Redemption of the Nations

Earth in hand - Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
The book of Revelation presents visions that are jarring, paradoxical, and even subversive, ones that do not conform to our expectations about how God works. His plans to subjugate His enemies and “judge” the nations differ radically from our ideas. Just as his contemporaries did not understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was, so we often fail to comprehend the central character of Revelation – the “slain Lamb.” - [
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash].

For example, in the vision of the “Rider on a White Horse,” the figure’s robe was “sprinkled with blood” BEFORE he engaged in combat with the “beast” and its earthly allies. Whose blood was it, and how did it get there?

The only weapon wielded by him was the great “sword,” but it “proceeded out of his mouth.” Rather than a bloodstained blade hanging from his belt, on his thigh is written - “King of kings and Lord of lords.” This figure is the “Word of God” sent to “judge and make war IN RIGHTEOUSNESS,” NOT in rage. His “troops” were “clothed with fine linen, white, pure,” and no weapon was seen among them. And his “sword” was used “to shepherd the nations,” not to crush them.

At first glance, this “war” appeared to cause the end of the “nations” and the “kings of the earth.” However, both groups reappeared in the vision of New Jerusalem where the “nations” walked in the Lamb’s light, and the “kings of the earth brought their glory into it.” Rather than the aftermath of a great slaughter, a life-giving river flowed from the Throne, bordered on either side by the tree of life - “Its leaves were for the healing of the nations” - (Revelation 21:24-26, 22:1-4).

In the prologue of the book, Jesus was called the “Ruler of the Kings of the earth,” the one who redeemed us and made us into a “kingdom of priests.”  This sentence uses past tense verbs to describe things already achieved through his Death and Resurrection. Thus, the “saints” reign already with him as “priests,” as they mediate his light to a darkened world. They “overcame” and reign in the same manner that he did, by self-sacrificial service, perseverance, and martyrdom - (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21, 12:11).

If Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” what kind of king would he be if he allowed Satan to conquer the nations of the earth for all time? After all, is he not the Messiah who overcame to “shepherd the nations”? What kind of shepherd allows a beast to slaughter his sheep? - (Revelation 12:5, 19:15).

In Revelation, the term “nation” is fluid, and used both negatively and positively. For example, the “beast” was granted authority over men from every “nation, people, tongue, and tribe.” But far more often, it is the “Lamb” who is designated the one who 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 victims of 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.” 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).

Globe and Moon - Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

In the end, both the “
nations” and their “kings” are found residing in the city of “New Jerusalem,” where they give honor and glory to the “Lamb” and the One who “sits on the Throne.” This happy result was predicted in the book:
  • (Revelation 15:4) - “Who shall in anyway not be put in fear, O Lord, and glorify thy 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 the “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 the “Lamb” has four “cosmic” enemies that oppose him at every turn - the “Dragon,” the “Beast,” 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 the life of the Lamb.”

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 saw “under the altar” when the “fifth seal” was opened pleased with God to avenge their blood on the “inhabitants of the earth,” the same group that rejoiced 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 comprised of unrepentant men and women that submit themselves 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.” They do not represent all humanity, but the men and women that consciously oppose the “Lamb” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10).

In Revelation, the “inhabitants of the earth” are never presented in a positive light, and no member of the group is found in “New Jerusalem,” although the “kings of the earth” and the “nations” do inhabit the city.

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.” Instead, it will be inhabited by a multitude of men and women from “every nation and tribe and people and tongue” - All standing in worship before the “Throne and before the Lamb” – A multitude of redeemed men and women so vast, “no man could number them” - (Revelation 7:9-17).

Finally, the “Lamb” does not redeem the “nations” through military conquest or governmental force, but through the perseverance, priestly service, and the testimony of the “saints,” the very ones who overcame the Devil by “the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives even unto death” - (Revelation 12:11).




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