What is the mission of God? Much has been written in recent years in response to this question, especially among those in the “missional movement.” From this impressive pile of literature we find agreement on, at least, this much: The mission of God is to create a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen people with representatives from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Early in the book of Genesis, we discover the mission of God to create a diverse people. In his covenant with Abraham, the Lord said “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…. and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).
In Isaiah 19 God reaffirms his commitment to create a diverse people: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (:23-26).
In the Apocalypse of John God leaves little room for doubt concerning his mission. In Revelation 5:9-10 we read that those around the throne of God sing to the Lamb of God with these words, “With your blood you purchased individuals for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
In Revelation 7:9-12 we read: After this I looked and 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. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Of course, Jesus Christ is the key to the accomplishment of the mission of God. The Gospels make this clear. Not only did God the Father send his one and only Son to be the Savior of the world, Jesus announced his intention to seek and save the lost, both Jew and Gentile (Luke 19:10). He then wrapped up his ministry on earth by commissioning his ambassadors, the apostles, to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), and by empowering his apostles for mission with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48-53).
We could add to this short list of citations from scripture but, clearly, the mission of God has always been to create a diverse people. As the beloved children of God, we long for the fulfillment of God’s mission, even as we pray “May your kingdom come.” We look forward to that day when followers of Jesus from every tribe and language and people and nation gather before the Lord in perpetual praise.
Until that day, let us commit ourselves – as both individuals and local congregations – to the mission of God. But, let us do so, as Justo Gonzalez implores, “Not because our community is becoming multicultural, but because heaven will be multicultural; not just to make people of other cultures feel more at home among us, but so that we feel more at home in God’s future; not out of some moral or ethical obligation, but “because our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, because we know and believe that on that great waking-up morning, when the stars begin to fall, when we gather at the river where angel feet have trod, we shall all, from all nations and tribes and peoples and languages, we shall all sing without ceasing: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore thee! Casting down our golden crowns before the glassy see; cherubim and seraphim;’ Japanese and Swahili; American and European, Cherokee and Ukrainian; ‘falling down before thee, who were, and art, and evermore shall be’!” (For the Healing of the Nations, 112)