Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Part 4: What will happen to the nations?

Individualism is a pervasive world view that now exists in the west. It affects how everything is played out, especially attitudes towards the gospel. I won't go into depths on individualism now- I will leave that to experts like Mark Sayers.

Unfortunately this means that people often only read the bible looking for ways that the individual can be saved. This approach neglects the fact that people best come to God in the context of their community, culture and nation. This approach also means that many western readers neglect to realise that the bible is so full of the theme of nations.

One of my bug bears is the western pre-occupation with an eschatology that has Jesus returning really soon to rescue them from an uncomfortable society that is not as cosy and puritan as it once was. This is a very selfish approach that does not acknowledge the thousands of nations around the world yet to understand the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was not plagued by individualism. He saw it as his role to bring the truth and gospel to all of Israel, to the "lost sheep of Israel." It is true that his method was to focus on the small, not on the big. Jesus preferred to spend his time discipling a smaller group of people than preaching to the masses- as much as he had compassion on the masses. But even as Jesus was discipling his core group of men and women, he was doing this in the midst of community, one of the building blocks of an ethnic nation. Jesus avoided individualism.

Jesus spoke to his disciples of the end of time. But Jesus chose to deflect this error and focus his attention on the importance of the nations. He explained that the gospel he had been teaching them needed to go to all the nations of the world.
This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14).
This was not just a nice idea, but a necessity for the end to come. This is so often ignored by western individualism, a world view that is so self focused it ignores the wider world.

Some even try to argue that it is therefore only necessary to preach the gospel to all nations, and that when all have simply heard, this is then good enough and Jesus can return. Wrong. Aside from this being unloving, there are other scriptures that underline God's purposes are far deeper. 
Jesus tells his disciples to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." It is clear that preaching is not enough, making disciples of all nations is the goal. Doing this takes patience and a lot of time.  (Matthew 28:19)

That is not the end though, nor the only evidence that Jesus cares about the nations. We can take a flash forward to the end of the age in Revelation. Multitudes are worshiping before the throne of the Most High God. There are so many there that no one could even count them. 
They are singing: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb. (Revelation 7:10).  But don't forget to notice who is there as they are worshiping God. A multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people and language. That's people from everywhere, all nations. This underlines that it is God's desire that his plan of salvation is for nations, not just individuals. and that all nations need to be in heaven, not just in small numbers, but in a multitude.

Following the posts:
It should now be clear what a nation is, and how significant they are to God in his eternal plan of salvation. In following posts I would like to take a look at what empires are, how they differ from nations and are not part of God's plan, how there is only one good empire and how the Kingdom of God fits into the concept of nations and empires.

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