What does the Holy Spirit want to say to us through the words of Revelation 7:9?
Commentary on Revelation 7
In a sermon preached while the Olympics Games were going one summer, Lutheran pastor David Rockhoff told his Kenosha, WI, congregation that Revelation 7 gives us a "look across the finish line." In verse 9 of that look-across-the-finish-line, John described people from all over the world at the throne of God giving praise to King Jesus.
That heavenly image of a huge crowd of born-again believers from around the globe should not surprise anyone familiar with Scripture. Indeed, when what John the Revelator described comes to pass, it will fulfill statements about world evangelism that were said to people like Abraham, Isaiah, and the Apostles. God's messages to them included such things as:
Those four passages all speak of world evangelism and all four of them will be brought to completion by what John described in Revelation 7:9. Presbyterian minister William Long was right when he wrote that our spirits should soar at the imagery of a "great multitude" from "every nation, tribe, people and language" giving praise. For those believers who have prayed, given, and even gone for the cause of world evangelism, the sight will be joyous.
In the Genesis 11 Tower of Babel story, language differences divided and scattered humanity. What John saw in Revelation 7:9 will reverse that scattering. This look ahead to the finished product of the world missions enterprise should excite all but the most xenophobic among us -- xenophobic being a big word signifying unreasonable fear of foreigners or strangers.
As God reached out to His rebellious and lost creation, He made some promises to Abraham and others. The vision John recorded in Revelation 7:9 is about those promises coming true. Thus, the promise of a blessing for all peoples on earth made to Abraham at the beginning of the Old Testament can be thought of as one "bookend" of salvation history. At the end of the New Testament, John's "look across the finish line" is the other bookend of that wonderful story in which we are called to actively participate.
-- Howard Culbertson,
This mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage magazine. That series explores what the Bible says about missions.