So let’s just kind of launch through the . . . As we have each week, let’s take a quick trip through the whole series of what we’re trying to do. The point of the study is to help us create a framework of the whole story of Scripture so that when we read individual parts of Scripture, we’ll be able to see those in the light of this overarching narrative or story that the Bible tells. So, we started with the question, “What’s that book about?” from an experience I had on an airplane several years ago; and we’re arguing that the Bible is coherent. There is a story arc that goes from the beginning to the end. And each week we’ve pointed out that the fact that there is a story arc in a book written over such a long span of time by so many different authors in three different languages is in and of itself testimony to God’s Spirit being involved in the composition of it.
But we’re saying, and the Bible says, it’s not just a story. It makes the audacious claim to be the story, the story of the one true God and His engagement in human history. We said that this is an audacious claim today. It’s a bold claim. It’s a claim disputed by many in a pluralistic society. But we’ve said every week that this was just as audacious when Moses was composing, when Amos was writing, when the authors of the New Testament were writing. Those were also radically pluralistic contexts. And so, the Bible makes this audacious claim. For us to assume or to make the Bible say something other than the fact that it purports to be the one true story of the one true God is to diminish and to deny what the Scripture proclaims or says that it is.
So what kind of a story is it? We’re saying it’s certainly a story about God, but it’s not just a random collection of thoughts about God. We also argued that it’s a story about people. In fact, we could say, I think with safety, with certainty, that there are more pages, more words, devoted to stories about people than there are direct references to God in the pages of the Bible. So when you bring those two things together, we’re going to say that the Bible is the story of God’s engagement in all of human history, in all of human destiny. It goes from the beginning, the creation of the world, and it goes to the end, the re-creation, the new heaven and the new earth. And so everything in between the book of Genesis at the beginning and the book of Revelation at the end tells us how this one true God is engaged in the lives of those whom He has created. And we’re going to say that and have said that this engagement is focused on God’s work of redemption; that the Bible tells us how God steps into the human condition and rescues humanity from the trouble, from the oppression, or from the entrapment that they find themselves in and restores humanity to what He intended them to experience.
So we’ve said that there are five basic movements or five ways of putting this story together. And if you were ever asked the question, “What’s that book about?” you might want to talk through these five movements. The first, of course, is creation. And we argued three weeks ago that the Bible presents God as Creator as a foundation for everything else it reveals about God. Everything else He reveals about Himself starts with this idea of Him as Creator. And as Creator, He makes a claim of sovereignty over all things. That comes out through the rest of Scripture. And then we looked at, notice, that at the end of the book, there’s a very similar picture to what we see at the beginning of the book. In the beginning, you have God having created humanity, enjoying complete fellowship with Him without encumbrance. And at the end of the book, we have this startling vision of God creating a new heaven and a new earth, and, once again, humanity living in relationship with Him in an unencumbered way, not experiencing sin or evil or death, but enjoying His presence and finding the fullness of life in that relationship with Him. So the question comes up, If God created humanity that way and gave them that experience at the beginning, why does He have to recreate it at the end? Why is it a new heaven and a new earth? And the answer we say is because of human rebellion, which we see in the initial stages in the early chapters of Genesis but then is woven through all of Scripture. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that the Bible does not present a terribly complimentary picture of humanity, does it? And it doesn’t even present a terribly complimentary picture of His chosen people as well, as they struggled to stay faithful to Him and the way that He has revealed.
So what’s God going to do? Well, in order for God to accomplish His desire that He be known by all as they were in the garden, God has to redeem. And so, you all can just recite right off the top of your head how we define redemption, right, with the three Rs. So go ahead. God’s act of what? Rescue, right? Rescue. And He rescues humanity, and what? Restores them. And He accomplished that. We see the idea of ransom. He pays a price. So redemption is founded on the idea or built around the idea of God’s three actions of rescue, restoration, and ransom. And last week, we spent almost the entire time looking at redemption as it’s played out in the Old Testament and played out in the New Testament. Remember the quote that “the people of God in the Old Testament, Israel, never knew their God as a nation apart from Him as Redeemer.” Creator, Redeemer, the two foundation stones upon which the people of God in the Old Testament knew their God. And in the New Testament, in the work of Christ, He is known then to His people as the one who has rescued us from sin and evil and death and restored us to the fullness of life in relationship to Him. This redemptive act will be ultimately experienced in the new heaven and the new earth when all that God intends in human history will be fulfilled.
But we’ve said that the Bible also presents to us the rather startling reality that God’s redemptive mission, God’s redemptive work, is accomplished through His people. And He accomplishes redemption through His people in primarily two ways. First, through His people. The Redeemer, Jesus, is born, a descendant of Abraham in the line of David, fully human. Even more we would argue, or, and so we also know that God accomplishes His redemptive purpose through His people as the redeemed people of God. In other words, through His people, all peoples can know and worship Him. So redemption is accomplished by Jesus, but the awareness and knowledge of God necessary for all people to experience God is accomplished by His people. And so we’ve said that His people then are described in the Old Testament as the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham and the nation of Israel, and in the New Testament as the church. So what we’re going to see is that in terms of the way God established and works through His people, there is significant and important continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament, just by way of personal testimony.
When I first began to study Scripture seriously, I was in a context where I learned that there was a sharp delineation between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God in the New Testament, Israel and the church, and that they should never be seen as the same. In that sharp delineation, however, I didn’t take away from that training a keen sense of the continuity that God has established as the purpose of having His people, Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament. So this telling of the story of the Bible sees tremendous continuity between what God intended for His people in the Old Testament and what He intends for His people in the New Testament as the agents through which He accomplishes His redemptive mission.
So last week, sorry for the flyby, but last week we looked at the establishment of God’s people in Genesis 12. You remember that? We looked at God’s command. Why don’t you go ahead and open your Bibles to Genesis 12, God’s command to Abraham to leave everything that he knew, everything that defined his life. Verse 1 of chapter 12, “The LORD had said to Abraham, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’” This command was for Abraham to abandon everything he knew in terms of identity and security and prosperity. Then God promises to fill in what he’s left in verses 2 and 3. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” And then that last line of the promise in verse 3, I think, should be translated “so that all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” And so, last week, we looked a little bit at the grammar and syntax of that passage. And that last line, no matter how you classify the grammar in Hebrew, is taken by most scholars to mean a statement of result or purpose. So why will God establish a people? He establishes a people so that all peoples can experience the blessing that comes from confessing Him as the one true God.
And so, there’s the fundamental premise for what it means to be the people of God: that God engages us, redeems us, and creates a redeemed people, not just for our sake. Certainly, we benefit, but never just for our sake; it’s for the sake of all peoples so that they may now worship Him and find a life in Him as we have. So whether you’re thinking about your personal, individual Christian life; your fellowship of believers that you come around together; your vocation, in whatever arena; the focus of being the people of God is always outward, that the purpose of God’s engagement in our life is always so that others as well, and all peoples, may know Him. This is a dramatic change from seeing our relationship with Christ as only for our benefit. So, I believed so that I could be forgiven. I believed so that I could have eternal life. That turning inward of what Christ has done for us, we would argue, is a diminished view of what it means to be a child of God.
How important is this promise? Turn your Bibles to Galatians 3, if you would. Here’s Paul writing about Abraham. We’ll look at Galatians 3:6–9. Abraham is known as the father of faith. So Paul starts in verse 6 of Galatians 3. “So also ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” That’s an allusion to Genesis 15:6. Verse 7: “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture [meaning the Old Testament] foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham.” And then he quotes Genesis 12:3. “‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” So Paul considers that last line of Genesis 12:3 to be so important in understanding the work of God that he calls it the gospel preached in advance.
Paul does not use the word gospel in light terms. This idea that God’s creation of a people through Abraham was for the salvation of all peoples is critical to how Paul understood the gospel. And he labels that promise as the gospel announced beforehand. I’ve heard people say, for example, that Genesis 3:16 is a foreshadowing of the gospel, and it may well be. That’s the idea of the serpent having his biting evil on the heel , but he will be crushed. Could well be. But if you want to know if there is a statement of the gospel that the New Testament calls the gospel, it’s Genesis 12:3, the last line, and what God intended for all people. So I would argue we cannot, we dare not, underestimate the importance of that call of Abraham, the establishment of God’s people for the purpose of the blessing of all people.
So if that’s the establishment of God’s people, then let’s look at the character of God’s people. What are God’s people supposed to be like? So now go back in your Bibles to Exodus 19. Exodus 19 occurs just before the giving of the law, the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20. There are many people, Old Testament theologians, who would say that up until Exodus 20, the people of God are known as the descendants of Abraham. In Exodus 20, they’re given a charter by which they become a nation. So this is another critical moment in the history of the people of God, a transition from being the descendants of a clan, of a patriarch, to the foundation for becoming a nation. And, oh, by the way, what was the very first promise of God to Abraham after He called him out of Mesopotamia? “I will make you into a great nation,” right? So to say that Exodus 19 and the understanding that comes about is critical just before they become a nation, I think, is fair.
So in Exodus 19, starting in verse 3, we read this, “Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This, Moses, is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob.’” See that language, descendants of the patriarch. “The descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel.” Now there’s a sense of transition that this is going to become a nation. “Here’s what you’re supposed to say, Moses.” So, in other words, God is saying, here’s what I want my people to know about themselves. Here’s how I want them to identify themselves. And so, He says to them, you yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now think about it—what He did to Egypt and brought to Himself—what’s that the language of? Redemption. He rescued them from Egypt and restored them to Himself. “‘You have seen what I did to Egypt, how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Because the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
So what does God want His people to know about their identity? What does He want them to think about themselves? First, that they owe their existence to God’s action. They would not be there unless God had intervened on their behalf and brought them out of Egypt and restored them to themselves. So first, they are the ones who God has chosen to redeem.
Secondly, He calls them a “treasured possession.” Look in verse 5, a “treasured possession.” This language takes us into the royal treasury of a king. So a king would possess many pieces of gold, many gems or jewels, many horses, many houses, unfortunately, many wives. But out of all that the king possessed in the treasury, there were some things that were treasured above the others, more valuable, more valued by the king. So notice what He says to His people: “Out of all the nations, you will be what I value the most.” Their identity is established in relationship to the nations. Out of all the nations, you will be mine. You will be valued. It’s what He says to them in Deuteronomy 7, that He calls them and creates them because of His love for them, not because of anything they did or possessed, because He treasured them and valued them.
Now notice. So the first thing is a “treasured possession.” Then at the end of verse 5, a lot of English translations say, “Although the whole earth is mine,” which is a legitimate translation of the Hebrew connective conjunction, but it can also be translated “because,” and you may have noticed when I read it . . . So in English, the NIV says, “Although the whole earth is mine.” I prefer “because the whole earth is mine.” “Because the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” So, the second two characteristics or the next two characteristics are “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” I would argue that that little translation switch—“because the whole earth is mine”—gives a sense of purpose as to why God is creating His people to be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. All the nations are mine, but you’re my treasured possession. I’m making you these things in relationship to all the nations.
So let’s think about “kingdom of priests.” The role of the priest was to mediate between God and the people. So the priest mediated the requirements, demands, commands of God to people, and mediated the worship of the people back to God. So when God says, “because the whole earth is mine, you will be a kingdom of priests,” the immediate question is priests mediating for whom? If they are to be a kingdom of mediators, on whose behalf will they mediate? And so, what the passage is revealing to us is that God’s people are created to mediate the relationship of the nations to God; what the nations need to know about God will be revealed through His people. And those who desire to worship the one true God will do so through His people. “I will bless those who bless you,” from Genesis 12:3. So in its very existence, Israel is created as a servant to mediate the nations, the relationship between God and all of the nations.
And then, finally, you will be “a holy nation.” In Hebrew, the word holy means set apart unto. So you will be a nation set apart unto me. It also has to do with that which displays the very character of a holy God. I think the best illustration of this that I’ve experienced is from when we lived in Vienna several years ago—Vienna, Austria. There was a walking district in old Vienna where craftsmen had their shops. Some of these shops were centuries old. And as you walked down this walking area, you’d go past a person who worked with porcelain, a person who worked with jewelry, a person who worked with glass, leather, wood, anything you could imagine. And as you would walk past those shops, they would put their most beautiful wares in the window—the idea being to entice you to come into their shops—things that were so beautiful that it made you wonder what kind of an artist could create that. Well, one commentator has said that God’s people as a holy nation are a display case nation to display the wonders of the one who has created them. This holy nation is holy because they will live according to the law that God will give them that comes out in the Ten Commandments and then through the rest of Torah. This law separates the people of God in ways that will distinguish their God from the other nations’ gods and the other nations’ laws.
I’ll give you an example: Sabbath law. In an agrarian society whose very existence depended upon the provision of food from the land, Sabbath law makes little sense. Not only was Israel not supposed to work one day out of every seven, Israel was required by the law to not work one year after seven. So, for an agrarian nation to be commanded not to plant, not to harvest, for an entire season or a year was deemed to be foolish. And not only that, but after seven Sabbaths, the law required the celebration of the year of Jubilee. So the forty-ninth year was supposed to be a year where they did not work. And the fiftieth year was supposed to be a year in which they did not work or harvest. And not only that, in the fiftieth year, they were to forgive the debts of those who had become indebted to them so that the society could be releveled economically. Now, if you’re an Israelite and you’re living on the basis of the harvest every year and your God says do not plant and do not reap for an entire year, what’s your first thought?
[Students] We’re going to starve.
Yeah, we’re going to starve. And so, if you’re one of the nations and you know that for a year Israel does not plant and does not reap, yet they prosper, upon whom does that reflect? The God of Israel. God is the one who will provide during that year. And so, obedience to the law showcased to the nations the character of the God who had given that law. Deuteronomy 4:32 is a good example of that, where the law is given in a way that causes the nations to say, What other nation has a God who lives among them like this?
So what is Israel to be? What are the people of God to be? They’re to be aware that they were created by an act of God. They are a treasured possession; they are a kingdom of priests; and they are a holy nation. Everything Israel is told to think about themselves is understood in relationship to the nations, not just to themselves. This description is given almost word for word in 1 Peter 2:9, which we’ll look at a little bit later. So this understanding of what it means to be the people of God carries from Exodus all the way into the church.
Actually, let’s look there now for one thing. We’ll come back to the passage in just a minute. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter says, “But you are”—writing to believers in Jesus—“you are a chosen people,” likely referring to God’s decision to redeem Israel, to choose and create Israel as descendants of Jacob; “a royal priesthood,” that’s a translation of “kingdom of priests”; “a holy nation,” very, very similar. Exactly, actually from the Septuagint. “God’s special possession,” that’s the “treasured possession” language. So, all four characteristics carry over from Exodus 19 to 1 Peter 2. Now in the text of 1 Peter 2, the very next word is “that,” a small conjunction in Greek that always indicates result or purpose. So, you are these things, if I were writing in the margin of my Bible, so “that you may declare the virtues, the excellencies, the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” meaning the Lord Jesus Himself. “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” So when Peter repeats Exodus 19 to the church, he says, “You are these things so that the character of the God who created you may be known.” So that you may declare, announce, make known, shout from the rooftops, live out, communicate—whatever word you want to say—the excellencies of the God who created you as His people. So what’s the purpose of the people of God? Clearly, it is to make God known.
All right, very quickly then, let’s look at the people of God in the New Testament: the church. I’ve organized several different verses around a couple of key ideas. First is, I think you could argue that the people of God, the church, are known as the sent people of God. So let’s look at John 20:21. Let’s start in verse 19, John 20:19. “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together with the doors locked,”—this is after the crucifixion, and they haven’t yet encountered Jesus as a group—“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” And “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you!’” And here’s the key phrase, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Now this language of sending is one of the primary ways that we understand the Trinity. The relationship of Father to Son, Father and Son to Spirit, is described through the language of sending. The Father sends the Son, the Father and the Son send the Spirit. And in this passage, the Son sends His disciples. You might remember that the mission of God, God’s redemptive mission captured in the phrase the “mission of God” comes from a Latin phrase, the missio Dei. You’ve heard that phrase, I’m sure. The missio Dei in Latin comes from the word for send, the verb to send. So missio means either the one who is sent or the one who is sending. So the mission of God, the missio Dei, is based in the language of sending. The Father sends the Son, the Father and Son send the Spirit, and the Son sends the people of God. So I think we could argue that from the very beginning our identity as the sent people of God aligns us with the very mission of God as the Triune God.
Another passage, of course, that we always want to look at is Matthew 28. So let’s look there. This describes the sending in different language. Let me draw your attention to a couple of points here. Matthew 28, starting in verse 18: “Jesus came to them . . .” This, again, is after the resurrection and after they’ve encountered Him. “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee.” Verse 18, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go . . .’” “So therefore I am sending you,” other language. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” So this idea, again, of the outward movement of the people of God being sent by the risen Christ, “Go.” Where? All nations, all peoples—same language of Genesis 12:3, same language that we see in Psalm 67, same language that we see in Zechariah and Isaiah and Malachi—all nations.
We could look as well at Acts 1:8, where the Holy Spirit comes upon them. And there the promise is that they will be witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit. Verse 8 of Acts 1, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The “ends of the earth” is language for as far as you can imagine; language for all nations. So the foundational understanding of God’s people from the words of Jesus post-resurrection is, You are the sent people of God. We got a lot of language and metaphors about the church that began to emerge: the body, metaphor of the bread of Christ. They’re all absolutely critical in our understanding, but the foundational understanding of those who confess Jesus is you are the sent people of God. In other words, the implied understanding that the blessing you have received is to become known to be a blessing to all nations as they believe in faith.
How else are those who have confessed Jesus to be known? Sent people of God is the beginning. Then comes the question of Jesus’ followers. I want you to look at Acts 11, if you would. Let me just put the book of Acts together for you very quickly. You have the initial events of the coming of the Spirit. Well, first you have the promise. The ascension of Jesus, chapter 1; the coming of the spirit, Acts 2; the preaching of Peter and the apostles, Acts 3, 4, and 5. And in that is the creation of the first community of Jesus’ confessors. They’re all Jewish. And they’re all in Jerusalem. They experience the Spirit; they come together; they care for one another. Acts 4:32 says that none of them had any need because they shared all their resources.
In Acts 5, you begin to see the effects of what happens when the people of God don’t live like the people of God, with Ananias and Sapphira. And all of a sudden in Acts 6, you have this odd story where some of those in their midst, Hellenistic Jewish widows, are not being fed in the daily distribution of food, the first indication that there’s going to be tension between Jews who confess faith in Jesus and Hellenized Jews, those who are suspected of not being as Jewish. After that, Acts 7, a man by the name of Stephen comes on the stage. Stephen is clearly a Hellenized Jew. His name is Greek, not Hebrew. He goes and he proclaims in the synagogue and is martyred because of his proclamation. Acts 8, Philip, another Greek name, goes to the Samaritans. Hang in there. Acts 9, Paul is converted and promised that he will be the apostle to the gentiles. Acts 10, Peter preaches to Cornelius, a ranking pagan gentile, and he believes.
So the question that undergirds the book of Acts is, Can Jewish believers in Jesus and gentile believers in Jesus form one body of people? That tension persists all the way through the book of Acts and is an undertone in all of Paul’s letters. So when we get to Acts 11, we have an indication of what being Jew or gentile means in relationship to the confession of faith in Jesus.
Here’s how it unfolds. There’s a church that begins in Antioch. So “those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cypress and Cyrene,” and by the way, those would be Hellenized Jews growing up in a Greek culture, “went to Antioch.” And look at the way the text writes it, and they “began to speak to Greeks also,” speak to Greeks, also gentiles. So the idea is that in Antioch the disciples are proclaiming Jesus to Jews and to gentiles. So verse 22, “News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done,” the end of verse 23, “he was glad and encouraged them to remain faithful.” Verse 25, “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.” So this is Paul, the man who will become Paul. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.
Here’s the key verse I’ve been getting to for the last ten minutes, verse 26, “The disciples were called [what?] Christians.” Why were they first called Christians in Antioch? As a group, you couldn’t call them Jews because they were Greeks, they were gentiles. And you couldn’t call them gentiles because they were Jews as well. So their identity as followers of Jesus supersedes their identity as Jew or gentile. So Jesus’ followers are those whose identity is not based on ethnicity or culture or geographic background or economic status. It’s based solely on the confession of Jesus. That’s why Paul will say in Galatians 3:26–29 that among the people of God there is neither Jew nor Greek. You got it? So the identity of the Jesus follower is the identity of those who come together regardless of ethnicity, language, or any other sociological or social characteristic and are known as the confessors of Jesus, first and foremost.
There’s one other metaphor that I think is important. Go back to 1 Peter quickly, chapter 2. In this passage in verse 11, after calling those who confess Jesus “the people of God,” Peter gives them another title. He calls them “foreigners and exiles.” Look at verse 11. “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles.” Some translations say “aliens and strangers,” right? Some may use other language. It’s the idea of someone who is not living in the country of their birth, someone living outside their country of birth. So who are we when we think about ourselves? We’re, first and foremost, confessors of Jesus without any distinction drawn between ethnicity or language. And we are always outsiders. As foreigners and exiles, we are always outside, always different, always distinct, always not completely of the culture within which we live, because we’re the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus says to Pilate in John 20, “My kingdom is not of this world.” It’s a kingdom based on different values, a different way of life.
So what is more valuable? What’s our starting point of identity? It is our confession of Christ. We are God’s people first. We’re God’s people before we’re white. We’re God’s people before we’re black. We’re God’s people before we’re Americans. We’re God’s people before we’re Republicans or Democrats. That’s where we start. And so, when we try to take another identity and baptize it as Christian or something that God Himself has ordained, we always remember that we are always outsiders, foreigners, and aliens, followers of Christ. And so, when someone says, “Oh, I know that guy. His name is Frank,” the first thing they think about him perhaps isn’t that he’s a businessman or that he’s a democrat or that he’s black or white. “I know him. He’s a Jesus-follower.” That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it? That’s where we start. And because we start there, then in every context we’re in, that’s how we’re to be known. Just as Israel was to be known among the nations as those who worshiped the one true God, so that’s where we start.
And then finally, the last language I want us to pay attention to—there could be much, much more— comes from the book of Revelation. So let’s go to Revelation 5. This great people of God is going to be composed of peoples from every tribe and tongue and nation. Look at verse 9, when no one could be found to open the seal of the scroll, which is a metaphor for the unfolding of human history, finally, the Lamb was identified and the people praise Him with a new song saying, verse 9, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased,” by the way, that’s redemption language, that’s ransom language, “you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Same description. Turn two chapters over to Revelation 7:9. John says this, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”
And so when we think about who the people of God are, we must never ever ever fall short of recognizing that the people of God are everywhere—every tribe, every tongue, every nation. This is the great promise that God’s mission will be fulfilled, that His people will ultimately make Him known throughout all the earth.