“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…” (Revelation 7:9)
That sounds a lot like the World Cup, right? It is actually the Apostle John’s description of heaven in the book of Revelation. In God’s providence, I began reading through the book of Revelation as the Cup began and was struck at how many parallels I saw between worship in heaven and the World Cup on earth.
With the excitement and details of this World Cup quickly fading into the past, my heart was led by John’s description of heaven to look forward to something enduring, something greater, and something truly glorious.
As you reflect on the world gathering around a soccer competition, let your eyes and heart be drawn to the all-surpassing greatness of God and the glory of His eternal gospel.
The World Cup in Light of Eternity
Pursuing an Eternal Prize
Athletes and coaches dedicate much of their life to chase a trophy made of gold that will not last forever. Our faith, which is of greater worth than gold (1 Peter 1:7) secures for us our ultimate prize that is, “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). We will not win trophies–but crowns–which we will cast before the throne of God in worship.
“They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10-11
Singing Eternal Songs
The jubilant victory songs of our nations’ teams will be replaced by new songs of worship to our God. These songs will be new because they will praise God for work He has yet to do. These songs will focus on the glory of God and His goodness to us in the gospel.
““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, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10
Wearing Eternal Attire
Jerseys, face paint, and ridiculous outfits show the love that World Cup fans have for their country. Others wave large flags or banners to add to their celebration and allegiance. Citizens of heaven will celebrate the washing of our sins away by wearing white robes and waving palm branches to celebrate the King who redeemed His people.
“…standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-11
Enjoying Eternal Peace
While the world uniting at the World Cup may seem like a diplomatic victory, there are still nations cut off due to access, size, or for political reasons. The Gospel is different and does what man can never do through sport or anything else. Christ will gather from every nation a people to worship Him forever, bringing perfect peace to those who follow Him.
“All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:4
Witnessing Eternal Justice
Like most things in our Genesis 3 world, the World Cup groans for justice and completion. Bad officiating, cheating, corruption, waste, and human trafficking due to the event scream injustice and reveal how badly we long for God’s righteous judgment and shalom on earth. We can be confident that God will execute His perfect judgment and make things right.
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” Revelation 16:6
Rejoicing in Eternal Victory
The victor’s crown in the World Cup will last only four years and does nothing to help in future matches. Christ is the ultimate victor who has vanquished the devil by conquering sin and death. We will share in the victory of our Lord in the future and have His power now to fight sin and live holy lives. Because of Christ’s victory, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) and can share in His glory forever and ever.
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”” Revelation 19:6
It’s Not Eternity Yet
We live in the already but not yet. As we set our gaze on eternity, let’s not forget that we still have work to do. Here are a few questions to ponder as you think about the remainder of your life on earth:
- What is your ultimate prize? The answer to this question will reveal who and what you serve. Make your ultimate prize like the Apostle Paul’s: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
- What are you celebrating? We should celebrate the person of Christ and the glorious salvation that comes only in Him in our lives, homes, and churches. Don’t let a football match or worldly gain get you more excited than being found righteous in Christ and freed from God’s judgment.
- How are you promoting peace and justice? While we will never have perfect peace and justice until heaven, we can show this world a preview of God’s perfect Kingdom here on earth by acting justly and showing mercy in a variety of ways both personally and as a church body.
- Are you living in the confidence of Christ’s victory? Ultimate victory in Christ should impact our love for Him, our pursuit of holiness, our boldness in sharing the gospel, and how we endure suffering as servants of Christ. Is Christ’s victory making a daily difference in your life?
As the excitement of the World Cup dwindles and your life returns to normal, may these thoughts drive you to live in light of your future home and proclaim with the multitudes, “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!”
Come, Lord Jesus!
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