God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne (Ps 47:8). The origin of the nations is Adam, as Paul preached at Athens, “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation (Acts 17:26).”
God permitted all the nations to go their own way (Acts 14:16), and this did not bode well, for all the nations have drunk the wine of the passions of immorality (Rev 14:8; 18:3). All nations are deceived by the sorcery of the whore of Babylon (Rev 18:23), the spirit of sensuality. The Gentile nations seek after more of this world (Lk 12:30), and this is why there are endless wars.
There is some confusion in Christianity about the place of the nations in God’s plan. As noted, all nations have come from Adam, and when God chose Israel from among the nations, the nations became hostile toward God’s people. From Genesis to Malachi, we can read of the history of this enmity, covering some 1600 years. The friction did not go away during the 400 years between Malachi and the coming of the Jesus Messiah. It remained, even after Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement.
The nations have remained a source of trouble for the church of Jesus Christ. For the past 2,000 years, God’s chosen race of people, called out of all nations to become a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), has had trouble in the world (Jn 16:33). Here is our point of clarification. God is not saving all nations, as some would suggest. This is an erroneous read of Galatians 3:8, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” Rather, Jesus Christ is forming one holy nation of people from all nations (Rev 5:9). This called out nation is hated by all nations (Mt 24:9).
The Gospel must be preached to all nations (Mk 13:10), to the whole world, and then the end will come (Mt 24:14). This is the mystery hidden from all nations, except Israel, in former times. This mystery of Jesus Messiah, as ruler of all nations (Rev 12:5), has now been fully manifested to all (Rom 16:26). Those who have received the Gospel mystery are commissioned to go and make disciples of all the nations (Mt 28:19). This mission, including suffering, is for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:10). Therefore, we look at the Great Commission as a reconnaissance mission of Spirit-filled people extracting unregenerate elect from the domain of darkness in this present world (Col 1:13).
God is not saving all the people of the world; rather, He is procuring and securing His own from all the nations of people. The church spends an enormous amount of resources to cater to the sensual desires of the world. We provide bake sales, carnivals, car washes, camping trips, ladies’ teas, fish fry dinners, garage sales, etc. Why do we do these things?
The primary problem: the church is wealthy enough to do it all, and there is very little confidence in the preaching of the Gospel. Imagine what church would be like if preaching were the main attraction at church. The world would not come to church, but only those whom the Father drags to be there (Jn 6:44). When the world enters the church and tells us they do not much like the preaching, the church shortens and sweetens the message to cater to the immoralities of the lost. In this practice, the Gospel is lost.
Our post-modern church enterprise is for numerical growth. There is little interest in the care of souls. Pastoral visits are passé. Even when these occasionally happen, is the subject matter the spiritual state of the person? Could your pastor actually give an account to God about what you believe? When the church tolerates the world’s presence in the church, the world prevails upon the church. The church thinks it has tricked the world, by getting the goats into the sheepfold. In reality, the goats influence the sheep, until the sheep no longer have an interest in the church. They either leave for something more biblical, or they backslide in the comforts of the undemanding carnal congregation.
Attracting the world into the church, in a seeker sensitive format, never comes with an apology. The reason is the church, at the stage of luring the world inside, is drunk with the same spirit of sensuality as the world. The carnal church thinks it is serving God, when it is really just becoming an ever-larger community center for the world.
Today, the mega church is where many worldly needs are met on the church “campus.” Coffee houses, gymnasiums, banking services, gift shops, counseling centers, community rooms for rent, etc., are all available in one location. Their philosophy orients around the idea of Christianity somehow rubbing off on the sinners who come to their mega community center.
Socialism is the idea of civil government providing products and services for the marketplace. Capitalism is the idea of free citizens providing products and services for the marketplace. What is the name given to the system whereby the church provides products and services for the marketplace? One thing is for sure, we do not have a principle, nor an example of this in the Bible.
The beauty of preaching the Gospel, as the means of attracting people to the church, is that it naturally separates people. When the Bible is actually preached, the elect unregenerate souls will be drawn to Christ. When the Bible is actually preached, the unelect, unregenerate, unbeliever will find natural separation from the church. The result will be more born again members and fewer unbelieving members in the church. This is what makes a healthy church. No need for the next conference of gimmicks, brought by church hucksters, peddling the newest method for making healthy churches.
I fear this is so foreign to the American church that I might be misconstrued as unloving. On the contrary, what is unloving is for the church to offer hope to the world by trying to assimilate as much of the world into the church as possible.
When the church tells the world, “We are just like you,” the world has no clue regarding the radical demands of Jesus Christ. It is very costly to become a Christian, and the world does not know it. Many in the church cannot even conceive of a costly Christianity.
When the church is honest, the church is distinctive. The lyrics to our worship songs will have words like: “sin,” “cross,” “blood,” “hell,” and “sacrifice” in them. Our preaching will give people a reason to open their Bibles. Our services will be marked by solemn prayers, as if a field general was calling high command to send more troops and equipment, because of the fierce nature of the battle and the sheer size of the enemy.
When an enemy, like the world, is lured into the camp of the faithful, one has to wonder about the double mindedness of church leaders. We must always be on guard to the delight of sensual souls when the church does something worldly. There will be no resistance from the people.
Christians struggle with the temptations of the world. When leaders provide yet another opportunity for their people to have a sensual encounter at church, the Spirit is grieved, and the Word is set on the unlit back burner. God is not mocked. If we sow the world into the church, we will reap the world from the church. The result will be a church congregation of mostly goats. Unbelieving churches eventually must die because the Spirit will no longer keep their lampstand lit.
Healthy churches have one distinct feature, they are preaching centers. They are known for their preaching, and they attract those who hunger for the Word of God in the land of spiritual famine (Amos 8:11). The demonstration of the Spirit in such a church is the genuine conversion of souls, with repentance and faith. As we know, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word preached (Rom 10:14–17). The rest is ancillary.
Do you want to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Then, begin with the only thing that attracts the Spirit of God. Where the Spirit of the living God resides, there is sure to be a transfer of life to people dead in their trespasses and sins. The Spirit of God has no interest in working salvation through anything other than people given to the centrality of Gospel preaching. The Spirit does not convert goats into sheep. He makes dead sheep into live ones.
Until the American church understands these things, we will continue on the wide path of accommodating all the nations set for God’s judgment (Rev 19:11–21). The wrath of God is revealed against these nations and their ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom 1:18).
When the world is in the church, and the church is no longer the church. It is the world posing as the church. This is not the ambassadorship of the New Jerusalem in heaven (2 Cor 5:18–20). It is not even representative of the legalistic moralism of earthly Jerusalem. It is the whore of Babylon, the representative of the queen of heaven (Jer 7:18; 44:17–25). She has taken over the churches. This is the spirit of Jezebel (Rev 2:20).
It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to present its Gospel demands within the walls of the church. This will bring the first judgment to the goats posing as Christians. This will bring conflict because of the exposure of church growth idolatry. The idolaters will balk at the pastor because of declining numbers in the congregation. If the pastor survives, the goats will leave the church because they simply cannot tolerate Gospel preaching.
This will also delight the faithful remnant who will suddenly be revitalized by hearing the Word of God again (Eph 5:26). The Spirit will bring the holiness of sanctification to individuals and families (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). The quest for holiness will become evident (1 Pet 1:16). This collective quest will bring further judgment upon the remaining unbelievers in the church, who will be the last to resist the holy fire of purification.
When the church has been cleansed by the washing of the water by the Word and the purifying power of the Spirit, then, it will begin to see sheep wander in from lost causes. Dead sheep will also find new life through the distinctive personality of a holy people, a holy nation of God’s people, who are not ashamed of being a royal priesthood unto God (1 Pet 2:9). What is the end of all this?
All nations will endure God’s judgment, “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:32). This may be the clearest statement on the destiny of all nations, except Christ’s holy nation. One can see how the church is a precursory form of the Day of Judgment when it is truly the church.
What of God’s holy nation and its future? All nations will be gathered before God’s throne (Rev 15:4). This is the gathering of the glorified elect. The numbers of those who will worship the Lamb upon the throne is immense, and these will be dressed in white robes and carry palm branches (Rev 7:9).
Salvation has come to people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9). These are representative of all nations, and they are the fulfillment of Scripture. The seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, has blessed them, and in this way all nations will be represented in heaven.
Together, we will sing the song of the Lamb, who is worthy in all these matters. Until then, we must repent, and we must again rely on the Spirit and the Word, through Gospel preaching, to be our main attraction. In this way, the church will be a blessing to all nations by actually being the church.
Spokane Valley, Washington
April 23, 2021