Redemption of the Nations

SYNOPSIS - The “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are found in New Jerusalem because of the redemptive work of the Lamb

Shepherd - Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash
The book of Revelation presents visions that are often jarring, paradoxical, and even subversive, images that challenge human wisdom and defy institutional explanations of how God works. His plans to overthrow His enemies and “judge” the nations are not according to human expectations. Just as his contemporaries did not understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was, so we too often fail to comprehend the central character of Revelation – the “slain Lamb.”

The significance of the book is missed when we lose sight of the Jesus revealed in the role of the sacrificial Lamb - The Messiah who came to redeem humanity - Not to destroy all but a tiny remnant of it. The clues are there, and many interpretations of its symbols are provided by the book itself. But, apparently, they are all too easily overlooked.

For example, in the image of Jesus as the “Rider on a White Horse,” we see the agent of God’s horrific wrath, an enraged Messiah bent on lopping off millions of heads with his great “sword.” Next time, he will come to the earth to tread the “wine-press” of the “wrath of God” until the blood flows like raging torrents through the streets of Old Jerusalem, therefore his robe is stained with the blood and gore of his slaughtered enemies. Perhaps we ought to remember the words of Jesus - “I will have mercy, not sacrifice” - (Matthew 9:13, Revelation 19:11-21).

In contrast to our cursory reading of the passage, the blood “sprinkled on his robe” is seen by John before the “Rider on the White Horse” engages in battle with the forces of the “Beast.”  Whose blood is it? How did it get there?

The only weapon wielded by this figure is the great “sword,” but it “proceeds out of his mouth” – It is not held and swung by his hand. 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 vengeance and rage. His “troops” are “clothed with fine linen, white, pure” - No weapon is in sight among them. And his “sword” is used “to shepherd the nations,” not to crush them - (Compare - Isaiah 11:1-10).

When this final “war” begins, there is no mention of the “nations” – Only the “Beast,” the “False Prophet,” and the “kings of the earth and their armies” engage in this “conflict.” And there is no description of an actual battle; no horrific scene of slaughter or of blood flowing like rain-swollen rivers. It states simply that the “Beast and False Prophet” were cast “alive into the Lake of Fire.” As for the rest, they were slain with the “sword of him that was sitting upon the horse, which went forth out of his mouth” – Again, the “word of God.”

At first glance, this “war” caused the end of the “nations” and the “kings of the earth”; however, both groups reappear in the city of New Jerusalem where the nations walk in the Lamb’s light and the “kings of the earth bring their glory into it.” Rather than shed blood, a life-giving river flows 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 is called the “Ruler of the Kings of the earth,” the one who redeemed us from our sins and made us into a “kingdom of priests.”  This sentence uses past tense verbs to describe things already achieved through his Death and Resurrection. The “saints” reign already with him as “priests” mediating his light to a darkened world. They “overcome” and reign in the same manner that he did – By self-sacrificial service, perseverance, and, if necessary, 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 under his rule? He is the Messiah who overcame to “shepherd the nations.” What kind of shepherd allows a beast to slaughter his sheep? - (Revelation 12:5, 19:15).

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

In Revelation, the term “nation” is fluid. It is used negatively and positively. For example, the “Beast” is granted authority over men from every “nation, people, tongue, and tribe.” But far more often, the “Lamb” is designated the one who purchased “men from every nation, people, tribe and tongue” by means of his shed blood - He is their designated king 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, the “Dragon and Ancient Serpent,” who “deceives all the nations.” How can the Lamb “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 found in the city of New Jerusalem where they give honor and glory to the Lamb. This is predicted in the book:
  • (Revelation 15:4) - “Who shall in anywise not be put in fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name—because, alone full of lovingkindness; because, all the nations will have come and will do homage before thee, because thy righteous deeds were made manifest?” - (The Emphasized Bible).
This last prediction finds its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem where the “nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it…And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.” In the new heavens and earth men and women will find the “tree of life…and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” - (Revelation 21:24-22:4).

This is not to say 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.” 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” by giving their allegiance to his “Beast” have their names excluded from the “book of the life of the Lamb.”

The term applied most often to men and women who oppose 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 summoned God to avenge their blood on the “inhabitants of the earth.” This is the same group that rejoiced over the deaths of the “Two Witnesses” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:9-11, 8:7-13).

The “inhabitants of the earth” is comprised of unrepentant men and women that subjugate themselves to the “Beast” and embrace its “mark.” They are identified as the very ones “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” This group does not represent all humanity but the men and women that consciously oppose the “Lamb” at every turn - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10).

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

New Jerusalem will descend to the earth from heaven, 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 one 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, the priestly service, and the testimony of the “saints,” the very ones who overcome “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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