Messianic Reign in Revelation

SYNOPSISIn the book of Revelation, Jesus began his Messianic Reign following his Death and Resurrection in fulfillment of prophecy.

Stars - Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
The book of Revelation assures the beleaguered congregations in the cities of Asia that Jesus is in firm control of events regardless of circumstances. His authority is based on his past Death and Resurrection that marked the commencement of his present reign on the messianic “throne.” The kingdom of God may have a future consummation. However, even now it is  well underway. Jesus is the “first and the last, the living one who was dead but now lives forevermore” - He possesses all authority over life and death (Revelation 1:17-18).

A messianic prophecy that is used repeatedly in Revelation to portray his present reign is from the second Psalm, especially its promise that the “kings of the earth” will be subjected to the rule of the Son of God.
  • (Psalm 2:1-9) – “Wherefore have nations assembled in tumult? Or should peoples mutter an empty thing? The kings of earth take their station, and grave men have met by appointment together—against Yahweh and against his Anointed One [saying]: Let us break asunder their bonds—and cast from us their cords! He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh—My Lord will mock at them:  Then will he speak unto them in his anger, and in his wrath confound them: Yet I have installed my king—on Zion my holy mountain. Let me tell of a decree—Yahweh hath said unto me, My son thou art, I, to-day, have begotten thee: Ask of me and let me give nations as thine inheritance, and as thy possession the ends of the earthThou shalt shepherd them with a sceptre of iron—as a potter’s vessel shalt thou dash them in pieces.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
In the words from the Psalm, the seven churches of Asia would detect allusions to their situation in which the Roman imperial authorities were pressuring them to compromise their allegiance to the lordship of Christ. Such hostile acts typified what the psalmist said the nations would do -- Rage against Yahweh and against his Anointed One.

The book of Revelation identifies Jesus as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the KINGS OF THE EARTH.” He bore witness in his sacrificial death, then became the “firstborn of the dead” by his resurrection. Consequently, he was appointed as the "ruler over the kings of the earth,” the promised Davidic Messiah who has reigned ever since. The verbs applied to Jesus are in the present tense - They do not look forward to a yet future installation of him on the Davidic throne - Already he fulfills that role in the here and now - (Revelation 1:5-6).

His death “loosed us from our sins” and constituted us to be a “kingdom of priests,” a role that God gave given originally to ancient Israel. Christian believers participate in his reign as they carry out “priestly” functions. They “overcome” and, therefore, sit down with Jesus on his throne, but they do so in the same manner he did; through faithful witness even to the point of martyrdom:
  • (Exodus 19:5-6) – “Now, therefore, if ye will, indeed, hearken to my voice, And keep my covenant, Then shall ye be mine as a treasure beyond all the peoples, For mine is all the earth; But ye shall be mine, AS A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, And a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the sons of Israel.
  • (Revelation 3:21) – “He that overcometh, I will give unto him to take his seat with me in my throne, as I also overcame and took my seat with my Father in his throne.
  • (Revelation 5:6-10) – “And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders a Lamb, standing, showing that it had been slain…and they sing a new song, saying—Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain and didst redeem unto God by thy blood [men] out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, And didst make them unto our God A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS—and they reign on the earth.
  • (Revelation 12:11) – “And they overcame him by reason of the blood of the Lamb, and by reason of their witnessing word, and they loved not their life, even unto death.
In the vision of the Sealed ScrollJohn wept profusely when no one could be found who was "worthy to open the scroll." Then, one of the “elders” commanded him to cease weeping - The “Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, overcame to open the scroll and its seals.” John looked but he saw a freshly slain lambNOT a lion. Jesus is the “lion of the tribe of Judah,” but he fulfills that role as the lamb - What John saw interpreted what he first heard.

Lamb Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash
Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

Next, John saw the Lamb standing “
in the midst of the throne” - A portrayal of his enthronement. His first royal act was to “take the scroll out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne” and begin to "open its seals." Already the Lamb had begun to reign. He had “seven eyes, the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth,” for his authority extended to the “UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH for your possession.”

His messianic reign is based on his past death as the sacrificial Lamb. This understanding is confirmed by a heavenly chorus that sang - “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and MADE THEM A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS; and they reign upon earth.” Not only does Jesus reign, but those purchased by him participate in his rule. The basis for this is his self-sacrificial death.

Immediately upon his enthronement, the Lamb began to open the first four seals of the scroll. It is the Lamb who opened each seal and, thus, released its contents. He was and remains in firm control of events on the earth. “I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, Come” (Revelation 6:1-8).
  • (Revelation 12:1-5) – “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon beneath her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child and crieth out, being in pangs and in anguish to bring forth. And there appeared another sign in heaven; and lo! a great red dragon—having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems; and his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that as soon as she should bring forth he might devour her child. And she brought forth a son, a manchild, who was about TO SHEPHERD ALL THE NATIONS WITH A SCEPTRE OF IRON; and her child was caught away unto God and unto his throne.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
In another vision, John saw a “great red Dragon” poised to destroy the child who was “about to be delivered” from the woman clothed with the sun. This child was identified as the “son who is TO SHEPHERD ALL THE NATIONS WITH A ROD OF IRON,” an allusion to Psalm 2:1-8. This was none other than Jesus, the promised Messiah.

In each case, the book of Revelation follows the Greek Septuagint version of the second Psalm, which translated the Hebrew verb “rule” with the Greek term for "shepherd." Something more is intended in the application of this Psalm to Jesus than just his subjugation of the rebellious nations.
The child was God’s Son and Messiah who was “caught up to God and to his throne” before the Dragon could destroy him. This is the same reality portrayed in Chapter 5 of Revelation by the sacrificial lamb when he appeared before the Throne.
The "Dragon" failed to stop the elevation of the Son to the Messianic Throne. Consequently, a great voice declared - “Now is come the salvation, the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down.” Thus, the "Dragon" was defeated already on the Cross by the self-sacrificial death of the Messiah.

There is no limit in the present to the authority of the Lamb, even the earthly agents of the "Dragon" cannot act without his consent. The horrific “beast from the sea” claims absolute authority over the earth and breathes great threats "against the saints," but it cannot launch its “war” attack until authorized to do so by the Lamb (“It opened its mouth to slander God and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in the heaven…And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” – Revelation 13:5-7).

In a later vision, John saw a rider on a white horse sally forth from heaven with “a sharp sword proceeding from his mouth with which HE SHOULD SMITE THE NATIONS. He will SHEPHERD THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON.” Once again, the book of Revelation applies the second Psalm to Jesus and, also once again, changes the verb “rule” to “shepherd,” and in the present tense. This figure is designated the “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” His white robe is sprinkled with blood.

However, the bloodstains on the Rider's robe are seen BEFORE he engages in battle with the “beast and the KINGS OF THE EARTH gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse.” So, whose blood is it? (Revelation 19:11-21).

The gathering of this force against the Messiah is described in verses 17-21 but not the actual battle. The scene concludes with the Beast and False Prophet “cast alive into the lake of fire.” As for the “KINGS OF THE EARTH” and their armies, it only notes “the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, even the sword which came forth out of his mouth.”

The hostile KINGS OF THE EARTH appear once more at the end of the “thousand years.” Satan is released to gather the nations “from the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog to gather them to the war.” The same language from Ezekiel 39 applied in Revelation 19:17-21 is employed again - The same final battle is in view in Chapter 20 of Revelation. This is no regional war in the Middle East - It involves all the nations and encompasses the entire earth. Not Israel, but the “saints,” those who follow the Lamb, are the targets of this final assault. But before this force can destroy them, “fire came down out of heaven and consumed them.”

This final battle is followed by a judgment scene in which the Lamb’s enemies are tossed into the Lake of Fire, and this time the Devil himself - “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the Beast and the False Prophet.”

This final battle is followed by the Great White Throne of judgment and the end of Death itself - “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire” - An event the Apostle linked to the coming of Jesus at the end of the present age in his letter to the Corinthians, the “death of death,” so to speak, the "last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

In Chapter 21, John saw New Jerusalem descending to the earth. This was nothing less than the inauguration of the “New Heavens and New Earth.” While Chapter 19 ended with the defeat of the “KINGS OF THE EARTH,” they appear again in "New Jerusalem" where the “nations shall walk amidst of its light thereof: and the KINGS OF THE EARTH bring their glory into it… and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it” (Revelation 21:24).

In the New Creation, the leaves of the "tree of life" provide “healing of the nations.” The reign and victory of the Lamb mean something more than just the destruction of his human enemies. Through most of the book of Revelation, the “nations” and the “KINGS OF THE EARTH” remain hostile to the Lamb, yet in the end, they participate in the New Creation.  Is this the result of the Lamb “shepherding” the nations with the “sword” that proceeds out of his mouth?

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