The book of Revelation fulfills the themes of Church and Kingdom. This can be seen through hermeneutical keys of the universality of faith started in Abraham, the Davidic dynasty, nuptial language, sacraments and apostolic foundations.
The mission of redemption in the Gospel is partially defined at the pivot point of God’s promise to Abraham. The universal opportunity of the Gospel is implied by an angel who said,
I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants will take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing, because you obeyed my command (Revelation 22:-17-19).
It is important to point out that this multitude will be numerous, on the offense against the enemies’ gates and be a source of blessing to all the nations. This is fulfilled in part if one looks at “Catholic” meaning “according to the whole”. It is also fulfilled in part if one sees that the blessing of Jesus on Simon Peter the first pope how “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Church is meant to be on the offense in evangelism and in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-17).
But as to Revelation there is a particular fulfillment in the eschatological sense.
After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:9).
It is important to note in light of early church history we know that Christians were often baptized in white robes. This symbolized their purity in Christ but also points to the priesthood of all believers. By the merits of Jesus the High Priest of their good confession and through the sacramental grace of baptism, this fully realized people of God are a blessing to all nations in their priesthood in Christ.
The theme of the Davidic dynasty is fulfilled in Revelation and is noted often as authoritative and not to be disputed. The foundation of the Davidic dynasty is laid in 2 Samuel where Nathan says,
I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever….. Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever (2 Samuel 7:11b-13, 16).
After, David was a fog of war and the Babylonian captivity. Confusion abounded until Jesus came and was known to many as Messiah and also as the “Son of David”.
But again, in an eschatological sense there is fulfillment here. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet. There were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
In this passage is a vital case of “the Old revealed in the New” (St. Augustine). Jesus the Christ is the “Anointed One” but is not the first in salvation history. Kings in Israel’s history were anointed using the Hebrew word from which we get Messiah. The authority of David’s kingship is alluded to as an example for how true strength is affirmed. “The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open“ (Revelation 3:7).
What is important to see in patterns in the passages is how permanency is clear and to whom it is given. This is unique authority from God the Father. Otherwise Jesus is one of many co-kings. Also of note, we can see again the theme of universality but it is in the worldwide scope of the reign of Jesus whereas the passages above are in an ecclesial and royal contexts.
The Old Testament points to the paradoxical identities in God as both Creator and Bridegroom.
“For as a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you” (Isaiah 62:5).
This works well in understanding the Jewish culture. It was customary for an engaged man to build a house for his future bride and it would take a year. The high point at the end of the year would be the wedding and residing together. Again, in an eschatological context, we see a fulfillment.
“Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
his bride has made herself ready.
She was allowed to wear
a bright, clean linen garment.”
(The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.) Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These words are true; they come from God.” (Revelation 19:7-9).
The fulfillment of God being the Creator and Bridegroom is multifaceted here. Glory is given to the Lamb (Jesus who is divine), the wedding day is present, the bride is sanctified through her works in faith and there is a blessing to those who are called. This passage is wrapped in divinity even in the end where it is clear God is declaring this to be true and this declaration of righteousness of this wedding is of Him.
Staying true to God in a covenantal perspective is essential in salvation history from Moses to the future era of the ultimate redemption of God’s people.
“You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants. Thus, when you have entered the land which the Lord will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite. When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’ Then the people knelt and bowed down, and the Israelites went and did exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 12:24-28).
“You shall also make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long, a cubit wide, and a cubit and a half high” (Exodus 25:23).
In both passages what is implied is that the people are invested in a recapitulation of the deliverance by God in the Exodus according to His covenant promises. Their servitude in the Seder and the building of the acacia table (Table of The Lord through the OT is often a synonym for sacrificial altar) serves as a shadow of things to come. Revelation addresses the superior covenant in Christ.
They sang a new hymn:
“Worthy are you to receive the scroll
and to break open its seals,
for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.
You made them a kingdom and priests for our God,
and they will reign on earth.” (Revelation 5:9-11).
Again, we see the royal and the liturgical connected again, but this time it is in the people of God in Christ who are redeemed by the blood of The Lamb rather than a lamb.
Last, there is a pattern of government established in the Old Testament pointing to an order of things in the New. “He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the Lord had said: Israel shall be your name.” (I Kings 18:31). This was reinforced in the generation after Moses as well” (Joshua 3:12).
The Church is built by Jesus in part on the apostles (Ephesians 2:20), this is reinforced in a broader dimension in experience than what a pre-Christ doctrine could allow in salvation history. This is because, though Jesus said that the apostles sit on thrones, they were also instrumental in founding a liturgical kingdom that bridges a heavenly reality. We know this through John 20:21-23. Absolving
“The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). Each name had a story and a testimony by martyrdom. A majority of the apostles were martyred but also they served in martyrdom and being in service. Both factors are fitting to be represented because of the liturgical aspects sprinkled throughout this book (e.g. Jesus as the Lamb is mentioned 28 times in its 22 chapters). This book through the areas highlighted above brings to fulfillment God’s promises in the contexts of kingdom, liturgy and nuptial celebration.
The Lamb’s Supper, Letter and Spirit and Consuming The Word by Dr. Scott Hahn. Probably best appreciated in that order since they make a trilogy though it is non-fiction.
Upon This Rock by Steven Ray