The Nations

By David Embury

In many places where the Scriptures speak of the "nations" it is referring to non Jews-Israelites, but not exclusively so, and in the light of New Testament prophecy this is an important distinction to acknowledge. Concerning Israel, we find the following in Genesis:

Gen 17:4-6 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

Gen 17:16 And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her."

Gen 35:11 Also God said to him: "I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. cf. Gen 48:4

Gen 48:19 But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations."

Moving now to the New Testament we find references to Diasporic Jews:

Act 15:21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."

Acts 2:5-11 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

Jesus makes it clear that "…salvation is of the Jews." [John 4:22]. The way or means of salvation came through the Jews, and ultimately in Jesus Christ – a salvation that outworked through the "in Christ" first-fruit believers of the "this generation" and thus fulfilled; they were the priestly vine [Jn 15:1, 5], the elect, the remnant, the chosen – those commissioned for the world's restoration unto God [Mt 28:19-20; 2Cor 5:19; 1Pet 2:9-10].

The nations of Mt 25:32 were the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin gathered together with the ten northern tribes constituting greater Israel – those who under the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser in 722BC and the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC had been "scattered to the four corners" of the known world. Israel, having been scattered abroad and assimilating into foreign cultures, though keeping to their monotheism, became representative of the Gentile nations. And in a real sense, being the covenanted people were out of covenant with their God – being out of their Land, became in effect in relation to God, accursed Gentiles – "Lo-Ammi not My people" [Hos 1:9-10; 2:23].

Hos 8:8 Israel is swallowed up; now they are among the Gentiles like a vessel in which is no pleasure.

As Abram before coming into covenant with God was a Gentile so too was Israel in her banished state. In restoration i.e., resurrection [Ezk 37:1-14], Israel is again the people of God, yet this time inclusively so, for in Christ the middle wall of division was obliterated and those "not a people" [Rom 9: 25-26] are now brought into the commonwealth of Israel [Eph 2:12], and are now the people of God, or as John says "…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God." Rev 21:3.

Isa 11:11-12 It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

In context then it can be noted that the "All the nations will be gathered" in Mt 25:32 is to be equated with and is therefore identical to "…all the tribes of the earth…" of Mt 24:30. Further to this is the Greek text in which both Isaiah and Matthew render the common translation "earth" more correctly as "LAND" [gēs –γης], thus giving it a more focused setting.

This then is what the great gathering of the peoples, the nations [Gen 49:10d] of the AD70 Parousia of Christ was all about. Consequently, Israel's redemption brought to fruition the Divinely planned reconciliation of the wider world [Rom 11:11, 15, 25-27].

From this then we see that the PRIMARY deception of the nations in Rev 20:10 was in reference to Israel under the Old Covenant.