July 17: Revelation 7:9-17
Thus far in our Revelation series we’ve seen several throne-room scenes, and this week we have one of the more famous ones. We’ll turn to Revelation 7 to see a multitude “from all tribes and peoples and languages” worshiping around the throne of God, and in doing so we’ll be reminded of the rich diversity and shocking unity found among the people of God.
Vintage Downtown: Last week kicked off Connect 4, which will run until August 14. Connect 4 is a challenge to engage in an intentional conversation with someone who is different from you. Get more details, including the guided discussion handout, here: vintagenc.com/connect-4.
Weeks ago, we looked at Revelation 4-5, where God is seated on his throne surrounded by his worshipers who, at the appearance of one standing as a slain Lamb, direct their worship to Jesus too. This passage is, in a sense, hot on the heels of that segment, considering the multitude around the throne cries out “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The core focus of this passage is the unified worship of God from an unprecedented diverse group of people.
Real quick, a word on who exactly this group is. We find out later in the passage that this multitude is made up of those “coming out of the great tribulation.”(7:15) How you read “the great tribulation” likely dictates the assumed point in time of this scene. As you’ve likely already read in the Revelation Resources post, there are multiple ways to read the book of Revelation. Some hold to a view that the last few years of human history will involve a rapture of the church, a Tribulation (a time of intense hardship before Jesus’ return), and finally, Jesus’ return. However, not all Christians believe in the rapture (ex. noticeably the book of Revelation has no mention of it). Those folks instead read Revelation as a description of the whole era of the church between Jesus’ ascension and his second coming.
That’s maybe more than you care to know, but those two positions are likely represented in your community group and will read “the great tribulation” differently. The first view (which mostly aligns with dispensationalism) would conclude that this multitude are believers who will die or be martyred in the Tribulation sometime between the rapture and the second coming. The second view (which mostly aligns with amillennialism, Reformed/Covenantal theology, and post-millennialism) will instead take this multitude to be an image of the Church, all believers from all nations throughout all time, or all believers who have died prior to Jesus’ return (cf. 1 Thess. 4:16-18).
Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s turn back to this diverse multitude. This image certainly tells us some things about God; God has never been an ethno-centric, nationalistic figurehead but instead is the universal, cosmic Lord of all. But it also tells us about his kingdom; the kingdom of God is thus a multi-ethnic reality. The diversity of the kingdom reflects the glory and vision of God, who came embodied as a brown-skinned Jewish Palestinian in order to save people from every tribe, language, people group, and nation for his glory.
The diversity of the kingdom also necessitates that the people of God, the citizens of the kingdom, be committed to this vision as we’ve received it from God. God delights in saving all kinds of people, so we bring the hope of the gospel to all people without preferring some or excluding others. God desires the diversity of humanity around his throne, so we value and embrace the beauty of all those created in God’s image and reject anything that intends to demean or obscure that beauty.
And, as we’ll cover in discussion below, this image of the church is intended to affect us, to even find some expression in our churches today. If, in this passage, we find a good vision of the church as God intends it, a church that is richly diverse and shockingly unified in their worship of him, then this should rightly stir our hearts in longing. When we look ahead to the good future of Jesus’ Church we should yearn to see that abundant, multi-ethnic reality in our church today, praying that his kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).
• Downtown: Quick check in, has anyone already done their Connect 4 conversation? How’s the process going for everyone?
• Could someone read Revelation 7:9-17 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• Why do you think the diversity of the multitude is emphasized here?
• Where do we see the combination of diversity and unity here?
• What do you think this passage can tell us about what God values among his people?
• What about this future vision of the church brings you hope?
• How do you think this future should affect the life of the church now?