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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Images of the Savior (26 – His Feeding the Five Thousand) | Main | Red Flowers for Him »

    Exposition of Revelation 5:9 - Particular Redemption

    "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

    The scope of Christ's work of redemption is both universal and particular: universal because it includes people of every ethnicity and nation; particular because Christ redeems a people for Himself from out of these nations, having had an eye for a remnant of mankind from every tribe. Here is the climax of God's redemptive purpose, fulfilling God's covenant to Abraham to bless the children of promise through his seed (Gen 12:2; Rom 9:6-13). This is why God has commanded the church to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:18, 19) that He might gather those he has set apart for Himself in every city and town (Acts 18:10; John 17:9, 20)

    The great, ultimate, and final exodus is here (Rev 5) being declared in song. There are three (3) reasons which define the lamb's worthiness to open the scroll

    1) you were slain,

    2) with your blood your purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (That is the meaning of the event). and

    3) v10. You have made them to be a kingdom of priests and to reign on the earth. (That is the consequence of the event).

    What is actually in view here? It is the final exodus and the ultimate, eternal establishment of a covenantal relationship between God and His people. It is what we see at the end of the Revelation. "Now I will be their God and they will be my people..." This event also uses language similar to the Exodus of the Jews. It not only points forward to the final consummation but also points back to that Passover event. This passage actually lifts language from the Book of Exodus, interpreting its ultimate meaning. What actually took place on the evening of the first Passover? A lamb was slain and painted on the doorposts of every Jewish home. That was the event. But what was the meaning of that event?. The Text is clear. The purchase of the firstborn for God. The firstborn in Israel were just as guilty as any Egyptian. The Jews were not saved because they were more righteous than anyone else. They were saved because God made them a provision of atonement. They too were liable to the death blow of the angel, but were purchased by the blood of an unblemished sacrifice that pointed to the ultimate sacrifice. To what end, and with what final consequence in mind? In their language: "That out of all the nations of the world they would become the personal possession of God, purchased out of Egypt to be made a kingdom and priests" (Ex 19).

    If we let the Bible interpret itself, in Revelation 5, God's promise to Israel is brought to its consummate realization. What was prefigured in the events of the Exodus is now realized in the redemption that has been secured by Jesus Christ. Firstly, the event itself: His blood was shed as a sacrificial lamb. Secondly, the meaning of the event: with his blood he purchased for God people out of all the nations of the earth. Thirdly, the consequence of that event: That these same people would be a kingdom and priests. This is Revelation interpreting Exodus. These persons share with the lamb the royal right to rule and the priestly right to draw near to God in intimacy. We do not replace Israel but we are Israel fulfilled in Christ because Jesus is the remnant of one (not replacement, expansion). This is how the book begins, "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests." This is the language of the NT interpreting the Old Testament. Philippians says we are the true circumcision; Galatians says we are the children of Abraham. We are the holy nation, we are the priesthood, we are the chosen people; we are the nation belonging to God. It is the ultimate and final exodus. It was dimly prefigured by Israel in the wilderness.

    In the Old Testament the Lord says, "If you will indeed obey my covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the people and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exod 19:5-6). But no one in all creation was able to perfectly obey this covenant, as it is emphasized in this passage showing that no one was worthy to open the scroll mentioned in Revelation 5:2-4 with the exception of one man: "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." So it is in Jesus Christ alone that we participate in the fulfillment of this covenant and are to be made a kingdom of priests. But who are those who are in Jesus Christ?

    Structurally Revelation 5:9 fits into the central place so arguably it is the most important. 3 things to notice:

    1) A Bloody Sacrifice. the blood of Jesus. It is a metonym for his life violently and sacrificially ended. You were slain. This is the instrument by which we were purchased. A life outpoured.

    2) An Effectual Sacrifice. That is to say, by the means of this sacrifice something specific transpired. Something was actually accomplished. What was that? That a group of people was purchased for God. Who? Human beings from every tribe, people, language, nations. These are synonyms. Why four in the place of one. It is a literary device in apocalyptic literature. The use of fours often imagined picking up all the nations by its corners so that nothing is missed. In the greater exodus not only ethnic Israel purchased by the sacrificial lamb. All the nations without exception are in view. Yet at the same time precision would demand that we recognize the specificity in view here. What was purchased? Look carefully. What was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ? Not every tribe, and people and nation, but people OUT OF every tribe and language and people and nation. Not all nations but people from all nations. In other words, not all without exception, rather all without distinction. It is a universal sacrifice in that there was not one nation exempted from this purchase. It was a particular sacrifice in the sense in that what is in view is not all nations collectively but all nations representatively. This is the passage that send William Carey to India. " I know there are people ordained to eternal life there" because he purchased people out of every tribe and nations. In his sacrifice the text is clear. He got what He paid for. Nothing here about who He purchased potentially. Rather human beings purchased in effect for God out of every tribe, nation.

    3) A Purposeful Sacrifice. Purchased men for God. We often think of salvation in terms of ourselves, but to the contrary the blood of Jesus Christ for God, for Him, to serve His purpose. And what is that? v 10 - "and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." This is why he is worthy, a bloody effectual and purposeful sacrifice.

    Many concepts from Arturo Azurdia and Dennis E. Johnson

    We have developed a T-Shirt after the theme of this passage, with Revelation 5:9 on the back.

    Check it out here

    Posted by John on June 5, 2007 02:16 PM

    Comments

    I like it

    SW

    Are you going to offer a white t-shirt as well? Just wondering...thanks it looks great!

    Excellent comments on this passage, thank you for your insights. I noticed that Monergism is advertising Dr. Curt Daniels work on the theology of Calvin. I have it in both book and mp3, a wonderful resource. In it Dr. Daniels records a position on the atonement expressed as "General Redemption." Are you familiar with this position? I recently heard Bruce Ware express the same position in an interview with Mark Dever and John Piper, which essentially states that Christ paid for the sins of all men. He "accomplished" salvation for all in dying for all, but salvation is only "applied" to the elect. I'm interested in your thoughts on this view.

    Nice shirt!!!

    James

    Hi, thanks for your comment. Yes we may get it in white but we would have to wait until we sell out of the black. We have to buy in bulk.

    CGB

    Thanks for the kind words about the shirt. We are glad people like it. As for the general atonement view, I obviouly do not agree with it. Reason is that it is self-contradictory, inconsistent and, imho, an impossible suppostion. Here's why:

    We cannot bifurcate the Trinity and say God the Father has one intent and Christ another. ie. The father elects a particular people and Christ redeems all. Ask Bruce Ware or others who hold to this view, did Christ intend to save the non-elect? Because particular redemption has to do specifically with intent.

    Four-point Calvinism also fails the test of Christ-centeredness because this view tends to see the TULIP as an abstraction. But the TULIP only works when we see Christ at its center. Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the "L" at the top of the pyramid. It is Jesus Christ which makes sense of all the doctrines of grace. Four-point Calvinists who reject Limited Atonement but embrace irresistible grace must consider this: Irresistible grace is not some abstract doctrine but must be seen in relation to Jesus Christ and his crosswork, specially in relation to the grace purchased by Christ upon the cross. The Spirit of Christ illuminates, regenerates and effectually brings to faith his elect. And this enabling, effectual grace is, from first to last, Christ-wrought. It does not come out of a void, nor from some hidden source of grace in God the Father. Therefore Christ must have died for the elect so as to purchase that grace in a way – a redemptive way – that he did not die for the non-elect. That is why we often call it particular redemption. Irresistible grace is one of the redemptive benefits purchased by Jesus Christ ... and it was never granted to the non-elect nor intended for them. I believe that until Jesus Christ is seen as central to the TULIP then four-pointers will continue to reject what is plain.

    The non-elect perhaps have some benefit from Christ's atonement but it is not a redemptive benefit. If Ware says he believes in irresistible grace then, I would argue, he already believes in Limited atonement without knowing it because that effectual grace granted only to the elect, by his own admission was a grace from Christ that Christ never intended to grant the non-elect and it is intimately associated with His crosswork. You cannot have effectual grace w/o Christ's work on the cross. You obviously cannot say that effectual grace is Christ-less, right? That is to say Effectual Grace (The "i" in TULIP) is really the same thing as "L", just seen from a different perspective)

    The promise of the gospel is to all who would believe.

    JWH

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