SYNOPSIS – In Revelation, the “saints” are identified and defined by their relationship to Jesus, not ethnicity or membership in the nation of Israel.
The book of Revelation applies numerous labels to the people of God, including “churches,” “saints,” “elect,” “churches,” “priests,” “witnesses,” “seed of the woman,” “called,” “faithful,” and “my people.” This group consists of men and women “purchased” by the “blood of the Lamb” from every national and ethnic group – Ethnicity, nationality, and social status have no bearing on membership in the covenant community.
In its entirety, Revelation is addressed to the “seven churches of Asia.” The assemblies are identified as the “servants” of God – Those who have been “loosed from sin” by the blood of Jesus. They are a “kingdom – priests for God.” They are called “brethren” and “fellow participants” in Jesus – (Revelation 1:1-9).
In his first vision, John saw the Risen Christ walking among “seven golden lampstands,” which represented the seven churches of Asia. The vision continued in chapters 2 and 3 with seven messages from Jesus for those seven congregations. Each letter included promises to the “one who overcomes,” and each concluded with an exhortation to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” – Plural.
In chapters 4 and 5, John saw a Throne where God was reigning over the Cosmos. In his right hand he held a scroll “sealed shut with seven seals.” The only person who was found “worthy” to open the scroll was the “Lamb standing as if slain.” Next, the entire creation declared him “worthy” to break its seals because “by your blood you purchased men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation,” and his redemptive act made them into a “kingdom of priests” that reigns with him – (Revelation 1:4-6, 5:6-10).
When the fifth seal was opened, John saw the “souls of them that have been slain for the word of God and the testimony they held” underneath the altar. “Testimony” is a key world applied previously to Jesus for his obedient death. Elsewhere, it is applied to the “saints” who have the “testimony of Jesus” To the “martyrs” – (Revelation 1:2-5, 9, 2:13, 3:14, 6:9-11, 11:3-7, 12:11, 17:6, 19:10, 20:4).
In chapter 7, John saw “a great innumerable multitude from every nation, tribe, people and tongue” coming out of the “great tribulation” to stand before the Lamb in the New Jerusalem. The multitude was composed of men and women who had “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb” – (Revelation 7:9-14).
Between the sixth and seventh trumpets, John saw a “beast rising from the Abyss” to wage war against the “two witnesses,” identified as “two olive trees and two lampstands.” In his first vision, the seven “lampstands” were identified as “churches”; thus, the “two witnesses” represent churches – (Revelation 1:18-20, 11:4-7).
After the “Dragon” was expelled from the Heavenly Court, a voice proclaimed:
“Now is come the salvation, the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and because they loved not their life even unto death.”- (Revelation 12:9-11).
The “brethren” have been made so by the “blood of the Lamb” – Their and identity is based on their redemption by him, not on their ethnicity or nation of origin – (Revelation 12:9-11).
The “Dragon” failed to destroy the Woman and so began to execute his war against the “rest of her seed,” a group identified as all those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.”
As in the vision of the “two witnesses,” language from Daniel’s vision of a “little horn” that made “war” against the “saints” is employed – Note the several parallels between Daniel and the visions of John:
- (Daniel 7:20-22) – “Also concerning the ten horns, which were in his head, and the other which came up, and there fell from among them that were before it three, and this horn which had eyes and A MOUTH SPEAKING GREAT THINGS, and his look was more proud than his fellows: I continued looking, when THIS HORN MADE WAR WITH THE HOLY ONES—AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM.”
- (Revelation 11:7) – “And as soon as they have completed their witnessing, the Beast that is to ascend from the Abyss WILL MAKE WAR WITH THEM, AND OVERCOME THEM, and slay them.”
- (Revelation 12:17) – “And the dragon was angered against the woman and went away TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REST OF HER SEED, with them who were keeping the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.”
- (Revelation 13:5-7) – “And there was given unto him A MOUTH SPEAKING GREAT THINGS AND BLASPHEMIES; and it was given unto him to act forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle – them who in heaven were tabernacling. And IT WAS GIVEN UNTO HIM, TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS, AND TO OVERCOME THEM.”
- (Revelation 17:13-14) – “These have one mind, and their power and authority they give to the Beast. These WITH THE LAMB WILL MAKE WAR; AND THE LAMB WILL OVERCOME THEM, because he is Lord of lords, and King of kings—and they who are with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
Faithfulness determines right-standing before the “Lamb,” not ethnicity or nationality. The “Dragon” prosecutes his war through his earthly agents – The “Beast,” the “False Prophet,” “Babylon,” and the “kings of the earth.” The victims of this “war” are called “saints,” “witnesses,” “lampstands,” the “two olive trees,” those who have the “testimony of Jesus,” and “they who are with the Lamb – called and chosen and faithful.” In short, identity with the “Lamb” makes one a target of the “Dragon.”
The group identified as the “saints” is comprised of men and women “whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The “saints” are those “who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” They endure persecution for the “Lamb” and, therefore, are pronounced “blessed” – (Revelation 14:12-13).
The “inhabitants of the earth” take the mark of the “Beast,” but the followers of the “Lamb” receive his name on their foreheads, just as Jesus promised to all who “overcome.” The 144,000 males “sing a new song” because the “Lamb purchased” them from the earth, just like the “innumerable multitude” of men and women redeemed from every nation – (Revelation 5:8-11, 7:9-14, 14:1-5).
Before the unleashing of the “seven last plagues,” John saw the victorious saints who “overcame from the Beast, from his image and from the number of his name.” The same verb for “overcome” was used as in the letters to the churches. Each overcoming saint “sang the song of Moses and the Lamb,” just as the 144,000 redeemed males “sang a new song” before the “Lamb.” The parallels are deliberate – It is the same group in either passage – (Revelation 15:1-4).
In the seventeenth chapter, John saw Babylon, the “Mother of the Harlots drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” “Witnesses” translates the Greek noun martus – (Strong’s – #G3144), the same word applied to the “faithful martyr” – Antipas, to Jesus – the “faithful witness,” and to the “two witnesses” slain by the Beast. It is related to marturia or “testimony,” the term applied to the “souls under the altar” slain for their “testimony,” to the “brethren” who overcame by the “word of their testimony,” and to the “seed of the Woman” – Those who have the “testimony of Jesus” – (Revelation 12:11-17, 17:1-6).
The “rider on a white horse” who defeated the “Beast” and its allies led an army that consisted of the “called, elect, and the faithful.” The terms “called” and “elect” do not occur elsewhere in Revelation, however, “faithful” is applied to the “saints” who bear faithful witness. In doing so, they emulate the “Lamb”:
- (Revelation 1:5) – “And from Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the Dead, and the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth.”
- (Revelation 2:10-13) – “Do not fear the things which you are going to suffer. Lo! the Devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried and may have tribulation ten days. Become thou faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the assemblies. He that overcomes will certainly not be injured by the second death. And to the angel of the assembly in Pergamum, write: These things says he that has the sharp two-edged sword: I know where you dwell, where the throne of Satan is; and you are holding fast my name, and did not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas, my witness, my faithful one, who was killed near you where Satan, dwells.”
- (Revelation 3:14) – “And to the angel of the assembly in Laodicea, write: These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”
When the fall of Babylon is proclaimed, the “people” of God are exhorted to come out of her – “lest you partake of her judgment.” “Saints,” “apostles,” and “prophets” rejoice over her demise, for “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints.” Consistently in the book, the term “saints” refers to the faithful – Those who “follow Lamb wherever he goes” – (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6).
Later, John saw the “bride of the Lamb…arrayed in fine linen, bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Likewise, Jesus promised that his faithful followers who “overcame” would be “arrayed in white garments” – (Revelation 3:5, 3:18, 7:9-13, 19:6-9).
At the start of the “thousand years,” Satan was cast “into the Abyss” and judgment was given for “them who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus…such as gave not homage to the Beast.” The “second death” has no authority over them, just as promised to the congregation in Smyrna – Overcoming “saints” become “priests of God and of Christ, and reign with him a thousand years.” The same promises were made to the multitude of men and women from every nation purchased by the death of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 1:5-6, 2:11, 5:6-10, 20:1-4).
In the New Jerusalem, no unclean person or thing will be present – “Only they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Ethnicity and nationality play no part in determining who dwells in the New Creation – (Revelation 21:3-9).
From start to finish, in Revelation, the people of God are identified by their relationship to Jesus. Regardless of ethnicity or nationality, everyone who “follows the Lamb wherever he goes” will one day stand triumphantly before the Throne.