Author: Kevin George
This book is a work in progress. Posts on this blog are to enable readers to examine the manuscript and make commentary. These blog posts are NOT the final version!
Revelation 1:4-6, 18 “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen…18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” ESV
Verse 5 states that we are released from our sins “by his blood”. But how does the blood of Jesus release us from sin? Many people today have no clue, and just “claim” the blood as a magical enchantment, declaring themselves to be from sin by the power of the blood. Perhaps worse, many also think that believers are covered in the blood of Christ so that God can no longer see the sin in their lives, so that God now considers them innocent! However, neither of these interpretations are correct.
The blood of Jesus Christ is brought up as a blood covenant, which was commonly understood in the Middle East, and mentioned in multiple other Bible passages (Matthew 26:28, Hebrews 10:29). A blood covenant was the greatest commitment of any covenant, not to be agreed to without seriously considering the implications and expectations. It expected loyalty to the giver of that covenant, which in this case included a cessation of sinning. When a believer determined to follow Jesus Christ, he was not simply trusting in him for eternal life, but also came to embrace the cause of Christ as a major life commitment which included releasing any sinful habits and practices. This is why the writer of the Revelation can give all credit to Christ for the blood of Jesus freeing us from our sins.
Verse 18 may seem unrelated to PSA, but it is related. Jesus is speaking and he leaves no doubt that he had died and is now alive (see also Romans 5:10). This is key because God is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17, 6:16). Whatever “death” means, any way you want to define it, death does not and cannot apply to God, so God did not die on the cross! A man, a human being, died on the cross! It was “Jesus of Nazareth, a man” who died (Acts 2:22). “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” Romans 5:18 ESV. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” 1 Corinthians 15:21 ESV. The PSA claim is that only God can pay the infinite payment for infinite sin, yet the Bible explicitly states that the Jesus who died was a man! God is immortal and cannot die; nor did a non-living inert “human nature” die.
God recognized and exalted Jesus for being faithful. He was a human being, a man who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:8-11 ESV.
Revelation 5:9-10 “And they sang a new song, saying, “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, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” ESV
The important phrase to notice in verse 9 is, “by your blood you ransomed people for God.” The word “ransom” is often misunderstood as a payment, but much if not most of its use in the Bible is as a synonym for release, freedom, or liberty. This definitional claim is documented here in more detail in Chapter 10 – Ransom, Redemption, and Purchase. Verse 9 is saying that the blood covenant of Jesus Christ released people from the kingdom of sin and darkness so they could be for God. God could not accept them while they were loyal to sin. They were released from addiction to sin. They were ransomed to God! God was not ransomed by the blood of Christ, as if God could not forgive or be merciful or just without first receiving a ransom payment! No, the ransom, the liberation, applied to us so that we could be free to live for God.
Revelation 7:13-15 “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.” ESV
How can washing robes in red blood make the robes turn white? The claim of verse 14 is absurd without understanding that being washed in blood is not a reference to literal blood as a substance, but as a blood covenant. The author of Revelation just assumes that the readers of his day would grasp that blood implies a covenant; no explanation was needed. The same applies to many other biblical references to blood without any additional specification of a covenant.
Figuratively washing dirty robes in the blood covenant of Jesus Christ results in leaving addictions to sin behind and living a pure life, thus making the robe to be white. It is on this basis that they can be “before the throne of God, and serve him day and night.” It is not because an alien righteousness of Christ was applied to their account, but rather because they had been cleansed of sinful living and were thereby welcome to participate in heavenly things, in the very presence of God.
Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” ESV
Once again we have God judging people based on their works, “according to what they had done.“ Some may excuse this passage by pointing to the fact that it is the final judgment, that the ones being judged are all unbelievers, and this is a possibility depending on how one interprets prophetic timelines. Nevertheless, the passage is still in line with all the other biblical passages about being judged by works. It is not that works alone would have saved them from judgment, it is that their works reveal their failure to personally apply a living faith in a righteous God.