Summary: The Great Commission invites us, amazingly, into the joy of sharing faith and, by God's power and grace, having a real impact on the future population of heaven. Weird but true.
Let me ask a couple questions about our home planet and its population to begin today. How many nations/countries are in the world? Anyone want to guess? Ballpark? 196 [ (not incl. Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Greenland, Palestine, Western Sahara, and even the components of the United Kingdom (such as Northern Ireland,Scotland, Wales, and England ]
How many tribes on the planet? By one count there are over 600 First Nations tribes in Canada alone. It’s impossible to know how many tribes or people groups there are in the world.
How many people on the earth? http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ 7.1 billion
How many languages on earth? Over 6900. According to Ethnologue, there are currently 6,912 living languages, defined as languages that people speak today.
Interestingly, the part of the world with the highest level of linguistic diversity is Papua New Guinea. The region has approximately 830 languages for around 5.4 million people. That's about one language for every 6,500 residents. Cindy Lai, our missionary to PNG, has her work cut out for her!
That’s a whole lot of people. That’s a whole lot of communities. Let’s bring it closer to home.
How many languages would you guess are spoken in Toronto? According to the City of Toronto web site, the 2006 census revealed that there are 140 languages spoken in the GTA.
There are 5.5 million people in the GTA. Half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada. There are 200 distinct ethnic origins.
In light of that, let’s stand together and read our key passage for today.
Revelation7:9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.The sun will not beat down on them,’nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
God’s idea of the life the continues after this one, that we see here in the book of Revelation, is a stunning picture of heaven.
It is not to be understood as being poetry without substance. It is not intended just to bring comfort. It is a picture of coming reality. It is God’s picture of heaven.
It’s not the heaven and its inhabitants that God wishes will happen, but the heaven that both is and will be. It IS because those who have passed away in Christ already experience this in real time.
This is a present reality for them. Members of this congregation who are absent now due to death are experiencing what we just read in our passage today.
IT WILL BE because this is a picture of the reality of our future, our eternity with God.
It is not a complete picture. Scripture is full of images of heaven, and in fact the dominant theme of Scripture is that the new heaven and the new earth will be in many ways similar to what we know currently of life on this planet.
Minus the impact of sin, minus the mourning and weeping and suffering that are daily occurrences on this planet; things that are very familiar to us in this room.
To me this is a beautiful picture. A countless multitude of people, all known by name by God. Every single people group on this planet is represented. Every language spoken. Every nation, every tribe. This speaks of God’s desire for all nations, all people.
And it speaks of what has already been and will continue to be the massive global appeal and global vision of the gospel.