“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne.”
I’m going to get in a ton trouble for this! Not beheaded like John the Baptist, or chased out of town like Elijah. Nor will I be burned at the stake, or even excommunicated–it’s more of a metephoric trouble. I’m using hyperbole. As I look out the window it’s snowing hard–flakes falling in a frenzied fury. No, snow is not hard. No matter how fast it falls. It is not solid or rigid, it is soft and supple. Nor is it angry or agitated, it’s an inanimate object. Once again I am using figures of speech, such as; hyperbole, metaphor and alliteration. I could have used a simile, like, the snow is falling like a thousand crystals, as a multitude of many stars, falling from heaven. It’s not to be taken literally but to help paint a picture in your mind’s eye of how the snow is falling. I could simply say, it’s snowing, but that doesn’t convey much imagery or emotion.
The book of Revelation is a literary masterpiece. It severely salivates our senses, almost to overstimulation. But in so doing, it can also leave us bewildered and befuddled. Because of the imagery imparted, like a heavy rain falling upon a scorched desert, we can be too easily flooded with information so that we cannot absorb it all. It takes time and a tutor. God is good and has given us said tutor–the Old Testament. The time is up to us.
How are we to read Revelation? Well, as we have discussed, just reading it at all is a good start and has a built-in blessing. We have also discussed the genre of Revelation, which is revelation or, apocalypse. I am not saying that we cannot take anything in Revelation literally, in fact, we must take much of Revelation literally. The question becomes which parts?
Let’s begin by picking up where we left off last time: “To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” Does he love us, has he released us from our sins by his blood? Has he made us a literal kingdom–literal priests?
One can do an internet search with the words, “are we a literal kingdom” and depending on one’s internet service provider and one’s search history, one my find two apologetic websites that completely disagree whether “kingdom” is literal or figurative. Before we dig ourselves deeper into depths of disagreement, let me ask another question, because that’s what I do. Why does it matter if we’re a literal kingdom or a figurative one? After all– “In essentials unity; non-essentials liberty; but in all things charity.” Two answers; one of which is another question, albeit a rhetorical one. Shouldn’t we want to know what God intended? Secondly, the truth either sets us free or condemns us. We should seek the truth. Pontius Pilate asked rhetorically, “What is truth.” Do you remember what Jesus was talking about when he said this? “My Kingdom is not of this world.” There we have it, Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world, therefore this kingdom we read about in Revelation must be figurative. Not so fast. Let’s look at the entire statement Jesus made, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Pilate then asks if Jesus is a King, Jesus confirms and Pilate says, “What is truth?” as he washes his hands, literally and figuratively of the situation.
Look at Jesus’ two statements, recorded by none other than the rebel-revelator, to the kingdom: it’s not OF this world, nor is it FROM this world. Yet it is clear that it exist. It certainly doesn’t rule out that priests of the kingdom can be dwelling on the earth. Using the CAGED method; here comes trouble.
Ancient Israel was a literal kingdom with literal priests and it is now defunct, destroyed and desolate, never to return again. Modern Israel is not a kingdom, however it is a sovereign nation. Yet it is not the nation or kingdom we see in the Old Testament, far from it. But don’t take my word for it, we’ll use the CAGED method. Context is King. Back in Revelation we read: “To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Admittedly, we sometimes need more than the context. The author we know, we also know the audience. The genre, or genres we have discussed, yet to be honest that’s what causes some of our misunderstandings. If Revelation is an apocalypse, and a letter, how do we interpret each individual passage? The only answer I could find for myself was the CAGED method, and no, I am not selling something. It is just my way of reminding myself how to read the Bible. I share because I think it can help others as well. So using the CAGED method after I considered the context, the genre, the author and audience I looked to the E, I’m looking for examples–the key words being, kingdom and priests.
1st Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”
Quickly, we notice the all-caps, in NASB these are Old Testament quotes. Peter is evoking the Old Testament to demonstrate to first-century believers something new and profound, but we aren’t there yet. He appears to be confirming what John says in Revelation about being a kingdom and priests but we need more proof. Who were the priests and the kingdom in the Old Testament? Let’s look at other similar text from the Epistles.
Ephesians 3:1-6, paying close attention to Paul’s specific wording; emphasis added, not O.T. quotes: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by REVELATION there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in OTHER GENERATIONS was NOT made known to the sons of men, as it has Now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are FELLOW HEIRS and FELLOW MEMBERS of the body, and FELLOW PARTAKERS of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
In Galatians Paul also says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
And in Romans 9
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.”
Notice; more Old Testament references. It seems from day one, God has had a kingdom of priests he has chosen. Not because of a royal bloodline; that was Jesus. But because of the promise. And that promise is to those that have the faith of Abraham. Again, it has nothing to do with national heritage or “endless geneologies.”
The kingdom, whether literal or figurative, is made up of those who believe in the promises of God.
Much more on this as we continue…