In this Chapter I would call the reader’s attention to certain key passages of the Bible which shed the only light on the question of what must be considered by the Bible-believer to constitute the “all nations” which are blessed in faithful Abraham. When the Post-millennialist interprets the term all “nations” in the prophecies of the Old Testament, he insists that this must refer to all nations as such. The “nations” will be saved, and not simply the elect out of every nation. These interpreters of Scripture construe such passages as Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1-2, and even Revelation 7:9ff as referring to the nations which have national capitals and governments: Great Britain, Germany, etc. These nations, as nations, shall be Christianized and they shall say: “come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths…” (Is. 2:3).
Now the question is, will such interpretation of the term “all nations” stand the touchstone of the Scriptures? Can it stand as the true interpretation of the Bible when interpreted by the rule: Scripture interprets Scripture? To investigate this rather briefly is the burden of this chapter.
It is very interesting to note that the term “all nations” is interchanged in Genesis with the term “all families.” In Genesis the term “all nations” is used, first of all, in the LORD’s speaking His promise to Abraham, before his coming to the land of Canaan. Perhaps God first spoke these words in Ur of the Chaldees, and later reiterated them to Abraham in the land of Haran. We read in Acts 7:2, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran. And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and come into the land that I will show thee.” In this promise to Abraham God says “And I will make thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee. And in thee shall all the families (Hebrew: mishpachah) of the earth be blessed. ” The families of the earth are the generations of Noah from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. That by these “families” is not meant every nation as nation is quite evident from what we read already inGenesis 9:24-27. A very evident distinction is made between the generations of Shem, Japheth, and Ham. It is in Shem that the great blessings of Jehovah will be, at first rather exclusively, according to the standard of elective, discriminating grace. Later Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem, which refers to the gentiles being ingrafted into the olive tree of Israel, the elect Israel of God (Rom. 11:11ff). And Canaan will be a servant of servants… “unto his brethren”! This already shows that, in this Noahic blessing, there is a distinction made between the two seeds in the human race. All nations are not blessed, as “nations” in Shem, and they will as such never dwell in the tent of Shem, that is, be incorporated into the “great people,” the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). The “nations” will never have peace upon them. The nations are restless, their waters cast up mire and dirt (Isaiah 57:20-21). These nations as “nations” are never brought near by the blood of Christ.
The kindreds of the earth are well arranged by God according to sovereign election of grace!
Think of Deuteronomy 32:7-9, where we read these significant words of Moses, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” What does this mean, that the bounds of the nation’s inheritance were set according to the number of the children of Israel? This means that in the time of the scattering of the people at Babel, so that they became many nations over the earth, there was a very set, definite preordained plan and purpose of God, the highest wisdom, the manifold wisdom of God shown to the angels; He was unfolding the mystery of godliness in history, and angels stooped down in rapt attention to look into it. Every last elect was placed exactly in that place in every nation where he would serve the gathering of the church. This church would be gatheredout of every nation along these lines: “God blesses Shem. He enlarges Shem, and Japheth shall dwell in his tents!”
Here is the wisdom of God Who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).
It is well to bear a few rudiments of Scripture in mind, when we attempt to interpret the Bible in the matter of the “nations.”
1. That we must ever interpret Scripture in the light of Scripture. We must allow the Bible to interpret, and we must believingly follow this instruction, not adding to or detracting from its teachings. This is a very spiritual and painstaking task. This is a rule which has ever been the very A.B.C. for Bible interpreters from the days of yore in the church of Christ.
2. That we are on safe ground, and then only, when we listen to how, in the New Testament, Christ and the apostles and prophets interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures. That means that in the case of Genesis 12:3and we listen to Paul in Galatians 3:8b where these “nations” are no other and none more than those who receive the Spirit by faith in Christ, who belong to Christ, and who are, therefore, the sons of Abraham, heirs of the promise of the Spirit. These are the reborn sons of God who cry, Abba, Father.
3. Only thus do we interpret the less clear passages in the light of the more clear passages. It is nameless stupidity and sin to attempt to reverse this order.’ It is utter folly to explain clear and lucid passages of Scripture, be they from the Old Testament ‘or from the New Testament, in the light of some indefinite passage of the prophecies which really cannot be understood very clearly until Jesus came to fulfill them in the fulness of time as the Son of God in the flesh.
And now let us return to the term “nations” once more. Let us attempt to understand this Biblical term a bit more in depth.
To begin with the Hebrew term which is translated “nations,” we ought to notice that this term is the wordgoi. Just a quick look at Young’s Analytical Concordance teaches us that the term is also translated with the English words: Gentile, heathen, nation, people and another. And Young informs us that the term is translated “gentile” some 30 times; “heathen” some 142 times; “nation” some 373 times; “people” 11 times; and “another” one time. This indicates that the astute Bible scholars who translated the KJV of the Bible were well aware that the term goihad to be interpreted in the light of the context. There is an element of discretion and interpretation here in these several renderings of the Hebrew noun.
To understand these several different words by which the term goi and goijim is translated, we ought to notice, first of all, that there is a rather marked difference between the two terms “nations” and “heathen.” The former term is derived from M.E.nation. And from the M.F. nation which is derived from the Latin nation which means: birth, race, nation. That which is akin is expressed in the term “nation”; it expresses the idea of what is kindred. Perhaps from this we derive our Dutch noun kind = child, and German Kindlein. It expresses the natural organic growth of a people. Thus we speak of native soil as the place of our birth. Let us keep this idea of a nation in mind. We will return to it. However, the term “heathen” is quite different in viewpoint and in emphasis. The translators of the KJV undoubtedly felt that the term goiin the Hebrew text could not always be translated adequately by the term “nation.” The text in its context required a better English word, which expressed the utter hostility of the goi against the Lord and against His anointed Son to sit on David’s throne forever (Ps. 2:1ff). The term “nation” was in a sense in its connotation too broad. Sometimes the Bible speaks of nations not from the viewpoint of their enmity against God, but as being the people, the families of the earth (mishpachah = families, tribes, Gen. 12:3b). Since the term “nations” has the basic idea in it of birth, geneology, that which is native soil in any country, the term could very correctly be translated “nations” = ta ethnee in the Greek Septuagint, which is quoted by Paul in the Greek text in Galatians 3:8-9. When Paul quotesGenesis 12:3 in a very key passage in Galatians 3:9 and speaks of nations = Gentiles, he is not referring to the “heathen which imagine vain things against God,” and who, therefore, are held in derision in God’s holy laughter, and who do not kiss the Son, and who are broken to shivers with a rod of iron. He views the nations as the Gentile—world from which the elect church is gathered; they, who once were far, are now brought nigh by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:17, Is. 57:16).
To overlook these distinctions in the use of the two terms “nations” and “heathen” is disastrous for proper understanding of the Scriptures in this point of considering the “nations.” All we obtain then is a vague and meaningless mumbo-jumbo, mere gibberish.
Only thus will we intelligently keep the avenues open to understand that the nations are to come to Zion; that these nations are the representatives of the children of Zion, although naturally natives of another nation, nonetheless those who are born in Zion, and who sing: all our fountains are in thee! This means that we dare to confess that the Son of God gathers and defends and preserves a church from the beginning of the world to the end out of the whole human race, elect unto everlasting life, and that I (born in the nations) am a citizen of this heavenly kingdom, this elect church, and that I shall forever remain such. Blessed is the “great nation” which God made for Abraham and His Seed forever.
Yes, thus we are prevented from glibly teaching that the “nations” of the world are becoming better and better under the preaching of the Gospel by the power of the Spirit of Christ, and that there ever will remain the heathen nations, who imagine vain things against the Lord and His anointed. The gates of hell will constantly attempt to prevail against the church—constantly until the end of the world. And thus we are in the world yet not of the world. And Israel dwells safely alone!