The Most High Ruleth
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Crowned Rulers — Christ, Christians
When Christ returns to the earth at the conclusion of the Tribulation, He will have many crowns upon His head (Revelation 19:12). But these crowns, through comparing this section in Revelation with other scriptures on the subject, are not crowns that Christ will wear during the Messianic Era. Christ is destined to wear the crown that Satan presently wears; and at the time Christ returns to the earth, Satan will still be in possession of his crown. Satan’s crown will have to be taken from him (by force) and given to Christ before Christ can actually sit upon the throne and occupy, in its fullest sense, the position depicted in Revelation 19:16: “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
Saul and David, Satan and Christ
Certain things concerning crowns, especially relative to the crown that Christ is to wear, can possibly best be illustrated by referring to the typology of Saul and David in the books of 1&2 Samuel.
Saul had been anointed king over Israel, but Saul rebelled against the Lord and was rejected (as king) by the Lord (1 Samuel 10:1ff; 15:1-23). David was then anointed king in Saul’s stead (1 Samuel 16:1-13). However, Saul did not immediately relinquish the throne; nor did David make an attempt to immediately ascend the throne. Saul, even though rejected, with his anointed successor on hand, was allowed to continue his reign.
Affairs continued after this fashion in the camp of Israel until David eventually found himself in exile, living out in the hills (e.g., in the cave of Adullam). During this time, certain individuals who were dissatisfied with existing conditions in the camp of Israel under Saul gathered themselves unto David (1 Samuel 22:1, 2). They separated themselves from affairs in the kingdom under Saul and lived out in the hills with David. He became “a captain over them”; and they were faithful to him, anticipating the day when Saul would be put down and David would take the kingdom.
The day eventually came when this occurred. Saul, following a battle and an attempted suicide, was slain by an Amalekite. His crown was taken and delivered to David (1 Samuel 31:1-13; 2 Samuel 1:1-10). Then, David and his faithful men moved in and took over the government (2 Samuel 2:1ff).
The entire sequence of events depicting Saul and David typifies great spiritual truths concerning Satan and Christ.
Just as Saul was anointed king over Israel, Satan was anointed king over the earth; just as Saul rebelled against the Lord and was rejected, Satan rebelled against the Lord and was rejected; just as David was anointed king while Saul continued to reign, Christ was anointed King while Satan continued to reign; just as David did not immediately ascend the throne, Christ did not immediately ascend the throne; just as David eventually found himself in a place removed from the kingdom (out in the hills), Christ eventually found Himself in a place removed from the kingdom (heaven); just as David gathered certain faithful men to himself during this time (anticipating his future reign), Christ is presently gathering certain faithful men to Himself (anticipating His future reign); just as the day came when Saul was put down, the day will come when Satan will be put down; just as Saul’s crown was taken and given to David, Satan’s crown will be taken and given to Christ; and just as David and his faithful followers then moved in and took over the government, Christ and His faithful followers will then move in and take over the government.
Purpose for the Present Dispensation
A principle of divine government set forth in the type of Saul and David shows the necessity of an incumbent ruler, although rejected, continuing to reign until replaced by his successor. The government of the earth is a rule under God through delegated powers and authorities. In this respect, Satan rules directly under God (though a rebel ruler), and a great host of subordinate angels rule with him.
Even though Satan and his followers have been rejected, they must continue in power (as Saul and those ruling with him) until replaced by Christ and His followers (as when David and his faithful followers took the kingdom). God will not, at any time, allow conditions to exist upon the earth in which there is no divinely administered government through delegated powers and authorities. Even though the government of the earth is in disarray today, because of Satan’s rebellion, it is still under God’s sovereign power and control (Daniel 4:17-34).
The present dispensation is the time during which the antitype of David’s faithful followers being gathered to him occurs. As during David’s time, so during the present time — there must be a period, preceding the King coming into power, during which the rulers are called out. David’s men were the ones who occupied positions of power and authority with him after he took Saul’s crown. Thus will it be when Christ takes Satan’s crown. Those who are being called out during the present time are the ones who will occupy positions of power and authority with Him during that coming day.
Satan will be allowed to continue his reign until God’s purpose for this present dispensation has been accomplished. Then, he and those ruling with him will be put down, and an entirely new order of rulers will take the kingdom. Christ will enter into the position previously occupied by Satan, and Christians will enter into positions previously occupied by angels ruling under Satan.
And since Christ (replacing Satan) will wear the crown presently worn by Satan, it only naturally follows that Christians (replacing subordinate powers and authorities) will wear crowns presently worn by angels ruling under Satan. All of these are crowns that neither Christ nor Christians can come into possession of until Satan and his angels have been put down at the end of the Tribulation.
Angelic Rule About to End
The originally established angelic rule over the earth has continued uninterrupted since the beginning, preceding man’s existence on the earth. However, with the creation of Adam, God announced that a change was in the offing. Man, an entirely new creation, made after the image and likeness of God, was brought into existence to take the governmental reins of the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). But the first man (the first Adam), through sin, was disqualified, necessitating the appearance of the second Man (the last Adam) to effect redemption and the ultimate realization for man’s creation.
The price has been paid, but redemption includes far more than that which presently exists. Redemption includes the complete man (body, soul, and spirit), it includes the earth (presently under a curse), and the goal of redemption will be realized only when man has been brought into the position for which he was created (ruling over a restored earth).
Scripture clearly attests to the fact that the “world [‘inhabited world’] to come” will not be placed “in subjection” to angels (Hebrews 2:5). Man is the one to whom power and authority will be delegated.
This is clearly seen through the action of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:10, removing themselves from their thrones (v. 4) and casting their crowns before God’s throne. Their activity can only be with a view to the fact that the government of the earth, at this point in the sequence of events depicted in the book, is about to change hands.
These twenty-four elders can only be a representative group of heavenly beings (angels) who, up to this time, had held positions within a sphere of governmental power and authority relative to the earth. And at this point in the book, through the action of these elders, the way will be opened for God to transfer the government of the earth from the hands of angels to the hands of man.
(These crowns are cast before God’s throne [cf. 4:1-4; 5:1-7] because the Father alone is the One Who places and/or removes rulers in His kingdom [Daniel 4:17-37; 5:18-21]. He alone is the One Who placed those represented by the twenty-four elders in the positions which they occupied; and He alone is the One Who will place individuals in particular positions in the kingdom of Christ [Matthew 20:20-23].
These crowns cast before God’s throne can only have to do with the government of the earth. And, at this point in the book, they can be worn by angels alone, for the Son will not yet have taken the kingdom [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15]. These crowns are relinquished to God at this time [with a view to man, rather than angels, ruling in the kingdom] so that He can appoint those who had previously been shown qualified at events surrounding the judgment seat [chapters 1-3] to positions of power and authority; and those whom God appoints will wear these crowns in Christ’s kingdom.)
The transfer of the government of the earth, from the hands of angels into the hands of man, in reality, is what the first nineteen chapters of the book of Revelation are about; and, as well, this is what the whole of Scripture preceding these nineteen chapters is also about. In this respect, these twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne forms a key event that one must grasp if he would properly understand the book of Revelation and Scripture as a whole.
Christ and His bride, in that coming day, will rule the earth in the stead of Satan and his angels. And, in the process of ruling in this manner, they will wear all the crowns worn by Satan and his angels prior to Satan’s fall.
Thus, that which is depicted through the action of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:10, 11 is contextually self-explanatory. This has to do with the government of the earth, it occurs at a time following events surrounding the judgment seat (chapters 1-3) but preceding Christ being shown worthy to break the seals of the seven-sealed scroll (chapter 5), and it occurs at a time when Satan’s reign is about to be brought to a close.
After events in Revelation chapters one through three have come to pass, for the first time in man’s history, the person (the bride) who is to rule with the One to replace Satan (Christ) will have been made known and shown forth. And events in chapter four reflect that fact.
Only one thing could possibly be in view at this point in the book, for the bride will not only have been made known but will be ready for events surrounding the transfer of power to begin. The twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne can only depict the angels who did not go along with Satan in his rebellion; and they will willingly relinquish their crowns, with a view to those comprising the bride wearing these crowns during the Messianic Era.
But the crowns worn by Satan and those angels presently ruling with him are another matter. These crowns will have to be taken from Satan and his angels by force when Christ returns to overthrow Gentile world power (a power exercised during Man’s Day under Satan and his angels [Daniel 10:13-20]) at the end of the Tribulation.
The identity of the twenty-four elders is shown not only by their actions and the place in which this occurs in the book but also by their number. Comparing Revelation chapters four and twelve (4:4, 10, 11; 12:3, 4), it appears evident that the government of the earth — originally established by God prior to Satan’s fall — was representatively shown by three sets of twelve, thirty-six crowned rulers. “Three” is the number of divine perfection, and “twelve” is the number of governmental perfection.
Those angels who did not follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne would be represented by the twenty-four elders — two sets of twelve, showing two-thirds of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan. And the angels who did go along with Satan, presently ruling with him, would be represented by a third set of twelve, showing the other one-third of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan (Revelation 12:3, 4).
In this respect, these three representative sets of twelve would show divine perfection in the earth’s government. And, also in this respect, this same perfection in the structure of the earth’s government has not existed since Satan’s attempt to exalt his throne.
But, this structured perfection will one day again exist in the earth’s government. When Christ and His bride ascend the throne together, crowns worn by those represented by all three sets of twelve will be brought together again. Then, divine perfection will once again exist in the government of the one province in God’s universe where imperfection has existed for millennia.
There are two words in the Greek text of the New Testament which are translated “crown” in English versions. The first and most widely used word is stephanos (or the verb form, stephanoo), referring to a “victor’s crown” or a crown denoting certain types of “worth” or “valor.” The other word is diadema, referring to a crown denoting “regal authority,” “kingly power.”
Stephanos (or the verb form, stephanoo) is the only word used for “crown” in the New Testament outside the book of Revelation. This, for example, is the word used referring to the “crown of thorns” placed upon Christ’s head immediately preceding His crucifixion (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5). This is also the word used throughout the Pauline epistles, referring to “crowns” awaiting faithful Christians (1 Corinthians 9:25; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 2:5; 4:8). James, Peter, and John also used stephanos in this same sense (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; 3:11). The writer of Hebrews used this word (the verb form, stephanoo) referring to positions that will ultimately be occupied by Christ and His co-heirs in “the world [‘inhabited world’] to come” (2:5, 7, 9). Then John used the word six additional times in the book of Revelation in several different senses (4:4, 10; 6:2; 9:7; 12:1; 14:14).
Diadema, the other word used for “crown” in the New Testament, appears only three times; and all three occurrences are in the latter part of the book of Revelation (12:3; 13:1; 19:12). The first two references have to do with power and authority possessed by incumbent earthly rulers immediately preceding and within the kingdom of Antichrist, and the latter reference has to do with power and authority that Christ will possess at the time He returns and takes the kingdom.
The way in which these two words are used in the New Testament relative to the government of the earth must be borne in mind if one is to properly understand the Scriptural distinction between the use of stephanos and diadema. Diadema (referring to the monarch’s crown) is used only where one has actually entered into and is presently exercising regal power. Stephanos is never used in this respect. The word appears in all other occurrences, covering any instance where the word “crown” is used apart from the present possession of regal power (though the possession of such power at a past or future date can be in view through the use of stephanos). Then, diadema is used when one actually comes into possession of this power.
An understanding of the distinction between stephanos and diadema will reveal certain things about the twenty-four elders that could not otherwise be known. They each cast a stephanos before the throne, not a diadema. This shows that they were not then occupying regal positions, though crowned and seated on thrones.
At one time they would have occupied such positions (wearing diadems); but with the disarray in the governmental structure of the earth, resulting from Satan’s rebellion, they ceased exercising regal power (for, not participating in his rebellion, they no longer retained active positions in his rule). Their crowns could then be referred to only through the use of the word stephanos; and these crowns would, of necessity, have to be retained until the time of Revelation 4:10.
In this respect, overcoming Christians have been promised a stephanos (victor’s crown), never a diadema (monarch’s crown); but the promised stephanos will become a diadema at the time overcoming Christians assume positions on the throne with Christ. There can be no such thing as either Christ or His co-heirs wearing a stephanos in that day. They can only wear the type crown referred to by the word diadema.
Then, note that the One who, in time past, wore a crown of thorns (a stephanos), will one day come forth with many diadems upon His head, for the Father will not only have delivered the kingdom into His Son’s hands but the Son will, at that time, have a consort queen and be ready to ascend the throne (cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 19:7-9). And because of this, when He comes forth, the announcement can be sounded for all to hear: “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
(Crowns to be worn by Christ and His bride, in that coming day, will include the crowns relinquished willingly in Revelation 4:10 [undoubtedly the crowns on Christ’s head in Revelation 19:12, which can, at this point in the book, be referred to as diadems] and the crowns subsequently taken by force from Satan and his angels.)
Christ, at that time, will have entered into His long-awaited regal position. And the first order of business will be the putting down of the Beast, the kings of the earth (Gentile world power, as it will exist in that day), and Satan and his angels (Revelation 19:17-20:3). Satan and his angels cannot be allowed to reign beyond the point Christ assumes regal power. Their crowns (diadems) must, at this time, be taken and given to others — those to whom they will then rightfully belong.