Revelation – The Worship of the Nations – 16
Who watched the UT-Bama game Saturday? Everybody. It had millions in viewership. I bleed orange. I went to UT, and that’s where my wife and I met. I went to every home game while in college. If you are a UT fan, what did you do when that winning field goal was kicked? If you kept watching, what did the fans do at the stadium? Erupted! And we can use that word literally. There was literal seismic activity, as if an earthquake, the roar of the crowd was so loud. Everyone then stormed the field, tore down the goalposts, and threw them into the Tennessee River. That’s some intense worship!
Many Christians don’t open their mouth to sing but will scream at the top of their lungs when their team wins. Many Christians will not be moved to tears at the thought of the gospel, yet manly men will cry when the Vols upset Bama. I’m purposefully drawing a parallel here because this is the picture we see in heaven of the 144,000 that we started to look at last week. We see those who are sealed worship the only one who is worthy of our worship. And I want you to see how it describes their worship later in Revelation 14.
We tried to finish all of Revelation chapter 7 last week but only got halfway through. Tonight, we will finish it. Let’s recap a little of what we finished with last week and read the whole chapter in context again.
Last week we saw that God is eager to save. Not just here with you, but he so loves the whole world that he gave his only Son. And he saves people from the whole world.
Christianity is global. (9) Our worship here on earth should be a foretaste of our worship in heaven. This is one major reason you see such a big push against what is referred to as Christian nationalism right now. And I think rightly so. If a brother or sister in Christ, from another country, was in one of our worship services around July 4, would they be able to worship? In a lot of churches, I don’t think so. I think we should thank God for our country, but many forget that Christianity is not an American religion. Yes, we have freedom of religion, and that is incredible, and we should thank God for it, but Christianity is a global religion, and it is even thriving in places where there is no freedom of religion.
One pastor was telling me how they were changing their services to more rightly reflect this biblical truth, and a church member came to them asking, “Aren’t we going to be having a God and country worship service this year?” And he told her, “I think we’ll just stick with the God part.”
Christianity is global. That’s how it’s been from the very beginning, with the Apostle Paul taking the gospel to the ends of the known world. That’s our calling and commission as Christ followers, from Christ himself before he ascended into heaven…to bring the gospel to make disciples of who?…all nations. And that is what we see and hear around the throne of God.
Every people group is represented around God’s throne. The gospel is going to be heard and believed among all the peoples of the earth. (10)
Hear what Jesus says in Matthew 24:14, amid his teaching on what will happen at the end: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Here’s how I believe biblical prophecy to work. I believe there is often an immediate fulfillment and a future fulfillment. There is an immediate fulfillment that they see in their time, but there is a future fulfillment they won’t ever see, but God intends. I think this is true in the case of this passage. Jesus lists many things that will happen before the end and wants his people to have an expectation of the end happening at any moment. Hear what one commentator says,
“All nine of these preliminary events in fact occurred before a.d. 70, though most if not all have recurred many times since then as well. Various messianic pretenders arose, most notably Theudas (Acts 5:36; Josephus, Ant. 20.97–99, 160–72, 188, who describes other false claimants as well). The war of Israel against Rome began in a.d. 66–67 and was preceded by the growing hostility incited by the Zealots. Famine ravaged Judea, as predicted in Acts 11:27–30, datable to ca. a.d. 45–47 by Josephus, Ant. 20.51–53. Earthquakes shook Laodicea in a.d. 60–61 and Pompeii in a.d. 62 (cf. also Acts 16:26). Persecution dogged believers’ footsteps throughout Acts; internal dissension so tore apart the church at Corinth (1 Cor 1–4) that God even caused some to die (1 Cor 11:30). Numerous New Testament epistles were written primarily to warn against false teachers and perversions of Christianity, most notably Galatians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Peter, and Jude. Arguably, the concept of “love running cold” most aptly characterized the days of the Neronian persecution of Christians in the midsixties. Paul, finally, with whatever rationale, could claim that by at least the late fifties, the gospel had gone out to all the oikoumenē—known world or empire (Rom 10:18).
It is crucial to observe the fulfillment of all these preliminary events prior to a.d. 70. This fulfillment will explain how 24:34 can be true. It demonstrates that everything necessary for Christ’s return was accomplished within the first generation of Christianity, so that every subsequent generation has been able to believe that Jesus could come back in their times.”
Just because these may have been fulfilled in the time of the early church doesn’t mean it still won’t be fulfilled in our time. We are still called to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. What we see around the throne is the end result of missions here on earth. People from every people group are worshiping God. There are a total of 17,428 people groups around the world. A people group is a specific group of people with a distinct culture and language. Out of those people groups, 7,417 are unreached. 42.5% of the world population is unreached. That is 3.37 billion people. That means they have little or no access to the gospel. There is not a church or enough evangelical Christian population to be able to tell this group how to be saved without outside assistance.
The mission that lays before us is great! The whole world needs to worship God, and people from the whole world WILL worship God! And we also see the content of their worship…why they are worshiping.
All the redeemed worship God for who he is. (11-12)
The first song we sang tonight I picked specifically because the first words out of it is worshiping God for who he is. “I worship the God who was. I worship the God who is. I worship the God who evermore will be.” Look at the content of their worship around the throne. They are praising God for who he is. We should do the same. Our praise and worship should be more focused on who God is than what he has done for us. HE is worthy of our worship. HE is great and greatly to be praised (Ps 96:4; 145:3). He is worthy of our worship alone apart from what he does for us. But he does also provide all of our needs, and he is worthy of worship for that as well. The next line in the first song we sang tonight was, “He opened the prison doors; He parted the raging sea; My God, He holds the victory.”
All the redeemed have all they need in Jesus. (13-16)
I want you to notice that the followers of Jesus this passage is referring to have undergone hardship. They experienced tribulation on earth but are provided everything they need in heaven. Knowing heaven awaits you allows you to persevere through hell on earth. That’s what we see from these saints.
The ones with white robes have come out of the “great tribulation.” Though this tribulation is likely a specified time of horrible tribulation like the world has never seen, it is also true for you, that you will experience tribulation if you follow Jesus closely.
Tribulation follows obedience to Jesus.
“Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation.” Paul told the churches in Acts 14:22, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” In Revelation 1:9 John told the churches that he was their “brother and partner in the tribulation.” Jesus said to the church in Smyrna in 2:9, “I know your tribulation,” then told them in 2:10 that they would have tribulation for ten days.”
Tribulation can come from persecution, spiritual warfare, or testing. When you are slighted, mistreated, canceled, or mocked for your faith in Jesus, hardship happens because of persecution. When you are attacked by spiritual forces…and the more fervent you are in your faith, the more likely these attacks…you experience hardship through spiritual warfare. This could also be hardship that comes from the brokenness of our world. Spiritual warfare in the Bible isn’t just from Satan. It is from the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph 2:2-3). All around us that is not of Christ has power to inflict us. That’s part of being fallen and living in a fallen world that is waiting to be redeemed. And finally, we can experience hardship through a time of testing. God is testing our faith (Job 1; James 1:2-4; Rev 3:10). God doesn’t cause the harm to befall us, but he allows it, as you can see from the behind-the-scenes happenings of Job 1. And to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3, Jesus said he’s going to spare them from the hour of trial (or tribulation) that is coming upon the whole earth, then he says, which is to try, or test, those who dwell on the earth.
I remember the sermon I preached right before the greatest trial and tribulation of my life. It was titled, “Expectations of a Christ Follower.” There were two expectations: 1) hardship, and 2) hope. You read Romans 8, and Paul is talking about tribulation, and distress, and persecution, and famine, and nakedness, and danger, and sword. But he concludes that in all those things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In that sermon, I said the first expectation of a Christ follower is hardship, but Paul paints over all the hardship with a big red paintbrush, with hope. Amidst hardship, with Jesus, there is always hope. Little did I know that two days later I would experience my greatest hardship of losing my twin sister and then devote my life to defending and proclaiming that there is hope amidst hardship.
If you follow Jesus, you can expect hardship, but great is the reward. No matter what you face, God is worthy of your worship, there is hope, and he is worth following.
Jesus is worth following, whatever the cost. (17)
The Lamb who died for us will be in our midst, and he will continually guide us to green pastures and beside still, living waters. Our soul will forever be renewed. And it concludes with that comfort and hope amidst hardship we all long for…“and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Don’t you want that? Don’t you long for that? That’s what awaits you…no matter what you have gone through or will go through…if your faith is in the Shepherd-Lamb who was slain for you.
 Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. Vol. 22. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992, 357.
 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 164.
 James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 194-5.