If our reading is correct that the 144,000 individuals in Revelation 7:1–8 sealed for protection from the wrath of God represent the entirety of God’s people, His spiritual army consisting of all who believe in Jesus, then an important consequence follows. Given that this group is described as the tribes of Israel, that it represents all believers in Christ entails that the true Israel of God is determined not by ethnic heritage but by faith. Of course, Paul tells us this explicitly in Romans 9, but Revelation 7 adds further support.
After seeing the 144,000, John turns in today’s passage to see an innumerable multitude from every tribe and tongue worshiping the Lord (Rev. 7:9–12). Clearly, we are looking at believers here, and their waving of palm branches connects this group with the spiritual army in Revelation 7:9–12. In John’s day, the Jews frequently used palm branches as military symbols. This group, then, consists of the true Israel of God, servants of Christ from all nations.
Several conclusions are inescapable. First, if God receives the worship of people from every ethnicity, the church can by no means turn people away on account of their race or nationality. Racism in the body of Christ is especially grievous because it rejects people whom the Lord receives through faith in Jesus.
C.H. Spurgeon, in his sermon “The Multitude before the Throne,” gives us a second truth we derive from the text. Spurgeon says, “If there shall be in heaven a multitude surpassing all human arithmetic, out of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, how certain the Gospel is to achieve yet a great success.” Although there are times when the gospel does not seem to be making much headway and few individuals are being converted, we can be sure that the gospel of God will not fail to save all the people of God. The Lord has His people, and they will certainly trust in Christ. Moreover, this people consists not merely of a few men and women but of a number of individuals so vast that no one but the Lord can count it. The centuries-spanning, worldwide church fulfills the promise made to Abraham of innumerable descendants (Gen. 22:17; Gal. 3:29).
Finally, the success of the gospel reveals the gospel’s power. John wrote in a day of persecution, when the church had no political power or any cultural advantage. All it had was the gospel, and the sight of innumerable believers shows that the gospel is enough. It will accomplish God’s ends even when preached by the powerless.