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.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
The Book of Revelation presents images that are jarring, paradoxical, and, occasionally, subversive.  They challenge human wisdom and institutional explanations of how God works. His plans to consummate His sovereignty over the earth, overthrow His enemies, and judge the nations are not according to the expectations and desires of the carnal mind. Just as his contemporaries did not understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was, so interpreters often fail to comprehend the Lamb presented in Revelation.

The significance of the visions of this 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 are provided; however, they are all too easily overlooked.

For example, in the image of Jesus riding a white horse across the heavens, some commentators 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 is coming to the earth to tread the “wine-press” God’s wrath until the blood flows like raging torrents; 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 9:13Revelation 19:11-16).

The blood that is “sprinkled on his robe” of the Rider is seen BEFORE he engages the forces of the Beast (verses 17-21). Whose blood is it? How did it get there?  The only weapon described is the great “sword,” but it proceeds out of his mouth and is not wielded by his hand. Rather than a blade hanging from his belt, on his thigh is written, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” He is the Word of God sent to judge and make war in righteousness.  His troops are “clothed with fine linen, white, pure,” and 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 battle begins, there is no mention of the “nations,” only of the Beast, the False Prophet, and the “kings of the earth and their armies.” 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 are cast into the Lake of Fire, while “the rest were slain with the sword of him that was sitting upon the horse, which went forth out of his mouth.”
This “battle” appears to be the end of the nations and the kings of the earth; however, both groups reappear in New Jerusalem where the nations walk in the Lamb’s light and the “kings of the earth bring their glory into it.” Rather than blood, a life-giving river flows from the divine throne bordered by the tree of life; “Its leaves were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 21:24-2622:1-4).
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. Saints already reign with him but do so as “priests.” They “overcome” and reign in the same manner that Jesus 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 kings and nations under his sovereignty? He is the Messiah who overcame to “shepherd the nations.” What kind of shepherd allows a beast to slaughter the sheep? (Revelation 12:5, 19:15).
In the book of 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 the one who has purchased “men from every nation, people, tribe and tongue”; he is their designated king and they belong to him (Revelation 5:6-107:9-1713:7-10).

At times, the “nations” are victims of the Dragon and his agents. “Babylon” is condemned because “she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” She “by her sorceries deceived all nations.” Ultimately, it is Satan who “deceives all the nations.” How can the Lamb “overcome” to “shepherd the nations” of the earth if he allows the Dragon 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 was predicted earlier 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 Creation 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 whose “names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life”; unrepentant sinners find themselves in the “Lake of Fire.” The Lamb has four “cosmic” enemies that oppose him at every turn - the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and Babylon. Human beings that ally with the Dragon find themselves in the “Lake of Fire.”

The term applied most frequently to men and women who oppose the Lamb is the “inhabitants of the earth.” This group will face the “hour of trial, which is going to come…to try the inhabitants of the earth.” The martyrs under the altar summon God to avenge their blood on the “inhabitants of the earth.” The seven trumpets inflict plagues upon the “inhabitants of the earth.” This group that rejoices over the deaths of the two witnesses (Revelation 3:106:9-118:7-13).

The “inhabitants of the earth” 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 men and women that are consciously opposed to 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 New Jerusalem, though the “kings of the earth” and the “nations” are there.

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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