by Ben Nugent
After this 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!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:9-12
Our plane landed in Moscow around four in the afternoon and we deplaned to smells I’d never experienced before: a combination of metal, cigarette smoke, and bodies filled the air. I looked at the stoic faces “welcoming” me to this former Soviet republic that was trying desperately to rebrand itself and remove the stigma it carried worldwide. I was told, “Don’t smile. You look like a fool if you’re smiling for no reason. And don’t look at the people at immigration and passport control right in the eye, it makes them nervous.” I can tell you the whole thing made me nervous! I was also excited, exhausted, and apprehensive. It was my first time to leave the U.S. and I was eager to share the Gospel with the entire country of Russia.
I led this trip because I was asked to do it. I had no affinity for Russia but, as a student of history, I was intrigued by this place and its people. I took 15 college students with me, assuming this “dream team” of students would win an entire country to the cause of Christ. I wanted Russians to come to know Jesus and I wanted the hearts my students to break for the Nations. As it turned out, God didn’t break my heart for Russia, He broke my heart for Russians!
John received his revelation from Jesus Himself. He was privy to a sight any one of us would long to see: every nation, every tribe, every people, and every language worshipping Jesus on the throne. This image in verse 9 is striking – a multitude no one could count! Bigger than any church service. Better attended than any political rally. More people than the largest sporting event the earth has ever seen, all worshipping Jesus Christ as Lord. They weren’t all white. They didn’t speak the same language. They didn’t look the same. They weren’t all related.
John saw people from “every nation”, meaning a large group of people who share cultural, geographic, and physical proximity. Our usual understanding of nation means geo-political boundaries or countries on a map, like the USA, Kenya, or Russia, but each of those “nations” is made up of different peoples, tribes and languages. In the Scriptures, “nations” does not refer to geo-political boundaries.
John saw people from all tribes and peoples, representing a collection of families who descended from one ancestor. People within a tribe are related by blood. They would live with the same customs, traditions, and usually the same language.
John saw that every language was represented among this tapestry of worshippers. We see all the way back in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel that God Himself created every language. God created the nations, the tribes, the peoples, and the languages of the earth, and He wants them all to be worshipping Him. They will be worshipping Him in the end!
Think of someone you know. Do they fall outside of a nation, a tribe, a people, or a language? Of course not! Everyone falls into one of those categories. The Bible uses this repetition to reinforce that there will be people from everywhere standing in heaven!
When I got to Russia, I realized that most everything I had ever learned about Russia and Russians was wrong. The stereotypes I had come to believe in the Cold War era of my upbringing were far from accurate. Russians do view the world differently than Americans. But so do Indonesians, Maasai tribesmen, Slavs, Anglos, Latinos, Hebrews, and Sunnis. All people view the world differently. But God views each of us the same and wants us all to know Jesus. People are similar wherever you go. In every culture, country, and language, people hope for good lives, want families, want their lives to mean something significant. Everyone I encounter—no matter where they live or what language they speak— consider the things of God, because even if they had never heard of Jesus or know much about Him, God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecc. 3:11). Everywhere people long to know God. Everywhere people are longing to be known by the God who created them.
Our group of 17 Americans crammed into a tiny hotel room (with all the furniture moved out) in Tver, Russia each morning to spend time in the Word and sing together. A song based out of Psalm 2:8 began ringing in my heart that summer. It continues to motivate, challenge, and inspire me to send and go to the Nations. May God break your heart for the Nations of the earth!
Psalm 2:8: “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”
- What did God say to you today?
- Are there generalizations or stereotypes you believe about a certain people group?
- Do you believe that God may be asking you to reach the Nations for His sake?
- Ask God to break your heart for the peoples of the earth.
- Are there any other actions you need to take?