Blessing to the Nations

The covenant promise to “bless all nations” in Abraham finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the true “seed of Abraham.” 

Globe Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
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asic to the redemption of humanity is the covenant of Yahweh with Abraham, and with his “seed.” This includes the promise that “all the nations the earth will be blessed in him,” and that he will have innumerable descendants. So, how will the nations be blessed “in Abraham,” and when will this “blessing” occur? Who are his descendants and, most importantly, who is the real “seed of Abraham”? - [Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash].

In the New Testament, the promise of “seed” finds its fulfillment in Jesus and his new covenant community, the “body of Christ.” The Abrahamic Covenant was always part of the larger redemptive plan of God for all humanity. The initial focus on Israel was only the first stage in a much larger (and longer) process.

From its inception, the covenant envisioned a glorious future beyond the confines of national Israel or the land of Canaan, a promise that finds its ultimate fulfillment in the New Creation.
  • (Genesis 12:1-3)– “And Yahweh said unto Abram… that I may make you into a great nation, and bless you and make great your name, and you become a blessing… so shall be blessed in you all the clans of the earth.
  • (Genesis 15:4-6)– “And he brought him forth abroad and said, Look steadfastly towards the heavens and number the stars if you are able to number them. And he said to him: Thus, shall be your seed.
  • (Genesis 17:1-8) – “And God spoke with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, so shall you become father of a multitude of nations… And I will make you fruitful exceedingly, and grant you to be nations; kings will come from you; And I will confirm my covenant between me and you and your seed after you to their generations for an everlasting covenant, to become to you a God, and to your seed after you; And I will give to you and to your seed after you the land of your journeys, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.”
During his ministry, Jesus limited the activities of his disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel.” However, from the start, his mission envisioned the inclusion of the “Gentiles” – The nations, which he began in Galilee, just as prophesied in Isaiah:
  • The land of Zebulon and of Nephtali by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, GALILEE OF THE NATIONS; the people that sat in darkness saw great light” - (Matthew 4:12-17).
He was anointed to reign “upon the throne of David and establish his kingdom with justice and righteousness forever.”  He was the Servant of Yahweh, the one who would “declare judgment to the nations…and in his name shall nations trust” - (Matthew 12:18-22Isaiah 42:1-4).

The Gospel of Matthew applied this prophecy to the incident when Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath Day. Indignant, the Pharisees began to conspire “how they might destroy him,” but he withdrew, and a “great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all.” The application of the prophecy from Isaiah suggests Gentiles were included among the “mixed multitude” that followed him. This is confirmed in Mark – (“A great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from beyond Jordan; and a great multitude from Tyre and Sidon”). Both cities were Phoenician with largely Gentile populations - (Mark 3:6-7).

After his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to proclaim the kingdom to “all nations,” the mission that must be completed before his return at the end of the age, for the salvation of the “Gentiles” is pivotal to the redemptive plan of God - (Matthew 24:14, 28:18-20).

Likewise, just before his ascension, he commissioned the disciples to be “witnesses for me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria and UNTO THE END OF THE EARTH.” The last clause alludes to the prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh:
  • I will also give you for a light to the nations that you may be my salvation UNTO THE END OF THE EARTH.”- (Isaiah 49:6Acts 1:7-9).
The global scope of the mission was stressed at the climax of Peter’s first sermon given on the Day of Pentecost, when he combined verbal allusions from the books of Isaiah and Joel:
  • For to you is the promise, to your children and TO ALL THAT ARE AFAR OFFAS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD WILL CALL to him” – (Acts 2:33-39).
In his concluding declaration, “promise” is singular and refers to the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. “To all that are far off” is another allusion to the prophecy from Isaiah:
  • Hear, O isles, unto me; and hearken, YOU PEOPLES FROM FAR; Yahweh has called me from the womb… I will also give you for a light to the nations that you may be my salvation UNTO THE END OF THE EARTH” - (Isaiah 49:1-6).
In the third chapter of Acts, Peter prayed for the lame man at the entrance to the Temple, declaring that “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” had healed the man in the name of “His Servant” – Jesus:
  • All the “prophets from Samuel and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, told of these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, and IN YOUR SEED SHALL ALL THE CLANS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED. Unto you first God, having raised his Servant, sent him to bless you by turning away every one of you from your iniquities” - (Acts 3:25).
Thus, Peter linked the ministry of Jesus to the promise to bless all the clans in Abraham’s seed. His words anticipated the broadening of the covenant to the Gentiles by declaring that God had blessed the Jewish nation “first.”

Peter at the house of Cornelius
Later, Peter was instrumental in opening the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. He understood that it was unlawful “
for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come into one of another nation,” yet God had shown him that he must “not call any man common or unclean.” God accepts men “in every nation that fear him and work righteousness”; therefore, Peter preached the same gospel to Cornelius that he proclaimed previously to the Jews, “throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee” - (Acts 10:19-48).

Before he finished preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles, and they began to speak in tongues. This amazed the Jews present that day since uncircumcised Gentiles had received the same gift as the Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost. After hearing of these events, the church at Jerusalem “glorified God, because to the Gentiles also He had granted repentance unto life.”

Later, James declared that the Gentiles were not required to undergo circumcision “in order to be saved,” for God had “visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” Very STRIKING is his application of the Greek term laos or “people” to the Gentiles, a noun commonly used in biblical Greek for Israel in distinction from the “Gentiles,” or ethnos. His words alluded to a prophecy from the book of Zechariah:
  • And many nations will join themselves to Yahweh in that day AND WILL BE HIS PEOPLE” - (Zechariah 2:11. Also, Acts 3:12, 3:23, 4:1-2, 4:8-10, 15:6-12).
Moreover, James justified the outreach to the uncircumcised Gentiles by citing the prophet Amos:
  • And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written: After these things I will return, and I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; and I will build again its ruins, and I will set it up, that the REMNANT OF MEN may seek after the Lord, and all the nations upon whom my name is called” - (Acts 15:14-17Amos 9:11-12).
He attributed the quotation to “all the prophets,” not just to Amos. He used the Greek text from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew original, and by a change of Hebrew vowel points, “Edom” became “Adam” or “man.”
The book of Acts ends with the Apostle Paul in Rome, “proclaiming the kingdom of God” to all who would hear, to Jew and Gentile alike - (Isaiah 52:10Acts 28:26-31).

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul was explicit. Men and women of faith are the true “children of Abraham.” God’s plan was always to justify the Gentiles through faith, especially since He promised Abraham, “IN YOU WILL ALL NATIONS BE BLESSED.” Those who stand on faith are the ones who are “blessed with faithful Abraham.” Moreover, since his Death and Resurrection, Jesus is the true “seed of Abraham” in whom the nations are blessed – (Genesis 12:3, Galatians 3:7-9, Ephesians 2:11-19):
  • (Galatians 3:14) – “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Finally, the Book of Revelation foresees the New Creation inhabited by a vast company of men and women redeemed from all the nations, the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promise. Thus, the “Lamb” was declared worthy to reign over the Cosmos precisely because he “purchased for God by his blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation” - (Revelation 5:5-14).

Likewise, after the “sixth seal” was opened, John saw a vast “innumerable multitude” comprised of men and women from every nation, “standing before the Lamb” and the “Throne” in the New Creation, all in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham of descendants more numerous than the “stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore” – (Revelation 7:9-1710:11, 12:1-5, 14:6).

Thus, the covenant with Abraham, including the promises of land and descendants, always included the nations of the earth, the Gentiles, and it finds its true fulfillment in the New Creation inaugurated by the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus. It is “in Jesus” where the nations are “blessed.”




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