Volume 17, No. 11 (November 2022)
We will unpack in three parts John’s tremendous vision of the future around the throne of God in Revelation 7 (one of several in the book of Revelation).
Part 1: THE PEOPLE OF GOD: A Great Multitude
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,
with palm branches in their hands.
“Every” and “all” mean just that in the original Greek: EVERY people group will be represented before the throne! Stretching as far as the eye can see: untold millions of the redeemed, washed in the blood of the Lamb and “clothed in white robes.”
1. God’s Heart for the Nations/Tribes/Peoples of Earth
This incredible diversity was always in the heart and plan of God:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and FILL THE EARTH and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:27–28)
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and FILL THE EARTH.” (Gen 9:1)
So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of ALL THE EARTH, and they left off building the city. (Gen 11:8)
“in you [Abraham] ALL the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3)
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make His face to shine upon us,
that Your way may be known on earth,
Your saving power among ALL NATIONS.
Let the PEOPLES praise You, O God;
let ALL the PEOPLES praise You!
Let the NATIONS be glad and sing for joy (Ps 67:1–4a)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” (Matthew 28:19)
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. . . . When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles (ethne=NATIONS) also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles [=NATIONS] might glorify God for His mercy. As it is written:
I will praise You among the Gentiles
and sing to Your name.”
And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol Him.”
And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even He who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in Him will the Gentiles hope.” (Rom 15:8–12)
“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,
and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9–10)
And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
ALL NATIONS will come
and worship Yyou,
for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3–4)
2. God’s Plan for the Languages of Earth (“every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages”)
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their LANGUAGE, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. (Genesis 11:1–10)
Man in his rebellion did not go to fill the earth, as God had commanded, but congregated to build a great tower and thereby “make a name for ourselves.” Instead of seeking to make God’s name great (or allowing God to “make your name great,” as Abraham would [Genesis 12:2]), they in their pride sought self-exaltation. So God judges them by confusing their language and hence spreading the people across the earth.
This was the beginning of culture, and nations, and languages. This is why we struggle to learn other languages; why missionaries have to spend years learning the language of the people where they are serving; why speakers in international conferences need interpreters: it is a result this judgment of God.
However, on the Day of Pentecost we see the beginning of a reversal of the curse:
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from EVERY nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own LANGUAGE. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native LANGUAGE? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own TONGUES the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:4–11)
The followers of Jesus are miraculously giving God praise in many different languages. This multiplied praise we then see in the book of Revelation:
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. (Rev 5:9)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and LANGUAGES, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. (Rev 7:9)
John Piper has observed:
“If there were no diversity of languages, if the spectacular sin of Babel had not happened with its judgment, the global glory of the gospel of Christ would not shine as beautifully as it does in the prism of thousands of languages. . . . The praise that Jesus receives from all the languages is more beautiful, because of its diversity, than it would have been if there were only one language and one people to sing.” (John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-pride-of-babel-and-the-praise-of-christ)
God receives more praise, and more diverse praise, because of what happened in Genesis 11. He receives praises in every tongue, and from every corner of the earth! God can take the sin and rebellion of man and by His sovereign power turn it to His glory! (That’s exactly what He did at the Cross.)
3. One People, One Voice! (unity in diversity)
So in the church we are many peoples and nations and tribes—yet we are ONE body of Christ.
Paul points out how Jews and Gentiles have been brought together:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both ONE and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself ONE new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in ONE body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in ONE Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:13–19)
. . . ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:5–6)
And while we have many languages, many voices—yet we are in fact ONE voice raised in praise to “God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5–6)
MANY NATIONS/TRIBES/PEOPLES: BUT ONE PEOPLE OF GOD, ONE FAMILY
MANY LANGUAGES: BUT ONE VOICE raised in praise to our great Redeemer!
(This was the first of three messages delivered at the National praise and Worship Conference
in Bangladesh, November 17-19, 2022.)