Nations and Nationalsim — A Biblicial-Theological Consideration

In Genesis 10 we have recorded the table of Nations. Chapter 10 ends with these words:

32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, BY THEIR NATIONS; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.

Genesis 10 is the effect of the cause that is listed in chapter 10 and is placed out of order in order to put chapters 11 and 12 in stark contrast. (Nimrod and Babel seeking to make a name for themselves and Abraham being promised by God to make a name for him.)

Clearly the emphasis in chapter 10 is the distinction of the Nations as Nations.

In chapter 11 the nations are not explicitly mentioned but given the context of chapter 10 and 11:4 which speaks of the desire to “make a name for ourselves,” as combined with the Unitarian tongue (language) and lip (worldview) it is clearly the case that Babel seeks to integrate what God had intended segregated. The sin of Babel is the attempted destruction of the nations that God had ordained by way of idolatrous uniformity. If Babel had been successful, family, tribe, clan, nation, and race would have been extinguished.

This conclusion is reinforced in Chapter 12 and the calling of Abraham. God promises to make a name for Abraham as well as promising that in Abraham “ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED.”

With this we see that God deals covenantally with Nations and that the maintenance of nations as nations is everywhere implied.

Naturally, Scripture focuses on Israel as a Nation (since it is from Israel that the savior of the Nations will arise), but there are places in the old covenant where we continue to see God’s intent for the maintenance and eventual conversion of the Nations. Of course, “Kings,” implies “Nations,” since no man is a King who is not the King of a people (i.e. – Nation). In Psalm 2 we see the intent of God to deal with nations. The Kings, as representatives of the Nations, though they conspire to throw off God — much like the men of Babel so desired – are told to “Kiss the Son,” though they perish in the way. Indeed, these nations as nations are promised as an Inheritance to the great Son spoken of in Psalm 2. That promise of the Nations as Nations as give to the Son comes to fruition as we shall see in later Revelation.

Elsewhere in Scripture, in the book of Isaiah, we continue to see God’s intent to save the nations as nations. Chapter 2:

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.

3 And many people shall go and say, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 

4 And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

And in the book of Revelation this prophecy is fulfilled. Chapter 21:

25 Its gates will never be shut at the end of the day because there will be no night there. 

26 And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations.

The Dutch scholar Doctor Klaas 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 a march toward fulfillment, towards times when all nations from the uttermost parts of the earth would belong to the covenant.

Calvin Seminary Professor Dr. Martin Wyngaarden was getting at much the same thing when, picking up these themes from a few chapters later in Isaiah, he wrote in his book The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011) on page 94:

Now the predicates of the covenant are applied in Isa. 19 to the Gentiles of the future, — “Egypt my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance,” Egypt, the people of “Jehovah of hosts,” (Isa. 19:25) is therefore also expected to live up to the covenant obligations, implied for Jehovah’s people. And Assyria comes under similar obligations and privileges. These nations are representative of the great Gentile world, to which the covenant privileges will, therefore, be extended.

And again, on pp. 101-2:

More than a dozen excellent commentaries could be mentioned that all interpret Israel as thus inclusive of Jew and Gentile, in this verse, — the Gentile adherents thus being merged with the covenant people of Israel, though each nationality remains distinct.

For, though Israel is frequently called Jehovah’s People, the work of his hands, his inheritance, yet these three epithets severally are applied not only to Israel, but also to Assyria and to Egypt: “Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance.” 19:25.

Thus the highest description of Jehovah’s covenant people is applied to Egypt, — “my people,” — showing that the Gentiles will share the covenant blessings, not less than Israel. Yet the several nationalities are here kept distinct, even when Gentiles share, in the covenant blessing, on a level of equality with Israel. Egypt, Assyria, and Israel are not nationally merged. And the same principles, that nationalities are not obliterated, by membership in the covenant, applies, of course, also in the New Testament dispensation.

All the way through the old covenant we see that God is a Nationalist, which is to say that God intends to deal with nations as nations. There is nothing in Scripture which suggests that God desires the elimination of Nations. This being the case, we cannot help but conclude that those in the Church who desire to see the Church as the place where the Nations are eliminated have turned the Church into the Devil’s playground in order to rebuild Babel on Holy Ground.

However, we are far from done here with this Biblical Theology of Nations.

The whole account of Jonah is instructive because in Jonah we find in the OT a archetype of Christ collecting the Nations as Nations. Jonah is a Christ figure who goes to an alien people and brings to them the proclamation of judgment and salvation. Upon Ninevah’s repentance Assyria is not joined to Israel but is, at least for a period (Nahum suggests it didn’t last long) a nation with Israel that comprises “the people of God.”

Later in Acts 15 we have a kind of repeat of the conversion of Assyria as James cites Amos to confirm that the Nations are coming in unto God, as Nations, to be what Israel failed to be:

13 After they had stopped speaking,  James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.

14 Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Nations a people for His name.

15 With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,

16 ‘After these things I will return,
And I will rebuild the  tabernacle of David which has fallen,
And I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will restore it,

17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
And all the Nations who are called by My name,’

18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.

This is a key passage, not only to demonstrate that the Church has come of age and now fulfills the role of OT Israel as the singular people of God, so that OT Israel is now obsolete in terms of the necessity to join Israel in order to be numbered among the covenant people, but also to demonstrate that the Church is comprised as a confederacy of Nations, each Nation being covenanted unto God as branches in the Olive tree all with the intent of being the new Tabernacle of God. The Church has reached maturation with a plurality of Nations serving as God’s one covenant people.

Of course, this was always the intent as already noted above. In Abraham the Nations of the Earth are blessed as they themselves as Nations are grafted into the Olive Tree. The Great Commission anticipates this as Jesus commands the disciples to disciple, teach, and baptize the Nations. In the Olivet discourse (Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus speaks of judging the Nations and separating the goat Nations from the sheep nations. Jesus initially is intent on collecting the lost house of Israel, but when national Israel, in their national leadership, refuses their Messiah Jesus speaks very clearly, in John chapter 10:

16 I have other sheep (nations), which are not of this fold (Israel); I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock (Church) with one shepherd (Christ).

Our Lord Christ teaches here that the one Church will be comprised of different folds so as to form one flock. There is, as such, a “one and many” principle in the Church. The Church is one entity that is comprised of many different nations, each retaining their identity as nations though all belong to the same flock.

Consistent with the covenantal thinking we find in the Old Testament about the Nations as Nations streaming to the Mountain of the Lord, Isaiah, envisioning the eschatological end, records:

2 Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.

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;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

And He will judge between the nations,
And will 
render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

Note here that the consequence of the conversion of the nations as nations is that the Nations as Nations live at peace. Nations are existent into the Last Days and during those last postmillennial last days the Nations will stream to the Mountain of the Lord.

This is consistent with what we find in the book of Revelation where the Nations are assembled not only as Nations in the Last Days but into the very eschaton itself. Chapter 21:

22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 

23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 

24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 

25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 

26 And they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 

27 And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Note here that the Nations have not been folded into a conglomerate church so that they are indistinguishable in the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will, consistent with Jesus’s words in John 10 quoted above, be a city that is inhabited by one fold (the Church) distinguished by many flocks (the nations).

Also note this is not a minor theme as promissory in the Old Covenant or as fulfilled in the New Covenant.

Micah speaks in the same manner as Isaiah. Chapter 4:

1 Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.

2 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;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

3 And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

And Revelation 22 speaks again of the Nations as Nations being present there in the New Jerusalem in the Escahton:

1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 

2 In the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Everywhere in the Scriptures we find the Nations as Nations part of God’s eschatological intent. As such it is necessary to conclude that any goal that focuses on the elimination of nations in the name of a misinterpretation of Ephesians 2 or Galatians 3 or Colossians 2 is a goal that is in contradiction to the intent of the Gospel’s intent to save the Nations as nations. To put it bluntly and without horns or teeth, a Reformed or Evangelical “Gospel,” that is intent on going all U2 and using the Church to aid and assist the bleeding of all colors into one is doing the work of anti-Christ.

As we have seen above, none of this is unique to this author. In point of fact this explanation has been the default position of Reformed theologians throughout history. Here is one such example from the most illustrious Biblical theologian in conservative Reformed history, Geerhardus Vos, exegeting a passage wherein his unexpected championing of the Nations and races lets off a classic Vossian riff. From his Dogmatic Theology:

Romans 11:17, 19, with its “branches broken off” metaphor has frequently been viewed as proof of the relativity and changeability of election, and it is pointed out that at the end of vs. 23, the Gentile Christians are threatened with being cut off in case they do not continue in the kindness of God. But wrongly. Already this image of engrafting should have restrained such an explanation. This image is nowhere and never used of the implanting of an individual Christian, into the mystical body of Christ by regeneration. Rather, it signifies the reception of a racial line or national line into the dispensation of the covenant or their exclusion from it. This reception, of course, occurs by faith in the preached word, and to that extent, with this engrafting of a race or a nation, there is also connected the implanting of individuals into the body of Christ. The cutting off, of course, occurs by unbelief; not, however, by the unbelief of person who first believed, but solely by the remaining in unbelief of those who, by virtue of their belonging to the racial line, should have believed and were reckoned as believers. So, a rejection ( = multiple rejections) of an elect race is possible, without it being connected to a reprobation of elect believers. Certainly, however, the rejection of a race or nation involves at the same time the personal reprobation of a sequence of people. Nearly all the Israelites who are born and die between the rejection of Israel as a nation and the reception of Israel at the end times appear to belong to those reprobated. And the thread of Romans 11:22 (of being broken off) is not directed to the Gentile Christians as individual believers but to them considered racially.

Clearly Vos, like Schilder, like Wyngaarden, and many many others understood and taught that Covenant theology requires us to read the texts in such a way that allows for the maintenance and integrity of the Nations as Nations. Nations do not vanish in Biblical Christianity, and to seek to drive them away in pursuit of a New World Order cosmopolitanism is to enter into the ring to fight against the design and intent of the God of the Bible.

We close by bringing to the stand French Reformed Theologian Pierre Courthial in his book, “A New Day of Small Beginnings”:

In giving the Church a mission to the nations, Jesus does not diminish the importance of the individual… At stake is the salvation, well-being, and peace of the nations, that is, societies as God would have them. The Son of God must ‘rule all nations’ (Rev. 12:5). The nations must bow down before the Lord and come to walk in His light (Rev. 15:4; 21:24). These nations, with their cultures, traditions, and religions turned away from the God of Holy Scripture, are called to be converted to a sure salvation. This conversion of a nation does not happen apart from the individual lives of faithful Christians, but precisely through the influence of such lives. Moreover, each nation’s conversion is to reflect the uniqueness of that nation.

Having considered briefly, the Biblical theological case for Nations in Part I, in Part II of this essay we will examine the case for Nations from a Systematic theological approach and will consider and dismiss a couple common textual objections to the ongoing existence of nations and so the ongoing necessity for Nationalism as the Biblical organizing expectations for social orders.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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