Redeeming the Nations

The Book of Revelation 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. His goals in subjugating His enemies and judging the nations differ radically from many traditional notions and so-called “human wisdom.” Just as his contemporaries did not understand Jesus of Nazareth, so, too, we often fail to comprehend the “Slain Lamb” and how he reigns from the Throne of God.

For example, in the vision of the “Rider on a white horse,” the figure’s robe is “sprinkled with blood” BEFORE he engages in “combat” with the “Beast from the Sea” and its allies. Whose blood was it, and how did it get there?

Globes - Photo by Duangphorn Wiriya on Unsplash
[Photo by Duangphorn Wiriya on Unsplash]

The Rider’s only weapon is the great “
sword” that “proceeds out of his mouth,” namely, the “Word of God.” Rather than a bloodstained blade hanging from his belt, on his thigh is written the phrase, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

As the “Rider on a white horse,” Jesus is the “Word of God” sent to “judge and make war IN RIGHTEOUSNESS,” NOT in rage. The men of his “army” are “clothed with fine linen, white and pure” with no weapon in sight. His “sword” is used “to SHEPHERD the nations,” not to crush them.

At first glance, this “war” appears to result in the destruction of the “nations” and the “Kings of the Earth.” However, both groups reappear 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 the saints and made them 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 in glory, the “saints” reign with him, and they do so as “priests,” not soldiers or conquerors. They mediate his light to a dark world, and they “overcome” and reign in the same manner as he did - by self-sacrificial service, perseverance, and even martyrdom - (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21, 12:11).

RULER OF NATIONS


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 Messiah who overcame, the one who now “shepherds the nations”? What kind of 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 purchases “men from every nation, people, tribe and tongue.” He is the Shepherd-King who reigns lovingly 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” to “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 seen in the holy city, “New Jerusalem,” where 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?

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,” and this impenitent group is identified as the “Inhabitants of the Earth.”

ENEMIES OF THE LAMB


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” 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,” pay homage to its “image,” and embrace its “Mark” and “Number,” 666. They are identified explicitly as the ones “whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.” Despite everything, they refuse to “repent of their idolatries.”

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

The “Inhabitants of the Earth” are never presented in a positive light, and no member of the group is found in the “City of New Jerusalem.”

New Jerusalem” will descend to the Earth, not to become the home of a tiny “remnant” that makes it to the city by the “skin of their teeth.” Instead, it will be inhabited by a multitude of men from “every nation and tribe and people and tongue” - All standing in worship before the “Throne and before the Lamb” – A multitude so vast that “no one can number them” - (Revelation 7:9-17).

Finally, the “Lamb” does not redeem the “nations” by 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.”



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