Redeemed of the Earth

In Revelation, the people of God are comprised of the men purchased from every nation by the blood of Jesus

Reaping - Photo by Gozha Net on Unsplash
The book of 
Revelation applies several terms and symbols to the church that is under assault. The men who are redeemed from the earth form a company that transcends all national, social, and cultural boundaries. And “tribulation” is not an aberration to be avoided at all costs. Instead, persevering through trials is integral to what it means to follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.” - [Reaping - Photo by Gozha Net on Unsplash].

What sets this company apart is its composition of men from every nation and “tribe” who have been redeemed by Jesus. And by his blood, they have become the “kingdom of priests” by the “slain Lamb” that is now sent to mediate the light of his gospel to the “inhabitants of the earth.”

THE CHURCH IN REVELATION

The purpose of the church is presented in the book’s opening paragraph. Jesus is the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” His past death is the basis of his present reign.

And by his death, he freed his people from their sins and made them a “kingdom of priests.” Thus, the mission assigned long ago to Israel has now fallen to the church - (Exodus 19:4-6, Revelation 1:4-6, 5:10).

The recipients of Revelation are identified as the “servants” of God, the “seven churches of Asia.” They are “fellow participants” with John in the “tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus.

John was on the island of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Already in the first century, he and his fellow believers were experiencing “the tribulation” on account of their “testimony for Jesus.”

At one point, John sees a glorious figure seated on the “throne” at the center of the cosmos who is holding the scroll sealed with seven seals. After a search of all creation, only the sacrificial “Lamb” is found “worthy” to open it because “he was slain and redeemed for God by his blood men out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and made them a kingdom and priests to our God” - (Revelation 5:9-10).

Thus, the same category applied to the “churches of Asia” is applied to this great multitude from every nation, the “kingdom of priests.” Though this vast company is larger than the seven small congregations of Asia, it also includes them.

THE MULTITUDE

In chapter 7, John “hears” the “number” of God’s “servants” that are “sealed,” twelve thousand males from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, or 144,000 men. However, when he looks, he “sees” a vast multitude that “no one can number out of every nation, and all tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the Throne and the Lamb.”

What John “sees” interprets what he first “hears.” The “innumerable multitude” is identical to the 144,000 males from the “twelve tribes of Israel.” And this is the same company of men purchased from “every nation” by the “blood of the Lamb” - (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:1-17).

In this way, Revelation transforms the image of the “tribes of Israel” assembled around the Tabernacle into the “innumerable multitude” of men from every nation. John sees this company “coming out of the great tribulation” and standing “before the throne of God” in his “sanctuary” - (Revelation 7:13-17, 21:1-6).

BEAST WAGES WAR

In chapter 11, the “two witnesses” are called the “two lampstands,” and elsewhere in Revelation, “lampstands” symbolize churches.

When their prophetic ministry is finished, the “beast that ascends from the Abyss wages war with them and overcomes and slays them.” The clause borrows language from Daniel’s vision of the “little horn” that waged war on the “saints” of Israel - (Daniel 7:20-21, Revelation 11:7).

But the “beast” cannot kill the “two witnesses” until he is authorized to do so, and their violent deaths do not mean defeat for the “Lamb.” The martyrdom of the two witnesses will be followed by the “day of the Lord” and the consummation of the Kingdom of God when the “seventh trumpet” sounds - (Revelation 11:15-19).

In chapter 12, Satan is expelled from heaven and no longer able to “accuse our brethren before God.” Enraged, he gathers his forces to “wage war against the seed of the woman, those who have the testimony of Jesus.” But the “brethren” overcome the “Dragon” by the “blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” - (Revelation 12:9-17).

And the “beast that ascends from the sea” will make war on the “saints and overcame them.” This refers to the same reality as the war against the “two witnesses” by the “beast from the Abyss,” and the “war” by the “Dragon” against the “seed of the woman” - (Revelation 13:1-10).

Next, the “beast from the earth” causes all the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the first “beast” and take its “mark.”

In contrast, the sealed company of those who were “redeemed from the earth” are seen standing with the “Lamb” on “Mount Zion,” having been “purchased” from the earth. Rather than the beast’s mark, they have the Father’s name inscribed on their foreheads.

SAVED AND UNSAVED

Thus, in Revelation, humanity falls into two groups:  those redeemed from every nation who follow the “Lamb,” and the “inhabitants of the earth” that take the “mark of the beast.” The names of the latter group are NOT “written in the Lamb’s book of life,” they have NOT been “redeemed by his blood” - (Revelation 13:15-18, 14:1-5).

At the commencement of the “seven bowls of wrath,” the redeemed are described with imagery from the Exodus story.  Those who “overcome” the “beast” are seen “standing on the glassy sea, having harps of God, and they are singing the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” - (Revelation 15:1-4).

Overcome” translates the same verb applied in the messages to the “seven churches” to faithful saints who “overcome.” And it is the same verb found when the “brethren overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb.” Once again, the same company of the redeemed is seen, this time standing on the “glassy sea.”

The “saints” overcome the “beast” by enduring faithfully whatever it may inflict on them, all while maintaining their “testimony.” This is the “perseverance of the saints.” Like the 144,000 “males” singing the “new song” on “Mount Zion,” so the faithful stand on the “sea of glass” and sing the “song of the Lamb.” The two “songs” link both groups - they are one and the same.

Babylon” is judged and destroyed for her egregious sins, among them, her persecution of the saints. John saw her “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” The saints rejoice over her destruction because it means their vindication - (Revelation 17:1-19:10).

White Flowers - Photo by Alexandru Tudorache on Unsplash
[Photo by Alexandru Tudorache on Unsplash]

With Babylon’s demise, the time arrives for the “
marriage of the Lamb, for his wife has made herself ready.” She is “arrayed in fine linen” which represents the “righteous acts of the saints.”

Likewise, in Asia, the Christians who heed the Spirit and overcome the Devil are “arrayed in white garments.” So, also, members of the “innumerable multitude” that came out of the “great tribulation” are “arrayed in white garments,” having made them white “in the blood of the Lamb” - (Revelation 3:5, 3:18, 7:9-17).

Thus, from start to finish, the focus of Revelation is on the church, the people of God, and the men and women redeemed by Jesus through his sacrificial death.  Though different terms and images are applied, the same redeemed company is in view in each case.

The terms used mostly derive from the story of Israel, but Revelation reapplies them to the followers of the “Lamb” from every nation and tribe. Consistently, what sets them apart is the fact they have been “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,” the same Lord they now follow “wherever he goes.”



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