The largest crowd I’ve ever been in was the 1997 Promise Keeper event in Washington DC. Published estimates put the crowd on the mall that day at 600 to 800 thousand people. To be honest, I had no sense of the crowd size other than it was a lot. Yet, one day I and perhaps you will be part of a much larger crowd.
John the Revelator wrote that between the sixth and seventh seal, there is this scene in heaven. “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9–10, NLT)
Today, as we witness a very divided world, the description of the great crowd should grab our attention. John uses four indicators. “Nation” means people’s ethnicity, which includes race and country of origin. “Tribe” is like nation but built on a family or clan instead of geopolitical forces. “People” is an even closer connection and includes those that may not live in a country or have become divorced from a nation or tribe. And lastly, “language,” which often identifies our heritage. Essentially, in that vast heavenly crowd, there is no division.
The critical word is “every.” Every nation, every tribe, every people, and every language are in that multitude. Together they all shouted with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”
We told later that this vast crowd is only a sub-set of those belonging to the Lamb, to Christ. Specifically, they are the martyrs of the Great Tribulation. But, the imagery and the message of God’s Good News crosses every border and methods of division and identification we can come up with.
Nations, tribes, peoples, and languages are generally used to separate and identify us. They are used to determine what is ours and what is yours. These designations provide cultural boundaries and often define what is normal. God’s Good News transcends all of the borders.
There are several applications for us to grasp. First, no one is unworthy or excluded because of their nation, tribe, people, or language. Stereotypical judgments are thrown out the window. Second, Christianity is not limited to western culture. Although traditional Western culture was partly built on Christianity, we must be careful to understand the difference. Far too often, the Gospel has been saddled with cultural baggage. Lastly, we must value each other as equals in God’s Kingdom regardless of nation, tribe, people, or language. By valuing each other, we can learn from and encourage one another. You see, God and the Bible recognizes our differences but transcends them with the greater identity of being in Christ.
One day I’ll stand in that vast uncountable crowd praising God. Around me will be people from every nation, tribe, people, and language. Perhaps you and I will be standing shoulder to shoulder. At that moment, our focus won’t be on our differences but on the love of Christ, which binds us together.