I read the following from John Ortberg:
John Ortberg Considers the Ongoing Battle with Racism
Psychologists have found an intriguing way to study what it is that we really like and dislike. It’s called “affective priming.” They print a word over a bouncing dot on a computer screen. If people’s response is positive, they push any key with their left hand; if negative—any key with their right.
Too discover our deeper responses, researchers will use subliminal stimulation. They’ll print a negative word (like “fear” or “storm”) subliminally, below your level of awareness. Your intuitive system is so fast it reads those words and responds to them before you are aware. So if they show a negative word subliminally, then a positive word slowly, it takes you longer to move toward a positive response.
Sometimes they will flash a subliminal picture instead of a word. When it is a picture of an African American, “Americans of all ages, classes, and political affiliations react with a flash of negativity.” Including people who report they have no prejudice at all.
Mark Noll has written a fascinating little book called The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. He notes that all the wrangling between North and South over the Bible and slavery overlooked one huge difference between slavery in ancient Mesopotamia and slavery in 19th-century America—the latter was race-based, race-soaked, racist. The deepest evil over slavery was not just the economics of it, it was the racism of it. Even northern Christians, who were opposed to slavery as an institution, were much slower to oppose racism.
Noll also notes that, over the long haul, Christian theology always tends to have a radicalizing effect on society because of one belief: that all human beings come from the same ancestor, that all human beings bear the image of God.
I thought about these stories, and many others, when I watched the nation respond to the presidential election results. I wondered what my grandfather would have thought about a man, who could not have spent the night in his town, now governing his country. I imagined the response of the retired Louisiana colonel. Quite apart from party preference or position on any number of political issues, I cannot imagine living through that moment without hoping that there might be healing for wounds that go deep and raw.
I thought about how Paul said there was a time when the dividing wall of hostility that separated the “us” group from the “them” group came down. I thought about the Azusa Street Revival and how, for a few years, black people and white people defied all polite society and worshiped together, and then when the fervor cooled and things got respectable, they stopped and mirrored the rest of society.
I thought of how when God sits in front of his computer—whatever face gets flashed on a screen—the only button he pushes is marked love. Love. Love.
I wonder about the church…
I have been in a sermon series on Scriptures I have been convicted to pray for my descendants. Today we come to two passages. One is Galatians 3:28 which reads:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The other passage is Revelation 7:9-12 and that is where we will spend the bulk of our time today. What we see from these two passages is that Heaven is multicultural. If you have a problem with another cultural group, you will not like Heaven.
Today, I want us to turn to Revelation 7:9-12 and let’s look at a passage giving us a picture of worship in Heaven.
My theme is:
Worship in Heaven will be multicultural.
Turn with me to Rev. 7:9-12:
9 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 werein their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 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,12 saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
I. Worship God in humility and unity as we see in this picture of Heaven, we may be there. I notice this from verses 9-12.
a. I read the following:
b. Interestingly, of all the songs in the Book of Revelation, not one is a solo. The twenty-four elders sing and cast their crowns before His feet, the united voices of countless angels resound, every living creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and all that is in them are joined in one song. Those who are victorious over the beast are given harps and a song to sing. In every case multitudes of people or angels unite in the same song with absolute unity.
c. I have been convicted by this passage of a few things:
1. Heaven is multicultural.
2. This is a picture of vertical worship, this is a picture of worship in Heaven and it is all about Jesus.
d. So, when I think about what I desire in my own life and my children’s lives it must flow from this Biblical picture of reverent, upward, holistic worship.
e. First let’s notice unity.
f. Prior to this passage John was listing the tribes of Israel and we are not going to talk about that passage today, except to say that verse 9 begins with “after these things.”
g. It is the Greek preposition meta (μετά metá). It can be translated “after” or “with.” Some scholars like to think of this as being better translated “with.” This would mean “with the Jewish tribes, listed previously, we see this great multitude.”
h. Either translation still shows Heaven being multicultural.
i. Here we see a picture of worship in Heaven. This is sometime during the end times. This is likely before the New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven.
j. Verse 9 begins to describe a great crowd. No one was able to count this crowd.
k. Someone joked that John could not count this large crowd but if a Baptist evangelist was there he would find a way.
l. The text says it is a large crowd.
m. Every nation, tribe, people and tongue are in this crowd. This is John’s way of saying that every people group from the world is in this crowd.
n. This crowd was clothed in white robes. White represents purity.
o. Palm branches were in their hands. There is a lot about palm branches.
p. The Archaeological Study Bible gives insight:
The branches of the date palm appear in the symbolism of Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures:
• Palms were a longstanding sign of victory in the Greek world, and the Roman authors Livy, Virgil and Cicero made use of them based upon this significance as well.
• Palm branches were associated with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:40). Together with the myrtle, willow and citron, they formed the lulab, an object the rabbis tell us was shaken at the recitation of Psalm 118:25: “O Lord, save us!” (Hebrew, Hosanna! ).
• In John 12:13 the crowds waved their palm branches while shouting this same verse.
• The Maccabees used palm branches as part of the rededication ceremony for the temple (2Mc 10:7) and minted coins picturing palm trees along with the inscription “For the redemption of Zion.”
• These symbols were also employed by the Jews of the failed Bar Kokhba rebellion when they attempted to overthrow the Romans and set up a Messianic kingdom.
Palm branches thus vividly depicted God’s victory and the deliverance of his people. Revelation 7:9 portrays Christians who have overcome the persecutions of this world as waving palm branches and wearing white robes. The symbolism of the palm branches would have been meaningful to any ancient reader, but especially to one familiar with the place of palm branches in Jewish tradition and worship.
q. Dr. Mulholland, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary actually added to this. In his lectures on Revelation he shared the palm was on the flag of Israel.
r. Think of Palm Sunday….This is a revolutionary parade. If you look at the coins minted during the bar kokhba revolt (132-136 BCE) they all have the palm branch on them.
s. All these people are united to worship the Lord.
t. Unity: what is uniting them? Worshipping our Savior is uniting them, we’ll get to that.
u. So, one day Martin Luther King Jr. shared the following words:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
v. I believe we have come a long way, but I speak only from one point of view, the point of view of a suburban white male. But we have not gone far enough.
w. We see in this passage that Jesus can bring us together.
x. So, God loves all and tribes, tongues and nationalities, all of them will be in Heaven. It is not the color of our skin, but our great Savior. All these groups are worshipping the Savior together.
y. I was recently at Moody Bible Institute and the praise band from an African American Church led worship at the pastor’s conference. It was a lot different. We must all remember that different cultures worship our Savior differently and I believe He is glorified in all of those different expressions of worship.
God is no respecter of persons, especially when it comes to the gifts of the Spirit. For an example from recent church history, consider the beginning of the Pentecostal movement at the turn of the twentieth century. In the decade prior to 1906, lynchings of African Americans in America had skyrocketed. It is estimated that well over one thousand blacks, mainly men, were lynched—hanged, shot or sometimes buried alive—in the United States. Millions of people in the United States had joined the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1906, the Spirit of God was poured out in a powerful revival in Los Angeles that has come to be known as the Azusa Street Revival. Under the leadership of an African American man, William Seymour, tens of thousands of people from all over the world and all walks of life—rich, poor, men, women, Americans, non-Americans, black, white, Asian, Latino— came by car, by horse and buggy, by train and by boat. They all encountered the Spirit. In a year of lynchings, blacks and whites were embracing each other as beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Frank Bartleman, a historian of the Azusa Street Revival, said, “The color line is washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ!”
II. Now, notice humility: they cry out with a loud voice saying salvation belongs to the Lord sitting on the throne and to the Lamb.
a. Then we see in verse 12: the angels, all of them, the elders, the four living creatures bow down, faces down before the throne.
b. There is great humility in worship.
c. They said:
vii. And strength belong to the eternal God.
d. They give God the glory due His name.
e. This passage continues through the rest of the chapter and is comparable with Revelation 4:5-11 and 5:11-14.
III. Some applications:
a. Do we worship the Lord with great power and humility as this crowd did?
b. How do we feel about the cultural groups?
c. Do we desire that we love all cultures?
d. Do we desire that our church and our family and our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren love all cultures?
e. Do we pray that way?
f. Pray that we and our descendants worship the Lord this way.
g. Pray that we and our descendants recognize Heaven is multicultural.
A few years ago something hit me. I don’t know what made me think of this, but I will share this with you. In Genesis 11 we see God divide the people and divide their language. It seems that without the Holy Spirit, fallen humanity needed to be divided and God used language to divide. However, it seems that since Jesus came, died, was resurrected and we received the Holy Spirit God has been reversing that. In the CHURCH, in the BODY OF CHRIST, God has redeemed humanity and part of that redemption is bringing us together again. Heaven is multicultural.
Do you know Jesus?
God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)