To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
For the most part, the Revelation is a book about judgment, of the outpouring of God’s wrath on this sinful and rebellious world. This world scoffs at the idea of God’s justice and wrath. There is coming a time, however, when even it will be forced to admit that it exists. There is coming a time when men will cry out to the mountains to fall on them and hide them “from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:16, 17.
“The wrath of the Lamb”!
Who ever heard of a lamb being wrathful? That most inoffensive and defenseless of creatures! Rising up in anger!
John describes something unheard of, something unexpected. This most certainly is true in our time. We have a “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and truly, as He walked the dusty roads of Israel, our Lord was gentle. Hebrews 7:26 describes Him as “harmless”. In much of our teaching and preaching, we have Him standing on the sidelines of His own creation, anxious to bless us, but He can’t do anything unless and until we let Him. We have reduced Him to little more than a supplicant at the throne of the human will. He has little relevance to our culture. Even many of our churches seem concerned only with programs and personalities. And, by and large, we seem to be getting away with it – if you don’t count the mess our world and society is in. Yet even in our Lord’s life, to those who rejected His teaching and authority, there were flashes of anger, cf. Matthew 23.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, behold, now is the day of salvation. We live in a time of salvation, not of wrath and judgment, certainly not as Revelation describes it. This is one reason why, from chapter 4 onward, I don’t believe it describes things that have already happened or are happening now.
Granted, even during that time there will be salvation, Revelation 7:9-17, just as there is some judgment in our day as God lets us reap what we’ve sown, individually and as a culture.
Verse 5 shows us how salvation is even possible. It’s not because of something we’ve done or figured out. It’s not because of our religion or good works, but because of the grace and mercy of that One who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
(There is so much I’d like to say about this, but limited space makes it impractical. I have done a whole series of posts under the title, “The Kindness of God.” If you do look it up, the last post will be listed first. At least, that’s how it comes up for me. Just scroll down to the first post. They build on each other, from first to last.)
washed us from our sins in His own blood.
I talked to a lady who didn’t like all the references to “blood” in the Old Testament. And, indeed, our faith is sometimes describes as “a bloody religion.” Folks just don’t understand what it’s all about. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no forgiveness, Hebrews 9:22. It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul, Leviticus 17:11.
God didn’t ask for animal sacrifices just for the sake of bloodshed. He was teaching Israel something, using the sacrifices as an object lesson. He was teaching Israel the truth of something about sin, that those who committed sin were subject to death. If it’s said that the animal wasn’t guilty, there’s a second lesson: substitution. The animal was a “substitute” for the guilty Israelite. It died. He didn’t.
When the Israelite brought a sacrifice, he was required to put his hand on the head of the animal, cf. Leviticus 1:4. In this way he identified with the animal. It was a confession that he, the Israelite, deserved to die, but the animal was taking his place.
All these countless sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice: the death of the Lord Jesus. He committed no sin. He did not deserve to die. We commit nothing but sin, even in the providing of daily necessities, cf. Proverbs 21:4. We do deserve to die, Romans 6:23.
The OT animal had no say, no choice, in the matter. The Lord Jesus had every say, every choice, in the matter. When it had become obvious, even to the slow-witted disciples, that the Lord Jesus was about to be arrested, He told them that He could ask the Father for more than twelve legions of angels to come and protect Him, Matthew 26:53. Considering what just one angel could do, 2 Kings 19:35….
Our Lord was no helpless, unwilling victim. He could easily have escaped, as He had done at other times, Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59; 10:39. Though He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, Isaiah 53:7, no power on earth could have put Him on that cross if He had not been willing to go, cf. John 19:10, 11. No power on earth could have kept Him away from it, either.
This doesn’t mean that He enjoyed it or looked forward to it. It is not without reason that Scripture says that He endured the Cross, Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added.
He was willing to go through all because He loved us, and because there was no other way for us to be saved.
But salvation is more than just an escape from hell. It’s more than just the fulfillment of earthly desires for health and wealth and all the things the prosperity false prophets talk about. Indeed, salvation may lead to our losing those things, Matthew 16:24; Philippians 3:7, 8; Hebrews 10:34. Even in this country, we’re beginning to see that, with all the furor over gender and marriage issues.
No, no. Salvation isn’t about deliverance from hell; It’s about deliverance from that which would send us there: our sins.
When the angel came to Joseph to explain to him what was going on with his fiancee, he said that the Son she would bear would “save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.
That is the issue.
Sin is not defined by current social trends, but by the Word of God. Current social trends emphasize and legalize sin. It’s a sad commentary that so many religious organizations go right along with these things. We expect this from the world. Those who profess to be God’s people should know better. It’s a shame – and a sin – that we allow the world to define the narrative, and not the Word.
To be saved from sin doesn’t simply mean to be forgiven for them. The angel said that the coming Savior would save His people from their sins, not in them.
To be saved from sin means to turn from it, to reject it. This is called repentance, which is the other side of the coin of salvation. But this isn’t simply asceticism. It’s not enough that we “don’t drink or chew or have friends who do.”
There are those who teach that repentance is a “Jewish doctrine.” At the risk of being misunderstood myself, these folks misunderstand the Bible’s teaching on salvation by grace through faith.
What does the Scripture say?
When the Gospel first went to Gentiles and they were saved, this led to a confrontation with those who believed that the Gospel was only for Jewish folks, Acts 10. In Acts 11, these folks finally realized and admitted that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life,” v. 18, emphasis added.
As Paul’s recorded ministry was beginning to wind down, he called for one last meeting with the leaders of the church at Ephesus, Acts 20:17-38. He was about 30 miles away, at Miletus. We could make this trip in a half-hour or less. It probably took them a couple of days. And it probably took a couple of days for Paul’s message to get to them. We tend to forget that folks in this time traveled on foot or animals. They didn’t have fast cars and freeways – or phones.
When the elders finally got to Paul, he reminded them of his own ministry among them. For three years, he had been among them, and “did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears,” Acts 20:31. He said that his method and message was that he “taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” vs. 20, 21.
This last verse gives gives us the two sides of that coin of salvation I mentioned earlier:
repentance toward God….
It’s His Law, His Word, we’ve ignored or rebelled against. We can’t keep doing that and be saved. That is not legalism. We’re not saved by keeping His Word, but we can’t be saved if we continue to disobey it.
faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
It isn’t our obedience that saves us; it’s the obedience of the Lord Jesus. He is the only one Who could ever truthfully say that He pleased the Father in everything, John 8:29. If He had fallen short in even one tiny little thing, He couldn’t be the Savior. And we couldn’t be saved.
But it isn’t only His life that saves us. His life provided the righteousness we need if we’re ever to stand before God uncondemned. We have sinned; we have fallen short. We stand under the judgment of God: “the soul who sins shall die,” Ezekiel 18:4. So, not only did He live in our place; He died in our place, as well.
That great debt we owe to God’s justice – that debt we could never even begin to pay?
He paid every last penny.
There is no debt left.
Does this mean that we can live as we please – without regard to God’s word?
Not at all.
The Mosaic Law was entirely external, with no provision to help the Israelite obey it. Cf. Deuteronomy 29:4. But believers don’t fall under the Old Testament Law. We’re saved under the terms of the New Covenant. True, it’s revealed in the Old Testament, but it goes far beyond the Old Testament Law. The New Covenant provides help for the believer. It’s an internal covenant, with the Word of God being put into our minds and hearts, and the Holy Spirit given to us to enable us to live by that word.
It’s not without reason that the Psalmist wrote, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, Psalm 23:3.