As people spread further from the gate of Eden’s Garden, over time the sense of the fear of God became diluted. The developing story of earthly nations then unfolds in the process of time with what is known as the ‘Table of Nations’(1): a list that contains the founders of 70 nations, all descended from Noah’s three sons.

At the tower of Babel,(2) God sidelined the nations, scattering them by linguistic division, having judged the fact they no longer feared Him. The veil is later pulled back further in Daniel’s writings to give intriguing glimpses of conflict among celestial ‘princes’ or territorial spirits (‘of Persia’ etc) relating to earthly nations.(3) We get hints of a similar cosmic-geographical worldview in modern translations when the nations come into view.

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance …
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the LORD’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

God turned away from the nations at Babel and began again with one man (Abraham), leading to one holy nation (Israel). Israel was YHWH’s (God’s) allotted portion;(5) whereas the host of heaven … [was] allotted to all the peoples.(6) These readings may indicate that God, having singled out Israel, left the other nations to be ruled by supernatural powers. Yet God’s plan included the recovery of unbelieving nations returning to fear Him(7) and acknowledge their mere humanity.(8)

Meanwhile God used other nations to discipline His own chosen nation. At times they exceeded their remit,(9) but at other times we get hints of remnants that feared the Lord, even offering purer service than God’s own people.(10) The intention was that Israel should be at the head of the nations,(11) and a shining example.(12) The dread of God was to be over the nations.(13) But, due to Israel’s disobedience, Jeremiah 25:1 begins the period of Gentile world domination when God gave world sovereignty over to the Babylonian king and his successors.

The coming Messiah’s role, however, included a recovery plan for Israel with justice extended to the nations(14) who will serve Him with reverent fear when the age of Gentile power ends.(15) God will judge both the nations and their rulers.(16) Judgement upon the nations is featured throughout Isaiah,(17) but remnants are to be reconciled with Israel,(18) perhaps even regarded as born in Zion,(19) and admitted into God’s kingdom.(20)

Ever since the Scripture, … preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU”,(21) the nations have never been off God’s radar. A blossoming was announced by Malachi: For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations.(22) In a sense, their regathering began at Pentecost,(23) with its updated panorama sweeping east to west. Here with miraculous tongues in evidence to proselytes from Gentile nations, a partial step towards reversing Babel took place. Our Lord reminded people of the words of the prophets: “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE WILL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’?”(24) The Court of the Gentiles then was for proselytes, but so much more was in view. In the Godhead communion of Psalm 2:6-8, the Lord inherits the nations: Ask it of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance. This lay behind His Great Commission to ‘Go … and make disciples of all the nations…’.(25) So the Son sends out pioneers to stake His claim, reflected in today’s multi-national Fellowship from which worship is offered from diverse nations and tribes and languages.

Still to come is the ‘Judgement of the Living Nations’ prior to the Millennium as foretold by Joel: ‘I will gather all the nations … Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance’.(26) Afterwards, the nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord’s house.(27) They will fear the name of the Lord;(28) God is their King and their fear of Him is His due.(29) Finally, people from all nations will come and worship before Him.(30) Nations are seen outside the eternal city: walking in its light and bringing their glory and honour into it,(31) even as the leaves of the tree of life are for their healing.(32)

References: (1) Gen. 10 (2) Gen. 11 (3) Dan. 10:20 (4) Deut. 32:8-9 ESV (5) Ex. 19:5-7 (6) Deut. 4:19 ESV; see Deut.17:3 NKJV; Job 38:7 (7) Is. 25:3 (8) Ps. 9:20 (9) Is. 10:5-16; 37:26,29 (10) Mal. 1:11 (11) Deut. 28:1,13 (12) Is. 49:6 (13) 2 Chron. 20:29 (14) Is. 42:1-8; Dan.7:13-14 (15) Dan. 2 (16) Ps. 82; Is.24:21 (17) chs.13-27 (18) e.g. Is. 19:25 (19) Ps. 87:4-6 (20) Mat. 25:32-34 (21) Gal. 3:8; Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18 (22) Mal. 1:11 (23) Acts 2:9-11 (24) Mark 11:17 (25) Mat. 28:19-20 (26) Joel 3:2 (27) Is. 2:1-4 (28) Ps. 102:15 (29) Jer.10:7 (30) Rev. 15:4 (31) Rev. 21:24,26 (32) Rev. 22:2

Brian Johnston, Leigh, England

Bible quotations from NASB (2020) unless stated otherwise