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Revelation 5:9-10

9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

I ask because it seems awkward to say in English that the people who are made to be a kingdom are the ones reigning.

Typically the word kingdom describes the domain of rule and not specifically the rulers of the domain except perhaps as a synecdoche.

While "kingdom" is by far the most common translation of the word βασιλείαν, should we understand it's meaning in Rev 5:10 to be something more along the lines of "ruling power?" Those who rule on the Earth are the ones made to be a "ruling power?"

Note:
As @HoRn has pointed out in the comments below, the KJV translates βασιλείαν as "kings." I actually really like this translation as it seems to flow much better, however, the word for "them" is plural and masculine and the word for "priests" is plural and masculine, however, βασιλείαν is singular and feminine. "Kings" doesn't seem to be quite the exact meaning match we'd like, though I think it's probably a reasonably good interpretation for the meaning of βασιλείαν as applied to the people of Rev 5:9-10 even if it doesn't totally work as an exact translation.

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    In KJV, "and hast made us unto our God kings and priests"
    – HoRn
    Sep 5, 2022 at 7:45

1 Answer 1

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It is difficult to see how βασιλείαν in Rev 5:10 could be accurately translated any other way than "kingdom". Greek has two distinct words:

  • βασιλεία = a royal rulership, kingship, kingdom, as in Rev 5:10
  • βασιλεύς = king (which is NOT used in Rev 5:10)

Thus, if one wished to avoid "kingdom" then one might stretch the meaning to something like (BDAG): "royal power", "royal rule", "royal reign", etc. However, I do not believe we should be overly pedantic here for the following reasons:

  1. Most of the book of Revelation must be viewed as at least partly symbolic and spiritual, and the kind of government in the heavenly kingdom has not been explained. The only thing we know for sure is that Jesus is the king of the heavenly kingdom, but what part others will play is impossible to say.
  2. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom will be regarded as part of the royal family because the king (Jesus) is "our brother", Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29.
  3. These citizens of the heavenly kingdom are priests, according to Rev 1:6, 5:10 and 1 peter 2:9 (see below).

However, The Greek of Rev 5:10 does not actually say that the citizens of the heavenly kingdom will be kings; the text of Rev 5:10 simply says this (set out point form from BLB):

and You have made them:

  • a kingdom
  • and priests to our God;
  • and they will reign/govern upon the earth."

The wording is almost identical to Rev 1:6. Thus, as saved people in the heavenly kingdom, we can expect to be made priests in the kingdom and that this kingdom will be composed of priests. Indeed, the same idea is expressed in 1 Peter 2:9 -

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The KJV (and NKJV) translation is, in Rev 5:10, somewhat interpretive rather than literal; most modern versions prefer the literal translation of "kingdom and priests".

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  • Thanks, for the response. Why not consider royal/ruling power as a legitimate possibly more meaningful option and our role as rulers to be confirmed by verses outside Revelation such as 2 Tim 2:12?
    – Austin
    Sep 5, 2022 at 14:40
  • @Austin - It is best to avoid theological translations - the word here means "kingdom".
    – Dottard
    Sep 5, 2022 at 20:48
  • the word also means kingship and royal rulership as your own definition you quote states. These are meanings quite distinct in English from the word generally understood as "kingdom" and are more consistent with the concept of royal power as other definitions state. Why do you dismiss these as theological translations? They don't seem any more theological as translations than the word "kingdom" as a translation.
    – Austin
    Sep 5, 2022 at 22:52

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