Editor’s Note: Most of our guest bloggers write from the context of the United States, where many churches are wrestling with how to respond to a situation where 10.8 million immigrants are living without legal status. But there are undocumented immigrants in many other countries as well: our guest blogger today, Joshua Snyder, lives and works in Malaysia, a country home to an estimated 1.2 million undocumented immigrants from nearby countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Burma. Some of these undocumented immigrants have fled persecution because of their ethnicity, political opinion, or religion—and some may eventually be resettled to third countries such as the United States, Canada, or Australia as refugees with legal status—but in Malaysia they are present unlawfully, presenting a challenge for the church there not unlike the challenge that we face in the United States.
The other night I dreamt of an elephant giving birth. There I sat, behind the wheel of the Hyundai Matrix that we drive, with my wife and two daughters, staring open-mouthed at a big Mama Elephant pushing that baby elephant out, only to have the baby elephant get sucked right back in until Mama gave that final push.
Not something you dream about every night. Strangely it leaves you with a sense of awe to see such one of God’s largest creatures give birth to another large creature – once you move past the gnarlier elements of the birthing process.
I pondered my dream in the waking hours that followed and realized that my family is indeed witnessing the birth of a beautiful new creation of God among the youth in Malaysia, the country where we live and serve the Lord.
The 144k. Then I remembered the vision God had given me during a quiet time on December 18, 2009, two weeks after we completed our first-ever youth training for Malaysian youth. The training was called The Edge and challenged the youth to live a life on the edge with Jesus, hearing and obeying his voice in all of life. I was in awe at how God had deeply touched their lives.
That December morning I meditated through Revelation 14:1-5, which describes the character of the 144,000. Granted, many of us hold a different end times theology. My personal view is that the 144,000 represent the complete church of God. Still we can all agree that the essential characteristics of the 144,000 apply to all believers everywhere. The vision that God released into my spirit was that we might labor such that this upcoming generation would be the 144,000 Generation.
And it is possible. Just this morning I had breakfast with a leader from Thailand, who pointed out that in Malaysia it is obvious that God is doing something now. Each time I interact with the young people I see the murmurings of the Spirit within them. A baby elephant is being birthed.
So what are the characteristics of the 144,000 Generation, and why do I write this for a blog concerned with our response to the strangers among us? By the end of this article, I hope all is clear.
Characteristic #1: The Complete, Multicultural Church. The essential characteristic of the 144,000 Generation is that it is the complete, multicultural church, for as I said, I believe that 144,000 represents the complete church – that is, everyone who is to be saved is saved.
But a multicultural church? Look at Revelation 7, which likewise describes the 144,000. In verse 9 John describes their make-up: After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. The complete church of God is a multicultural church, a diverse crowd singing a unified song (Revelation 7:10).
Characteristic #2: Identity. The 144,000 have [the Lamb’s] name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads (14:1). Their identity is first and foremost found in Christ, not in race, economic status, social standing, or passport. They are saints, sons, and daughters first, everything else second.
Characteristic #3: Intimacy. Before the throne of God a song is sung that only the 144,000 know (14:3). That is, they know God. Truly. And they seek to truly know God more and more and more. They are intimate with God.
Characteristic #4: Purity. The 144,000 have kept themselves as pure as virgins (4a). Purity. A rare commodity in these days of instant access to porn on iPhones, Blackberries, and any other mobile device one can think of. But I see youth rising up to the challenge of sexual purity.
Characteristic #5: Unconditional Obedience. The 144,000 can be seen following the Lamb wherever he goes (4b). They hear the call of Jesus and walk in the direction he leads.
So why do I write this for a blog concerned with the stranger living among us?
One simple reason: you are the 144,000.
Over the years I have taught people from nearly every type of culture and social standing in life, Christian and non-Christian: tribal believers in Malaysia with varying degrees of literacy who have known Christ for five years at most, refugees from the Chin state who come from a culture more than 90% Christian, Chinese and Indian recovering drug addicts in a Christian rehab center, Malaysian Chinese and Indian youth, visiting ministry teams with members from all different continents, Muslims and Hindus and Free Thinkers and Christians all serving in one NGO.
And those are just some of the ones I have taught. On a weekly basis I encounter people from all different nations. Just last night around our dining table there was a Canadian, an Indian, a Venezuelan, a Chinese, and an American. Not one person came from the same cultural background! We are the multicultural church.
All of history is moving towards the completion of the church, which is a multicultural church. You are the generation of believers whom I hope will bring that church to its completion as you labor together with Jesus. That is your destiny, I pray.
Now take a moment and see the issue of the stranger among us in the light of your destiny as the complete, multicultural church: no longer do you see the illegal immigrant as an illegal immigrant, or that militant Muslim refugee as a militant Muslim refugee, but as a potential member of the complete, multicultural church, alongside whom you may one day stand, waving a palm branch before the throne of the King.
The 144,000 Generation I pray will be a generation of Multicultural Saints redemptively engaged with peoples from all different cultures that they might fulfil the mandate of the Multicultural Church.
May this be your elephant.
Joshua Snyder lives in Malaysia with Vivienne his wife and Sophia and Faith, his two daughters. Over the past nine years he has served in the multicultural context of Malaysia in leadership and training.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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