Church, Nations


In Revelation, included in the people of God are men and women purchased from every nation by the blood of Jesus.  

Revelation applies a variety of terms and symbols to the church that is under assault from within and without. 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. Persevering through trials is integral to what it means to follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.”

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

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 has 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 isle 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 saw a glorious figure seated on the “throne” at the center of Cosmos. He was holding the scroll sealed with seven seals. After a search of all creation, only the sacrificial “Lamb” was 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 was larger than the seven small congregations of Asia, it also included them.

In chapter 7, John “heard” the “number” of God’s “servants” that were “sealed,” twelve thousand males from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, or 144,000 men. However, when he looked, what he “saw” a vast multitude that “no one could number out of every nation, and all tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the Throne and the Lamb.” What he “saw” interpreted what he first “heard.” The “innumerable multitude” was identical to the 144,000 males from the “twelve tribes of Israel.” And this is the same company of men and women 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 in preparation for the march to the promised land into the “innumerable multitude” of men and women from every nation. John saw this company “coming out of the great tribulation” and standing “before the throne of God” in his “sanctuary,” where the “Lamb” is leading them “to life’s fountains of waters,” a picture of life in the “New Jerusalem” – (Revelation 7:13-17, 21:1-6).

In chapter 11, the “two witnesses” are called the “two lampstands,” which means they represent churches – Elsewhere in Revelation, “lampstands” symbolize churches. When their prophetic ministry is finished, the “beast that ascended from the Abyss waged war with them and overcame and slew 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) – “Also concerning the ten horns, which were in his head, and the other which came up, and there fell from among them that were before it three; and this horn which had eyes and a mouth speaking great things, and his look was prouder than his fellows. I continued looking when this horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “And as soon as they have completed their witnessing, the beast that is to come up out of the Abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and slay them.

The “beast” could not kill the “two witnesses” until authorized to do so. But their violent deaths did not mean defeat for the “Lamb,” for their martyrdom produced the “Day of the Lord” and the consummation of the Kingdom of God when the “seventh trumpet” sounded – (Revelation 11:15-19).

In chapter 12, Satan is expelled from heaven, 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.” Again, language from the same passage from Daniel is applied to Satan’s assault against the saints, 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).

So, also, the “beast that ascends from the sea” makes war on the “saints and overcame them,” once more, applying the same language from Daniel. 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).

When the “beast from the sea” wages war on the “saints,” believers who are destined for captivity go “into captivity.” Likewise, those who are to be slain by sword are so slain. This is called the “perseverance and the faith of the saints,” the same group identified in the next chapter as “those who keep the faith of Jesus” – (Revelation 13:7-10, 14:12).

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

Thus, in Revelation, humanity falls into two groups:  those redeemed from every nation who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes,” and the “inhabitants of the earth” that take the “mark of the beast” and render homage to it. Their names are NOTwritten 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 “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 persevere and “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, here, the faithful stand on the “sea of glass,” all while singing the “song of the Lamb.” The two “songs” link both groups, for 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 rejoiced over her destruction because it meant their vindication – (Revelation 17:1-19:10).

With Babylon’s demise, the time arrived for the “marriage of the Lamb, for his wife has made herself ready.” She was “arrayed in fine linen,” which represents the “righteous acts of the saints.” Likewise, in Asia, the Christians who heeded the Spirit and overcame were “arrayed in white garments.” So, also, members of the “innumerable multitude” that came out of the “great tribulation” were “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, the men and women redeemed by Jesus from every nation.  Though different terms and images are applied to her, the same redeemed company is in view in each case. The terms mostly derive from the story of Ancient Israel, but Revelation reapplies them to the followers of the “Lamb” from every nation, tongue, people, and tribe. But consistently, what sets them apart is the fact they were “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,” their standing before him and the “throne” is based entirely on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

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