[The following post is a transcript of a portion from “The Atonement: Design, Nature, and Extent,” presented by Dr. Sam Waldron at the Building Bridges conference.]
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 NASB)
In this context you note that it is the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who are singing and praising the Lamb. The occasion is the enthronement of the Messiah. At the Lord’s ascension into Heaven, according to the New Testament, He was made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) and sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3). And this is the event that Revelation 5 is talking about. Now this time-frame (the enthronement of the Lamb after His ascension to Heaven) is important because in the context– in the text we’ve looked at– three aorists describe the basis of His ascension to God’s throne. Each describes, therefore, an event that precedes this ascension to God’s throne. And then a future tense follows, which further accentuates the significance of those aorist tenses. The aorists, therefore, describe events that occurred at (I mean, at the time of) and by means of the death of Christ. They occurred prior to the ascension of our Lord to Heaven and to His enthronement as the Lamb of God. The first aorist establishes this reference to the death of Christ; it is the phrase, “For You were slain.” The second aorist also refers to a transaction at Christ’s death, “You purchased for God with Your blood men.” Now this is real, penal substitution resulting in the real purchase of men. There is real substitution and real redemption at the Cross of Christ. The reference is not to conversion, but to a redemption that occurred at Christ’s death, by His blood, and on His Cross. And it is a particular redemption. It is not, “All men without exception.” It is men from every kindred, tribe, and nation; “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” So here we have what I think we may call an explicit assertion of particular redemption in Revelation 5:9. The third aorist tells us of a blessing that this redemption bestows– [it] is the blessing that the redeemed are constituted “a kingdom and priests to our God.” They’re no longer slaves of sin, as a result of the Cross of Christ and the redemption that took place there, but they are a royal priesthood. And the song ends, then, with a future tense (I understand there’s a textual variant, but I think in this case it’s clear that the tense is future and must be future), “They will reign on the earth.” The redemption according to Revelation 5:9-10 is not only particular, it is also effectual; those for whom Christ was slain, those whom He purchased on His Cross, those whom He constituted a royal priesthood, these– and all of them– will reign in glory in the new heaven and new earth. In the new earth all those purchased by Christ’s death will reign with Him.