“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
This is one of my all-time favorite missions texts, one that drives a passion to see remote, unreached peoples come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord, especially those in the Philippines (see Joshua Project) like the Kalinga, the Kankanaey, the Kamayo, the Manobo. It is one of the reasons I am active in a small missions organization known as VVMI-Vernacular Video Mission International, which is spreading the Gospel through multimedia, in hard-to-reach mountainous jungles in the Philippines.
If the purchase of a people – a bride, a church, a kingdom, a priesthood – “from every tribe” is intentional, designed, purposeful, and not a coincidence, not by human chance, then the implications for racial diversity and racial harmony in the church are huge.
1. God intends to have a people not just from white or black or red or yellow ethnic groups but from all ethnic groups. All shades and all shapes. This is underlined by the four words, “people, tribe, language and nation [ethnos].” This covers the whole range of ethnic diversity in the world. God designed, aimed, purposed to have a people that is very diverse.
2. God intends for these people to be in profound, God-centered harmony. You can see this in the words of verse 10: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” All of them will be priests, and all of them will reign. Now this would be utter chaos and religious anarchy if the single priesthood and the reign of all were not profoundly unified. You can’t have priests who hate each other and refuse to serve together in one temple, or live together in one neighborhood, or hang out together after hours.
If all those who are purchased from every tribe are priests to God and fellow rulers with God, who worship God and reign with God, then they must have a deep unity in the truth and in love. The kind of divisions and hostilities and prejudice and mistreatment and ridicule and suspicion that has existed in the church among races is unthinkable in view of what Christ is pursuing in this text.
3. The third implication is that this aim of ethnic diversity and harmony in the people of God (the single priesthood and kingdom) was pursued by God at infinite cost. The cost of diversity was the blood and life of the Son of God. This is not an overstatement. Consider the wording of verse 9 very closely: “you purchased for God with Your blood men [that is, people] from every tribe.” God paid the infinite price of his own Son’s life to obtain a priesthood of believers – a kingdom of fellow rulers – from every race. Think on it. The issue of racial-ethnic diversity in the church is not small, because the price of racial diversity and harmony was infinite.
4. The final implication from the text is that this infinite price was paid, and this racial diversity and harmony was pursued by Christ, “for God.” Don’t miss those little words in verse 9: “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood people from every tribe. . .” Racial diversity and racial harmony in the blood-bought church of God is “for God.” What do we see this people from every race and tribe doing in verses 13b-14? “They were saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne [God, the Father], and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” Blood-bought racial diversity and harmony is for the glory of God through Christ. It is all aiming at the all-satisfying, everlasting, God-centered, Christ-exalting experience of many-colored worship.