Multinational Worship & Mission in Revelation

The missional aspect of the book is also evident in its portrait of the multinational, multiethnic and multilingual worship before the throne of the Lamb. “After this,” writes John, “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, and crying out with a loud voice, ’Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev.7:9-10). Several details deserve comment.

First, John says the crowd of worshippers is innumerable. Beasley-Murray highlights the contrast between this multitude that defies numeration and the numbered tribes in the previous verses. Citing Farrer he observes, “The contrast of the numbered tribes and the innumerable host gives expression to two antithetical themes of the Scriptures. First, God knows the number of his elect; secondly, those who inherit the blessing of Abraham are numberless as the stars (Gen. 15:5)…Whereas the previous vision originally reflected a particularistic viewpoint, John employed it solely to illustrate God’s concern for his people in the last time, and the second vision shows the effectiveness of that concern. John intends his readers to hear the promises of God to Abraham behind his description of this vision, a promise that his descendants would be as countless as the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5) or as the sand on the seashore (Gen 22:17).”

Bauckham writes, “The innumerability of the multitude can scarcely be an empirical observation of the Christian church at the time when Revelation was written. Rather, it echoes God’s promise to the patriarchs that their descendants would be innumerable.” Beale adds, “The multitudes in Rev. 7:9 are the consummate fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise and appear to be another of the manifold ways in which John refers to Christians as Israel.” Knowing the vision did not match the reality of his readers, a battered and beleaguered minority, John paints a picture of the success of God’s mission through his church, humble though its beginnings were.

Second, the host is said to be from “every nation.” Osborne argues “’Every nation’ continues the stress in the book on the universal mission of the church to the ‘nations’ and probably recapitulates the OT stress on the procession of the nations to God.” John has, through the record of his visions, already reminded his readers that the Lamb has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” by his blood (Rev 5:9). He will go on to describe his prophetic ministry as including the task to “prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings” (Rev 10:11); to mention the nations as witnesses to the ministry, death and resurrection of the Two Witnesses (Rev. 11:9); to point out the angelic proclamation of the eternal gospel to “every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev. 14:6); and, to celebrate nations being liberated from Satanic deception (Rev. 20:3).

All of this multinational activity climaxes with the nations pouring in to the New Jerusalem – “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev 21:22-26).

Revelation picks up and brings to completion the mission of God and his people to the nations.