The Lamb of God ( 4)
The Blood of the Lamb
Another phrase connected to the Lamb, in Revelation, is 'the blood of the Lamb'; the actual phrase only occurs twice, but there are other references to the blood of Jesus in Revelation, and we shall in this fourth study look at them. In the previous study we considered the famous passage in Hebrews that linked up with the Lamb on Mount Sion; there is also mention of the blood of Christ in Heb. 12, and so as a link back to the Revelation there is one more aspect of Mount Sion we shall consider: namely the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
We need to ask ourselves: why is the blood of Jesus speaking better things than that of Abel? Let us consider the incident of Cain and Abel more closely. Cain's offering was found to be unacceptable to God, whereas Abel's was received but why? Looking at Abel's offering we see that it also included the firstlings of the flock and fat; now we note from the Levitical law that God required blood as an atonement for the soul ( Lev.17:10-16), we are told in Hebrews that blood was the only way to God ( Heb.9:18-22) and without blood there is no remission of sin at all. So Abel's sacrifice was acceptable because he came by the way of blood, whereas Cain did not.
Because of this, and his refusal to accept God's way, Cain was filled with hatred for his brother, and consequently killed Abel. Then we have this statement from God: the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. That is when the blood was poured out onto the ground the life, in this case Abel's, that was in the blood spoke to God. But what did it speak?
Many think that Abel's blood was crying for revenge, but this explanation is not satisfactory. God did not slay Cain: God requires all those who murder to be put to death (Gen. 9:4-6). In point of fact Cain knew that he should have been put to death, as the passage indicates, but God put a mark on him to forbid that possibility. Secondly, from John's first epistle, we are told that we should love and not be like be like Cain since he was a murderer, and that Abel was unlike his brother, for his deeds were righteous, I Jn.3:11-15 This seems to imply that Abel did not have a murdering heart seeking vengeance.
It would, therefore, appear that Abel's blood spoke, not of revenge, but of pleading remission for his brother against the due sentence. True, Cain had the ground specially cursed and he became a fugitive in the earth, but he wasn't put to death to pay for his crime against Abel, and God forbad others from slaying him.
How then does the blood of Jesus speak better things than that of Abel? Firstly we need to understand that the blood of Jesus is better than that of Abel because the Lord is not just a man, but the sinless God-man, His blood speaks of the life of God Himself shed. So when Jesus was slain at Calvary, the Father heard His own Son's life being poured out. So then firstly: His blood speaks of a better life.
Secondly the blood of Jesus speaks better things than that of Abel because it pleads remission, not for one man, as Abel's did, but for the whole human race. Abel was a fallen man, a righteous one and full of faith yes, but he wasn't God! Only one person in the flesh could have died for the whole world, and His name is Jesus! So Jesus' blood speaks of a better range of remission.
Thirdly, Abel's plea could not give Cain a new life, it could only ask for remission of the death sentence; Cain still had to face a specially cursed earth and a life of wandering. Whereas all those who receive Jesus' forgiveness, and have His blood applied to their hearts, have had the eternal death sentence removed from them, a new life and a better direction is given to them. They do no live under a curse any more, and they do not wander about as fugitives, strangers on the earth yes - but that's something different. So Jesus' blood speaks of better benefits for people
Thus we see that the blood of Jesus does speak better things than that of Abel, but now we return to the book of Revelation.
In the first study we considered something of the redemption in Christ. We noted that redemption was to do with ownership: Israel was a slave in Egypt under the power of Pharaoh and they were redeemed. The Passover was God's way and brought a separation between the Egyptians and His own people. They were bought back from slavery. We considered that when the Levites were set aside for the priestly functions the first born of Israel were redeemed by redemption money (silver). Likewise in the NC we have a redemption, a separation, a buying back: however in the NC we are not purchased with any carnal elements, but with the precious blood of Jesus. Since we considered this in some detail earlier in this series we shall not pursue this point again, but rather look at one aspect this passage opens up to us, namely the scope of redemption.
The verses before us mention that Christ has redeemed people from every kindred, tongue, people and nation. Now these words are not put in the text for effect, it is not rhetoric, but rather they open to us a wonderful aspect of truth. Namely that God's redemption reaches all levels of human society. Youngs Literal translation renders 'kindred' as tribe. A tribe is basically a family who have common ancestry. Such as the tribes of Israel. The twelve tribes could all trace their forebears back to the twelve patriarchs, and then to Abraham. It could be argued that the tribe is the smallest of divisions of human society. Thus we see that the gospel reaches even to the smallest unit of of civilisation
Every tongue, or every language. If kindred is the smallest part of society where there is commonality, then every tongue has to be the opposite. At Babel God confused the languages of the earth in order to disperse man to the uttermost part of the world. Maximum diversity was made and men and women separated. But the gospel reaches out to all language groups. God did not allow man to unite unto themselves at Babel, instead He scattered them, but now in the gospel age He is drawing men and women together from all the different language groups unto Himself.
Every people, these being of the same race and language. Whereas every nation signifies all those who come under a single sovereignty, a group of people identified by a common trait. Usually this word in scripture is used for the Gentile nations.
So we see that this four fold description starts with the narrowest part of any society and ends up with the widest. Or if we put it in terms of the great commission.
We can see a 1-1 correspondence here: every kindred (Jerusalem), every tongue (Judea), every people (Samaria) and every nation (the uttermost parts of the earth). The commission shows us the Lord's plan in the evangelism of the world; every part of the globe is to be reached. Revelation shows us that this gospel will touch every level of human society. Of course this doesn't mean that everybody will be saved, but there will be people from all levels of humanity that will be in the redeemed company.
One obvious conclusion is that no group or company of people can claim God's redemption exclusively for itself. This was one of the mistakes of the Jews. Yet how many groups of those who profess Christ do the same? The gospel is exclusive only in the sense that it is the ONLY way of salvation, but it also inclusive in that everybody is invited into this salvation of God.
We now touch on a scripture that has been interpreted in many different ways by those holding various eschatological view points. It is not the intention of this study to enter into any of those debates. We shall simply take from the passage the message that is relevant to our theme.
From the context of the passage we note that those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb are those who are clothed in white robes, and they are the ones who are part of the great multitude that no one could number from all nations, kindreds, peoples and tongues. This is, of course, the fourfold description from Ch.5 that we looked at in the previous section. So we are dealing here with the redeemed company from the earth, those who belong to Christ. The description is that they came out of great tribulation and have washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb.
Much has been made of the phrase '[=the] great tribulation', but what we must remember is that Jesus promised tribulation to all of the Saints.
Because we are not of this world, we can only expect to be treated as Jesus was treated. And as we trace the history of the Saints throughout the ages we can see that His church has suffered much tribulation. We can not list all the groups throughout history, nor even the millions today, that have suffered or continue to suffer for the gospel's sake. God knows each one. The point is that all who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution Acts. 14:22; II Tim.3:12. Tribulation [=affliction], in one way or another, is part and parcel of living for Christ. The passage shows then, that those who are arrayed in white robes are the redeemed from all the nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples of the earth having come out of tribulation.
The word for atonement in the OT means 'to cover' and the animal blood of the OT sacrifices was to cover sin, it never took sin away, for it could not. The NT is emphatically clear that the many animals sacrificed under the old economy were only shadows of what was to be fulfilled in Christ, all the blood shed under the Old Covenant could not remove one single stain of sin.
On the day of Atonement (covering) the blood of the goat was taken and sprinkled on the mercy seat. There it was a covering for the sins of the nation. Then the following year the same ritual was played out, and the year after and so on until Christ came. The blood covered the sin, and spoke to God that the sacrifice had been made. Yes they were forgiven, but their sins had not been taken away, thy had only been covered, or simply put - atoned for.
How different it all is in Christ! Nowhere in the NT are Christians' sins referred to as being covered by the blood of Christ. Love covers a multitude of sins as we see in I Pet. 4:8 (quoting Prov.10:12), but only the blood of Jesus actually cleanses, that is, removes our sins. The picture in Revelation is that of His people being made white by His precious blood, Christ's blood removing every stain of sin. The Lamb's blood does a thorough job in all of His people! It does not matter how wicked and unclean a person has been, Jesus' blood can make the foulest clean, (I Cor.6:9-11). The question dear reader is: has the blood of Jesus be applied to you? Do you know anything of the cleansing blood of the Lamb?
These two passages are very illuminating. Heb.9:14 tells us that our conscious is purged by the blood of Jesus. When God forgives He remembers no more Heb.8:12, but what about the human side? Here we are plainly told that is not just the sins that are cleansed, but our very conscience is also purged. We no longer have to live being haunted with memories of the past sins in our minds, for Christ's blood cleanses us. His blood cleanses us thoroughly and purges us from it all.
Many people say that they can never forgive themselves; but if God has forgiven us, and we are purged by His blood then why can we not forgive ourselves? Are we greater than God and Christ's blood? Many people go for 'inner healing' of past memories. Why? Christ's blood does all that! If only God's people would live in the fullness of His provision, then there'd be be no need for any of the strange teachings and goings on that are so prevalent in some circles. Such practices are open declarations that they do not believe in the effectual cleansing of Christ's blood, preferring instead methods which are, at best, but poor substitutes, attempting to do something that only the blood of the Lamb can do.
The process is two way: Christ's blood speaks to God for our forgiveness, and is applied to our hearts for cleansing. There is no reason for us to hold on to any memory of sin; it's gone from our hearts and from God's memory!
The passage of I Jn.1:7 tells us even more. Firstly, He cleanses us for all [=EVERY] sin. It is not just the sins we are conscious of, but also of the unconscious ones. All the deep regions of our lives are thoroughly and throughly purged and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Not a stain remains in a person who has had the blood applied. No wonder the saints are depicted as having been arrayed in white garments. It is a picture of the inward state, this is in complete contrast to the Lord's depiction of the Pharisees. Mtt.23:27-28
Secondly, the cleansing is a continual process for the believer! In the Greek the word for 'cleanseth us' is in, what is known as, the present continuous tense, that is it is an action that continues in the present. The blood of Jesus doesn't just cleanse us once when we came to repentance and true faith in Him, but it is an on going act. He KEEPS us clean!
However, there is a condition that is put into this verse! Namely that it is as we walk in the light as He is that the blood cleanses. As long as we walk in the light, keeping in fellowship with Jesus our head, then just as parts of the human body have the blood flowing through them as they remain attached to the body, then the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us. Once we stop walking in the light then the promise no longer applies. But if we do sin and break fellowship with our head John also has the answer. On confession/acknowledgement of our sin we once more have cleansing, and are restored to fellowship to our head.
Another aspect of the cleansing blood is found in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation:
Here we are told that we are washed in His blood and have become a kingdom of priests. This language is identical to that what God said to Israel after the Exodus.
After their redemption from Egypt, and their baptism into Moses ( I Cor.10:1-2) Israel came to Sinai and there God gave to the nation His laws and established what we now call the Old Covenant. And there at Sinai God said that the nation was to be a kingdom of priests to God. No longer enslaved to another nation they were free to serve and worship the living God. That they did not become a kingdom of priests is self evident, for later God chose one tribe, and more specifically one family, to fulfil the role of priesthood in the nation Ex.28:1-3.
In the New Covenant we have the fact that all the children of God are priests unto God. We have been washed, or loosed as some translations have it, from our sin. On salvation we are freed from our sin, from the old slave master to whom we once belonged, so that now we can serve our God. As we reread Rev.7:15 we note: Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His Temple. So here is a picture in Revelation of the Saints arrayed in white garments serving God in the Temple. The Temple being the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, for we are built into a holy temple. But the question is: as a kingdom of priests what do we offer up? After all there are no more sacrifices for sin to be made.
Peter tells us what we are to offer as a holy priesthood: spiritual sacrifices. He takes the promise made to Israel at Sinai and applies it to the Church, to those who have been born again (I Pet.1:23). So what are these spiritual sacrifices? A full analysis would be outside the scope of these studies so we will just list what the NT scripture have on the subject, and leave it to the reader to consider it more for him or her self.
The above gives us an indication of the sacrifices we offer as a kingdom of priests in God's temple. The point to make in connection with our study, however, is that being washed in the Lamb's blood we have been loosed from our sins so that we can serve Him.
Like other parts of the Revelation there are many different interpretations of this chapter. It is not the intention of this study to try and fit the details of this section into any prophetic scheme, but rather to glean from it that which is relevant to our theme. However we do need to identify the characters in this twelfth chapter.
The first character to identify is no problem, since the passage itself reveals who he is and what he does. Here we are told that he is also known as the old serpent, the Devil and Satan. We see that this great enemy of souls, drew a third part of the stars of heaven, and after warring in heaven he was cast to the earth with his angels. There he deceives the world and accuses the brethren before God, day and night.
Whether or not his casting out from heaven to refers to the original fall of Lucifer (Is. 14:12-15; Ezk.28:13-19; Lk.10:18), who became the devil, or to the Cross where Satan and his hosts were totally once and for all vanquished (Jn.12:31) we are not informed. But for our purposes this need not concern us now.
The man childThe man child is seen as under attack from the dragon and was caught up unto God and to His throne and was to rule with a rod of iron. The phrase 'rod of iron' appears three times in Revelation (the first one in Revelation being a promise by Jesus to the overcomers in Thyatira as the Father has given to Him), and once in the Psalms. Couple all this with the early church's quotation of Ps. 2 and we are left in no doubt that this man child is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
The second interesting thing is that the clause 'rule with a rod of iron' in all cases literally means 'rule as a shepherd with a rod of iron'; this thought we will take up in our study on 'The shepherd Lamb'.
The brethrenWe have the brethren mentioned and the remnant of the woman's seed (Rev. 12:17) So who are they? At the end of verse 17 we note this explanation: the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. So who are they? The opening verses of the book itself tells us.
A careful consideration leads us to conclude that the brethren and the remnant of the woman's seed are those who are John's brothers in Christ; in other words all those born again! That is every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Identification of the woman is controversial, there are many differing ideas. Because it has no
direct bearing on what we are to consider we shall only leave the
reader with a few scriptures for meditation. Heb.2:11-18
note the use of the word brethren;
Gal.4:26-31; Ps. 87.
And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist [= oppose] him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by. And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
|Ye are of God, little
children, and have overcome
them: because greater is he that
is in you, than he that is in
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.