A Great, Uncountable Multitude (Carson)

I love the part of John’s vision where he sees an innumerable crowd of Christians shouting out glad praises to God. Here’s how it goes:

After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands.  They were shouting out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10 NET). 

D. A. Carson has an excellent three point explanation of this “enormous crowd that no one could count”:

First, they spring “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (7:9). There is not a whiff of racism here. Moreover, this theme keeps recurring in the book. For instance, already in Revelation 5:9, the elders sing a new song to the Lamb: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” The ultimate community of God is transnational, transtribal, transracial, translinguistic. In that sense, Los Angeles is a better anticipation of heaven than Tulsa, Oklahoma. Let the church, strengthened by the grace of God, live out now, as largely as possible, what she will one day be.

Second, everything significant about these people turns on the work of God effected through the Lamb—in short, it turns on the Gospel of God. So they stand “before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (7:9); they cry “in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’ ” (7:10). While the angels worship God (7:11–12), John is told that these people “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). In short, whatever else is found in Revelation, this book overflows with the Gospel.

Third, the ultimate prospect for the great multitude is not located in this life. They “are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple” (7:15). Nothing bad will ever again befall them (7:16). “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” (7:17). The book of Revelation fans the flames of courage and faithfulness in this life, even in the teeth of the most virulent opposition, by holding out the most glorious prospects for the life to come.

The above quote is found in D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Volume One), Dec. 16.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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