Another four years has passed already bringing with it the beginning of the Olympic games and I for one love watching the competition. It is a great spectacle, whether we like sport or not, as we see all of the different nations of the world gathering together to compete. Some arrive with high expectations of winning medals, other come knowing that just to be there is a great honour.
So why is it that when we see such a spectacular sight and watch the nations gathering together in the Maracanã that we fell something exciting and special is happening? It’s not just the media hype or the fancy show. It’s not just the array of vibrant colours and the carnival of sound. It is because this is something which is written into the human story, the very reason for our existence.
What we hear God telling us time after time is that he is going to bring a saviour who is the blessing that all the nations of the Earth have been waiting for (Gen 12:1-3). This saviour is going to bring full salvation at great cost to himself, for anyone who believes in him (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The ancient Hebrew people also knew this great truth as they would sing “Praise the Lord all nations, extol him all peoples!” (Psalm 117:1). But this was only the beginning, a foretaste of what was to come.
Jesus is the great saviour that was promised and he tells us that the nations will all gather before him because he is the king of the universe (Matt 28:18-20). And to prove his point he allows John, his disciple, the chance to see that great eternal perspective. John tells us that the praise of heaven shouts about the nations; “by your blood you ransomed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
You see the parade of the athletes is just a pointer to the great last day where the Lord Jesus wraps up human history. His glory will outshine any Olympic opening ceremony and his reward of eternal life is greater than any number of Gold medals.
Two things then that come to my mind then are these. First, I want to make sure that I am at the party. Quite simply it means humbling ourselves before the king and accepting that he alone is the one who can provide salvation for us. Secondly, I want to make sure that the nations get their invite to the party. That means commitment to taking the gospel of Jesus, in all of its saving fullness, to the ends of the earth and back again. We may not be able to go. But that is not an end to our involvement in God’s mission to the nations. We can give and we can pray.
When you next see the athletes competing for Gold, view them through biblical eyes and see the great picture that God is painting on the canvas of history. He is calling all people in his world to know him so that they can join in the song of eternity praising Jesus for his salvation (Rev 5:12).