August 20 – Revelation 7:4-10


Main focus: Worship is the ultimate goal of God’s multi-ethnic people and the common bond in a church full of people who look, think, and act differently.

This week starts off our Divine Community series and, to put it in Stephen Covey’s words, we’re beginning with the end in mind. As we saw last week in John 17, Jesus prayed for the global worship of the Triune God. In Revelation 7, John sees its realization; there we find a multitude “from all tribes and peoples and languages” singing around the throne of God. This image of the multi-ethnic, worshiping people of God is where all of God’s saving work is headed, and it’s where our sermon series is headed.

To enrich your CG discussion, check out the Divine Community Study Guide!

You can get it online here or at your Vintage location on a Sunday.

We’re starting in verse 4 to include the sealing of the 144,000 (v.4-8). That might seem like an odd starting point, but this roll call is surprisingly relevant to the diverse multitude in verses 9-10. In verse 4, John hears about 144,000 physical descendants of Israel, but when he turns he sees innumerable people from all the tribes of the earth. Hearing one thing but seeing something different is how surprising realities are often communicated in Revelation (ex. hearing about a lion but seeing a lamb in Rev 5:5-6).

Now we should ask, how did John know every nation, tribe, tongue, and people were represented there? Even though they were all wearing the same thing (v.9), the differences were evident; he could see the diversity in their skin color and hair texture, perhaps even their mannerisms and movements, and he could hear the diversity in their voices. Other places in scripture (ex. Rev 21:26; Isa 60:10; Luke 24:31) support this conclusion, that our individual ethnic identity, and thus the collective diversity of the people of God, will stick with us into eternity.

John hearing about Israelites but seeing all the peoples of the earth communicates the global trajectory, and historical progression, of God’s work of salvation. From God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 to the work of the Spirit in Acts 8-10, the likely span of ~2000 years, belonging to God’s people meant belonging to the ethnic people of Israel (though, as well see in coming weeks, those borders were actually always permeable). Yet all along God has been at work to save a multi-ethnic people for himself, to bring salvation through one group of people (specifically one Israelite, Jesus) by which he would invite all groups of people to worship him together. From the very beginning that was God’s surprising, strange, and glorious plan to save a people for himself.

And all of this, as we’ll see in discussion, tells us some things about God. One thing it reveals is that God has never been an ethno-centric, nationalistic figurehead but instead is the universal, cosmic Lord of all. Another is that God’s kingdom is thus a multi-ethnic reality. This 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 full-breadth of human diversity, 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 and to find expression in our lives and in our church. 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’s 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). That’s the goal of this series, not to mirror society’s values, not to meet quotas or numbers, but to reflect the glory of God as he intends it to be shown.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Revelation 7:4-10 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage? (try to touch on the connection between v.4-8 and v.9-10)

• Why do you think the diversity of the multitude is emphasized here?

• What do you think this passage can tell us about God?

• What about this future vision brings you hope?

• How do you think this future vision should affect your life now?

• Prayer prompt: Ask God to use our time in this sermon series for his glory and our good.