So last week we talked about that time between when we die and when Christ comes again to usher in the New Heaven and New Earth – and you can find that blog here. But today, in our third of 5 series, we are going to talk about how vast and wide is God’s love. When we read that John saw a “multitude” of people – too vast and wide to count…what does that mean?
Let’s begin with reading what John saw in Revelation 7:9-17. I’ll wait (click on the text and it’ll hyper link you over)
We just celebrated one of the biggest holidays we have here – Independence Day. A truly patriotic day if there ever was one. And I don’t want to come across as unpatriotic or unappreciative but we celebrate this day, some would argue, more so than the true meaning of Christmas. Now that may not surprise you because we can start to have a conversation about how un-Christian the United States is so the fact that July 4th is celebrated by nearly every person kind of makes sense – but I’m not talking about non-believers here.
We have churches in the United States that have the US flag in the church…at the front of the sanctuary. We have churches in the United States (and this one is in my own denomination) that pull more people for their 4th of July service than they do for their Christmas programs. We go around, as believers, saying “God bless America!” But do we believe that God truly DOES and SHOULD bless America above and beyond all other countries?
Anyone else have a problem with that besides me?
The issue I have is the pervasive feeling amongst Christians that it is OK to celebrate our country in our churches. We need to stop feeling that Christianity is an “American” thing. And we need to STOP thinking that the US has a hold on Christianity and that we are more important in God’s eyes than anyone else in this world. And we need to STOP having any and all “USA – focused” things in our sacred assembly places. No flag. No “patriotic” music.
We must ask ourselves: Did God not create all people and all things seen and unseen?
When John looks and sees all these people, all these men and women from every tribe, nation, people, and language, he sees them wearing white (the sign of purity) and says they were washed in the blood of the lamb – all of them. He sees them holding palm branches, and he hears them crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” He hears them worshipping and praising – waiving palm branches of victory…together. One group – one worship service. John sees a “GREAT MULTITUDE”. A number too big to count – all together – all worshipping God as one.
God’s love, God’s grace, God’s embrace of his children is more than you and me and those we see around us today. It’s more than those who look like you and talk like you and act like you. It’s more than those who live in the same area, state, and even country. It’s bigger and beyond this country – which is really hard for an American Christian to fully comprehend because we like to think the Christian faith is “us”. That we have a really good stake and claim on Jesus – less we forget that Christianity did not start nor will it end with us. But for whatever reason…we, in the United States are comfortable saying, “God bless America” – when in actuality we should be saying, “God bless us – every one” (sorry Tiny Tim…but you said it quite well).
Scripture affirms that God is the God of you…me…those with dark skin, those with light, those with bronze, and those with golden, those with full heads of hair, those of us blessed without, those with spiked hair and those with outrageous colors. God is the God of those who speak any number of the 6,909 DIFFERENT living languages that the Ethnologue catalogues in our world today.
Our “praise” should be of the amazing redemptive work of Christ. Our praise should be that when God said to Abraham that he would be his God and that the offspring of Abram would be too numerous to count (Gen 15:5) – that that actually did happen and those are all part of a family. Our praise should be to the fact that God didn’t simply keep his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the fact that God sent his one and only son to die upon the cross and overcome death so that whoever believes in him…WHOVER BELIEVES (regardless of class, creed, nationality, culture, skin pigment, dialect) that whomever, whoever cries out and believes in the Son of God, the heir to the throne, the one who took on sin and death and destruction for our pathetic sinful souls…that they will not perish but have eternal life. With Him. In worship and praise TO him.
Think about that for a second. God is bigger than you and me. His grace extends beyond you and me. That the God of us is also the God of those in Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Nigeria, South Africa, China, Istanbul, Chile, and Canada. God is the creator of all seen and unseen. And when God declares that the multitude, numbers too great to be seen or counted, will praise him from all corners of the earth – what an amazing sound that will be!
Every dialect in worship. Every culture in dance that is unique to them – and yet all in response to the Lamb who was slain. As a musician I cannot even fathom the instruments, the songs, the styles of music that will be unique and yet in complete perfect rhythm and harmony with one another.
But it’s going to be more than this too – because it’s not just praise in voice and dance that we will do as the multitude…but we will live together. Experience things together – experience cultures and activities we can only dream of unless you have the finances to fly to all these places in the world – unless you have a time machine to experience cultures that are now extinct – because all that was and ever will be will be gathered in one place. Truly the “multitude” if you could ever dream of it!
We will all be singing praises and thankfulness for what HE has done – for the grace bestowed upon all of us. People united in their belief and confession that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. People united not for what they have done but by what He has done. People who live lives confessing that He is the way, the truth, and the life. That nobody comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). That He is the door – and that those who enter are saved (John 10:9). That he is the resurrection and the life and that belief in him leads to final living (John 10:25).
Here’s what all this means:
When we see and understand our beautiful differences and diversities…when we see that which is different and unique between us and yet how we are bound up in our communal belief and declaration of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, our Messiah and Savior…we’ll praise him. Differently in song and dance and music because we have different cultures and ways of doing all those magnificent things – and yet we will do it all together. Brothers and sisters gathered from all corners of the earth into one place. And when we all come together, we will join the saints who have gone before us and sing a new song, singing “You are worthy. You are worthy because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)
To you, and you alone be honor, glory and praise.
Next week I’ll post “Part 4” – “Worship” and will put a link here for that.
As usual – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…so what do you think?
Pt 2: The Intermediate State
Pt 3: The Multitude
Pt 4: An Eternity of Worship
Pt 5: Do We Become Angels?