Anticipation is everywhere. It’s there as we wait for a package to arrive causing us to check the tracking number again and again. It’s there in the dog sitting by the door waiting for his/her owner to get home. It’s why movies release trailers and why kids have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve.
Anticipation isn’t just prevalent though, it’s powerful. How we act is greatly shaped by what we anticipate. For that reason, we need to be wise about what we most eagerly anticipate. If we aren’t, unchecked anticipation may lead us down destructive roads we never planned on exploring.
But, anticipation can also lead to immense good if it’s directed toward the right things. This week’s passage in Revelation gives us one of those right images to anticipate. We get a sneak peek into the future and into Heaven, and it’s more glorious and wonderful than anything we could ever dream of. Revelation 7 gives us something to anticipate that should shape the church’s structure, priorities, and daily functions.
Following the judgement released through the first six scrolls in Revelation 6, this chapter serves as a bit of a break. Before judgement continues, John gets the privilege of seeing 144,000 Jews convert to following Jesus and begin witnessing all throughout the world. Right after this, in Revelation 7:911, John gets to see one of the most remarkable images in all of Scripture.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‚ÄòSalvation 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.”
Go back and reread that passage again.
Now, just sit for a moment and try your hardest to imagine this scene.
Are you excited yet? Do you feel your anticipation for Heaven building? I pray you do because this is a glimpse into what eternity will look like and be like! And there are some specific details here you won’t want to miss.
First, we see there won’t be just a few people in Heaven. Yes, the “gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). But also, when everything is said and done, those who have been saved by God will form “a great multitude which no one could count.” What a joy it is that Heaven won’t be empty, but filled with an ocean of redeemed people!
And this ocean won’t be monotone or monolingual. The saints in this scene come “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” It’s so clear here that Heaven is not reserved for only one race or country. Rather, Heaven will be filled with people of all colors from all parts of the world.
Lastly, we see Heaven will be filled with praise. Those before the throne of God are holding palm branches, bowing down on their faces, and shouting with loud voices, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Heaven won’t be a quiet place. It’ll be filled with loud worship for all of eternity, and we’ll get to sing along.
What an image of Heaven John received and passed on to the seven churches and subsequently to us today. That picture is so exciting that hopefully you can’t help but anticipate its coming. But now we must ask, how should this anticipation affect how we live today?
Our actions will mirror the three truths we read about in verses 9 through 11. In seeing that Heaven is a place with enough room for a great multitude, we should evangelize and share the Gospel, knowing there will be room for all who are saved. Then, we should strive to help our churches reflect the multicolored, multiethnic worship scene of Heaven. This passage emphatically demonstrates that there is no room for racism in the Church, and we should seek to share Jesus with unreached people all around the world. Finally, we should imitate the scene in Heaven by worshiping God with joy and raised voices.
While the vision John has of Heaven is one of what’s to come, the guaranteed future he witnessed should influence the priorities and conduct of the Church today. We don’t have to wait until Heaven to have a large group of diverse Christians worshiping loudly together. It’ll take work, but if we are diligent and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, then we may get to see a shadow of the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.