Recently, I was in a training in which Scripture was cited and then this question was asked. The Scripture was from Revelation chapter 7.
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
The group concluded, based upon the great multitude falling on their faces and worshiping God, that the ultimate purpose of the church is to worship God and make worshipers of God.
While the worship of God is an important activity of the holy Church, this passage does not point to that conclusion. In fact, the group that falls on their faces before the throne to worship God are angels, not the Church, not the great multitude.
Someone could comment that “angel” means “messenger,” so these are the messengers of the Church, whether that is apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastors, etc. However, that definition would require us to deconstruct the meaning of the words in this passage. Revelation clearly states that the supernatural beings here are the angels from Revelation 5:11 and not the Church.
If we want to know the function and purpose of the innumerable multitude, we need to pay attention to their description. They are a mixed group from every ethnos and phule and laos, every nation and tribe/clan and people/race/language. They are standing before the throne and Jesus the Lamb. They are clothed in white stoles. They are holding palm branches.
Furthermore, there is an explanation in verses in verses 14-17.
14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
- They came out of the Great Tribulation.
- They have been whitened by the blood of Jesus the Lamb.
- They work in God’s temple.
- They dwell in God’s tent.
- They do not hunger or thirst or overheat in the sun.
- Jesus the Lamb shepherds and guides them.
- God wipes their weeping eyes.
The first few items are meaningful to our question. They are a description of the condition of the saints. The remaining items are descriptions of the benefits of living in the eternal home of our heavenly Father.
If we choose Revelation 7 to understand the eternal or ultimate purpose of God’s people, based upon the description of these Tribulation Saints, we would need to focus on the most important functions in this list of descriptions.
- The Church needs to be cleansed by Jesus’ blood. No one gets to heaven any other way. Not even the blood of the martyrs can gain them entrance without the blood of the Lamb.
- The Church needs to be victorious over sin. The blood of Jesus makes us holy. God’s Holy Spirit is working to make God’s people holy by conforming them to the image of Christ. The palm branches are symbols of victory. In this case, victory over sin and death.
Based upon Revelation chapter seven, my conclusion is that the purpose of the Church is to be transformed into the holy image of Jesus Christ.