God’s Vision For the Nations – Will You Be Part Of It?
Here a few stats showing us some of the problems in the world.
- Current population of 7.27 billion people.
- 51,000,000 have died so far this year.
- Almost 38,000,000 million abortions this year.
- 7.4 million have died from cancer.
- Almost 1 million suicides.
- About 600 natural disasters per year from 1980-2011.
- Just from 2000-2012, 1.2 million people killed. 2.9 billion people affected.
- About 90,000,000 people killed by war in the 20th century
If we look at the world around us, it can be a dreary place. Suffering and disasters are not only things we read in the news. They happen to us and people we know. Some look at this and conclude that life is meaningless, that chaos and randomness rule the day. One guy in a newcomers Bible study I led last week thought that God would be too busy to answer the prayers of millions of people around the globe. He thought God would be unable to keep up with everything going on in this world. He is not the only person who thinks this. On this:
Shortly before his death, Mark Twain wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;…they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; …those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,…a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.”
But Mark Twain was wrong. Life is not random. As bleak as things sometimes look, God has plan.
Jesus says in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
God did not create the world and then abandon it. Yes, sin is running rampant. Sin and its consequences cloud the picture. Whereas in the Garden of Eden, God would come and talk face to face with his creation, our sin has separated us from Him. God’s presence is obscured. Sometimes His hand works unseen. But nonetheless He is still working. This verse tells us that He is the end. This means He has the final say. The world will not end in a random flash of fire that wipes out the human race. He will bring the world to the destination He has planned for it. This applies not only to the universe at large, but to us as people in it. So then, what is God’s end vision for the world? What is His master plan? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. He has already told us. That in itself is a great blessing. God is infinite and His plans would be incomprehensible and “unguessable” to us unless He specifically revealed those to us, which He has done.
So in the next few minutes we are going to take an express train trip through the Bible from beginning to end to see what is God’s plan for the nations.
I. Let’s start at the beginning.
A. Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
From the very beginning God had a plan for world history. Satan sought to take people captive to sin to tempting them to throw off God’s authority and rebel. But one day a descendant of Adam and Eve would deal a crushing blow to Satan. This verse shows us that God did not abandon humanity. He didn’t give us up as captives to Satan even though we deserved it. From the beginning, He had a plan to win us back, to redeem us. The rest of the Bible shows us how God fulfilled this plan step by step.
B. Genesis 12:1-3
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
In Genesis we see God’s calling of Abram. He is the patriarch of the Israelites, who would be God’s chosen people. This has often been confusing. Many read the Old Testament and find it is mostly about the Jews. Naturally questions spring up in their mind, “If God created the whole world, why is the Old Testament just about the Jews?” “Are the Gentiles part of God’s plan?” These are very reasonable questions. Only about 0.17% of the world’s population is Jews. So did God ignore everyone else. The above verse shows us that clearly this is not the case. The Gentiles were NOT an afterthought or God’s plan B. God tells Abram very clearly that “in you ALL the families of the earth will be blessed.” We see that God’s plan was to to use the Jews as an instrument of blessing to the world.
C. Psalms 67:1-4
God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us -Selah.
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth.
This passage shows us salvation is for all nations. God will judge all nations. He guides all nations. All the peoples should praise Him.
He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
In Genesis we learned that God was going to raise up a descendant of Adam and Eve (the Messiah) to defeat Satan. Here we see that His Servant (the Messiah) would not only restore Israel, but He would be a light to the nations. In fact this was what God wanted the nation of Israel to be. Let’s zoom through a few verses about this:
Isaiah 43:21 – The people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
Deuteronomy 4:5-6 – See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
1 Chronicles 16:23 – Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Psalms 18:49 – Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
Psalms 96:3 – Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
Ezekiel 5:5 – “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.
What is the common thread in these verses? God chose the people of Israel to be His people for a reason. Here is what MacArthur says on this point,
“God had said you’re My people, you are to proclaim My truth, you are to tell people what I am and who I am and what My will is, but instead… they violated God’s principles, they disobeyed his ordinances, they kept closed mouth about His commandments and failed in the thing that God had called them to do.”
This was not a surprise to God. The whole Old Testament shows how they failed, just like we would have in their position. The point is to show that from the beginning God had a plan for the whole world, not only the Jews. The Jews were to be His witnesses to the rest of the nations. They failed in their responsibility, but God did not fail. He sent His Son to become a Jew to fulfill His plan to redeem the world and to use Jews to reach this world so that one day the end vision could finally be fulfilled as we saw in Isaiah so that “My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
This has always been God’s plan and we can see it from the beginning in Genesis throughout the whole Old Testament. And God did not change His mind in the 400 years between the Malachi and Matthew.
“A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Simeon confirms that God’s plan from the Old Testament was still intact at the time of Jesus’ birth. He came for this specific purpose, to be a light to the Gentiles.
E. Matthew 24:14
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Notice the phrase “all the nations.” This is a phrase we have seen many times already. God’s vision includes all the nations not just a few select ones. This plan is so important to God that Jesus said the end will not come (in other words He will not return) until this goal has been achieved.
There are many more verses throughout the New Testament on this point. You are very familiar with the Great Commission which tells us to go into “all the world” to preach the gospel and also Acts 1:8 in which the disciples are commanded to be “witnesses…to the remotest part of the earth.” So let’s hop back on that express train and zoom ahead to Revelation where we can see God’s plan for the nations coming to fruition.
F. Revelation 7:9-12. This passage is one of my favorites.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying,“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
This is exciting. The world is not just random chance. God is working in the midst of all of this evil and suffering around us. He is going to save a great multitude, too innumerable to count! There will be representatives from EVERY people group on earth. But do you know what? That is not quite THE end goal. Look a bit closer and see what all of these people are doing. What? Right! They are not just sitting or standing there. They are worshiping God. This is the chief end of man, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. What an exciting thing! God is sovereign. He is on His throne. He is orchestrating all of history to fulfill His perfect plans.
But notice the first part of verse 9. “After these things…” Many have been clamoring for me to do a chapter by chapter study of Revelation. I am not going to get into the “these things” right now, but I can tell you that “these things” have not yet happened. And neither has this event that is described in Revelation 9. So that leads to the question, “Has the gospel gone to the ends of the earth?” “Have all peoples and tribes received the gospel?” “Has God’s mission been completed?”
Let’s look at some more stats to see if this vision has been fulfilled yet.
(From the Joshua Project )
Global Total 16,350 6.70 billion
Unreached / Least-Reached 6,642 2.75 billion
% Unreached / Least-Reached 40.6 % 41.0 %
Peoples Groups (without reference to Countries) 9,803
Unreached Peoples Groups (without reference to Countries) 4,073
Challenging Mission Facts
- Of the 16,350 people groups by country, 6,642 are still considered unreached.This is about 40% of the world’s population. Unreached means that there is no indigenous church or movement. In other words, someone from one of these groups does not have access to the gospel within their own culture.
- In the last 40 years, over 1 billion people have died who have never heard of Jesus. 70,000 more without Christ die every day in unreached areas of the world.(Baxter, 2007)
- Only 1% of mission funding goes for work among unevangelized anad unreached people. (Baxter, 2007)
- Only 2-3% of the 430,000 missionaries in the world work among unreached people groups.
- There are over 4000 people groups who are still unreached.
So we can see that this mission is not accomplished yet. There is still more work to do. How does God plan to finish the job? What is our part in all of this?
II.Let’s take a look at a few Bible verses which show us how God intends to reach the lost.
A. Romans 10:13-17 –
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
This passage makes it very clear that God’s way to let people hear about the gospel is through a preacher. Paul asks the question, “How will they hear without a preacher?” The answer is, “They won’t.” When we share the gospel with people, we list out two requirements from John 5:24 which are necessary for crossing over to “God’s side.” What are those two requirements? To hear and believe.
You cannot make some believe, but you CAN give them an opportunity to hear. During a recent holiday I went out with a group to do what we call “stranger sharing.” We simply go out to a park or some area and try to find receptive people and then start a conversation and share the good news.
Every single group had an opportunity to share with at least one person. Some of these were people who had never heard the gospel before. One thing we learned from this activity is that if we make the effort we can always find people to share with. There will always be people who are willing to listen to you if you are willing to take the initiative to share with them.
I have sometimes been asked and you have probably been asked, “Then what about the people who haven’t heard?” In the stats above we learned that 70,000 people die from unreached areas of the world every day who have not heard. What will happen to them?
On this question, Charles Spurgeon says the following:
Someone asked Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved? It is more a question with me whether we — who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not — can be saved.
Our job is not to judge those people. God will judge them. But the fact that so many people have not heard, should drive us to do everything we can to give them an opportunity to hear. That means going out. That means taking initiative. A fisherman cannot catch any fish unless he throws a hook/net into the water. You cannot catch any fish unless you first share the gospel.
B. Matthew 9:36-38 – When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
This passage has been very meaningful in my own life. Many years ago (almost 20 now) my family moved overseas for a one year commitment to be workers for the Lord here. Halfway through that year I was contemplating this verse. And as I was thinking about the need for workers, I thought, “why not me?” And I would ask the same to you, “why not you?” You can and you should be a worker in this harvest. There is a great harvest field here. But the workers are still far too few.
Many believers are not workers in the harvest at all. They go to church week after week, sit there, listen, and go home without ever helping. They are content to leave the “work” for the trained “professionals.” Let the pastor or missionary do that. That is their job. Is it? Yes, it is. But is also yours. This is the role that God has given to every single believer.
Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.
We see in this passage that Jesus had compassion on the people. Do you feel compassion for the lost around you? Every day you go to work, you pass thousands of people on the subway or buses. They are likely listening to music, playing games on their phones, watching shows on their electronic devices. They get up early and go to work. There they stay and work long hours slaving away. They strive for more wealth, a higher position, a greater sense of achievement. And yet just like the Jews millennia before they are like “sheep without a shepherd.” Do you feel compassion for the lost around you? That’s good, but if that is the end of it, then it is useless. Jesus’ compassion drove Him to act. His entire life was spent helping these very people.
One of the pioneer missionaries to Africa once said that “sympathy is no substitute for action.” What action is God leading you to take this morning? This is the question I want you to consider as we keep going.
C. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
What does this passage tell us that our role is? It is very clear. God has given us “the ministry of reconciliation.” Just like Adam and Eve way back in Genesis, people’s sin still separates them from God. They are His enemies. Jesus has broken down the barrier and made a way across this great chasm. He finished the actual work of reconciliation on the cross and when He arose again. But God has entrusted to us the “word of reconciliation.” What does that mean? It means that our job is to tell people with words how they can be reconciled to God. We are to make an “appeal” to them, even to “beg” them to be reconciled to God. Back in Matthew 5:9 during the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called /sons of God.” This is our job, to be peacemakers between God and the world.
God has not only given us a job, but He also gives us a title, “ambassador.” We are to be ambassadors for Christ. This means that our lifestyle should reflect well upon Christ so that we do not dishonor His name. It also means that we are to give His message to the people of the world. An ambassador may live for long stretches abroad. But he never forgets where he is from or what his job is. Our citizenship is in heaven. Interestingly, we have a job that many ambassadors never have, and that is to recruit more people to immigrate to our country. Revelation 7 tells us that there will be representatives from every people group in front of God’s throne worshiping Him. What could be better than when we get there looking to the right and left and see people we have invited there beside us.
Do you guys ever walk down the street and get handed a flyer or advertisement? Those guys often get paid for how many they can hand out. Perhaps they need to hand out 100-200 per hour. Well, we have an unlimited stack of invitations. Are you diligently handing them out? Sometimes you can see that those people handing out flyers are diligent. They look excited and they are really trying to hand out as many as they can. They boldly walk right up to you and thrust it in your hand forcing you to either accept it or reject it. Other times they just lounge around lazily. It almost looks like they are waiting for someone to ask them for a flyer. Which kind of person are you?
D. Maybe you wish you could do this job, but there are some reasons you can’t. Perhaps you are not qualified. You haven’t been to seminary. You haven’t read through the whole Bible yet. You haven’t memorized all the verses in the gospel. You don’t know how to answer many of your friends’ questions. You haven’t been a believer a long time. People will think you are crazy. No one respects you. They even look down on you. Sometime in the future when you have learned more, when you are an expert, then you can start doing this job.
If you are nervous to share the gospel or make disciples for any of those reasons, this next passage is for you. If you were taking job applications for this “ambassador” position, you could probably not find anyone less qualified than the guy in the next passage we are going to look at.
Mark 5:18-20 – As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
This describes a man who only shortly before was completely nuts. He was a crazy and dangerous person who people would go out of their way to avoid. He was under the influence of Satan. But Jesus cast out the demons and now he wanted to follow Jesus. He definitely needed more training before he could start witnessing to others. So Jesus let him come along, right? No. Huh?
This is one of the more shocking passages you will find. Jesus did not let this man come. Instead He told him to go back and tell others what “great things the Lord has done for [him].” This man had believed in Jesus for mere hours. He was previously a lunatic. And what is more, he was a famous lunatic. Everyone in that area knew about him. They certainly did not respect him. This man had not received a lot of training or in fact any training. He certainly could not answer a lot of questions people might pose to him. He was not an expert. But you know what, he was qualified. Not in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes.
It looks like the only requirement is to have received mercy from the Lord, to have been transformed. This man probably could not give lengthy sermons or answer many questions. But Jesus didn’t tell him to. He told him to pass on what the Lord had done for him and the mercy he had received. He didn’t need to pass on what he didn’t know, but he was commanded to pass on what he DID know. And you know what, when Jesus went back to that area in Mark 8, four thousand men gathered to listen to him. It is quite possible that many of those were intrigued by what they had heard from the man in Mark 5 and wanted to learn and see for themselves.
E. There are many many other verses in the Bible telling us the role of believers in seeing God’s end vision fulfilled. The Great Commission is the most famous one. From that point the disciples and the church began this mission as seen in Acts. This is the mission of the church. On this:
The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. –C. S. Lewis
So what are we to do about this. God asked for volunteers and Isaiah said, “Here am I. Send me!” You know what, God is still asking people to do this. It is not finished yet. How will you respond? “There is George. He is smart. Send him.” “There is Bob. He is handsome. Send him.” “There is Lily. She has a P.H.D. Send her.” “There is Sandy. She can play the piano. Send her.” I hope not. How about, “Here am I. Send me!”
If you are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me,” Praise the Lord! But I am going to tell you today that it may not always be easy. There will be times when people will not want to listen to you or will not believe you. There will be times when people you thought believed and were growing fall away. It will be easy to be discouraged. But notice the next couple verses in Isaiah. God told him ahead of time that his ministry would be a total failure. That is it would be a total failure from the world’s point of view. There were likely some isolated cases where individuals listened to Isaiah and repented because of his message, but the nation as a whole would not listen to him. They would not repent. Their hearts would grow even harder. But does that mean Isaiah failed? Of course not! By obeying God’s command, he was successful in God’s eyes. As mentioned earlier, you cannot make someone believe, but you can give them an opportunity to hear. Their hearts are up to God. Your job is to obey what God has commanded and follow His calling to spread the gospel. If we do, we will be able to stand in front of God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Activity: Spend five minutes writing down a list of every person they know who is not a believer.
Reflection: Now that we have seen God’s vision for the world and how we can be part of it, let us take a few minutes to personally reflect on what God wants you to do. What should you do with this list? Instead of telling you what to do with it, I would like you to spend a couple minutes of silent prayer on your own asking God for His leading. After prayer/reflecting, write down any applications you think God would want you to do. Is there anything you need to obey? What should you do with this list?