4.2.4 Gentiles / Nations: Neighbors
Volume 4: The Human Condition—Chapter 2.4
If someone were to take a quick glance at the “tone” of the Torah, he might get the impression that Yahweh didn’t like gentiles very much. After all, He arranged for Israel to leave their bondage in Egypt amid the bitter mourning of the Egyptians for the death of their firstborn sons, He killed off the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea, and then He commanded the death or expulsion of seven powerful nations within the Promised Land. In fact, the only three nations He specifically told the Israelites to leave alone (Moab, Ammon, and Edom) had family ties to the patriarch Abraham.
Such an impression, however, would be a mistake. God’s purpose was to separate Israel from the nations, to consecrate them—not because His mercy was to be shown to them alone, but so that they might become His vehicle, His conduit, for the deliverance of the whole world. Salvation would not be exclusively to the Jews, but it would come through them. This destiny would require that Israel be sequestered in their own land, insulated from the pagan influences that polluted the thinking of the vast majority of humanity. And God did all this, ironically enough, because of His love for gentiles. If you want to save a man from drowning, it doesn’t help to get in the water and let him pull you under.
The whole idea of Yahweh separating His people from everyone else was nothing new. We saw the first such separation at the time of Noah, in which eight people were set apart (the hard way) from everybody else on earth. After the flood, God had instructed mankind to “fill the earth,” but a few generations later, they still found themselves all together in the plain of Shinar, saying “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4) Left unstated here is why they wanted to retain a “one-world government” (so to speak): they were (once again) uniting in rebellion against the God of Noah.
Everybody knows that the ancient world worshiped a dizzying array of local “gods” and “goddesses.” But in truth, they were all derived from a single unholy “trinity” that arose about this time in Babel (a.k.a. Babylon). Noah’s great grandson Nimrod (or Ninus, in the line of Ham and Cush) became the world’s first man-based false deity—described as a “mighty hunter before Yahweh” (not a good thing) in Genesis 10:8. He shows up in the pantheons of the ancient world as Marduk or Merodach, Bel or Ba’al, Chemosh, Molech, Nebo, Mars, Saturn, Vulcan, Enki (a.k.a. Apsu, a.k.a. Poseidon), Hercules, and others. His wife, Semiramis, shows up as the “queen of heaven,” the goddess of fertility: Isis, Cybele, Fortuna, Ceres (Irene), Rhea, Minerva, Athena, Isi (Pavarti), Diana, Astarte (Ishtar), Maut, Venus, and the list goes on. And rounding out the phony trinity (proving Satan doesn’t have an original bone in his body) is her child, Tammuz, who, being born near the winter solstice, takes on the persona the sun god, the conqueror of winter’s darkness: Osiris, Iswara, Asshur, Deoius, Jupiter, Plutus, Kronos (the horned one), Bacchus, Cupid, Apollo, and Mithras, etc.
This counterfeit trinity is still worshiped today, in the form of power, sex, and money—none of which, ironically enough, are intrinsically “bad” things, unless you put them ahead of (or in place of) the One True God, Yahweh. Of course, Yahweh manifests Himself in different forms as well, which is where Satan got the idea. As mortals, we can’t actually survive in the direct presence of the Father, so He presents Himself as Yahshua the Messiah (the “Son”) and the Holy Spirit, in addition to various theophanies, the Shekinah, in divine dreams and visions, and finally, as the coming glorified King of kings. (See Volume I, Unit 2 of this work.) My point is that in the end, there is only one real God, and we all worship either Him or something else—either the Real Thing, or Satan’s counterfeit.
So back in Babylon, God separated people again, this time by confusing their languages at the tower of Babel. A millennium later, He separated Abraham’s progeny (Israel) from the rest of humanity, and finally, He called the church out of the world. (The Greek word mis-translated “church” is ekklesia—a compound of ek meaning “out of” and kaleo, meaning “to call”). We live in a world populated by fallen mortals endowed with free will. God’s people have almost always been a minority, and as such, we need to remain set apart from the world—consecrated to Yahweh, in other words, holy. That’s not easy in this day of easy mobility and constant electronic intrusion, but as Yahshua put it in the Sermon on the Mount, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
It is not in anyone’s best interests for one nation to encroach upon its neighbors, although it happens all the time. That being said, God has always put limits on how far empire builders would be able to push their borders, and how long they’d be allowed to prevail. World domination is the recurring dream of proud and greedy men, but from Nimrod to Nebuchadnezzar, from Alexander the Great to Adolph Hitler, no man has been allowed to seize more land or power than God was willing to grant him; and there’s always an “expiration date.”
But Satan (the father of pride and greed) remains focused on pushing society toward larger and more invasive human government (his ultimate goal being a single all-powerful satanic surrogate, the “Son of Perdition,” ruling the entire earth with an iron fist). Open borders, unrestrained immigration, and the demise of nationalism all play into that goal. In the not-so-distant future, this “Antichrist” will achieve (with Yahweh’s permission and foreknowledge) what only the most unbalanced of despots has ever dared to dream—total world domination (and with it the capability of controlling the spiritual narrative). With the Christians raptured and the Jews sequestered, he will run roughshod over the earth—but only for 1,260 days, about three and a half years. Even then, angelic messengers will make the fundamental truth—that people are still free to choose between good and evil—clear to all. And vast multitudes of gentiles will choose to follow this angelic advice, even if it promises to cost them their mortal lives. Somehow they will perceive and receive the counterintuitive truth that embracing death for the right reason will lead to everlasting life, while clinging desperately to one’s mortal existence for the wrong reasons can lead to a fate worse than death.
But the Antichrist’s one-world rule will merely be the last in a long line of satanic counterfeits, for the devil knows that Christ’s Millennial kingdom will (on paper, anyway) look a great deal like that. That is, the Kingdom of God on Earth (like the Antichrist’s reign) will be led by an all-powerful Messiah, ruling the whole world “with a rod of iron,” even though there will always be separate nations. The difference, of course, is that King Yahshua loves us with every fiber of His being. Satan’s phony messiah, not so much.
God’s plan, in fact, is to keep the nations separate from one another throughout the Millennium, beginning with (but not restricted to) Israel. Moses observed, “When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.” Huh? The Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript reads: “the number of the sons of God.” The “children of Israel” rendering is a later Masoretic extrapolation. “For Yahweh’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8-9) The allusion, once again, is to the separation of nations via the dividing of languages at the tower of Babel. God’s purpose was to make it harder for apostasy and idolatry to spread throughout the earth. The “sons of God” reference is taken by Jewish sources as evidence of angels being assigned by God to watch over each nation or people group, as Yahweh Himself watches over Israel.
In Athens, Paul addressed the pagans he met concerning these God-ordained boundaries: “He [the unknown God to whom they had built an altar, just in case] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:26-28) The reason, he says, that God has set geographical boundaries and time limits on gentile enterprises is so that they all might have the opportunity to seek and find the One True God without being led astray or kept in the dark by their belligerent and acquisitive neighbors. A worldwide government led by anyone other than God Himself is a recipe for repression and dystopia.
It is Yahweh’s wish that everyone be given a chance to find Him, and the separation of nations helps make that possible. As Yahshua said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) Yahweh never turns away an honest searcher, but woe to the one who commits spiritual murder—preventing someone under his influence or control from having life by responding to God’s love.
To that end, Yahweh set Israel apart from all other nations—collectively called “gentiles.” The Hebrew term is goy (singular) or goyim (plural). Technically, the word can be used to describe any nation, people group, tribe or herd—even Israel. But as a practical matter, scripture typically distinguishes between Israel and everybody else—the goyim. If (or since) Israel is symbolic of “God’s family,” then the gentiles are symbolic of their “neighbors,” folks who live next door, people who aren’t part of the family but whom the family desires to bless with their words and their walk.
The Torah commanded Israel: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am Yahweh. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.” (Leviticus 19:16-18) We’re kidding ourselves if we interpret these admonitions to include only “the children of your people,” that is, Israel. “Neighbors” are those who don’t live in the same house with us.
When Yahshua was asked to cite the most fundamental precepts of the Law of Moses, He listed the punch line to this passage, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” as the second greatest commandment—topped only by this: “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) But when asked to define who our “neighbor” is, He related the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story in which a mixed-race foreigner—ostensibly an enemy—showed practical compassion to a man in need, defining him as the man’s “neighbor.”
Looking at this symbolically, then, we in God’s family are to show love to those outside the family of faith—even if they see themselves as our adversaries. Bur loving a neighbor as we do ourselves puts a spin on it: we (if we’re sane) provide to our own selves what we really need. This goes far beyond meeting our physical, temporal needs. The Leviticus passage speaks of “judging your neighbor in righteousness” and “rebuking Him,” and these things are offered as definitions of what it means to “love your neighbor,” while failing to do so is characterized as “hatred toward your brother.” Charity is all well and good, but failure to point out to your neighbor that his sin will destroy him is in reality a failure to “love him.”
Paul writes: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Notice that he didn’t say, “He who tolerates sin or error has fulfilled the law.” We are, rather, commanded to “rebuke (i.e., judge, reprove, convince, chide, chasten, and reason with) our neighbor.” “For the commandments…are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10) Tolerance of evil is not a loving act; pointing out our neighbor’s lost condition to him is far more merciful than letting him die in ignorance.
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14) Bear in mind that Christ also warned us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) It’s not our job to accuse someone of being a thief, an adulterer, a Muslim terrorist, or a cannibal. But it is our job to call theft, adultery, Islam, and cannibalism wrong. Feel free to add your own favorite sin to the list. “Loving” a cannibal (for instance) doesn’t entail making him feel good about his dietary proclivities; it does involve helping him to see the error of his ways, from Yahweh’s point of view.
Since what Israel symbolizes (God’s family) is a group one can choose to be a member of, it follows that what being a gentile represents (a neighbor) is not necessarily a permanent situation either. That is, the invitation and hope of God is for us to cease being mere neighbors, and become members of His family. In a prophecy describing the Millennial Kingdom, Isaiah points out that the world’s gentiles (those who enter the Kingdom as redeemed mortals after the Tribulation) will indeed seek to join the belatedly repentant Israel as participants in God’s family. “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of Yahweh’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills [this establishes beyond a doubt that this is a Kingdom-age prophecy]; and all nations shall flow to it….”
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem….” Bear in mind that these mortal gentile believers were “left behind” at the rapture, only to discover and receive Christ in the awful aftermath, becoming charter members of the “church of repentant Laodicea” (see Revelation 3:14-22). As such, it may be safely presumed that in general, they’ll know very little about the Bible or Yahweh’s plan for their salvation—they’re operating on raw, visceral faith. But they will know intuitively that Zion, Jerusalem, is where they must turn for the truth—if for no other reason that this is where the reigning Messiah-King will have established His capitol city.
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke [Hebrew shaphat—literally: execute judgment, decide issues between, govern] many people. 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.” (Isaiah 2:2-4, repeated almost verbatim in Micah 4:1-3) For the first time in history, nations won’t go to war to settle their differences. They’ll acquiesce to the opinion of the only One on earth qualified to “lay down the law,” the risen Christ—identified in this passage as Yahweh Himself.
The principle of gentiles being allowed—nay, welcomed—to worship Israel’s God was established as far back as the exodus. Quite a few gentiles (called the “mixed multitude” in Exodus 12:38) allied themselves with the Israelites and left Egypt with them. (One notable example was the mighty Caleb, called “son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite” in Numbers 32:12. The Kenizzites were a gentile tribe whose territory was promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:19.)
Yahweh made it clear from the very beginning that gentiles could be set apart from the world—and to the worship of Yahweh—in the same way that biological Israelites were. But they had to assimilate whole-heartedly into God’s family. “When a stranger [Hebrew ger: an alien, foreigner, sojourner, stranger, or guest] dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” (Exodus 12:48-49) Circumcision was, if nothing else, a convincing demonstration that a proselyte was very serious about wanting to follow Yahweh. Symbolically, it signified the cutting off and permanent separation of a man from his sin, via a process involving blood and pain—a picture of Yahshua’s crucifixion. But of course, nobody knew that yet.
The Passover season, the first three of Yahweh’s seven prophetic holy convocations, meant roughly the same thing. So the provision for gentile participation was repeated: “If a stranger dwells among you, and would keep Yahweh’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.’” (Numbers 9:14) If a gentile wanted to dwell in theocratic Israel, worship their God, and participate in their symbolically significant rites, he couldn’t go halfway. This was not a religion—it was a relationship with Yahweh Himself.
Again: “All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to Yahweh. And if a stranger [ger, all four times] dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to Yahweh, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before Yahweh. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.’” (Numbers 15:13-16) And again: “You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am Yahweh your God.” (Leviticus 24:22) This oft-repeated precept states what a gentile must do if he wished to convert to Judaism and dwell among the Israelites in their Promised Land. Gentiles were not to live in the Land but worship in their own way, with their own non-Torah customs, scriptures, and religious rites—even if they meant to honor the God of Israel by so doing. There was to be no “separation of church and state” (so to speak) in theocratic Israel. It was God’s way or the highway—no compromise, no diversity, and no racial separation—no matter who your ancestor was.
At first glance, this seems to be in conflict with what happened in the early church, when the Gospel of Christ was first introduced to the gentiles en masse during Paul’s first missionary journey. The story is recorded in Acts 15: “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved….’” According to what we just read, this seems to be the case. There was to be “one law and one custom” for the Jew and the gentile alike, right? Well, not exactly—the Torah precept applied specifically to gentiles who (1) wanted to dwell among the Israelites in the Promised Land, and (2) wanted to celebrate the Passover and offer other sacrifices to Yahweh as the Jews did—in other words, rehearsing the rich symbols Yahweh had assigned to Israel alone. This said nothing about accepting Christ (who was the fulfillment of those symbols), receiving the Holy Spirit, or being saved from one’s sins—except as benefactors of the symbols God had built into the Torah’s rites, of course.
Paul was one of the world’s foremost Torah scholars. He knew what Moses had taught, and immediately spotted the faulty logic in the Jerusalem rabbis’ argument. “Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” If you’ll recall, we mentioned this episode in our chapter on “Priests,” as an example of what apostolic “binding and loosing” (that is, forbidding and permitting) meant. Let us now take a closer look at it, from the perspective of the gentiles. Having returned from their journey, Paul and Barnabus were in Antioch, in Syria, from where they had originally been sent out. “So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren….” There was no question in the missionaries’ minds that the gentiles they had met were truly saved and Spirit filled—circumcision or no circumcision. Nor did the fact that the new believers had not been circumcised dampen the enthusiasm of the faithful who heard the news.
“And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses….’” Note first the remarkable fact that some of the Pharisees—the very group whose misreading of the Torah had been so instrumental in getting Yahshua crucified in the first place—had become Christians. For that matter, Paul himself was a Pharisee by training. The point is that knowing what the Bible says is not nearly as important as heeding what it means. The usual rabbinical practice was to take a Torah precept, hedge it about with manmade rules Yahweh never intended, and then apply it to every conceivable situation—which is what these believing Pharisees were doing here, in effect, “adding to” the Law of God, something specifically prohibited in Deuteronomy 4:2.
Basically, their argument was, “The gentiles must become Jewish proselytes in order to become Followers of the Way because this is, after all, a Jewish sect.” Paul, having seen the Spirit in action among the enthusiastic gentile converts in Asia Minor, begged to differ. This was a whole new thing—or rather, it was the unveiling of the original, foundational promise hidden within the symbology of the Torah sacrifices: the salvation of anybody who chose to experience God’s forgiving grace, Jew or gentile. Yahweh’s welcoming attitude toward receptive gentiles will become abundantly clear as we proceed.
“Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter [the spokesman of record on the Day of Pentecost and the first to witness the Spirit’s indwelling of gentiles in the house of Cornelius the Centurion] rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they….” Note the interesting phrasing: “We will be saved as they were,” not “They will be saved as we were.” That is, the Torah never saved anybody through their compliance, for the simple reason that nobody was ever able to fully keep it. If we are saved at all, it is through our faith in what the Torah prophesied and symbolized—the perfect, finished work of Yahshua the Messiah.
That was the premise. But God had already validated it: “Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James [the half-brother of Yahshua, and leader of the Jerusalem assembly] answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name….” The reference is to the “Cornelius episode” recorded in Acts 10, the principles of which had now been confirmed by the testimony of Paul and Barnabus.
James now did what we should all do when faced with a previously unclear doctrine: he consulted the scriptures. “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek Yahweh, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says Yahweh who does all these things.’” The quote is from Amos 9:11-12. The “tabernacle of David” is his royal house—a reference to Yahshua’s qualifications to be the King of kings—and not just king of the Jews, but of believing gentiles as well. “Known to God from eternity are all His works….” In other words, “God isn’t making this stuff up as He goes along—He intended from eternity past that the gentiles were to be included in—and recipients of—His plan of salvation, even though He didn’t reveal that plan through them. As it turns out, the Jews were the postman sent from God; the gentiles were among those to whom His message was addressed.
And the logical conclusion? “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath….” This wasn’t a truncated list of Torah-like “commandments” offered as a salvation strategy to a gentile audience. Rather, it was recognition of the fact that living in a pagan culture, the gentile converts would face some unique challenges. Many things Jews took for granted would seem new and strange to the gentile believers. So this short list of simple admonitions was offered to help them (1) maintain their bodily health, and (2) preserve their testimony as set-apart believers in Christ.
Since the missionaries to the gentiles in Asia Minor had been dispatched not from Jerusalem, but from Antioch, the next order of business was to inform them of what had been determined. “Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. They wrote this letter by them: ‘The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment—it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth….”
The first thing the Jerusalem elders did was head off any notion that the command that “the Law must be kept in order to be saved” had come from them. It was, rather, the unauthorized opinion of some who had “taken the ball and run with it,” so to speak. Since no one—ever—had achieved reconciliation with God through the performance of the Torah’s rites, it made no sense to burden the gentiles with a strategy that had not even proved possible among the Jews, who had been commanded by God to keep it (though not as a soteriological strategy, but as symbolic testimony to the world). It’s unclear if they understood the figurative nature of the Torah at this juncture, but they made the right call nevertheless: keeping the Torah was the responsibility of the Jews. Benefitting from what it meant was the privilege of the gentiles.
And about those admonitions: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols.…” This one’s pretty obvious. If you purposely and publically eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols in a pagan sacrifice, you have “identified” with that idol, one way or another. Yes, as Paul pointed out in I Corinthians 8, the idol is nothing, and meat is just food. But it takes depth of faith and confidence in the basis of one’s salvation to be able to separate the appurtenances of idolatry from idolatry itself. Paul’s issue with it was the confusion or consternation that “eating meat sacrificed to idols” might cause to one who is new to, or weak in, his faith. It is not a loving act to “throw a stumbling block in his path,” even if your action is technically innocent. The modern equivalent might be for a Christian to habitually hang out in a bar, even if he never gets drunk. His testimony will be damaged, even if his liver is not.
“From blood, from things strangled….” The next admonition points out a health hazard that any Jew would have been aware of, but gentiles may not have been. Vincent’s Word Studies reports that “gentiles had no scruples about eating blood; on the contrary, it was a special delicacy.” Eating goats’ blood is extolled, for example, in Homer’s Odyssey. “The heathen were accustomed to drink blood mingled with wine at their sacrifices.” From Noah’s flood forward, however, Yahweh made it clear that blood was not to be eaten. Animals butchered for their meat were to be drained of their blood. God’s stated reason for this was that “the life is in the blood” (which was sort of the point for pagans—assimilating the life-force of the slain animal). See Genesis 9:6, Leviticus 17:10-14, and Deuteronomy 12:23-24. Obviously, if you strangled your supper (instead of slitting its throat), the blood would remain inside the animal.
In The Owner’s Manual (Chapter 5) I referenced a series of laboratory tests that were conducted by Dr. David Macht of Johns Hopkins in 1953. He tested the relative toxicity of “extracts of the flesh and blood of a wide range of animals, including fifty-four different kinds of fish, identified as ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ in the Torah. Under controlled laboratory conditions, he subjected each sample to the same standard toxicological analysis. The results were, depending on your point of view, either yawningly predictable or stunningly revealing: every single sample that the Torah listed as ‘clean’ or edible was shown to be non-toxic, while every subject tested from the Mosaic Law’s ‘unclean’ or inedible list turned out to be toxic. There was a one hundred percent correlation between Yahweh’s instructions and Dr. Macht’s experiments…. And in every animal tested, both clean and unclean, the blood turned out to be more toxic than the flesh.”
“And from sexual immorality….” The final admonition to the new gentile believers was sexual purity—which meant abstinence from sexual contact with anyone other than one’s spouse, for one’s entire life. There were many reasons for this advice. (1) In pagan culture, ritual prostitution was part of the worship routine at the various temples. It had been this way since the time of Nimrod and Semiramis a few generations after the flood, and the practice had spread to the four corners of the earth—everywhere but Israel (that is, when Israel was walking according to the Torah’s precepts—which they often didn’t). So extramarital sex was seen as a normal facet of everyday pagan culture. Living a sexually pure life, then, set one apart from the heathen masses. It became a significant component of a Christian’s testimony of a changed life.
(2) The spiritual ramifications aside, there were health factors to consider. I don’t know how big an issue sexually transmitted diseases were in first century Asia Minor, but remember, these admonitions were written to all gentiles who would subsequently call upon the Name of Christ—right down to the present generation. Venereal diseases cannot be transmitted without sexual contact somewhere in the loop; it is axiomatic that mutual lifelong fidelity among mates makes them immune (for all practical purposes) to these curses.
(3) Sex is designed to result in offspring. If children are produced outside of the marriage bond, the inevitable result is poverty, insecurity, and a dysfunctional view of what mankind’s relationship with God—as our “Heavenly Father”—is supposed to be like. This, of course, explains why Satan works so hard to undermine the traditional family structure. Today, almost half of “first children” are born out of wedlock, and in America, over forty percent of all children are born to single mothers. See The End of the Beginning, Appendix 3, elsewhere on this website, for the statistics and ramifications.
“If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:1-29) These, then, were simple “rules to live by”—not a comprehensive list of what a gentile must do to be saved, but rather a handy (and brief) compendium of ways to maintain one’s Christian testimony and live a holy life in a thoroughly pagan society. Keeping these precepts (all of which are perfectly compatible with, if not overtly commanded, in Torah law) whispered to the gentile believer’s neighbor, “This person’s life has changed—for the better. What has caused this miraculous transformation?”
The only reason the controversy had arisen at all was that by the time of Christ, it was taken as an article of faith in Israel (or at least ingrained tradition) that “God loves us Jews, but He surely hate the gentiles.” This, of course, was an extrapolation of Israel’s instructions concerning the invasion of the Land of Promise, in which the seven Canaanite tribes were to be utterly removed from the Land, either driven out, or, if it came to that, killed in battle. So by the apostolic age, the general consensus was that gentiles were “unclean,” and no good Jew could associate or even share a meal with them.
This explains the extraordinary measures Yahweh had to go through to make Peter realize that this wasn’t necessarily so. In the Cornelius encounter, recorded in Acts 10, the apostle was shown a vision of great sheet descending from heaven with all sorts of Levitically unclean animals—and God telling him to “kill and eat,” which, of course, was contrary to the Torah. Peter figured it out fairly quickly: the vision had nothing to do with food, and Yahweh wasn’t contradicting Himself. He was merely telling the disciple that his traditional assessment concerning the unworthiness of the gentiles was a tad off the mark. Yes, Israel had been set apart from the nations to be the vehicle for the Messiah’s mission, but now that this mission was a fait accompli, it was high time to announce the Good News to the whole world, ninety-nine-plus percent of which was gentile.
It’s not as if Yahweh’s scriptures had kept His agenda for the gentiles a big secret. References revealing His kind intentions toward the nations peppered the Tanakh like stars in the night sky. The concept, in fact, was central to the original divine promise Yahweh had made to Abram. “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Even the patriarch’s name change hinted at the long view Yahweh envisioned for his destiny: Abram meant “exalted father,” but Abraham meant “father of many,” potentially declaring him to be the spiritual father of “all the families of the earth.”
The blessing of the gentiles through Abraham—ultimately through his descendant, Yahshua the Messiah—was never far from Yahweh’s mind. When He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, “Yahweh said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of Yahweh, to do righteousness and justice, that Yahweh may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.’” (Genesis 18:17-19) The idea was, if Abraham’s descendants pursued “righteousness and justice,” they would be a beacon of hope to everyone else. The contrast between Abraham’s glowing potential and the corruption of Sodom and Gomorrah couldn’t be greater. From this point forward, the vast bulk of prophetic revelation would come through Abraham’s descendants.
The promise of gentile blessing was reiterated in the wake of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of the son of promise, Isaac. “Then the Angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says Yahweh, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’” (Genesis 22:15-18) This time (because of what Abraham’s and Isaac’s dress rehearsal signified), the promise was expanded to include political ascendency for his descendants.
Ultimately, of course, this is a reference to the Millennial reign of Christ. But it could have happened even prior to that: in Deuteronomy 28:1, Yahweh tied national preeminence for Israel to the keeping of His commandments, but alas, their persistent disobedience has brought them a very different fate—so far. Interestingly, Israelite political dominion under King Yahshua and universal blessings for the gentile nations are equated here. In other words, it is seen as a good thing to be ruled over by Israel—if they are in the center of God’s will. As Isaiah would write, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The blessing of the gentile nations was once again in view when God repeated the Abrahamic covenant to his son Isaac: “I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven. I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (Genesis 26:3-5) Yes, the Hebrew word for “laws” here is Torah. Through Abraham lived half a millennium before Moses, the patriarch is said to have “kept My commandments, statutes, and laws.” This is basically the same thing that was said prophetically of the church of the rapture—Philadelphia. They were told, “I know your works…you have kept My word.” (See Revelation 3:8.)
How is this possible? No one has managed to perfectly perform the entire Law of Moses. Paul explained how God’s promise to Abraham related to us in the church age: “He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” As with Abraham, our belief—our trust in and reliance upon Yahweh—is perceived by God as righteousness. In other words, He sees Yahshua, the One to whom the Torah points, as a fully sufficient sacrifice to atone for our sins. Therefore, if our faith is in Him, our salvation is secure. “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Galatians 3:5-9)
Yahshua had confirmed this. When asked, “‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” (John 6:28-29) Note that He didn’t restrict who could be saved by such faith. Whoever chooses to, whether Jew or Gentile, may come to God in faith, believing in the promise of the Torah, and it will be accounted unto him as righteousness. And that’s a very good thing, because as far as we know, literal compliance with all of the Law’s requirements is not humanly possible. That being said, even though performing the rites of the Torah has no role in securing our salvation, our faith must not be taken lightly. Grace isn’t cheap. Yahshua said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38) Salvation may be free, but it’s not easy.
The wilderness tabernacle, whose construction, rites, and appurtenances were described in such precise detail in the Book of Exodus, was a complex symbolic presentation of God’s plan for our redemption and reconciliation with Him. And the magnificent temple built by Solomon was built to the same design (just scaled up), thus invested with the same symbolic meaning. So it’s noteworthy that Solomon’s prayer of dedication did not characterize this structure as exclusively for the Jews: “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.” (I Kings 8:41-43) Everything the temple stood for was to apply to and benefit all nations—anyone of any race who revered Yahweh.
The Millennial temple will be even more accessible to gentiles: “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to Yahweh, to serve Him, and to love the name of Yahweh, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord Yahweh, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, ‘Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.’” (Isaiah 56:6-8) Don’t forget to read the “fine print.” King Yahshua’s temple (read: the plan of God) will be a place of worship for all—Jew or gentile—who “love the name of Yahweh.” But the merely curious, the proud, and the self-righteous will not be admitted.
Isaiah names two baseline requirements: (1) “keeping the Sabbath” means “resting on the seventh day.” It has nothing to do with which day of the week you gather for worship. But he who is counting on his own efforts or merit to earn him a place in the Kingdom will find himself excluded. The “seventh day,” after all, is a thinly veiled euphemism for the Millennium itself. Working is right and proper until the second coming of Christ—the first six thousand-year “days” of fallen humanity. But in the end, we must rest in His finished work. And (2) “holding fast to God’s covenant” can be boiled down to two things: loving Yahweh with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as you do yourself. On these two precepts hang all of the Law and the writings of the Prophets.
In Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial temple (which doesn’t match any temple that has ever been built—yet), he was shown this: “Behold, the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh; and I fell on my face. And Yahweh said to me, ‘Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears, all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of Yahweh and all its laws. Mark well who may enter the house and all who go out from the sanctuary….’” As Isaiah had said, entrance to Yahweh’s sanctuary would be restricted to those who chose to revere the God whose plan of redemption the temple signified.
Israel had failed—disastrously—in their duty to keep the House of Yahweh holy. This, after all, was why they were being exiled in Babylon. So Ezekiel was told, “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations. When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it—My house—and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of My holy things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you….’” They had “brought in foreigners,” for all practical purposes, by rebelling against Yahweh—just as He had warned them in Deuteronomy 28:49-52.
So as with Isaiah’s prophecy, Ezekiel reports restrictions upon who will be allowed to worship at the Millennial temple—that is, who would be counted among the congregation of the redeemed. He uses a different symbol, but the message is exactly the same. “Thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner [Hebrew nekar: an alien, a stranger] who is among the children of Israel.’” (Ezekiel 44:4-9) Before, it was the Sabbath and the Covenant. This time, it’s circumcision, which is a picture of being completely and permanently removed from one’s sin through a process involving blood and pain—the crucifixion of Christ. He speaks of being “uncircumcised in heart,” meaning that it is possible to have been circumcised in flesh (well, you have to be a male to undergo this procedure) and still be clinging to your sin—unwilling to allow Christ’s sacrifice atone for your fallen condition. These people, Ezekiel reports, will not be allowed to enter the sanctuary of Yahweh.
The deeper we look, the clearer it becomes that the idea that “God loves the Jews, but hates the gentiles” was just plain wrong. Yes, the seven hopelessly corrupt Canaanite tribes were to be driven out of the Promised Land; yes, Yahweh gave Israel military successes against other nations outside the Land who attacked them during their wilderness wanderings; and yes, the Jews had been warned not to follow the ways of the gentiles. But at the same time, the Israelites were instructed to the point of ennui to be kind to individual strangers—gentiles—who wanted to live among them on God’s terms. We get the distinct impression that one of the reasons Yahweh allowed Israel to languish in Egyptian bondage for four hundred years was so they would know what it was like to be a stranger in a foreign land, displaced and oppressed. He says, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) And later, “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) Experience should breed empathy.
In God’s mind, displaced strangers were in the same basic plight as widows and orphans: they had no inheritance in the Land, but relied on the mercy of godly Israelites—who in turn relied upon the mercy of Yahweh. So He says, “Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.” (Deuteronomy 27:19) It’s a corollary of “loving your neighbor as yourself.” God’s people are not to treat disadvantaged people badly just because they can’t defend themselves.
Believing gentiles within Israel—these disadvantaged strangers—were even provided for in the tithe. When the tithes were periodically presented to the Levites, the worshiper was to verbally confirm before God what he had done: “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before Yahweh your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.’” (Deuteronomy 26:12-13) There was to be no question in the mind of the tither where the money was going. One could not maintain the pretense that “God hated gentiles,” knowing that He had provided for them out of the tithes of Israel.
In a moment, we’ll consider the case of the prototypical gentile refugee (and widow), Ruth (with her mother-in-law, Naomi), and how God’s precepts worked for them. But first, I need to address the contemporary case of “refugees.” Does “justice due the stranger” imply that a nation (like America) running on Judeo-Christian values should just fling open her doors (and welfare coffers) to any and all who want to settle here, regardless of their intentions? Should there be prerequisites for the admission of strangers? The Torah supports both mercy and discernment: the dividing line between them is the immigrant’s intention to honor God (or in our case, at least the laws and customs of the land).
It is clear that we are justified in restricting (okay, denying) access to human parasites whose goal is merely to suck the life out of the host nation without contributing anything. There are procedures in place for lawful immigration, and for centuries America has welcomed people from all over the world who wished to build a life here—people who were prepared to become Americans, instead of British, Italians, Chinese, Irish, Russians, Polish, or any other nationality on the face of the Earth. But sneaking across the border illegally (or overstaying your visa) and applying for welfare benefits is not immigration—it’s invasion.
And what about today’s hot-button issue, Muslim “refugees”? By definition, a practicing Muslim immigrant is not prepared to assimilate into the culture of his host nation. If one agrees with the teachings of the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sunnah, his goal is to establish a beachhead for Islam. It’s not optional for him. He must place Shariah law above the laws and customs of the host nation, placing him in a de facto state of war against the nation to which he has moved. The whole idea is to spread Islam, not escape from it. That’s why you don’t see Syrian refugees fleeing to Iran, or Iraqis seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia.
So just as Yahweh didn’t want unrepentant Canaanite Molech-worshipers settling in Judah, He doesn’t want unapologetic Somalian Allah-worshipers settling in Wisconsin. If they wish to renounce Islam they may be considered, of course, bearing in mind the fact that Islam encourages lying in order to deceive gullible infidels—it’s called taqiyya (in Shia Islam) or muda’rat (among Sunnis): tactical deceit for the purpose of spreading Islam. The sad fact is that according to Islam’s own laws, Muslims can’t be trusted. The only merciful thing that can be done for a Muslim is to introduce him to Christ. Anything short of this is a Band-Aid on a train wreck.
Speaking in broad generalities, however, the post-Christian world has embraced the “train wreck” of illegal or ill-advised immigration. For decades, our “leaders” have covered up the warning signs, ignored the speed limits, and greased the wheels of their own demise by welcoming the curse of Islam into their nations (much of it in Europe, North America, and Australia). They’ve provided welfare assistance, free education, health care, and tolerance—and have received in return a knife in the back: riots, murders, a rape epidemic, and lawless enclaves (“no-go zones”) where no non-Muslim is safe.
The reason this curse has been embraced is satanically inspired counterfeit altruism—the idea that every viewpoint, no matter how intrinsically evil it is, is equally worthy and must therefore be tolerated (since “there is no such thing as absolute truth”). This suicidal brand of naivety looks sort of like Judeo-Christian mercy, but it is very different. Having turned their backs on Yahweh generations ago, these post-Christian nations no longer have any solid ethical ground upon which to stand, so they revert to moral relativism. It is as Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
As we learned in Yahweh’s law of loving our neighbors, we are not to be enablers of self-destructive behavior, but guides back to the right path—as defined by Yahweh. This explains why allowing unrepentant Muslim “refugees” to settle in your backyard is a bad idea, showing more gullibility than love. Islam is like leprosy—contagious and lethal (as so many European nations have discovered the hard way). The Torah commanded that lepers were to remain “outside the camp,” isolated from the uninfected unless and until their disease was cured. Like Moses said, it is not a loving act to tolerate evil in your midst.
How then does God handle immigration, welfare, and cultural assimilation? Or alternately, how is love to be shown to the gentiles? The story of Ruth tells us how it was designed to work. During the age of the Judges, a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons moved from Israel to neighboring Moab to avoid a famine. But Elimelech died there, making Naomi a widow. The two sons, each having taken Moabite brides, died as well, leaving the hapless Naomi in a foreign land with her two Moabite daughters-in-law. One of them tearfully returned to her old life, but Ruth adamantly told Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16) The first thing Ruth did was swear allegiance to her mother-in-law’s people and her God, Yahweh. Following Naomi, she left Moab behind and “applied for Israelite citizenship,” so to speak. That is, when she immigrated to Israel, she didn’t bring her homeland’s heathen gods with her, nor did she expect to live according to Moabite customs in her new home. The whole thing is a poignant picture of a gentile’s conversion to Christianity—one of choice and repentance.
So the two “refugees” arrived in Judean territory, and Ruth learned about how Yahweh had provided for the poor: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am Yahweh your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10) The poor and the stranger (Ruth was both) were allowed—even encouraged—to pick up the gleanings in the field, orchard, or vineyard that the harvesters left behind—on purpose. Yes, they had to work for their welfare assistance—but God had made sure there would be something to work for.
There was a local landowner named Boaz of the tribe of Judah (a relative of the late Elimelech), whose wheat was being harvested. So Ruth asked, and received, permission to glean in his field, according to the Torah mandate. Determined to do her best to provide for Naomi and herself, Ruth worked so diligently, her efforts were noticed and brought to the attention of Boaz—who commended her and asked her to glean only in his fields (where he could “cheat” on her behalf by leaving lots of unharvested grain in her path). Ruth was astonished at his graciousness: “So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?...’” Good question. They didn’t do things like that in Moab. There, it was every man for himself. But Yahweh was on record as loving Jews and gentiles alike.
“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. Yahweh repay your work, and a full reward be given you by Yahweh, God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” (Ruth 2:10-12) The reason Boaz rewarded Ruth was their mutual reverence for Yahweh. Ruth had demonstrated what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” through her selfless devotion to her mother-in-law. And the noble Boaz was determined to return the favor, while giving all the credit for his own altruism to Yahweh.
There’s a lot more to the story. Boaz became a “type” of Christ, a demonstration of what God’s “kinsman-redeemer” principle was all about—by buying back at his own expense the inheritance that his relative Elimelech had lost when he fell into poverty. It’s all a picture of Calvary: how Yahshua “bought back” for us what we had lost through our sin—our inheritance of eternal life in fellowship with our Creator.
In our present context, though, note that it wasn’t only the biological Israelite (Naomi) who benefitted from this arrangement. Boaz also married Ruth, ostensibly in order to keep Elimelech’s family line from dying out. Their son, Obed, would be the grandfather of King David, the ancestor of Yahshua the Messiah (some forty generations removed from Ruth and Boaz). Thus the prophecy of Boaz came full circle. He had told Ruth, “Yahweh [will] repay your work, and a full reward [will] be given you by Yahweh, God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” When we remember that Yahshua taught us that “the work of God is to believe in Him whom He has sent” (i.e., Himself), it becomes clear that He had the gentiles very much in mind when He’d said this. By “believing in Him,” we in His church—including gentile believers—have “come under His wings for refuge.”
Although Yahweh’s plan of redemption would be brought to fruition through the nation of Israel, the redemption itself was always intended to be something in which the gentiles could participate. Even though the prediction of Israel’s eventual repentance and repatriation are by far the most common theme in prophetic scripture (probably because it looked so unlikely for so long), God’s promises concerning the gentiles are, in fact, scattered throughout scripture. Many are found in the Book of Isaiah, where the relationship between Israel and the nations is linked by the advent of the Messiah:
Speaking of the coming Messiah, Isaiah notes, “Indeed He [Yahweh] 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 give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:6) Think bigger, He says. My love isn’t restricted to My people Israel, but extends to the whole world—even those who have not as yet been shown the light.
The key to gentile salvation is the advent of Yahshua, the Jewish Messiah. The only surprising thing about this is that it was revealed so often before the fact—in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles…. I, Yahweh, have called You [i.e., Yahshua] in righteousness, and will hold Your hand. I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:1, 6-7) That was me, and every other believer—blind to the truth and imprisoned by sin. But “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25) Though I was once imprisoned, now I am free.
This theme of the darkness of sin and death being dispelled among the gentiles by the light of God’s love—shown by Yahshua—is repeated over and over. “Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)
If I may reprise an observation on this passage from Volume 2 (in the chapter exploring “Light” as a symbol), “Who was associated with these places? Yahshua grew up in the town of Nazareth—that’s in the territory settled by Zebulun. He ministered primarily in the towns of Northern Galilee; that’s in—you guessed it—Naphtali. ‘The way of the sea?’ Not only did Yahshua’s ministry focus on the people living near the Sea of Galilee, He ministered as well to the multitude from Tyre and Sidon, the premier seaport cities of the eastern Mediterranean (see Luke 6:17). And what about ‘beyond the Jordan?’ Yahshua was baptized there by John the Baptist (see John 1:28) and later ministered in Decapolis (remember the demoniac of Gadara? See Luke 8:26-40) and Perea (John 10:40), both on the eastern side of the Jordan River [i.e., in gentile territory]. Remember, Isaiah is identifying where the people should be looking in order to ‘see a great light.’ You might expect the Savior to show up in Jerusalem, but these places the prophet singled out? Not likely. But what was the misinformed complaint of Christ’s detractors? ‘They answered…Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.’ (John 7:52) Really? Isaiah would beg to differ.”
The time will come, in fact, when the light (or should I say, Light—the Messiah) that the gentiles perceived in Israel would be recognized in Israel only because of the testimony of the gentiles—the believers of the church age. “Arise, shine, for your light has come! And the glory of Yahweh is risen upon you [Israel].” This much was fulfilled in Yahshua’s first advent. The gentiles (some of us) received this light, but Israel, for the most part, chose not to see it. “For behold, the darkness [a euphemism for sin and ignorance] shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people. But Yahweh will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2) After the rapture of the largely gentile church, Israel will—during the dark days of the Tribulation—at last recognize what she failed to see the first time around: that Yahweh is God, and Yahshua is His promised Messiah.
The turning point will be the Battle of Magog. Yahweh’s miraculous preservation of the Jews against impossible odds will not only awaken Israel to their former error, it will convince the left-behind gentiles of their mistake as well. At this point, the tables will be turned: the Jews’ very survival will be a witness of God’s power. Ezekiel records Yahweh’s plan in letting dar al-Islam first attack Israel, only to be utterly decimated: “So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel…. I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am Yahweh their God from that day forward. The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them.”” (Ezekiel 39:7, 21-23)
The Jews will “get it” first, and the left-behind gentiles will quickly catch up to the unfolding truth: (1) Yahweh is God. (2) It is He alone who slew the hordes of Magog. (3) Though this God has always loved Israel, He has been chastising them for their sin for the past two millennia (see Hosea 6:1-2). And (4) Yahweh can still be trusted in the dark days to come. (The Battle of Magog will take place only a year or two into the Tribulation—before the Antichrist has seized worldwide power). It will get a lot worse before it gets better.
This explains how the gentiles will instinctively know that they should harbor the Jews during the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” The aftermath is described in Yahshua’s prophecy of everlasting rewards for those who do, and corresponding curses for those who don’t. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him [that is, this will happen after the Second Coming—making it long after the rapture], then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations [the comparatively few gentiles who have survived the Great Tribulation—all of them] will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world….’” The mortal sheep will live and prosper, but goats will go into “everlasting punishment.”
But by what metric are they separated? Their theological position? Their record of Torah observance? No. These folks may be presumed to have practically no “religious knowledge,” no idea what Yahweh’s scripture says or requires. They’re operating on conscience alone (perhaps with a little angelic guidance). “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me….’” “Me”? He wasn’t there personally, but His “brethren” were. “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:31-36, 40) And who are these “brethren” of the King? At the very least, they are the Jews, the ones who had been persecuted by Satan and his minions for so long. The “brethren” could also include other neo-believers in need. The gentiles who sheltered, supplied, harbored, and showed mercy to them during the Antichrist’s reign of terror will be accounted as having done those things for Christ Himself.
So-called “Christian” denominations these days who have chosen to declare war on Israel, using such tactics such as BDS (boycott-divest-sanction), might do well to seriously consider the prophecy of the sheep and the goats. If Christ will be so willing to identify with His brothers the Jews during their hour of deepest distress, what makes them think that this represents a “policy shift” for Him? If those who will side with the Antichrist against Israel will be told, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” (verse 41) then what might we surmise about God’s attitude toward those who side with the Muslim Palestinians against His chosen people today? Bear in mind that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
The bottom line is that the same gentiles who support Israel (or individual Jews) during the Tribulation will all look toward Jerusalem for guidance and direction during the Kingdom age. Israel will be no longer despised, but will be treated with honor and respect. Picking up where we left off in Isaiah 60, we read: “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all [he’s speaking of the nations here] gather together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.” Israel’s remnant, scattered to the four winds, will all be repatriated to the Promised Land—with the gentiles’ blessing, support, and assistance this time. “Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.” (Isaiah 60:3-5) “The sea” is symbolic scriptural shorthand for “the gentiles,” as “the Land” is of Israel. The point is that gentile wealth will once again flow to Israel during the Millennium as it did during the days of Solomon.
Very few prophecies were ever delivered by gentiles, and of those few that were recorded, the gentiles didn’t understand what they were being shown, so God arranged for Jews to interpret and explain them. Of the ones that come readily to mind, the fulfillments invariably had something to do with the fate of the nations—in other words, gentiles weren’t given dreams and visions that foretold what would happen to (or through) Israel, but only to other gentiles.
The first gentile dream, however, required no interpretation. And it is only in retrospect that we perceive a possible prophecy here. In the wake of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham (perhaps having seen the smoke of the brimstone holocaust off to his east, and finding it a little too close for comfort) moved his tents south into the Negev. There he encamped near the city of Gerar, whose king, Abimelech, promptly scooped up Abraham’s wife Sarah (now well into middle age, but still very beautiful) into his harem—since Abe and Sarah had presented themselves not as husband and wife, but as brother and sister (a half-truth). At this point, the child of promise had been prophesied but not yet conceived, so the whole plan of redemption balanced on a razor’s edge. Satan desperately wanted to delegitimize the ancestor of the coming Messiah. If he could just get Abimelech to have sex with Sarah, the whole Abrahamic covenant would be forever thrown into doubt.
So, “God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.’ But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? Did he not say to me, “She is my sister”? And she, even she herself said, “He is my brother.” In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this….’” Yes, it was a dumb move on Abraham’s and Sarah’s part, another example (like the disastrous “Hagar” affair) of trying to do God’s job for Him—always a bad idea.
None of this took Yahweh by surprise, of course. “And God said to him in a dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” (Genesis 20:3-7) Abraham had been afraid that the king might kill him to obtain the beautiful Sarah if he were known to be her husband. God turned the whole thing on its head, making sure Abimelech knew that his very survival—and that of his entire tribe—depended on Abe’s intercession for him. “So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; for Yahweh had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” (Genesis 20:17-18) I have no idea what was going on medically, but apparently, whatever it was, it was preventing conception (and possibly even copulation) throughout Abimelech’s household.
The essence of the gentile king’s dream, then, was an ultimatum: bless Abraham (and through him, Israel), or suffer disastrous consequences for yourself and your whole nation. It was Genesis 12:3 all over again: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” More specifically, he who takes for himself what God has given to Abraham/Israel is “a dead man” (God’s words, not mine). What might this be? The territory Yahweh promised to Abraham comes to mind (see Genesis 13:14-18, 15:18-21). Or, thinking further “outside the box,” what “belongs” to Abraham is the testimony of anyone who is his child in the faith—any believer in Yahweh’s promises or their fulfillment in Christ. In other words, “Mess with either Israel or Christianity, and you’ll suffer the curse of fruitlessness and frustration in your endeavors.” It is as Isaiah said: “For the terrible one is brought to nothing, the scornful one is consumed, and all who watch for iniquity are cut off—who make a man an offender by a word, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and turn aside the just by empty words.” (Isaiah 29:20-21)
Another, more blatant instance of a gentile being shown what God would do—a prophecy that would affect gentiles—is found in the story of Joseph. As the firstborn son of Israel’s true love, Rachel, it is not surprising that Joseph was his father’s favorite son—earning him the resentment of his older brothers. There are dozens of things that serve to identify Joseph as a “type” of Christ, not the least of which was his brothers’ betrayal—selling him into slavery in Egypt, while telling his father that he was dead. In retrospect, we can see that Joseph’s whole life was engineered by Yahweh to be a foreshadow or prophesy the mission of the Messiah. At one critical juncture, the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh, had a disturbing dream, and he had no idea what it might mean—though he was sure it meant something important.
“Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke. He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads.” (Genesis 41:1-7) Seven good things, destroyed by seven evil ones: what could it mean?
Joseph was called (from prison, no less) to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, and in so doing, he saved Egypt and many of the surrounding nations (including his own family) from certain death: seven good years, years of plentiful harvests and bumper crops, were to be followed by seven years of drought and famine. The message to Pharaoh was to be prepared: now is the day of salvation, for the day is coming when it will be too late to take advantage of God’s timely warning. Pharaoh believed God (or more to the point, Joseph’s assessment of what God was telling him) and made the proper preparations—including giving Joseph total authority over the entire land of Egypt.
It all came about just as Joseph had said. But could there be more to this? Although I’ve never heard this theory broached by any other commentator, I can’t help but wonder if this whole episode is about to repeat itself—with far more earth-shaking consequences this time. Students of Bible prophecy are all familiar with a coming seven-year period of utter disaster, commonly referred to as “The Tribulation.” If this is analogous to Joseph’s “seven years of famine,” we might expect (if this is ultimately what God meant to tell us) that there will be a corresponding seven-year period of “plenty” preceding the Great Unpleasantness. Because we’re now talking about spiritual feast and famine, the “plenty” in this case would presumably manifest itself in unprecedented access to the truth—that is, of our spiritual choices being made crystal clear: God’s way or Satan’s, with no ambiguity (for a change).
From where I sit, this has indeed become the case—quite recently, in fact. When I was younger, it was hard to tell what folks really believed, because everybody—believers and unbelievers alike—acted pretty much the same way, at least in public. But this is no longer the case: the division between darkness and light is becoming more and more evident. As you might expect, you’ll find on one side of the aisle, Israel and evangelical Christianity—people who are (or will be, according to prophesy) followers of Yahweh and His Christ. Political conservatism, patriotism, a responsible work ethic, and the entrepreneurial spirit are frequent allies of these core groups. The glue that holds this side together is reverence for God.
On the other side is everybody else, proponents of any and all positions that are antithetical to the Biblical view. In the West, the liberal mindset is their standard bearer; socialism is their preferred economic theory, moral relativism is their mantra, and global governance is their goal. In America, the Democrat party has become famous for “booing God” at their political conventions. Like I said, it’s getting easier by the day to tell whose side someone is really on.
The tip-off (in the western world at the very least) is that proponents of Satan’s agenda have begun to ally with each other, even though they ought to be (by any rational standard) bitter enemies. The one factor that seems to be bringing it all into focus is Islam—a political “religion” that is assuming more fundamentalist (you’ll note that I didn’t say “radical”) proportions by the day. (1) Political liberals ought to hate Islam, because it relies on repression, conformity, and submission—things they profess to despise. (2) Pro-abortion groups ought to hate Islam, because its strategy is to out-breed the rest of the world until it’s a majority—at which point it can force its will on everybody else. (3) Homosexuals ought to hate Islam, because where they hold power, they execute gay men whenever they catch them. (4) Feminists ought to hate Islam, because women are held in utter contempt by Muslim men; they’re repressed in every possible way. A woman’s word in legal matters is held to be only one quarter as trustworthy as a man’s; they’re regarded as chattel, almost sub-human, without natural rights, and good only for sport, manual labor, and procreation. (5) Human rights activists ought to hate Islam, because a man following Muhammad’s example will—given the opportunity—rape any woman he can, not to mention children of both sexes, and even animals (so much for animal rights activists). A Muslim man is allowed by his scriptures to have up to four wives, and yet they are often insatiable sex addicts. (6) Environmentalists ought to hate Islam, because most of the wealth in the Muslim world for the past century has been derived from oil deposits they exploit and squander, without a thought toward sustainability.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Whereas most people have every reason to loathe all things Islamic, they (if they have no reverence for Yahweh) invariably side with them over Christians or Jews. They irrationally trust them, welcome them as “oppressed refugees,” vote for them, and excuse their evil practices, all out of a misplaced sense of “tolerance.” But in reality this phenomenon is a simple choice between Yahweh and Satan, between Yahshua and Muhammad, between light and darkness. Islam is merely the lens that brings their rebellion against the Living God into focus.
Please note, by the way, that we believers are not to hate Muslims, but rather the satanic doctrine they espouse. They themselves are lost, victims of their own sin, just as we once were. But perhaps there’s evidence that we are beginning to witness “Joseph’s seven years of plenty” in the remarkable phenomenon taking place in the Middle East even as I write this: hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of Muslims have seen visions of the risen Christ and have subsequently left Islam behind to follow Yahshua, even though it places a potential death sentence upon their heads. Blogger Michael Snyder recently reported that there are now three million Christians in Iran—the most unabashedly fundamentalist Islamic regime on the planet.
In places where Islam dominates (and we could include Communism in this observation as well), life is generally downright dystopian—unless oil wealth has artificially raised the standard of living (something that invariably happens very unevenly throughout the populace). Although he wasn’t writing about either of these satanic doctrines specifically, Thomas Hobbes perfectly described the state of dystopian anarchy they breed in his Leviathan (1651). “During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man….” The “power” to which he’s referring is societal reverence for Almighty God, not to human governance. “In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” It’s the quintessential Darwinist mindset: survival of the fittest, if you can call “being the last to die” survival. It certainly isn’t living.
The “plentiful years” in the West would appear to be manifesting themselves in the ever-more-distinct divide between Godly and ungodly, between devout and profane, between liberty and license. The best of us are imperfect, of course, but it’s getting harder and harder to sit on the fence. Closet Christianity is going out of style. Nominal Christians are finally being forced out into the open—to either declare their devotion to Him, or to deny Him publicly. The line has at last been drawn in the sand. Personally, I view this development as a good thing.
Hypothetically speaking, the conclusion of Joseph’s “seven years of plenty,” if this is indeed what we’re experiencing here, would logically be the rapture of the church. It will comprise the ultimate separation between light and darkness: if Spirit-indwelled Christians are the “light of the world” (as in Matthew 5:14-16), then the rapture—Yahshua’s sudden removal of His church from the earth—will be like Yahweh “flipping off the light switch” on planet earth, leaving it just as Thomas Hobbes described it. I find it significant that of the seven Holy Convocations (the “Feasts”) of Yahweh, the only one that happens at the new moon (symbolically a time of spiritual darkness) is the Feast of Trumpets—the one that signifies the rapture.
As Paul put it, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape….” Remember, if Joseph hadn’t warned Pharaoh to get ready “while the gettin’ was good,” Egypt would have been caught flat-footed when the seven years of famine struck them. We too are being warned to be prepared—to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, because they’re not secure here on earth.
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (I Thessalonians 5:1-11) The “day” of which he speaks is the Tribulation—that seven-year period of spiritual darkness that corresponds to Joseph’s prophesied “seven years of famine.” Note that they need not follow immediately after the seven years of plenty (i.e., spiritual clarity) that will end with the rapture. Indeed, prophecy seems to indicate a short gap between the two things.
In any case, it is impossible to pinpoint when the “seven years of plenty” will begin (or have begun). Here in America, the dichotomy between light and darkness seemed to snap into sharp focus with the election of Mr. Trump, but this is only one nation among many, so that may be but a provincial observation. Speculation is pointless, other than to heed the warning that we must prepare now if we wish to be spared the famine of which the Prophet Amos spoke: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord Yahweh, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Yahweh. They shall wander from sea to sea [that’s a symbolic reference to gentiles, in case you missed it], and from north to east. They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of Yahweh, but shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
Doubtless the best known, most sweepingly specific of gentile-on-gentile prophecy recorded in the Bible is the dream of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. A young captive Jewish prince named Daniel had been noticed for his “wisdom and understanding” and thus numbered among the realm’s vaunted “magi.” But when the king experienced (and then forgot the content of) a disturbing dream, and none of his regular counselors could tell him what his dream was—never mind what it meant—the king decided to execute them all, including Daniel, who hadn’t even been consulted. (And you thought you had a crappy job.)
Rather than whine about the “unfairness” of it all, Daniel smelled a divine set-up in the works, and prayed to Yahweh to be shown the same dream. Long story short, God complied, Daniel thanked and praised Him for his mercy, and then made it known to the king that “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days….”
Daniel then proceeded to tell the king what he had seen: “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image [tselem—an idol], whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.” God had showed him a big statue—something a pagan king could relate to. “This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” It was made of several different kinds of material, top to bottom—each one less valuable but of greater strength than the one preceding it. But it wasn’t built to last: “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth….”
Pretty esoteric stuff, but Yahweh had also shown Daniel what it all meant. “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold….” The statue, read top to bottom, was a timeline. The image revealed, in broad strokes, the entire future history of gentile world power—as it related to the redemption of mankind through Yahweh’s Messiah.
Subsequent history would reveal that each of the gentile “superpowers” depicted in the statue would control the Promised Land, Israel’s inheritance. Thus each of them had some influence on the character of the culture that would serve as the backdrop for God’s great drama—the salvation of the human race. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the head of gold—that is, as good as it gets, from the perspective of the human ruler. “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours.” The chest and arms of silver would turn out to be the Medo-Persian empire, who would pluck Babylon like ripe fruit—taking the corrupt city virtually without firing a shot—during Daniel’s lifetime. “Then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth [ara, the Aramaic equivalent of eretz, meaning land, ground, territory, region, or earth]….” The belly and thighs of bronze, it would transpire, were the Greeks under Alexander and his successors—the third great gentile superpower to count the Promised Land among its possessions.
The legs and feet were a whole other thing, lacking the subtle niceties of the first three world-kingdoms: it would be strong, hard, brutal—and divided. “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others….” This, of course, was Rome—the kingdom under whose rule God brought His Messiah into the world. Rome was founded as a republic about the same time Nebuchadnezzar was reigning in Babylon. Its Empire would reach its apex under Trajan, who reigned from 98 to 117 AD, when it covered 5 million square kilometers and ruled over an estimated 70 million people—at that time 21% of the world’s entire population. Daniel would see this fourth kingdom again—as the fourth of four visionary beasts “coming up from the sea (i.e., gentiles)…dreadful and terrible.” (See Daniel 7.)
“Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile….” Early in the fourth century, Constantine split the empire into western (Rome) and eastern (Constantinople) domains—aptly represented by the two legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-statue. By the fifth century AD, the western empire was a corrupt, crumbling hulk, but Roman power never really ceased to exist. It just kept changing form—even after the eastern capital, Constantinople, finally fell to the Turks in 1453. Theodosius I (who died in 395 AD), the last emperor to rule over both the East and West, had declared Christianity to be the “official” religion of the empire (as if such a thing could be accomplished through imperial fiat), and it is through the Roman Catholic Church (and its spin-offs in the East) that the Roman Empire can still be said to exist to this day.
You’ll note that both feet (east and west) were composed of a mixture of iron and clay. This iron-clay dichotomy is the perfect picture of Muslim populations living within the old Roman imperial territory who, unlike every other immigrant people group, refuse to assimilate into the cultures to which they’ve moved. So Daniel tells King Nebuchadnezzar, “As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” This is true of Europe today as never before. (Granted, not all of Europe was Roman territory, but the principle still holds.) Muslims do not “adhere” to any other culture, religious tradition, or way of life. Given enough time, they will breed themselves into a majority position, take over whole nations using democracy as their weapon of choice, and subjugate, exploit, exile, or eliminate the original populations.
Ironically, Europe as a whole has invited this plague into their homes, with their eyes wide open. It began after World War II, when importing cheap labor from the Middle East seemed like a good idea. But over the past few decades, it has become clear that their presence among the Europeans is just as Daniel described it—iron and clay, neither mixed nor adhering to one other. That’s not for lack of trying on the Europeans’ part. Even the Roman Catholic Church, the last vestige of the empire, is bending over backward trying to find common ground with Islam. But it simply isn’t there, except insofar as the Romans turn their backs on God’s word in favor of their new false god: tolerance.
Why does it matter? It’s because of Daniel’s conclusion. Remember: the statue was a timeline, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon and ending with the crumbling mess we see in Europe today. But we can be assured that within the Roman Empire, Islam will never completely dominate (which would been the case if the statue’s feet were “all clay and no iron”). Besides, all gentile power is about to be ground to powder under the weight of the Rock of our Salvation—the returning Christ. Obviously, this has not happened yet. (Trust me, we would have noticed.) Confirming this is Daniel’s revelation that the Antichrist’s short-lived kingdom will comprise the final permutation of the fourth kingdom-beast: the Roman Empire. (Compare Daniel 7:7-8, 8:23-26, 9:26-27, and 11:36-45.)
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he had seen this: “A stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.” The point of impact is the final form of the fourth gentile kingdom—the last permutation of Roman power: the Antichrist’s ten-nation European empire. “The iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
So Daniel explains: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people….” That is, all of these successive gentile superpowers are to be seen as one contiguous entity—one that must in the end give way to the Kingdom of God. Christ “the Stone” “shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” (Daniel 2:28, 31-45)
It may be profitable to ponder why these gentile empires arise in the first place. Not fearing or trusting God, they feel they must take matters into their own hands. So paranoia, fueled by greed, determines their “foreign policy.” Please consider what Winston Churchill wrote concerning the motivation of nations, in January, 1929 (that is, long before World War II broke out): “It is established that nations who believe their life is at stake will not be restrained from using any means to secure their existence. It is probable—nay, certain—that among the means which will next time be at their disposal will be agencies and processes of destruction wholesale, unlimited, and perhaps, once launched, uncontrollable. Mankind has never been in this position before. Without having improved appreciably in virtue or enjoying wiser guidance, it has got into its hands for the first time the tools by which it can unfailingly accomplish its own extermination.”—quoted in Churchill’s The Gathering Storm. Downright prophetic, no?
Is it any wonder that Yahweh has determined instead to take these matters into His own hands?
Considering the dearth of prophecy or doctrine that came to us via divine revelation made to people other than Jews, someone unfamiliar with Yahweh’s plan and purpose may find it strange that scripture states over and over again that it is God’s purpose to enlighten the gentiles. They will become His people, not in the same way (or for the same purpose) that Israel is, but as full-fledged members of the Kingdom of God nevertheless. As I’ve said before, salvation was to come through the nation of Israel, but it is sent to everyone—Jew and gentile alike.
From the very beginning, the enlightenment of the gentiles was tied to the advent of the Messiah—the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The prophet Isaiah had written, “I, Yahweh, have called You [Christ] in righteousness, and will hold Your hand. I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 42:6) So when Mary and Joseph brought the eight-day-old baby Yahshua to the temple to be circumcised in accordance with the Torah, the aged Simeon was led by the Spirit to acknowledge the advent of the Messiah: “He took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-32) Significantly enough (though it’s lost in the English), “Your [i.e., Yahweh’s] salvation” is literally what the name Yahshua (Jesus) means.
So Christ’s earthly sojourn began with an auspicious declaration. And it would end with an even more earth-shaking statement. After His resurrection, “Jesus came and spoke to [the disciples], saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20) Their “target audience” was to be “all nations,” not just the Jews, but also every gentile on the face of the earth.
A few things we normally gloss over in this “Great Commission” bear closer scrutiny. (1) The word “baptize” is a transliteration of a Greek word meaning to dip repeatedly, immerse, submerge, or overwhelm. The word often bears the connotation of cleansing in water; also, one would dye cloth using this method, changing its color or character. The disciples were, if you will, being instructed to immerse their “converts” in the name of God—that name being “Yahweh is Salvation.”
(2) This “name” in the original Greek is onoma—a gender-neutral, singular noun. Far from supporting a doctrine of “trinity,” (which can easily and erroneously be taken to imply three gods) it emphasizes what Moses revealed in Deuteronomy 6:4—that “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One.” Echad, the Hebrew word for “one” here, also connotes “same, single, first, each, or once.” TWOT notes that “It stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness…. The verse [the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4] concentrates on the fact that there is one God and that Israel owes its exclusive loyalty to Him.” The point is that there is only One God, and One name—the self-revealed name of Yahweh (which means “I Am,” that is, “I am self-existent—not created”). The Son and Holy Spirit are (with several other divine manifestations) in reality Yahweh Himself, though presented in diminished forms (i.e., non-lethal to humans) for our edification, and ultimately, for our salvation. (See Volume 1, Section 2 of this work for a thorough discussion of this concept.) So when Yahshua says, “I am with you always,” He is referring to the Holy Spirit who would live within us, the indwelling divine presence who shares Christ’s very identity.
(3) “All things that I have commanded you” is not a list of rules by which someone might be saved through his compliance. Rather, it is a formula for a successful spiritual life, untarnished testimony, and peace with God and man. Needless to say, this compendium will, upon examination, prove to be perfectly compatible with the Torah, though they’re not the same thing. But like the Torah, these things can be boiled down to two interrelated concepts: love Yahweh with your whole being, and love your neighbor as you do yourself. (See The Owner's Manual, Vol. 2, Appendix 2, elsewhere on this website, for an exploration of "all these things.")
It should come as no surprise that Yahshua’s Great Commission instructed His original disciples—and through them, the rest of us—to make disciples of all nations. He Himself had revealed that in His role as “good shepherd,” His sacrifice for the sheep would extend beyond Israel: “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16) The time would come, He says, when all of His flocks would be combined in one sheepfold.
Paul later described that same somewhat counterintuitive reality. “For you [believers] are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is precisely what was commanded in the Great Commission—to baptize (immerse) all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That name is Yahweh. And the result? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
He’s describing the church, the called-out assembly (Greek: ekklesia) of Christ. Just as we are now all gathered together in one sheepfold, we are (using a different metaphor) all members of one body. The reason we’re now all of one “sheepfold” or “body” (that is, the reason the Jews need no longer remain physically separate from the nations) is that with the advent of Yahshua, Israel’s job was complete. Having delivered the Messiah to the world, Israel was now one nation among many—all of whom were offered redemption through grace. So in the Church Age, no one is excluded simply because of being born into the “wrong” family, lack of a Y chromosome, or adverse economic circumstances. Technically, all that’s required is rebirth in the Spirit of God, as Yahshua informed Nicodemus: “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again [literally, born from above].’” (John 3:5-7)
This “new birth” happens the instant someone—anyone, Jew or gentile—entrusts his life to Yahshua, relying on the efficacy of His sacrifice to atone for his sins. It has nothing to do with religion, race, or rewards for good behavior, and everything to do with the exercise of our free will. Sometimes the evidence of the Sprit’s presence in a life is subtle, sometimes spectacular, but note that Joel’s prophecy concerning the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives didn’t restrict the effect to Israel alone, but spoke of “all flesh,” that is, gentiles included. “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)
The “afterward” qualifier here informs us that as a universal outpouring, this will take place during the Kingdom Age (that is, when every mortal soul honors the Messiah). But this verse was also invoked to describe what was going on among the disciples on the very first day of the Church Age—the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2). This in turn was the fulfillment of the fourth (and central) of the seven “Feasts of Yahweh,” the Feast of Weeks (also known as Pentecost because it fell fifty—Greek: pentekonta—days after the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread).
In describing the requirements for this convocation, Yahweh “threw in” this admonition at the end: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am Yahweh your God.” (Leviticus 23:22) It may seem sort of random, but it’s not. “Stranger” here is the Hebrew noun ger: an alien, foreigner, sojourner, stranger, or guest—in other words, a gentile dwelling among the people of Israel, an apt description of the spiritual debt we gentile believers owe to Israel for bringing us the Messiah, not to mention the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets. I, for one, am extremely grateful to be allowed (nay, invited) to “glean” God’s truth in the fields of Israel. There’s plenty to go around.
In fact, it was prophetically promised, in so many words, that such a debt would be owed to the ultimate Israelite—Christ Himself. Yahweh says to His Messiah, “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.” (Psalm 2:8) So we in the believing gentile community are thrilled to be accounted as Yahshua’s “inheritance,” His children, His possession. We have been redeemed—bought back—from well-deserved wrath, the death that comprises the wages of sin.
It was Yahweh’s prerogative to shower His wrath upon us. He is, after all, a just God, and after the way we humans treated His Son, it would only have been fair. But He is also Mercy personified. So Paul writes, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?...” The point germane to our present study is that gentiles—who were every bit as guilty as the Jews—were included in God’s amazing demonstration of mercy.
“As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.’ ‘And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,” there they shall be called sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:22-26, quoting Hosea 2:23, 1:10) That’s quite a dramatic shift in status—from being “vessels of wrath,” “not His people,” and strangers and aliens bereft of the knowledge, hope, or comfort afforded by the love of God, to being “vessels of mercy,” “sons of the Living God,” and co-heirs with Christ. We might have seen it coming with Israel—for whom redemption and restoration is, after all, the most frequently repeated prophecy in the Tanakh. But us gentiles? We who were not the overt focus of Yahweh’s attention for millennia on end? That is an amazing, wonderful, and most welcome turn of events.
The Apostle Peter uses these same word-pictures from Hosea to describe the gentiles’ astonishing spiritual “upgrade.” He offers encouragement to the suffering Christian “pilgrims” in Asia Minor, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (I Peter 2:9-10) It was not (technically speaking) impossible for gentiles to honor the True and Living God prior to the resurrection. But scriptural examples are few and far between, and they invariably depend on contact with Israel in some fashion. So we read of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, or Rahab the Jericho prostitute, or the Queen of Sheba’s encounter with Solomon, or Naaman the Syrian general who taught us what a “mustard-seed of faith” looked like. And of course, the news of Christ’s resurrection was slow to reach certain devout gentiles, like Cornelius the Roman centurion who was visited by Peter in Acts 10. I’m sure there were many more examples, not recorded in scripture.
The point is that the promise of Yahweh’s “marvelous light”—the Messiah who was so often spoken of (or even more often, presented symbolically) in the Hebrew scriptures—had not spread much beyond the borders of Israel or the enclaves of the Jewish Diaspora. Yahweh had intended that Israel’s influence and culture (and through it, the knowledge of God’s plan) would eventually be a world-wide phenomenon. Moses had told the generation of Israelites about to enter the Promised Land, “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that Yahweh your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1) That turned out to be a really big “if,” however. A comparison against subsequent history of God’s promises of blessing for Torah observance and His warnings of curses for disobedience reveals that Israel did not “diligently obey the voice of Yahweh.”
And because of this, the gentile nations were left mostly in the dark for fifteen hundred years about the identity, plan, and purpose of the One True God. It wasn’t until Yahshua had been crucified and entombed, and had risen from the dead, that Israel’s gentile neighbors would finally get an opportunity to respond in understanding to God’s love. Only in the light of the historical events of the Passion would the nations at last be in a position to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi: “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles. In every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering, for My name shall be great among the nations,’ Says Yahweh of hosts.” (Malachi 1:11) It didn’t have to be such a big mystery for so long. Better late than never.
From the heavenly perspective, there are only two groups of people on earth—not Jews and gentiles, but believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers are destined to wrath or destruction (not the same thing, by the way), while believers will dwell in the very presence of God. It’s not particularly surprising to learn that Israel (as a nation) will someday repent, be redeemed, and be restored; but it may come as an epiphany to hear that it was always Yahweh’s intention that gentiles will be found bowing before Him as well, praising Him for their deliverance.
Naturally, it is through the Jewish scriptures that we learn of the gentiles’ impending good news. David, Israel’s greatest king, reports “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Yahweh, and shall glorify Your name.” (Psalm 86:9) Since there are no nations that Yahweh didn’t make, this would include representatives from every people-group on the planet. The future verb tense here (“shall come”) hints that this may not become a complete reality until late in the prophetic game. Indeed, because Yahshua admonished us to seek the “narrow gate” and avoid the “broad highway that leads to destruction,” we can assume that believers will always be in the minority until the Kingdom Age.
But then David declares, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to Yahweh, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is Yahweh’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28) “All” (Hebrew: kol) means all—the whole of something, everyone. That’s surprising enough, I suppose, considering the apostasy and idolatry that dominate the earth today. It reveals, at the very least, that “the kingdom of Yahweh” will be quite unlike anything in our present experience. Every knee will bow.
But the really pregnant concept here is presented in the word rendered “remember.” The Hebrew verb zakar means more than merely to recall something that had been forgotten. It further denotes: to ponder, to think about, to be mindful of something, with the intention of observing, celebrating, or commemorating it—or repenting from it, as one would “remember” one’s sins. To “remember Yahweh” is to keep Him—His love, mercy, holiness, and glory—in the forefront of one’s mind, filtering everything we do, say, and think through His Word. Our whole lives are to be lived in reference (and deference) to Yahweh’s will and plan. As Malachi revealed above, “From the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles.”
Although David says the world “shall remember,” this is not exclusively a future phenomenon. Whether we realize it or not, Yahweh reigns in this present earth—even though, for the moment, He allows us to exercise our free will, letting us determine our own individual destinies. So the Sons of Korah exult, “Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth. Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations. God sits on His holy throne.” (Psalm 47:6-8) And King Jehoshaphat asks rhetorically, “O Yahweh, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (II Chronicles 20:6) The point is that God rules over the nations now, in this present age, even though He allows us (for the moment) to choose whether or not to receive this truth. But be not deceived: just because He allows us to choose to believe lies if we want to, it doesn’t mean that the truth will not eventually prevail. Our opinion has absolutely nothing to do with it.
There will be a moment in time when this true state of affairs will be revealed, and unless I am mistaken about a great many things, that time will come within the natural life spans of most people reading these pages. The fact that God (and the human race, for that matter) are on a schedule is one of the most prevalent (albeit subtle) themes in all of scripture—something introduced in the very first chapter of the Bible, and repeated ad nauseum throughout holy writ. I’m referring, of course, to the Sabbath principle—the idea that God is giving fallen man six “days” (read: six thousand years) to work things out with Him, after which we must either rest in Him or perish in our sins.
John’s Patmos vision records an encounter in heaven between God (manifested in several forms at once) and redeemed mankind, on the very cusp of this paradigm fulcrum—the tipping point between our six days of work and the ultimate Sabbath Rest. (And remember, Yahshua defined our proper “work” as simply believing in Him.) John saw One described both as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” and the Lamb of God, slain for our sins. The Lion/Lamb (obviously, Christ) was the only one who was found worthy to open a seven-sealed scroll representing the enigma of fallen man: how could we possibly be rendered capable of standing before a Holy God, cleansed and covered?
Twenty-four elders were present as witnesses. It is my take on this that twelve of them represent believing Israel, and the other twelve represent the largely gentile church—or alternately, the redeemed from before the resurrection and afterward—together, every believer of every age. It is certain that they are all redeemed, for they occupy twelve thrones in heaven, set in the very presence of God’s throne. And John saw this: “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals. For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:8-9) The point germane to our present study is that the redeemed were not only from Israel, but from “every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.” Jews and gentiles again, in one sheepfold, or members of one body. “And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:14)
Hundreds of years before John had seen his vision, the prophet Daniel had witnessed something very similar: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!” This, of course, is King Yahshua, the one John had seen in his vision as both the Lion and the Lamb. “He came to the Ancient of Days [i.e., Yahweh], and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one [the only one] which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Once again, we see that Yahweh’s plan—carried out via His Messiah—was designed from the very beginning to include gentiles: “all peoples, nations, and languages.”
Also speaking of the Kingdom Age, Isaiah identifies the family from which the Messiah would come: “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10) Jesse was the father of King David, so we sometimes hear Christ referred to as the branch of Jesse. But here, he is called the “root,” indicating that He is also Jesse’s eternal Creator. But the fascinating thing here is the reference to Christ’s “standing as a banner to the people.” A banner (Hebrew: nes) is a standard, an ensign, signal, pole, or rallying point. The pole upon which the bronze serpent in the wilderness was displayed as a faith-cure for the slithering plague (Numbers 21:8-9) was a nes—equated prophetically in John 3:14 to the cross (literally, a pole or upright stake—the Greek word is stauros) upon which Christ would take our sin upon Himself.
But what was that about “the gentiles seeking Him”? Bringing the concept full circle, Isaiah 18 prophetically describes a nation (one I firmly believe refers ultimately to the United States), characterized by their acknowledgement of the cross—the standard or banner of the Christian faith. “All inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth: When He [Yahweh] lifts up a banner [nes] on the mountains, you [America] see it.” (Isaiah 18:3) This nation was—like no other in history—founded upon what the cross of Christ represents: freedom from sin’s oppression and the opportunity for redemption. Yes, we have fallen from the pure faith in recent decades, which is why (two verses later) the prophet describes this nation being pruned back like a diseased and unruly grapevine. But as Isaiah said back in chapter 11, “the Gentiles shall seek Him.” This is true in America more than in any other single nation in history.
Considering the sorry spiritual state of America in these Last Days, however, I must admit that even here, we are a long, long way from the universal celebration of God’s love predicted in this Psalm: “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name. Make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works!” Something earth-shaking is going to have to happen for this to become reality in this world. And in the very next breath, the psalmist hints at what that might be: “Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. All the earth [read: gentiles] shall worship You and sing praises to You. They shall sing praises to Your name.” (Psalm 66:1-4) In the past, God has usually been quite reserved in His displays of power, for it tends to force people to make good choices, precluding free will. He wants volunteers, not conscripts. But as I said, the coming Sabbath—our transition from works (i.e., trust in God) to rest in His finished work—is set in stone in Yahweh’s timetable. We can’t change the schedule, and He won’t. So whether through persuasion or wrath, the Tribulation—the run-up to the Millennial Kingdom Age—will force the nations to get off the fence. They’ll have to finally decide whether to become Yahweh’s friends, or remain His enemies forever.
What will this unprecedented display of force look like? At first glance, Psalm 18 looks like King David is seriously exaggerating his successes (even though he’s giving credit for them to Yahweh). But then we realize that first person pronoun rendered “me” here in the NKJV should be rendered “Me.” He’s speaking prophetically of his descendant, Yahshua the Messiah. For example, when he says, “Yahweh rewarded me according to my righteousness. According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me…. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity,” (verses 20, 23) we might observe, “Yeah, Dave; I think Uriah the Hittite may take issue with that.” Until, that is, we realize that it was actually Yahshua whom Yahweh rewarded—His human perfection recompensed by God’s raising Him from the dead. David’s righteousness was only borrowed—the result of grace through faith. All he got was mercy, just like you or me.
So he’s channeling the Messiah when David writes, “You have made Me the head of the nations.” Read: not just Israel. “A people I have not known shall serve Me. As soon as they hear of Me they obey Me. The foreigners submit to Me. The foreigners fade away, and come frightened from their hideouts….” The imagery of some of this is so reminiscent of passages in Daniel and Revelation, it’s fascinating. The signs and wonders of the Last Days will force the gentiles to finally decide whom they will serve—God or Satan. The “middle ground” of purposeful ignorance will suddenly prove elusive, even unobtainable.
“Yahweh lives! Blessed be My Rock! Let the God of My salvation be exalted. It is God who avenges Me, and subdues the peoples under Me. He delivers Me from My enemies. You also lift Me up above those who rise against Me. You have delivered Me from the violent man….” Ultimately, this “violent man” is prophetic of the Antichrist, who will gather “the peoples”—the armies of the Earth—to Armageddon in a vain attempt to prevent Yahshua from delivering the world from the devil’s clutches. The Messiah (as Isaiah 63 puts it) will “tread out the winepress of God’s wrath alone.” At this late date it seems strange to say it, but if the returning Yahshua wasn’t operating in divine power—that is, if He weren’t actually God Himself in human form—He wouldn’t have a prayer of defeating Satan. The idea that “Jesus was a great teacher, but only a man” just won’t fly.
“Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Yahweh, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name. Great deliverance He gives to His king, and shows mercy to His anointed, to David and his descendants forevermore.” (Psalm 18:43-50) It may seem odd for God-in-Flesh to be giving thanks to God (who is by definition, Spirit). But I think the addendum “among the gentiles” is our key to understanding this. The returning Messiah-King will still look human(ish) to the mortal survivors of the Tribulation (although He will inhabit an immortal, resurrection body at this point). Remember: all of the gentiles who had some idea of how the whole mortal-to-immortal transition works (a la I Corinthians 15:35-58) will have been raptured years before this; the only living mortal gentiles left are new believers, operating on little more than conscience, dreams and visions, and a few cryptic angelic pronouncements.
Considering all the amazing signs and wonders the Antichrist will be able to pull off, it will be important for these new gentile believers to comprehend that the Messiah-King now reigning in Jerusalem, although human in appearance, is actually “only” a manifestation of Something infinitely greater—the Creator-God of the whole universe, eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent. Yes, the King’s appearance will be as glorious as mortal eyes can endure, and yes, He will exercise all authority in heaven and on earth (see Matthew 6:10, 28:18), but there is still far more to God than what can be perceived in the reigning Yahshua by mortal eyes. So He will “give thanks to Yahweh among the gentiles.”
Amos’ vision of the same time-frame parallels the Psalmist. “‘On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages. I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says Yahweh who does this thing.” (Amos 9:11-12) The “tabernacle of David” speaks not of the temple (which David was not allowed to build), but of his royal house—his dynasty. Again, the reference is to David’s physical descendant, Yahshua the Messiah. Jacob, in prophetically blessing his twelve sons, said of Judah (the tribe of David and Yahshua): “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [i.e., “He to whom it belongs”] comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (Genesis 49:10) Royal authority in Israel would never pass to another tribe, once Judah assumed the throne (as it did with the coronation of David). The one to whom the scepter belongs, the final lawgiver, is Yahshua. So note carefully: the people who render obedience to Him have been identified by Amos as including “all the Gentiles who are called by My [Yahweh’s] name.” In other words, Yahshua will be King of Jews and gentiles alike.
I mentioned above that at the time of Christ’s first advent, the nation of Israel, groaning under the oppressive Roman yoke, had come to the conclusion (in the popular imagination, anyway) that since Israel was (according to scripture) going to be restored and lifted up, then God must be anti-gentile. But if you are willing to look at the Tanakh with fresh eyes, you’ll see that one way or another, the gentiles are prophesied to be included in Israel’s blessing—co-beneficiaries with the Jews in the Messiah’s glory. The evidence is everywhere you look.
The tone is set in the Torah. Moses writes, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries. He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) Time after time, we see that the gentiles—the nations—are to be blessed in the context of Israel’s deliverance. God is depicted relating to several groups here. On the one hand are “His people” (in this context, believers in Israel), “His servants,” and the gentiles who are given reason to rejoice. So the Jews and gentiles grouped together here are seen as allies, as friends, people who all honor Yahweh as their God. On the other hand, “His adversaries” (presumably mostly gentiles, but possibly including Israelites as well) are those who do not honor Yahweh, but are idolatrous, rebellious, and eager to shed the blood of God’s people. These are worthy of God’s vengeance. And think beyond Moses’ immediate audience, the exodus wanderers and the nations they encountered on their journey. These days, you’ll find both “friends” and “adversaries” of Yahweh and His people (however you define that) in both Jewish and gentile camps. For example, out of 556 important functionaries in the Bolshevik (proto-Communist) state in 1918-19, 457 of them were Jews.
The prophet Jeremiah too connects gentile blessing with Jewish restoration: “‘If you will return, O Israel,’ says Yahweh, ‘Return to Me, and if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, “Yahweh lives,” in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. The nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him they shall glory.’” (Jeremiah 4:1-2) Of course, the choice was (and is) theirs. The good things that accompany a close walk with Yahweh won’t happen as long as we live in rebellion against Him. But there is nothing here to suggest that Israel as a nation must repent first in order for the gentiles to walk in Yahweh’s light. The whole Church Age is a testimony to the fact that our salvation is an individual matter between God and each of us, One on one.
But as Ezekiel describes Israel’s miraculous deliverance from the hordes of Magog during the Tribulation (chapters 38-39), the result of their escape from “certain death” will be Israel’s national reawakening to Yahweh’s reality—a concept that will not be lost on the gentile onlookers: “I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am Yahweh their God from that day forward.” (Ezekiel 39:21-22) Is this not a perfect explanation of Jeremiah’s proclamation, quoted above?
This whole episode—Israel’s deliverance and the gentiles’ wide-eyed witness of it—will result in a paradigm shift of Biblical proportions when the smoke clears. Jeremiah reports, “At that time [i.e., during the Kingdom Age] Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of Yahweh, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of Yahweh, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.” (Jeremiah 3:17) Bear in mind that these “nations” are composed of people who were left behind in unbelief when Christ raptured His church: they thus have little or no expectation or knowledge of Yahweh’s plan. But Yahweh’s decimation of Magog (even though the Antichrist will make a preposterously implausible attempt to claim credit for it) will serve as an unexpected introduction for them to the true and living God. There’s nothing like an unmistakable demonstration of divine power to get your attention. So a bit later, we see a remnant of these same nations (having somehow survived the Great Tribulation) gathering themselves in homage to King Yahshua (He who bears “the name of Yahweh”) in Jerusalem during the opening days of His Millennial reign. Once again, gentile blessing is connected to Jewish restoration.
Let us check in with Zechariah. Each of these four prophecies describe gentile participation in the Millennial kingdom. “‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says Yahweh. ‘Many nations shall be joined to Yahweh in that day, and they shall become My people.’” (Zechariah 2:10-11) Once again, we see the nations (the gentiles) responding to Yahweh in the context of Israel’s renewed relationship with their God. Note that when Yahweh comes to Personally dwell in Israel’s midst (causing them to sing and rejoice), He will come as Yahshua the Messiah—the same (though transformed) Man their ancestors crucified two thousand years previously. Obviously, this is not the case at the moment: the Jews still have some hurdles to get over. But this explains how both the Jews and the gentiles could be “joined to Yahweh.”
Then Zechariah reports: “Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us continue to go and pray before Yahweh, and seek Yahweh of hosts. I myself will go also.” Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek Yahweh of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before Yahweh.’ Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’” (Zechariah 8:20-23) Because the gentiles in question missed the rapture (making them part of the prophetic church of Laodicea, not Philadelphia—Revelation 3) they will have little or no expertise or tradition to guide them in dealing with the One they now know is God. But the Jews, they will realize, do seem to have some foundational spiritual experience. As the old saying puts it, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Of course, deferring to Israel in spiritual matters will make sense only because the Messiah has established His throne in Jerusalem.
A seat of government in Jerusalem does not, however, imply a government limited to the state of Israel. “He shall speak peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:10) That’s a poetic way of saying, “Everywhere.” Or if we want to look at this from the viewpoint of the specific symbols used, the “sea” indicates the gentile world (as opposed to the “land,” which specifies Israel). So “from sea to sea” ultimate means the entirety of the gentile world. This in turn means that Christ’s dominion is equivalent to a state of peace. And “the River?” The Euphrates is probably the intended literal meaning here, being, as it was, the “furthest border” of the Promised Land. But as I noted elsewhere, “Rivers are indicative of the course of our lives; and the water within them is symbolic of the moving of the Holy Spirit, whom we are tasked with ‘channeling’ to a lost and thirsty world.” As Yahshua said, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:38-39, quoting Isaiah 12:3)
Now that He has been glorified, it remains only for Him to return, personally and physically—that is, in a form more tangible and observable than the indwelling Spirit that Christians have welcomed into their lives for the past two millennia. Zechariah describes that day: “And Yahweh shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—“Yahweh is one,” and His name one.” (Zechariah 14:9) The King is Yahshua—Jesus. But the King is Yahweh, the sovereign Creator of the universe. If it was not clear before, it is now: Yahshua is Yahweh.
Haggai describes the same amazing series of events: “For thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land, and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says Yahweh of hosts.” (Haggai 2:6-7) Looking closely at this, we notice several things: (1) God is on a schedule. He knows exactly when He intends to bring these things about—characterized here as “not in your day, Haggai, but in what seems to Me—the Eternal God—to be just a little while.” (2) He says He has “shaken heaven and earth” before, separating the faithful from the godless. It is no coincidence that Yahshua compared the time just prior to His coming to the days of Noah (see Matthew 24:37-42). (3) Symbolically, the “sea and dry land” speak of both gentile domains (the sea) and Israel (the land, but in a dry, barren state, thirsting for the truth). (4) “Shaking all nations” is an apt description of the upheaval of the Tribulation—which will sift out the belatedly repentant from the eternally obstinate. (5) Those who repent during the Tribulation will recognize and “desire” (the understatement of the year) the returning Messiah. And (6) “filling the temple with glory” implies two things: the reigning Christ will enter the newly built Temple (the one described in Ezekiel 40-47); and that which the temple has always signified—the plan of Yahweh for the redemption of mankind—will at last have been brought to complete fruition. It’s hard to say which of these is more glorious. I don’t suppose it matters.
Let us conclude our study of what the nations signify with a few prophecies from Isaiah. First, He says, “But now, thus says Yahweh, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are Mine….’ Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:1, 7) Israel was, as a nation, “called by the name of Yahweh.” But then He reveals that people who were not specifically identified with the name of God could also learn the truth about their Maker. In fact, Yahweh says that “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me. I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by My name.” (Isaiah 65:1)
When Isaiah reports that Yahweh was “sought by those who did not ask for Me,” and “found by those who did not seek Me,” he’s saying that we gentiles had no idea whom to reach out for (by name, anyway). We looked at nature’s glory, or perceived our own moral failures, and concluded that there must be a holy “Creator-God” out there to whom we owed our existence. But we hadn’t been given any specific information: that was what Israel was supposed to have provided. Considering all Yahweh did for Israel, and through them, it would not have been a surprise to learn that they had close relationship with Him. Indeed, their persistent one-sided national estrangement from Him is a bit shocking. Gentile nations, on the other hand, were not specifically called by His name, but gentile individuals have sought and found God throughout the ages—and especially since the advent of Yahshua the Messiah. In fact, the Greek word translated “church” (ekklesia) literally means “called out,” implying a separation of Church Age gentile believers from their nations. As Paul reminds us, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The advent of Christ changed everything for honest searchers after the truth. Now the gentiles had a historical event—the resurrection—to which we could refer: concrete evidence of God’s reality and plan. (Of course, it was only because of a handful of faithful Jews, the early believers, that we were finally given the opportunity to see the light.) Perhaps this is why, prior to Yahshua’s teaching, God never revealed that hell even exists (and for that matter, the concept of heaven is awfully fuzzy as well). Since “keeping the Law” never saved anyone (especially gentiles who had never heard of it), only the reality of Christ’s advent gave us the opportunity to make a meaningful choice: acceptance or rejection of His completed mission, the unveiling of God’s plan for our redemption.
In The End of the Beginning, chapters 29-30 (elsewhere on this website) I explore the issue of the afterlife from a strictly scriptural perspective. (That is, I ignored ingrained religious tradition and looked at what God actually said. Warning: there are some surprises there.) Concerning hell, I wrote, “In the Old Testament, hell (in the normally understood sense of the word—an eternal, fiery destination for damned men and fallen angels) is a concept couched in language easily construed as mere metaphorical hyperbole. More often, the wicked…were warned of destruction and dissipation, not eternal torment. In concrete terms, pre-Christian-era man knew of nothing beyond sheol for the lost, and had only a vague conception of life after death for the righteous.” For me, this goes a long way toward assuaging any misgivings I might have had about Yahweh’s apparent neglect of the gentiles before the time of Christ. In my experience, God is never unfair. Hell is for the rebellious, not the ignorant.
But I digress. As with most of the prophets, Isaiah usually views the ultimate salvation of the gentiles through the prism of Israel. A few pages back, we visited Isaiah 18, which (if you’re willing to see it) describes the fate of a nation—one I firmly believe is America—that is identified by its response to the cross of Christ—the nes, or banner, lifted up by Yahweh. If you’ll recall, this nation was ultimately destined to be pruned back like a diseased vine—not to destroy it, but to save it from its own folly. The final verse of the prophecy is fascinating. “In that time a present [Hebrew: shay—a gift offered in homage] will be brought to Yahweh of hosts from a people tall and smooth of skin, and from a people terrible from their beginning onward, a nation powerful and treading down, whose land the rivers divide—to the place of the name of Yahweh of hosts, to Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 18:7)
The description of the nation (reprised from verse 2) could accurately be rendered, “a nation spread out and independent, a people feared far and wide, a nation powerful and measured out, whose land is divided by rivers.” During the Millennium (which is what “In that time” seems to mean) this nation (whose description fits America like a glove) will send a gift in homage to Yahweh (i.e., King Yahshua) in Mount Zion—Jerusalem.
But consider this: the two instances of “from” aren’t there in the text, so this actually says that the nation will be the gift. Yes, if I’m reading this correctly, America will form the backbone of the “Church of Repentant Laodicea” (see Revelation 3:14-22), itself becoming an endowment or tribute to Yahweh on behalf of Israel. It’s the least we could do. We owe Israel so much—up to and including our Messiah and King, the one through whom Abraham blessed all the families of the earth. America has been rightly called the “melting pot of the world.” As such, it could be posited that we comprise symbolic shorthand for “Israel’s gentile neighbors” (in the same way that Egypt stands for “bondage in the world,” Tarshish is a metaphor for “international commerce,” or Babylon symbolizes “systematic idolatry.”)
In a clearly Millennial passage, Isaiah, for the umpteenth time, ties gentile blessings to the peace of Jerusalem. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her. Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her. That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory….” I remember the euphoric air of relieved jubilation among Christians worldwide in June, 1967, when Israel, having beat back another all-out Muslim invasion bent on genocide, retook the city of Jerusalem. One more piece of the prophetic puzzle had fallen into place, and Yahweh was vindicated—again. But our elation, with that of our Jewish brothers, was only a whispered hint of what will be felt when Christ the King returns to rule the whole world from Jerusalem.
For the first time ever (well, since the fall of Adam), peace will reign on earth as it does in heaven. “For thus says Yahweh: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you. And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:10-13) When Yahshua reigns, all enmity between Israel and the nations will at last disappear. The whole earth will have one Capitol, one King, and one God.
It’s only a matter of time.