A BOOK WORTH READING

THE REDEEMED

Who are they ... these people who have the seal of God upon them? These people who have unimpeded present and permanent access into the presence of God? These people who are so totally secure both now and for eternity? These people who are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy?

Where have they come from? Are they the same as the ‘people of God’ who are the focus of the Old Testament? Or are we learning here of a different reality, a greater reality?

The Old Testament spoke of the trans-national impact of the coming Messiah:

‘And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it’ [Isaiah 40:5].

‘I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth’ [Isaiah 49:6b].

‘He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth’ [Zechariah 9:10].

Jesus Christ commanded the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel:

‘... go and make disciples of all nations ...’ [Matthew 28:19].

And taught that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations before the end would come:

‘... this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come’ [Matthew 24:14].

Here in Revelation we are informed of the trans-national nature of the people of God:

In the song of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders:

‘.. with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation’ [5:9].

In the task of the angel:

‘... he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people’ [14:6].

In the great multitude standing before the throne:

‘... there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb’ [7:9].

But this trans-national multitude is not what John expected to see. He had just heard the angel with the seal of God define those who were ‘sealed’ as ‘144,000 from all the tribes of Israel’. But when he looked that is not what he saw. He did not see 144,000, but an uncountable multitude. He did not see Jews, but people from every nation, tribe, people and language.

This is not the first time that what John heard and what John then saw are, or seem on the surface to be, two different things.  In 5:5 he heard reference to ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah’, but when he looked he saw a Lamb, with the marks of violent death upon it. Nor is it the last time that what John heard is not the same as what he saw: in Revelation 21:9 he heard an angel say ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’, but when he looked he saw ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ [verse 10].

Here is the deep reality of God’s eternal purpose, planned before the creation of the world, promised through Abraham and the prophets, and brought into reality by the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

‘... the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus’ [Ephesians 3:4-6].

‘... the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory’ [Colossians 1:26,27].

The Church is not, as some teach, a hastily thought up ‘Plan B’ necessitated by Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Rather, the Church, this trans-national multitude, was always God’s purpose, his eternal purpose. Israel, like all of its rituals, is a prophetic symbol of this greater reality – those from every nation, tribe, language and people, including Israel, who have ‘washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015