Names Reveal Christ's Character
Revelation Lesson #010
July 25, 2004
Revelation 1:5, "…to him who loves us…" This is a present tense, emphasizing ongoing sanctification grace in the believer's life, because Revelation is written to believers and it is written in relationship to their ongoing spiritual life and motivation. "… and washed us," past tense. It indicates that cleansing action that is actually the result of redemption. We stopped last time at the phrase "in his own blood." This should be translated, to be a little more technically correct, "by means of his own blood." The cleansing is accomplished by means of Christ's blood.
There has been a tradition of people who have taken this phrase "the blood of Christ" in an extremely literal fashion. That is not correct. Why don't we take it in a literal sense? That is because we recognize that there is figurative speech in the Bible. An acceptance of literal interpretation doesn't mean that we don't believe in similes and metaphors. A metaphor transports meaning from one word to another word. "White like wool" is called a simile. If you simply call something what it is not, e.g. "His hair was white wool," it is not a stated comparison but it is an implied comparison. His hair isn't white wool, you know that and wouldn't take it literally. You would recognize that he doesn't have wool on His head, it just looks that way. So when you take the word "like" or "as" out you end up with a metaphor, you have transported the meaning. But in a metaphor you have to have this is that. You don't have that with the blood of Christ, except in a couple of passages where you have phrases where Jesus said, as in the communion, "This is my blood." It wasn't, it was a metaphor. A literal translation doesn't exclude figures of speech. A figure of speech is how we normally talk, and we understand how to literally interpret those figures of speech in terms of their plain, normal usage. The Bible emphasizes this phrase, "the blood of Christ," again and again and again, and it is used as a term to relate to the different dimensions of Christ's work on the cross. For example, in Acts 20:28 we are told that He purchased us with His blood. That is the doctrine of redemption; He paid the purchase price. Romans 3:25, "propitiation by means of his blood." The doctrine there is propitiation. Romans 5:9 says we are justified "by means of his blood." That is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Ephesians 1:7, "we have redemption through his blood." There is the doctrine of redemption. Ephesians 2:13, we are "brought near by means of the blood." That is the doctrine of reconciliation. Colossians 1:20, " we have peace with God "through the blood of his cross." That is reconciliation again. All of these passages indicate a different dimension of the doctrine of salvation and the work of Christ on the cross. Hebrews 9:14, the blood of Christ "cleanses our conscience." That talks about sanctification. Hebrews 9:22, "purified by the blood," KATHARIZO [kaqarizw], the same word as translated cleanse in 1 John 1:9. That, again, talks about sanctification. 1 John 1:7, the blood of Christ "cleanses." That is talking about sanctification. So this is a classic figure of speech in the Bible, and there is nothing wrong with talking about the blood of Christ if you understand it correctly. The Holy Spirit used the phrase many, many times in the Bible. The blood of Christ represents the spiritual substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. There is nothing wrong with the phrase.
How do we understand "the blood of Christ"?
1) The phrases "blood of Christ, His blood, blood of the Lamb" are common biblical phrases describing the death of Christ. Five times in the book of Revelation there is mention of the blood of Christ. Over ten times in the book of Hebrews there is a mention of the blood of Christ, plus numerous other times in the New testament. It is a legitimate biblical phrase.
2) There is a misunderstanding about this phrase. It is often taken to be literal in the sense that it is literal blood that is redemptive. Under the principles of literal interpretation, the plain normal use of language, we recognize the use of figurative speech such as metaphor, simile, personification, etc. When it says that Jesus had feet like fine brass we don't think that His feet turned into brass. There is an image there that is being described. That is all part of literal interpretation of Scripture. We understand idioms and properly interpret them.
3) Following the basic rules of word study we see that the idea behind the phrase "shedding of blood" takes its meaning from the first murder in the Bible. It is not always true, but it is often true—frequently enough to make it almost a rule--that if you want to understand a word or a phrase in the Bible you go back to the first three or four times it was used in the Bible. That usually gives us the parameters of the definition. Genesis chapter four describes the murder of Abel by Cain. He murders Abel by using a sacrificial knife, so that involved the literal shedding of blood. What happens is that concept of the literal shedding of blood enters into the lexicon of the Bible as a description of violent death, so that Genesis 9:6 which is the first time we have the phrase mentioned, we read in the statement of the Noahic covenant, "whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made man." That shows that the shedding of man's blood has become the idiom for the idea of violent illegal death.
4) Greek lexicons recognize this as a valid meaning. "The blood of Christ, therefore, represents the life that He gave for our atonement." This was His spiritual life when he paid the price for our atonement on the cross.
5) When our Lord died on the cross He shed very little physical blood. He didn't bleed to death.
6) Te conclusion is that the blood of Christ is a figure of speech describing His substitutionary atonement on the cross. But what kind of substitutionary atonement? Physical death or spiritual death?
7) His physical death didn't pay the penalty because the penalty was spiritual death—Genesis 2:7.
8) Therefore it was not His physical death but His spiritual death that was efficacious for our salvation. So the term that we must use is "Christ's spiritual substitutionary death on the cross." His physical death is not what paid the penalty, but His spiritual death. As a result of that, propitiation, redemption, reconciliation, justification, and sanctification are all accomplished by means of His spiritual substitutionary death on the cross. That is the emphasis in Revelation 1:5.