ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) -- Paul Chitwood, International Mission Board president, urged a chapel audience at Gateway Seminary Sept. 5 to remember that God's vision cannot be fulfilled until people from every nation, all tribes and all languages have heard the Gospel.
Preaching from Revelation 7:9-10 -- which is the basis for the IMB's vision statement -- Chitwood reminded faculty, staff and students on Gateway's main campus in Ontario, Calif., that without vision, we have no direction.
"Without vision, we become discouraged, because we don't know where to go or what to do," he said. "That's why it's so important for the International Mission Board to have a vision statement, but it's also important for the church to have vision. I believe with all my heart that this vision in Revelation 7:9-10 will be fulfilled one day. But will we be a part of seeing this vision fulfilled?"
Chitwood said this vision should be driving the ministry and mission of the church.
He pointed to the who, the where, the how and the why of the challenge described in the Scripture: "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, 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!'"
"Who do we see in the vision?" Chitwood asked. "The Scripture says there is a great multitude that no one can number from all tribes, from every nation, from every language. The vision of heaven is inclusive. The adjectives are every and all. The who of the vision are still out there."
Chitwood noted, "Many of them have yet to hear, many have yet to be reached, they have yet to confess Jesus as Lord.
"If He should come today, they would not be among the number," he continued. "So the vision cannot be fulfilled until the great innumerable multitude can include every nation, all tribes, all peoples, all languages. They are the who of the vision and until they are reached, we have yet to complete the vision.”
The where -- the location for the vision -- is standing before the throne and before the Lamb of God in heaven, he said.
"But they aren't there yet," Chitwood noted. "They are still on the farms, in the subdivisions, in the cities, on the deserts. Some don't have a Bible in their language. Some have never seen a church building and wouldn't know what it was if they did see it. Many millions and maybe billions have never met a follower of Jesus, but what they have in common is they are all lost."
The how, Chitwood said, pertains to the multitude being clothed with white robes in spite of their sin.
"The Bible informs us that human beings are conceived in sin," he said. "The Bible says we are dead in our sin. How can it be that the people who are so stained with the guilt of sin can be in the vision clothed with white robes?
"It's the how of salvation," he said. "They've been clothed with white robes because the sorrow within them was taken from them and borne by another. The debt we owed was paid by another. The judgment we earned was taken by another. The Messiah came and the lamb was slain and His death brought life. Then grave clothes are replaced by white robes. That's how the who will be there. Some of them will be there because you have seen the vision of heaven, and it has become the vision of your life that drives your life and your ministry, and you will go."
Chitwood said the final question of the vision is why the innumerable multitude is there, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice.
"Why are they there?" he asked. "Because He is worthy. They are there because He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. They are there to acknowledge Him, to worship Him, to adore Him, to declare Him as the one who is worthy. They are there because He deserves for us to be there, because He is worthy of us being with Him to adore Him.”
The vision must remain the call," Chitwood said, "and the passion of the church, until Jesus comes to claim his church and until the vision is fulfilled.
"It is the vision that should carry you not only to the classroom but carry you to the fields where you have been called," he noted.
"It is the vision that will cause you to labor on that field and will keep you laboring on that field. It is my prayer that each of us individually and the church collectively will be about doing our part to fulfill the vision."
The vision will be fulfilled, Chitwood said, whether we choose to be a part of it or not, but it is a privilege that God gave believers a purpose, His vision to be part of.
"Don't live without vision," he said. "Without vision, the people will perish, but God has given us a vision. Let this be a vision for your life and wherever He calls -- go."
Katherine Chute is a media consultant for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.