Monday, October 5, 2009

The Gospel of the Nations

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:5-6)
God’s plan, ever since Adam plunged creation under the curse through rebellion against Him, has always been to redeem the world and its inhabitants. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

To this end, God chose Abraham and made him a promise: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8; see The Gospel of Abraham). He confirmed this to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and to Isaac’s son, Jacob (see The Gospel of the King).

Through Jacob, He created a nation, Israel, that they might be a priestly people. “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The purpose of a priest is to act as mediator between God and the people, to represent God to the people and the people to God. The purpose of a priestly nation is to represent God to the nations and the nations to God. God’s covenant with Israel was never just for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of the whole world, all the families of the earth — the nations.
For thus says the Lord of Hosts, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of Hosts. “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord of Hosts. “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and in this place I will give peace,” declares the Lord of Hosts. (Haggai 2:6-9 NASB)
God is bringing in the wealth of the nations to rebuild His temple. The immediate reference in Haggai was to the natural resources of the nations being used to rebuild a physical temple, but there is also a deeper significance. For the Jews of the Second Temple era, it held great eschatological importance, speaking to the final outworking of God’s purpose in the world. The author of Hebrews picks up on this theme:
But now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:26-28)
This is not about a physical temple but an enduring kingdom, the rule and reign of God on the earth, which cannot be shaken. It is no longer just a future hope but a present reality. Though it has not yet been fully realized, it has already begun, for we are now receiving it (present continuous action).

What the prophet Haggai did not understand is now made plain in Jesus Christ. The enduring temple in the kingdom of God is not a physical entity that can be shaken but a spiritual one that cannot. The wealth of the nations is not their natural resources but their people. Peter tells us, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). This temple is composed of “living stones” from all the nations of the earth—all who receive Jesus the Messiah as King:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people — saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7)
After His resurrection from the dead and before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, the Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples and said:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God’s plan to restore the world and set everything right is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, who now reigns as King over all. He is calling the nations to embrace His divine kingdom, become part of His living temple, enjoy the glory and goodness of His house and experience the fullness of God’s shalom — peace and wholeness.