Redeeming the Nations

The Apostle Paul describes the proclamation of “Christ crucified” as the “wisdom and power of God.” The proposition that God overthrew Sin, Satan, and Death through the execution of the lowly Nazarene is contrary to the “wisdom of this world.” Even the spiritual “powers and principalities” did not understand what God was doing and sealed their own fate by crucifying the “Lord of Glory.” And the slain “Lamb” will consummate this victory when he returns at the end of the age and populates “New Jerusalem.”

The New Testament presents this picture of God redeeming His creation in several different ways, and we find a graphic illustration throughout the Book of Revelation, the image of the sacrificial “Lamb” who brings this redemptive process to a dazzling conclusion by “shepherding the nations” to the “City of New Jerusalem.”

The Book presents images that are often jarring and paradoxical, visions that do not conform to popular expectations about how God works or where His redemptive purposes will end.

World City - Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
[Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash]

His goals in subjugating His enemies differ radically from human understanding. Just as his contemporaries did not understand Jesus of Nazareth, so we often fail to comprehend the “
Slain Lamb” and how he now reigns.

THE LAMB AT WAR


For example, in the vision of the “rider on a white horse,” a figure who represents Jesus wears a robe that is “sprinkled with blood,” but it was bloodstained BEFORE he engaged in “combat” with the “Beast from the Sea” and its allies. Whose blood was it, and how did it get there?

This “rider’s” only weapon is the great “sword” that “proceeds out of his mouth.” Rather than a bloody blade hanging from his belt, on his thigh is written the phrase, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Jesus is the “Word of God” sent to “judge and make war in righteousness,” NOT in rage or vengeful violence. The men of his “army” are “clothed with fine linen, white and pure” with no weapon in sight. And his “sword” is used “to SHEPHERD the nations,” not to crush them or lop off heads.

At first glance, this “war” appears to result in the destruction of the “nations” and the “Kings of the Earth.” However, both groups reappear again in the vision of New Jerusalem where the “nations” walk in the Lamb’s light, and the “Kings of the Earth bring their glory into” the city.

Rather than the aftermath of a great slaughter, a life-giving river flows from the throne. It is bordered on either side by the “Tree of Life,” and “its leaves are for the healing of the nations” - (Revelation 21:24-26, 22:1-4).

In the Book’s prologue, Jesus is identified as the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth,” the one who has redeemed us and made us a “Kingdom of Priests.”  This statement uses past tense verbs to describe things achieved already by his death and resurrection.

Thus, even now before his return, the “saints” reign with him, and they do so as “priests,” not soldiers or conquerors.

Instead of slaughtering their persecutors, the “priests” of his ream mediate his light to a dark and dying world. And they “overcome” and reign in the same manner as he did - by self-sacrificial service, perseverance, and yes, even martyrdom - (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21, 12:11).

From the fifth chapter of Revelation until the end of the Book, Jesus is identified as the slain “Lamb” whose shed blood redeems men and women from every nation, NOT as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” who slaughters and devours his prey.

It is the self-sacrificial “Lamb” that “overcame” through his death, and he now reigns supreme on the Divine throne. He is the Messiah of Israel, but he fulfills that role as the “Lamb” who shepherds and redeems his people.

RULER OF THE NATIONS


And if Jesus is the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth,” what kind of king would he be if he allowed Satan to deceive and conquer the “nations” for all time? After all, is he not the one who overcame and now “shepherds the nations”? What shepherd allows a predatory beast to slaughter his sheep? - (Revelation 12:5, 19:15).

In the Book, the term “nation” is fluid in its application. It is used both negatively and positively. For example, the “Beast from the Sea” is granted authority over men from every “nation, people, tongue, and tribe.”

But far more often, it is the “Lamb” who has purchased “men from every nation, people, tribe and tongue.” He is the king over his redeemed people, and they belong to him - (Revelation 5:6-10, 7:9-17, 13:7-10).

At times, the “nations” are victimized by the “Dragon” and his vassals. “Babylon” is condemned because “she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” She, “by her sorceries, deceived all the nations.”

Ultimately, it is Satan who “deceives all the nations.” But how can Jesus “overcome” and “shepherd the nations” if he allows the Devil to keep his ill-gotten gains? - (Revelation 14:8, 18:3, 18:23, 20:3-8).

In the end, both the “nations” and their “kings” are found in the holy city, “New Jerusalem.” There, they give honor and glory to the “Lamb” and the One who “sits on the Throne.” This happy result is predicted in the Book:

  • (Revelation 15:4) - “Who shall in any way not be put in fear, O Lord, and glorify your name, alone, full of lovingkindness; because all the nations will come and do homage before you, because your righteous deeds were made manifest?

And this last prediction finds its fulfillment in “New Jerusalem” - “The nations of them which are saved will walk in the light of it: and the Kings of the Earth do bring their glory and honor into it…And they will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it” - (Revelation 21:24-22:4).

This is not to say that the “Lamb” has no human enemies. There are men and women whose “names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Unrepentant sinners find themselves cast into the “Lake of Fire.”

ENEMIES OF THE LAMB


And the “Lamb” has four “cosmic” enemies that oppose him at every turn - the “Dragon,” the “Beast from the Sea,” the “False Prophet,” and “the Great Whore, Babylon.” Human beings that ally with the “Dragon” and give their allegiance to his “Beast” have their names excluded from the “Book of Life.”

The term applied most often to human opponents of the “Lamb” is the “Inhabitants of the Earth.” This group will face the final “Hour of Trial, which is going to come…to try the Inhabitants of the Earth.”

The martyrs that John sees “underneath the altar” when the fifth seal is opened plead with God to avenge their blood on the “Inhabitants of the Earth,” the same group that rejoices over the deaths of the “Two Witnesses” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:9-11, 8:7-13).

The group known as the “Inhabitants of the Earth” is composed of unrepentant men who submit to the “Beast” and embrace its “mark.” They are identified explicitly as the ones “whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.” Despite the declaration of the Gospel and the various “plagues” sent to correct them, they refuse to “repent of their idolatries.”

This group does not represent all humanity, but only those men who consciously oppose the “Lamb” and repeatedly reject the redemption offered by him - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10).

Thus, the “Inhabitants of the Earth” are never presented in a positive light, and no member of this group is found in the “City of New Jerusalem,” although the “Kings of the Earth” and the “nations” do become citizens of the holy city.

And in the end, “New Jerusalem” will descend to the Earth, not to become the home of a tiny “remnant” that make it to the city by the “skin of their teeth,” but to be inhabited by a multitude of men and women from “every nation and tribe and people and tongue.”

And all those redeemed by his blood are seen standing in worship before the “throne and before the Lamb” in the New Creation, a multitude of blood-purchased men and women so vast that “no man could number them” - (Revelation 7:9-17).

The “Lamb” does not redeem the “nations” by oppression and military conquest, but through the perseverance, priestly service, and testimony of his “saints,” the very ones who overcome the Devil by “the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives even unto death.”

And in the Book of Revelation, the term “witness” very often means martyrdom. Just as the “Lamb” redeemed his brethren and made them a “priestly kingdom” by his self-sacrifice, so his disciples now reign with him by bringing the Good News of his Kingdom to all men through their priestly service and sacrifice.


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