Apocalyptic People of God

Church Iceland - Photo by Sigurdur Fjalar Jonsson on Unspla
In the book of Revelation, the covenant community attacked by the “Dragon” and his earthly agents is labeled “the saints,” the “seed of the woman,” they who “have the testimony of Jesus,” those who “keep the faith of Jesus,” “kingdom of priests,” and the men and women “who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” What determines membership in this company is identification with the slain “Lamb” - [
Church Iceland - Photo by Sigurdur Fjalar Jonsson on Unsplash].

The book is addressed to the “servants of God,” identified in the prologue as members of the “seven churches of Asia.” They have been “loosed from their sins” by the blood of Jesus, and thereby constituted a “kingdom of priests.” The latter phrase is from the book of Exodus where Yahweh summoned Israel to the same mission. But Ancient Israel failed in this task, which has now fallen to the churches; to those “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” - (Exodus 19:4-6).

When the nationality of the people of God is revealed, it consists of men and women redeemed by the death of Jesus from “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Victorious saints are identified by their close association with him, not by their nationality or ethnicity:
  • (Revelation 5:8-10) – “And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the four-and-twenty elders fell down before the Lamb…and they sing a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain and redeemed for God by your blood men out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them for our God a kingdom and priests, and they reign on the earth.
In the first vision, Jesus is the “Son of Man” arrayed in priestly robes who walks among the “seven golden lampstands,” the latter identified as the “seven churches of Asia.” The second and third chapters present seven letters addressed by name to these churches.

In chapter 7, John first heard the number of the sealed servants of God, “a hundred and forty and four thousand sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.” However, when he looked, he saw a vast innumerable multitude of men and women from every nation and people who had “washed their robes and they made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” What he “saw” interpreted what he first “heard” - (Revelation 7:1-17, 14:1-5).

In chapter 12, Satan is called the accuser of the “brethren,” the latter identified as those who overcame the Devil “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony; and because they loved not their life even unto death.” Unable to destroy the “woman clothed with the sun,” Satan, symbolized by the “Dragon,” vented his rage by launching a “war” against the “rest of her seed,” and her “seed” consisted of all those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:8-17).

The war against the “woman’s seed” plays out on the earth when the “beast from the sea” is granted authority to “make war against the saints and to overcome them,” a clause alluding to the book of Daniel when the “little horn” was granted authority to “make war with the saints, and to overcome them” - (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 13:7-10).

The “saints” are identified in the next chapter as “they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” wording virtually identical to the description of the “seed of the woman” persecuted by the “Dragon.” In both cases, it is the group’s identification with the “Lamb” that enrages Satan - (Revelation 12:17).

The “beast from the sea” and the “kings of the earth” unite to wage a final “war” against the “Lamb.” John saw heaven opened and the “rider on a white horse.” The “beast” and his forces were gathered against him, but they had no chance, for the rider was the “Lord of lords and King of kings.”

Revelation uses language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog” to set the stage for the last “war,” although the actual battle is not described. The text states simply that the “beast” and the “false prophet” were cast alive into the “lake of fire,” and the “rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse” - (Revelation 19:11-21).

Earth Globe - Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash
Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

The same battle is described again in chapter 20, again with language from the vision of “
Gog and Magog.” The attacking force consists of the nations from the “four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog…and they ascended over the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints,” a description of a global conflict. As before, the actual battle is not described. The text states only that “fire came down out of heaven and devoured them.” – (Revelation 20:7-10).

The target of the final assault is the “saints,” a term previously applied to followers of the “Lamb.” The final defeat of Satan is followed by the final judgment, where “anyone not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

After the final judgment, John saw “New Jerusalem” descending to the earth and inhabited by the “nations and the kings of the earth.” At its center is the “throne of God and of the Lamb” from which flows a river lined with the “tree of life bearing twelve kinds of fruit for the healing of the nations” - (Revelation 21:24-26).

The New Creation will be inhabited by men and women from every nation. What determines whether one dwells in “New Jerusalem” is identification with, and redemption by, the “Lamb.” All those whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” became citizens of the city. All whose names are “not found in the book of life” are excluded. Instead, they find themselves in the “lake of fire.”

Consistently, in the book of Revelation, the victorious members of the kingdom of God are identified as followers of the “Lamb,” those redeemed by him from “every nation, tribe, people,” and linguistic group. Ethnicity and nationality have no bearing on membership in the one covenant people of God, or on whether one’s destiny is “New Jerusalem” or the “Lake of Fire.”


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