The Redeemed of the Earth

A lone church in a dark world
The book of Revelation uses a variety of terms and symbols to portray the church under assault from within and without while bearing witness in a hostile world. In the end, all nations ally with the Beast in a final attempt to annihilate the saints.
        The company of the redeemed is a multi-national and multi-ethnic group.  It is not restricted to any territory, nation, tribe or ethnic group. The faithful members of the seven churches of Asia are included among this redeemed.
The church does not escape from hostile forces through flight or violent resistance; instead, it “overcomes” by following the Lamb wherever he goes even if doing so means an unjust death. It is in this way that the church enters New Jerusalem in the New Creation, the greater and true Promised Land.
What sets this group apart is that it is comprised of men and women redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. They have been purchased by the sacrificial death of the Lamb in order to become a “kingdom of priests” to mediate the light of the Gospel to a darkened world.
This redemptive purpose is presented from the first. Jesus is the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth,” pointing to his past death, resurrection, and enthronement on the messianic throne of David (Revelation 1:4-6, Psalm 2:1-9).
By the shedding of his blood, he “loosed us from our sins” and, thus, constituted us a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:5). The mission assigned to Israel by Yahweh at Sinai has now fallen to the church.
In the first verse of Revelation, the addressees of the book are identified as God’s “servants” (douloi. Cp. 2:20, 7:1-3, 11:18, 19:5, 22:3-6). The immediate recipients are the “seven churches” or “assemblies” of Asia (Revelation 1:4, 1:11), congregations located in key cities of the Province of Asia.
The seven churches are “fellow participants” with John in “the Tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus” (1:9). John was on the Isle of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” John and his churches experienced “the tribulation” on account of their association with Jesus.
In Chapter 5 John saw a glorious figure seated on a throne at the epicenter of all creation. H was holding a scroll sealed with seven seals. No one in the entire Cosmos could be found worthy to open it; that is, not until the arrival of Jesus symbolized by a freshly sacrificed lamb. The Lamb was declared worthy to open the scroll because “he was slain and redeemed to God by his blood men out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation, and made them a kingdom and priests to our God” (5:9-10). This group was not national Israel but all those redeemed by the Lamb, regardless of national origin or ethnicity.
The same category applied to the churches of Asia is applied to this great multitude; a “kingdom of priest” (1:4-5, 5:8-10). This vast company is larger than the seven small congregations of Asia, but it includes 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, 144,000 in total. But when he looked, 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” (7:9). What John “sees” interprets what he “hears.”
John saw the same company of the Redeemed seen previously in Revelation 5:9-10; men and women “out of every nation, and all tribes, and peoples, and tongues.” The Redeemed in 5:12 proclaimed the Lamb worthy “to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory and blessing.” Likewise, in 7:12, the “innumerable multitude” declared “the blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honor, and the power and the might” unto God. In both passages, it is the blood of the Lamb that redeemed individuals from every nation.
The members of the innumerable multitude were arrayed in white garments, having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). John saw them “coming out of the great tribulation,” using a progressive present tense verb; they were in process of exiting the tribulation.
Thus, the book of Revelation has transformed the image of the tribes of Israel assembled for battle into a vast multitude of men and women redeemed by Jesus from every nation. They go through the Tribulation to stand “before the throne of God” in his “sanctuary” where the Lamb shepherds and “leads them to life’s fountains of waters” (7:13-17).
The two witnesses Revelation 11:3-13 are “two lampstands”; in some capacity, they represent churches (Revelation 11:3-13 cp. 1:20, 2:1, 2:5). Revelation is consistent in its symbolism. They are also “prophets” (tasked with “bearing testimony” before the world. When that mission is finished, the Beast will ascend from the Abyss to “wage war with them, overcome and slay them.” The language is from Daniel 7:21 where the “little horn” prevailed over the “saints.”
The Beast from the Abyss cannot kill the two witnesses until authorized by a higher authority. Their violent deaths do not mean defeat for the Lamb.
Satan is expelled from heaven and no longer able to “accuse our brethren before God” (Revelation 12:9-17). Enraged, he gathers his forces to wage war against “the woman’s seed, those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” (12:17). This verse uses the same language from Daniel 7:21 to describe Satan’s violent assault against the Woman’s “seed.” This group is not identified by its ethnicity but by its association with Jesus; those who have the “testimony of Jesus.” That is why the Dragon attacks them so fiercely.
 The “brethren” overcome the Dragon “by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and because they love not their life even unto death” (12:11). This clearly is a group that belongs to Jesus, the Lamb. They have been purchased by his lifeblood, tasked with bearing witness, and are willing to die martyr’s deaths if required. They pursue perseverance, not escape.
The “Beast that ascends from the sea” likewise “wages war with the saints and to overcome them” (Revelation 13:1-10). Once again, language from Daniel 7:21 describes this Beast’s war against the followers of the Lamb. This passage parallels the descriptions of the two witnesses and the “seed of the Woman.” Whether attacked by the Beast from the Abyss, the Dragon or the Beast from the sea, Satan is the driving force.
They “saints” in Revelation 13:7 are identified in Revelation 14:12 as “the saints, they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” a clause virtually identical to the one in Revelation 12:17 (“they who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus”).
Additionally, the exhortation in Revelation 13:10, “if anyone has an ear, let him hear,” is the same call used by Jesus in his messages to the seven churches (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” - 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22). This forms a literary link between the “saints” of Chapter 13 and the churches of Asia. This is what Jesus is summoning his churches to do – to persevere through the coming onslaughts of the Devil and his earthly agents.
When the Beast “wages war” with the saints, believers who are destined for captivity must go into captivity. Likewise, those given over to be slain by sword must with sword be slain.  This is “the perseverance and the faith of the saints” (1:9, 14:12).
The “Beast from the earth” causes all the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the image of the Beast from the sea and to take its “mark” on the right hand or the forehead (Revelation 13:15-18). In contrast, the sealed company of the Redeemed stand with the Lamb on “Zion,” having his Father’s name written on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1-5). Thus, humanity falls into two groups:  those sealed by God who follow the Lamb, and the “inhabitants of the earth” who take the Beast’s mark and render homage to it. There is no middle ground.
The Redeemed gathered on “Mount Zion” sing a “new song,” just as the four Living Creatures and the twenty-four Elders did before the throne 5 (5:9). The 144,000 is the same company described previously, only here from a different perspective (“they were redeemed from mankind” – 14:4). This group is comprised of those “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes,” the “redeemed from the earth.”
At the start of the seven bowls of wrath, the company of the Redeemed is described using imagery from the Exodus story (Revelation 15:1-4).  Those who “overcome” the Beast are “standing upon 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.”
“Overcome” is the same verb used in the messages to the seven churches, faithful saints who “overcome” (2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5,3:12, 3:21). It is the same verb found in 12:11 where the Redeemed “overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb.” Once again, the company of the Redeemed is seen, though from a different perspective. Nevertheless, it is the same group of redeemed saints.
Saints overcome the Beast, not by escaping persecution and tribulation, but by faithfully enduring whatever the Beast inflicts on them. Those destined for captivity go into captivity; those for death by sword are killed with sword.  This is the “perseverance of the saints.” Like the 144,000 on Mount Zion, those standing on the sea of glass sing “the song of the Lamb.” This links this group to the 144,000 on “Zion” that “sing a new song.”
Babylon is judged and destroyed for her egregious sins, among them, her persecution of the saints (Revelation 17:1-19:10). John sees her “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (17:6, 18:24). The saints, prophets, and “apostles” rejoice over her destruction because it means their vindication (18:20). In the interim, God’s “people” are exhorted to “come out of her that they may have no fellowship with her sins and of her plagues they may not receive” (18:4).
Babylon’s fall causes rejoicing on earth and in heaven.  It is the time for “the marriage of the Lamb, for his wife has made herself ready.” She is “arrayed in fine linen,” which represents the “righteous acts of the saints.” Christians who heed the Spirit and overcome are “arrayed in white garments” (3:5, 3:18). Likewise, believers who come out of the great tribulation are also seen “arrayed in white garments,” having washed and made them white “in the blood of the Lamb” (7:9, 7:13-14).
From start to finish, the focus of Revelation is on the church, the company of men and women from every nation redeemed by the Lamb. Her struggles, challenges, conflicts and victory are the concern of the book. A variety of terms and images are used to portray her, most derived from the Old Testament story of Israel. The book of Revelation reapplies them to the followers of Jesus.
Where Revelation shows concern about ethnicity is to stress that redeemed individuals come from every nation, people, tribe, and tongue. The Lamb truly is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” and the king over the entire created order. And, always, the present rule of the Lamb is grounded in his past death and resurrection. He has the keys of death and Hades because he was dead and is now the living one (1:17-19).
The mission of the church given to it by its risen Lord is not to escape tribulation but to persevere through it. The church is a royal body that reigns with Jesus but does so in a priestly role. The churches are lampstands intended to shine the light, the witness of Jesus, to the world. That goal cannot be accomplished if the church is removed from the earth.
Like John on Patmos, to become “fellow participants in the tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance in Jesus.”


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