The “Glory and Honor of the Nations”: Revelation 21:26 and the “Coloring of America”

According to the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts, God sovereignly shapes the demographic and ethnic composition of nations so that people “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17: 26-27). In light of this scriptural truth and the results of the 2020 Census, God is doing a new and special thing in the United States. From 2010 to 2020, the multiracial population grew 276% to 33.8 million people; the Black or African American population increased from 38.9 million to 46.9 million; the Hispanic/Latino population climbed by 23% to 62.1 million; and the Asian American community increased to 24 million.

The book of Revelation offers a theology of belonging which can help us understand and appreciate the gift of cultural diversification which God is sovereignly orchestrating in our midst. Specifically, in Revelation 21:26, John teaches us that those of every ethnic group of the world possess distinct cultural treasure and wealth that is of eternal value:

26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it [the New Jerusalem].

What is this “glory and honor” that John is speaking of?

The Greek word “doxa” which is translated into the English as “glory” in this passage can also be translated as “treasure” or “wealth.” Understood in this light, one way to restate this passage is to say that the “treasure and wealth” of the different ethnic groups of the world will be brought into the New Jerusalem for eternity. This cultural treasure or “glory” is a reflection of the glory of God in and through each of us as God’s unique children. God does not make “shithole” countries. We all have equal dignity in God’s eyes. By God’s design, we each bring distinct cultural glory and honor to the Body of Christ as an offering of praise to Jesus, and as a signpost which points us to God (Acts 17:26-27) and draws us and the Church into deeper understanding and relationship with Him.

In my personal reflection, I believe this community cultural wealth includes at least two categories:

  1. Tangible aspects of ethnic culture: food, music, dance, literature, architecture, etc.
  2. The distinct lenses and perspectives which every ethnic group brings to the world and the Body of Christ.

The first category—food, music, dance, etc. is quite obvious. Every ethnic group has its unique food, art, architecture, musical styles, literature, dance, etc. We enjoy this expression of the “glory and honor of the nations” whenever we spend time with friends of a different cultural background, eat at an ethnic restaurant, visit a museum, listen to world music, attend a concert, or travel abroad. Each time we do so, we naturally intuit that there is something “glorious” about our experience.

The second category of the “glory and honor of the nations” merits more explanation. As I traverse Mexican, Latino, Chinese, Asian, Egyptian, German Midwestern, and other ethnic cultures, I notice that different cultural groups possess distinct lenses, perspectives, and cultural wisdom about Christ, Scripture, and the world. Each uniquely expresses different aspects of God’s heart and perspective. I am not here arguing for a wishy-washy cultural relativism, nor am I saying that there is no such thing as good and bad hermeneutics, but I am saying that, as God’s family in Christ, we belong to one another and need one another in order to know God better and grow into the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27, Ephesians 4:13-16).

In the coming days and years, may God grant us eyes to see what He is doing in our midst. May we embrace God’s gift of cultural “glory and honor” as expressed through the “coloring of America,” and as we do so may we be drawn closer to Jesus and one another.

By Robert Chao Romero

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