By Bret McAtee
Read Part I here.
In the previous entry we took a look at the presence of nations in the Scripture. Methodologically speaking, we used a biblical-theological approach to consider the presence of nations in God’s plan as revealed in Scripture. In using a Biblical-theological approach we traced the theme of nations in the Scripture starting in Genesis and we allowed the Biblical text to reveal the growth of the theme of nations from an acorn in Genesis 10 to the full grown oak in Revelation 21 and 22. As a method, Biblical theology takes a theme and traces its progress and growth from seed form to full grown stratus. The Biblical-theological method can be used for any number of subjects from tracing the scarlet thread of redemption through the Scripture starting with Genesis 3:15 to tracing the theme of covenant or kingdom or the church or the tabernacle. When I think of this methodology I think of time-lapse photography. Time-lapse photography can take a large sequence of time and condense it so we can see the highlights of that time, editing out everything except the theme that the photographer is focusing on.
In this article we want to continue to consider the theme of nations in Scripture. However, instead of using a Biblical-theological approach we want to use a Systematic-theological approach. While the Biblical-theological approach concentrates on focusing on the chronological unfolding narrative through time of a specific theme, the Systematic-Theological approach takes Scripture in its totality and looks for all the instances of the theme in Scripture. Think of the Scripture being a large bowl containing varied colored marbles. The Systematic-theological approach looks at the whole bowl of marbles and starts picking out and separating the various colors and placing each colored marble in different piles so that all the red marbles are with the red marbles and all the blue marbles are with the blue marbles and all the green marbles are with the green marbles, etc. Systematic-theology is far less concerned with the organic relation of the thematic motifs than that Biblical-theological approach.
Both of these methodological approaches are necessary and Biblical-theology theologians debate with Systematic theology theologians over which methodology should have pride of place.
As it applies to the nations we have established the Biblical-theological argument for the continued presence of nations from Scripture and by extension that a biblical nationalism is the preferred organizations of social orders. In this essay, having already established that we will now support that conclusion by considering other Scriptures that under-gird this conclusion using a Systematic theological methodology. In doing this we are linking this essay and the previous essay as being interdependent.
When we consider nations in Scripture, the texts that support the texts which we have previously adduced are as follows. Keep in mind, as in the previous essay, we are not intending to be exhaustive on the texts that might be brought forward. Being exhaustive would require a book for each essay.
When we consider the Pentateuch we don’t have to go any further then the story of Babel where eventually God divides mankind into nations. This division is both judgment and blessing. Judgment because it thwarts the intent of the builders of Babel. Blessing because it delivers mankind from his intended sin to rise to the place of the most high by means of racial, ethnic, and national amalgamation. God’s judgment saved the Nations.
(As a quick excursus here. No, Pentecost did NOT reverse Babel. If Pentecost had reversed Babel we would have expected each man to speak and hear in a universal Esperanto. The fact that each heard and spoke in varying distinctive languages communicates that Babel – and so Nations – remains on God’s menu.)
However, we can find the importance of Nations elsewhere in the Pentateuch. Genesis 27 (ESV):
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!
This is Isaac’s blessing of his son Jacob. Notice the existence of nations in this passage. We have already noted in the previous essay that Abraham is promised to be a blessing to the nations. Here the nations bow to Jacob. We might conclude then that it is a blessing for the nations to bow to Jacob and especially so if we read this passage Christologically. If we understand that Jacob is a Christ figure then the declaration of the nations bowing here is a declaration that finds it ultimate fulfillment in Christ to whom the nations as nations bring their obedience.
One chapter later we see God’s promise to Jacob re-articulated which had been first given to Grandfather Abraham in chapter 12, with its “be a blessing to the nations” component:
13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.
14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
Deuteronomy 32:21 gives us another indication of God’s intent to deal with nations as nations:
They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
Here we see God promising to reject Israel as a nation only to replace them with other covenanted nations who will be His people. When this finally came to pass and the Jews as nations were rejected the Jews indeed were passionately provoked (cmp. Matthew 21:43, Acts 11:2,3 and 22:21-23, 1 Thessalonians 2:15,16).
Clearly the ongoing continuation and presence of Nations throughout time is assumed in the Pentateuch and then confirmed throughout the rest of Scripture.
When we turn to the Historical books we come across a passage like I Kings 8:
41 As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name
42 For they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple
43 Then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
Solomon’s prayer demonstrates his anticipation that God would deal with nations as nations.
I Chronicles 16:8 likewise captures this idea:
Give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the nations.
That this prayer is to be one day fulfilled when we hear the report of the eschaton where people from every tribe, tongue and nation, in their tribes, tongues, and nations, are present before the throne of the Lamb (cmp. Rev. 7:9).
In II Kings 19:19 we are given Hezekiah’s prayer in a time of danger:
And now, O LORD our God, please deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.
Where do we find, as authorized in Scripture, the end of the Nations? And if there is no authority from Scripture to pursue the end of Nations then why are Christians of many stripes pursuing just that? And if the Nations are to be a permanent marker of God’s work then it naturally follows that a Biblically informed Nationalism is what the Scripture anticipates when it comes to Biblically arranged social orders. It would be idiotic to suggest that God loves and desires nations but hates Nationalism.
When we come to the wisdom literature we once again find the Nations. Psalm 7:
6 Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;
Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
Rise up for me to the judgment You have commanded!
7 So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;
For their sakes, therefore, return on high.
8 The Lord shall judge the peoples;
Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness,
And according to my integrity within me.
Kirkpatrick comments on this judgment scene: ‘The psalmist prays that “the peoples” may be summoned to stand round the tribunal. It is a general summons. No distinction is made between Israel and other nations in terms of each and all being summoned. Jehovah is exercising his judicial functions in their fullest extent as the Judge of all the earth.’ This picture of the nations summoned to account for their deeds is developed in Psalm 9 and is developed again in the New Testament in Matthew 25 when Jesus talks about the judgment of the Nations.
The Messianic Psalm 22 likewise anticipates the continuance of Nations:
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
Psalms likes this are what demonstrate the consistency of the book of Revelation where we see the eschatological presence of the nations everywhere. Nations don’t go away… ever. Indeed, the Salvation that God brings is so tied up with the ongoing reality of nations that if it could ever be the case that nations could be deleted for a monistic mass of Unitarian globalism salvation itself would be deleted. Praise God this will never be.
Again in Psalm 87:
4 I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know Me;
Behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia:
This one was born there.
5 And of Zion it will be said,
This one and that one were born in her;
And the Most High Himself shall establish her.
6 The Lord will record,
When He registers the peoples:
This one was born there. Selah
Psalm 87 develops the idea of the Nations being present as nations in Jerusalem. In Verses 4-6 we hear the words of God. God declares that Israel’s historic great enemies, Egypt (Rahab) and Babylon and the Philistines are being granted citizenship of Jerusalem. The formula granting this citizenship is ‘This one was born there’. Other peoples mentioned such as the Cushites from Nubia and the people of Tyre show that the list is representative of all the peoples of the world. Hossfield and Zenger in their work offer here:
‘The names that are mentioned mark the four heavenly quarters: west (Egypt), east (Babylon), north (the land of the Philistines and Tyre), and south Cush.‘
All of this is consistent with what we mentioned in the previous essay as pertaining to Isaiah 19.
Everywhere in the Wisdom literature we find the continuity of Nations. How is it the case that so many Churchmen today embrace a kind of dispensational rabid discontinuity when it comes to Nations? Are we really to believe that Jesus died so as to rid mankind of Nations and Nationalism in favor of a “Christian” Nationalism where all colors bleed into one? May God deliver us from such ubiquitous frenzy.
When we come to the Prophetic books we read, in Isaiah 2:
3 And many peoples will come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 Then He will judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer take up the sword against nation, nor train anymore for war.
The postmillennial advance envisions a day when Nations no longer learn and take up war but it does not envision a day when nations disappear into a John Lennonesque imagination of the voiding of nations. Such is an anti-Christ view.
Again later in Isaiah – 49:23, to be precise:
Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow to you face down and lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in Me will never be put to shame.
Here we learn that the Church will be ministered to by Kings and Queens (of nations). The Church will be protected by the ministry of the heads of the Nations. Covenanted Nations will exist in tandem with Christian churches across the globe. The post-millennial advance will sweep in whole nations as nations.
Two more from the Prophets. Haggai 2:6:
For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.
And Daniel 7:14:
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him.
In Haggai it is the nations as nations (not as a Globalist glob of humanity) that come to desire of Nations. In Daniel what is entrusted to the reign of the Messiah is not a polyglot of individuals but rather peoples, nations, and men of every language. Nations do not go away and the current assiduous work of clergy and churchmen to scrub nations and despise nationalism is the work of Old Slewfoot.
When we turn to the Gospels the final words of Jesus are concerned with making disciples of whole nations. Matthew 28:
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 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,
20 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.” Amen.
Nations do not go away. It is sin to seek to eliminate nations by lobbying to unnaturally hybridize people groups and ethnicities and it is sin made all the heavier to condemn people who note the clear and obvious teaching of Scripture all because of the current zeitgeist which seeks to bleed all colors into one.
When we turn to the book of the Acts of the Apostles we see twenty-eight chapters chronicling the work of the Apostles in seeking to disciple the nations. From Judea, to Samaria, to the nations that lay at the “ends of the earth,” the Apostles seek to disciple nations as nations. One of the last things we hear about St. Paul is his desire to disciple Spain. Romans 15:28:
So after I have completed this service and safely delivered this bounty to them, I will set off to Spain by way of you.
Further in Romans we are confronted with Nations and feelings of fealty (Nationalism) for one’s own ethnic people. Chapter 9:
1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
2 That I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my racial kinsmen
4 Who are Israelites…
19th century Presbyterian Charles Hodge makes our point for us in his Romans 9 commentary when he elucidates the phrase “Brethren according to the Flesh”:
Paul had two classes of brethren; those who were with him the children of God in Christ; these he calls brethren in the Lord, Philip, i. 14, holy brethren, &c. The others were those who belonged to the family of Abraham. These he calls brethren after the flesh, that is, in virtue of natural descent from the same parent. Philemon he addresses as his brother, both in the flesh and in the Lord. The Bible recognizes the validity and rightness of all the constitutional principles and impulses of our nature. It therefore approves of parental and filial affection, and, as is plain from this and other passages, of peculiar love for the people of our own race and country.
Hodge encapsulates in one paragraph what we have been laboring to demonstrate. God loves Nations and expects us to be Nationalists in the very best biblical sense of that idea.
Paul continues in I Timothy 5:8:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
This passage is relevant because all nations are families which expand and enlarge over time and generations. Because of this, the despising of nations is merely the despising of family written large. Here St. Paul sets forth the priority that must exist for one’s own family, and beyond that to one’s own ethnicity, and beyond that to one’s own race.
19th century liberal Albert Barnes supports our observation in his commentary on this passage:
The words “his own,” refer to those who are naturally dependent on him, whether living in his own immediate family or not. There may be many distant relatives naturally dependent on our aid, besides those who live in our own house.
And specially for those of his own house – Margin, “kindred.” The word “house,” or “household,” better expresses the sense than the word “kindred.” The meaning is, those who live in his own family. They would naturally have higher claims on him than those who did not. They would commonly be his nearer relatives, and the fact, from whatever cause, that they constituted his own family, would lay the foundation for a strong claim upon him. He who neglected his own immediate family would be more guilty than he who neglected a more remote relative.
He hath denied the faith – By his conduct, perhaps, not openly. He may be still a professor of religion and do this; but he will show that he is imbued with none of the spirit of religion, and is a stranger to its real nature. The meaning is, that he would, by such an act, have practically renounced Christianity, since it enjoins this duty on all.
And in his commentary on the same passage, 17th century conservative Albert Poole concurs:
By his own he means all of a man’s relations, his family or his stock.
(‘Stock’ being the preferred synonym for “race” in Poole’s day.)
When we turn to the Apocalypse of John we find Nations littered everywhere. Space does not permit us to mention every instance. Rev. 7:9:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands…
When this passage is read in light of all that has been teased out before then it is past obvious that these nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues are to be considered as gathered in their nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues. The Lord Christ sends forth His spirit to collect people in the context of their ethnic and cultural identity – together won to Christ — not only individually but also collectively as Peruvians, Japanese, Hutus, Frenchmen, etc. There is no indication in Revelation that the Church is present in an undifferentiated mass of humanity.
Again, in Revelation 21:26:
And they (the respective Kings) shall bring the glory of the nations into it, into the new Jerusalem.
Dutch Reformed minister Doctor Klaus Schilder comments on this:
The universality of this covenant requires that not one race or people be left out. Yet during the old Testament times there was one nation singled out of the many as the chosen people, such separation was but an ad-interim. We may look upon the covenant as then on march toward fulfillment, towards times when all nations from the uttermost parts of the earth would belong to the covenant.
Schilder is telling us here that while there is one covenant and so one church that one covenant and one church has within it distinct and differing people and nations. This is just what we would expect from a God who is both One and Many in His essence. God Himself is One and Many and so the Church of Jesus Christ is likewise One and Many. One body … distinguishable parts. Unity in diversity.
Finally, in the very last chapter of Revelation:
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Here we see Eden restored. The tree of life as it was in the garden is in the New Jerusalem – in the eschaton. In this Eden fully realized the tree of life is present to heal – not merely individuals – but whole nations. The redemption that Christ brings is a Redemption that is not only individual but especially National. Nations are redeemed and so the current attempt to denigrate the integrity of Nations or to despise social order Nationalism is overwhelmingly contrary to the explicit teaching of Scripture as examined in these last two articles.
From the Pentateuch to the books of history, to the books of wisdom to the Prophets to the Gospels-Acts to the Epistles to the Apocalypse all the Scripture screams God’s desire and delight in nations as His revealed social order for the world. This desire and delight of God in Nations thus implies His desire and delight in Biblically informed nationalism.
In future entries in this series, I hope to answer anticipated objections. I also hope to demonstrate where the false teaching that God desires a global internationalism Christianity originates. That entry will seek to provide the errant philosophy which is driving this hatred of nations and nationalism.