To All Nations

Christian MölkFriend of Strangers Leave a Comment

In both the Old and New Testaments, we can consistently see that God wants his people to love the stranger within Israel and the church, i.e., integration, and to reach out with the Word of God to all the foreign peoples outside Israel and the church, i.e., mission. Here now follows the common thread from the call of Abraham to the throne of the Lamb. As we saw in chapter 4, God chose Abraham to bless all the peoples of the earth through him:

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

(Ge 12:1-3)

As a continuation of this blessing, God chose Israel, who came to know the Lord and His will through the Law of Moses. But God never intended that only Israel should know the Lord, but rather that Israel should be a priesthood for the rest of the world:

5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

(Ex 19:5-6)

If Israel lived according to the will of God, it would create curiosity among the surrounding Gentiles and make them want to know the Lord as well. In a pagan world, the Jewish faith would thus serve as a light in the darkness for the Gentile peoples around it:

6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.””

(Is 49:6)

At the dedication of the first temple, King Solomon asks that the Lord listen not only to the prayers of the Jewish people, but also “when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel” comes to Jerusalem and prays in the temple, so that “all the peoples of the earth” will know the name of God:

41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”

(1Ki 8:41-43)

An example of this is the Ethiopian Eunuch:

27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. ”

(Ac 8:27-28)

The prophets prophesied of a future when “all the nations” would come to Jerusalem to meet the God of Israel:

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,3 and many peoples shall come, and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

(Is 2:2-4)

23 Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

(Zec 8:23)

In the temple of Jerusalem, therefore, there was a special place for this purpose called “the court of the Gentiles”. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem to inspect his temple and sees that the Jews had turned that place into a messy marketplace, he gets so upset that he overturns tables and chairs and drives out those who were selling and buying in the temple with a whip: [i]

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

(Mk 11:15-17)

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. It is Jesus who is the blessing that would be given to “all the families of the earth”. Jesus’ death on the cross is the turning point of the Bible and of the whole history of the world. If the whole direction of the Old Testament has been towards the death of Jesus in Jerusalem, now the mission is changing direction. If the idea of mission in the Old Testament was that people from every nation, tribe and language would come to Jerusalem and meet God in the temple, Jesus is changing the direction of that mission. Instead of all peoples coming from the ends of the earth to Jerusalem, Jesus sends his disciples out from Jerusalem to all nations to the ends of the earth:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

(Mt 28:18-20)

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8)

God’s mission is no longer to bring the nations to Jerusalem, but to Jesus. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus explains that in the future a place, Jerusalem, will not be the starting point for worship, but that God will be worshiped “in spirit and truth”.[ii] By gathering in Jesus’ name, God is in our midst[iii] and we become, as a community of believers, “the temple of the living God”.[iv]

So now it is no longer necessary to become a Jew and move to Jerusalem in order to become part of the people of God, but what matters is whether you believe in Jesus or not, no matter where you live or what people you belong to. So when Jesus sends out his disciples to do missionary work, the mission is to witness about Jesus to the ends of the earth. Anyone who starts to believe in Jesus as a result is baptized and made a disciple. In this way, the whole earth is filled with disciples of all peoples, tribes, nations, countries and languages.

Only when this mission is completed, and people from all nations have heard about Jesus, will the end come:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

(Mt 24:14)

In the conclusion of the Bible, we can see that this mission will succeed. In Heaven, people from all the nations of the earth will gather before the throne and worship our Lord together:

9 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,10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!””

(Re 7:9-10)

You have read a free chapter of my book Friend of Strangers. If you like this book, please consider purchasing the ebook through Amazon. Since English is not my native language, there may be some linguistic inaccuracies. Please contact me if you find any.

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[i] Jn 2:13–17

[ii] Jn 4:20–24

[iii] Mt 18:20

[iv] 2Co 6:16

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