Revelation 7:9 tells us about a gathering which exceeds all other gatherings:
“. . . there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” This crowd could not be counted. Too many.
Crowds Those who follow the football team of the university of Michigan know that the Big House can hold 110,000 people, which is larger than many cities in America. Countable.
I recall seeing in a Billy Graham pictorial biography a picture of a crowd in Seoul, Korea, that gathered to hear him preach. The caption said it was about 1 million people (1,000,000). Also countable.
The 2020 Super Bowl had an average viewership of 99.9 million in the U.S. and another 30 to 50 million viewers around the world. Obviously countable.
According to the FIFA, the organization the directs world-class soccer, the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia reached an average live audience of 512 million viewers, with more than 1.1 billion people tuning in over the 90 minutes of the match. That’s a huge focus on one thing, but still countable.
Let’s bump the parameters out further by asking, “How many people have ever lived?” How many people have walked the earth from before Abraham’s time to today?1 I was tantalized by this question some years ago. When I read in National Geographic (May, 2002) that “. . . there are more than 200 times as many bacteria in the human colon as there are people who have ever lived in all of human history” I perked up. 2
National Geographic puts the number of people who ever lived on the planet at 105 billion and says the earth is 4.5 billion years old. 3 I believe both estimates are far too high. Keep in mind that National Geographic is a thoroughly evolutionary. Still the N.G. article was a starting point and the only guestimate I have ever seen. 4
I believe the cosmology of the Biblical scientists of Answers in Genesis.5 Their estimate is that the earth is 7000-10,000 years old. My guess is that less than 10 billion people have ever walked the planet.
The assembled multitude before the throne of God – according to Revelation 7:9 — will be uncountable.6
So what? What does this mean?
Work to be Done Before the Second Coming In front of the Apostle John is a sea of people from every nation, tribe, people and language group. This means a lot more Gospel discipleship work will be done before “every tribe” will be represented. There are about 7000 languages / dialects in the world today. 7
According to Wycliffe Bible Translators there are still 1800-2400 people-groups with no Scripture in their own language, which represent 255 million people. 8
With the eradicating of some disease (smallpox and rinderpest, and four on-going efforts against poliomyelitis, yaws, dracunculiasis and malaria), improved health care and better nutrition, world population has soared in the last 75 years. As of March, 2020, the population of the world was about 7,800,000,000 (7 billion, 800 million). I believe that most of the people who have ever lived are alive now! 9
The assembled multitude before the throne of God will have been discipled to some degree (which has not happened yet). 10 And this means the second coming of Christ may be off on the horizon.
Some would argue that the requirement that “ . . . the Gospel will be preached in the whole world . . . and then the end will come” does not require any response from such scattered people-groups / tribes (Matthew 24:14). It is claimed that that requirement could be viewed as having been fulfilled by radio waves carrying the Gospel to remote people groups. That no degree of thoroughness is involved. But Revelation 7:9 involves a significant degree of thoroughness, resulting in some being redeemed and discipled so as to qualify to be in this multitude.
Much evangelism and discipleship will occur after the rapture of the church. A titanic battle will rage for the souls, wills, minds and bodies of people. Supernatural fireworks will burst out. For example, satan will perform lying wonders (Revelation 13:13 & 14) and angels will preach the Gospel (Revelation 14:6).
These People are Redeemed They are said to be “. . . wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev 7:9). White robes are a symbol of redemption throughout the Revelation (6:11; 7:13 & 14). Every individual in this uncountable multitude has a personal connection to the Head of the church, Jesus Christ.
This was written during the Tokyo Olympics (July, 2021). Normally the Opening Ceremonies is a most joyful event – all the athletes coming into the stadium in national dress. Healthy. So happy to be there! In previous years when people were in the stands, this was my favorite event. The gathering of Revelation 7:9 – with possibly everyone in native garb — will greatly exceed the Opening Ceremonies.
Salvation is the Great Dividing Line This multitude is said to cry out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God . . . .” They are not overwhelmed about God’s creation. They are not focused on His holiness, nor His power, nor any of His attributes. Their spoken eruption is “. . . salvation belonging to our God” because that is their connection to the Living God.
Salvation is the great dividing line. They are in this august multitude some who will have been divided from others. People they knew are not there. Some family members are not. People they have loved. Friends they have enjoyed are not there. Salvation is the great dividing line.
God has allowed my wife and I to see some of His world; to experience India, France, Uganda, Holland, the Amazon, Israel and Bangladesh. It is not one world. These nations are different. There is a division between those nations and Biblical Christianity. While there are many Christians living in those nations, the majority do not care to proclaim that salvation is found in Jesus Christ. No, it is not one world. Allegiance to Jesus Christ is the great dividing line.
Let’s not ever get used to being redeemed. Not assume on salvation, nor take it for a granted reality (even though it is). An attitude of gratitude is a foundation for Christian living. When hardship, injustice or sickness come upon us, we drop back to the bedrock of our lives, “Jesus died for me and I am redeemed” and “Salvation belongs to our God.”
- Conservative scholars put Abraham’s birth at about 2166 B.C.
- The standard figure from molecular biology is there are 10,000,000,000,000 bacteria in a normal, healthy human colon. The May issue on National Geographic said, “There are over 200 times as many bacteria in the human colon than the number of people who have ever lived during all of human history.
- The population estimate is based on the work of demographer Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau.
- The Answers in Genesis answer line was too complicated for me to navigate.
- A group of scientifically-oriented Bible believing Christians who see no conflict between legitimate, true, let-the-evidence-take-us-where-it-may and the Bible. answersingenesis.org
- By definition, numbers are countable. However, like all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world and all the stars of the universe, the thought on “uncountableness” means beyond what we can fathom or grasp.
- Wycliffe Bible Translators figures
- Ibid, data as of October, 2020
- In this age, God has placed in our hands the capacities we need to reach people like never before. Radio can go where missionaries can’t. Air travel is amazing (it took Paul weeks of walking; we do it in 90 minutes at 32,000 feet and 500 miles per hour). The internet is a tool for evangelism and discipleship. More people alive than have previously lives and powerful tools to reach them! What a ride!
- By definition, numbers are countable. However, like all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world or stars in the universe, the thought of “uncountableness” means beyond what we can fathom or grasp.