thrones with authoritative judges. And the second sentence of 20:4 says that those martyred by the forces of the beast resurrect back to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years, the Thousand Year Reign. And verses 20:5-6 clarify that this is the first resurrection and the rest of dead come to life after the Thousand Year Reign, and those in the first resurrection receive an extraordinary blessing.
Revelation 20:7-10 describes a release of Satan after the Thousand Year Reign. Satan emerges from the bottomless pit and again deceives the nations of the earth to attack the saints of Christ, an attempted repeat of Harmagedon. A satanic army as numerous as the sands of the sea attack the saints in Jerusalem while fire falls from the sky and consumes the satanic attackers. Satan gets thrown into the lake of fire along with the beast and false prophet, and the three of them suffer torment day and night forever.
Revelation 20:11-15 teaches about Judgment Day. God appears on a great white throne while the earth and heaven disappear from the presence of God and his throne. God judges all people according the record of their life. And all people without record in the book of life get thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:1-8 teaches about the bliss in the new heaven and the new earth. God makes all things new. And God lives with his people while God brings an end to death, mourning, crying, and pain. And outside the new heaven and the new earth are unrepentant sinners in the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:9-27 teaches more about the bliss in heaven while using images of a glorious city. For example, each of the four city walls measure one thousand four hundred miles long and high while they shine like the glory of God. Each wall had three gates made of pearls while the great street of the city was made of pure gold. The city temple is the Lord God and the Lamb while they light the city. The nations walk in the light of God. The kings of the earth bring their glory into the city. And nothing impure ever enters the city.
Revelation 22:1-5 compares the bliss in heaven to the Garden of Eden. The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God down the middle of the great street of gold. And each side of the river stood the tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit bearing fruit each month. And the leaves of the tree bring healing to the nations. And the people will see God while they worship him, and they will reign forever.
Revelation 22:14-15 quotes Christ speaking in the epilogue of Revelation:
 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.  Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood. (Revelation 22:14-15 NRSV)JUDGMENT AND THE KINGS OF THE EARTH
Focusing on the phrase "the kings of the earth" in Revelation illuminates the paradox of the kings of the earth opposing Christ and getting slaughtered during Harmagedon before the kings of the earth enjoy the bliss in heaven. The juxtaposition of these images implies the postmortem salvation of the kings of the earth and other lost dead. And the paradox in Revelation thickens when comparing the images of postmortem salvation with images of Judgment Day and everlasting torment in the lake of fire.
A literal interpretation of Revelation 19:11-22:5 leaves various gaps in the details of sequential events. For example, the kings of the earth go from getting slaughtered during the return of Christ to enjoying heaven while events between the slaughter and heaven include the Thousand Year Reign, the satanic battle after the Thousand Year Reign, and Judgment Day. This sequence of events never clarifies if the kings of the earth would enter salvation before or after Judgment Day.
Revelation never clarifies the chronology of the salvation for the kings of the earth in regards to Judgment Day while the epilogue of Revelation quotes Christ teaching about salvation. For example, Revelation 22:14-15 teaches that "those who wash their robes" enter the gates of heaven as opposed to those outside heaven and presumably inside the lake of fire. This implies that people must wash their robes to enter heaven. Likewise, God requires the condition that people must wash their robes to enter heaven. And this washing of robes relates to Revelation 1:5, which teaches that Christ frees believers from their sins by his blood. Likewise, those who wash their robes accept the gift of salvation from Christ. And those who accept the gift of salvation from Christ genuinely repent from disobedience to Christ such as murder and falsehood.
As stated earlier, various kings of the earth get slaughtered during the return of Christ and enjoy heaven after Judgment Day. And Revelation never clarifies if these kings of the earth accept salvation before or after Judgment Day. If some of them accept salvation before Judgment Day, then they would accept salvation while suffering in Hades during the Thousand Year Reign. And if some of them would accept salvation after Judgment Day, then they would accept salvation after suffering in the lake of fire.
The biblical prospect of various kings of the earth accepting salvation in Hades or the lake of fire emphasizes the symbolism of biblical images related to finality during Judgment Day and never ending punishment. And John the Revelator juxtaposes the kings of the earth suffering judicial wrath and accepting salvation. This suggests the possibility of all people eventually accepting salvation, which this essay calls "quasi-universalism". Likewise, John the Revelator taught quasi-universalism.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2010 James Edward Goetz