[Dec 25]—From Every Nation. . .

            I know I know I know. You’re saying “Keith, where’s the Christmas devotional?!” Well, I don’t have anything against Christmas, although quite frankly it’s not my favorite holiday. The problem is that I’ve really said all I need to say concerning it. If you want a Christmas devotional, you can read here, here, and here if you’re so inclined. The last one in particular is my favorite, since it has a video clip from my favorite Christmas movie of all time.
            I guess in a way, today’s devotional and reading kinda sorta relates to Christmas in the only way that matters. In my opinion, we tend to sentimentalize Christmas way too much. He came as a cute little baby, but he didn’t stay that way. As long as we visualize him as a little baby, we can avoid thinking about the less politically-correct reason as to why he came. He didn’t come primarily to teach or provide us a good example to follow, although he did those things. He came to die a horrible death and have the Father place upon his back our sins and the punishment due them. But even that doesn’t go back far enough as the primary motivation as to why he came. The hint of it—the absolute rock-bottom reason as to why he came—is found in today’s passage.
            If you’re waiting for me to get into a deep discussion about where this scene fits into my personal interpretation of Revelation and the End Times, you'll have to keep waiting. I think most Christians agree that this is still future, and it’s a view of Heaven. Other than that, I’m not going to get into the details about it.
Some biblical scholars of a certain stripe claim that the Church will escape the Great Tribulation, while others say that they’ll go through it, while still others teach that the “Great Tribulation” isn’t a particular period of time but the Church’s history since Jesus left: We’ve always been going through a time of testing and persecution to some degree. I have a particular view on it, but to go into it would be completely irrelevant to the point I want to make.
What’s especially important to me here, however, is John’s immediate description of this crowd. What does he say about it in the first verse? It 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.”
This means at some point in the future there’ll be an uncountable multitude before the throne and the Lamb, and there’ll be representatives there from every nation, tribe, people, and language. Does this mean that every individual will eventually be saved? I wish I could say that, but no.
What does it mean?

·         It means that the Great Commission will be fulfilled someday. There will come a day in which there will be followers of Jesus from every “nation.” BTW, the word “nation” in the Matthew passage and today’s reading doesn’t mean “nation” as a geopolitical structure like America or Russia or China or Brazil. The word is ethne, from which we get the word “ethnic.” It’s a people-group, defined among missionaries as “An ethno-linguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members. For strategic purposes it is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.” If you study church history from a missiological standpoint, it’s pretty depressing at times. Missiologists refer to what happened after the Protestant Reformation as the “Great Omission,” when we—for reasons which varied in legitimacy—failed to reach out to the unreached people groups, those who’d never had the opportunity to hear the Good News in a way they could understand and relate to.
      But there will come a day when it’s fulfilled. John saw it. This in no way excuses our laziness or disobedience, but it should spur us on to working together towards its completion.

·         When the angel announced that the arrival of that Baby would be “good news” for all people, he meant it. Of course the shepherds probably knew a lot less details than we do today about God’s plan to redeem people from all ethne, but that doesn’t change this glorious truth. What was announced in those fields on the first Christmas is fulfilled in today’s passage. So I guess I can relate it to Christmas after all!

·         I wish this could go without saying, but I think we need a reminder here: This of course completely repudiates any feelings of ethnocentrism as far as the Good News of Christ is concerned. God loves all ethne equally, and he won’t rest until the last person who’s going to be saved gets saved. I count it as a definite “plus”—to put it extremely mildly—that the church I’m attending is multiethnic, that we have folks from various ethnic backgrounds, skin pigmentations, and national backgrounds in our church, and we’ve made a strong effort to continue to reach out to all sorts of people. When such people from different backgrounds congregate to worship as a group, it’s literally a foretaste of Heaven. I don’t just mean that it’s a wonderful experience. I mean that it’s a preview of what Heaven will be like, based on today’s reading.

·         The world can talk all it wants about unity, but the only lasting, genuine, and positive unity is based on unity in worshiping our Savior God. As we’ve seen in the past with the Tower of Babel, and as you can read about later in the book of Revelation, there’s such a thing as “bad” unity. A lynch mob can be unified. Germany was mostly unified under Hitler at one point. But when people of different ethne can join together as one and sing

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb”

. . . it’s pure beauty.

            Let’s get back to his ultimate purpose for coming. Yes, in a sense he came to die in our place. But even that’s not the rock-bottom purpose. His rock-bottom purpose is what we’re seeing here. He came to establish his Kingdom and glorify his name by redeeming sinners from all people-groups and bringing worshipers into it. As John Piper put it, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” In other words, missionaries and evangelists are worship recruiters. They’re there to add to the uncountable numbers you see in today’s passage.
            So what’s your part in all this? I don’t think that God has called everyone to be “professional” evangelists or missionaries. But I believe with all my heart that every redeemed child of God is called to contribute to what we read here. You can take part by praying. You can take part by contributing financially. You can take part in being informed so that your prayers can be more effective. You can take part by asking him to use you to reach those around you, by having a "Here am I, send me" type of attitude. So what are you going to do in the coming year?

Lord Jesus, I confess that way too often I’ve participated in the Great Omission instead of the Great Commission. Please show me my part, and give me the empowering I need to follow through. For your glory and pleasure. Please. 

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