Our first study discussed the role of the angels within God’s plan. Created through and for Jesus (Col 1:16) they are heavenly “sons of God” united with us through his death and resurrection. Along with the earthly children of God, all holy spiritual beings share the same hope of the restoration of all things through Christ’s universal Lordship (Eph 1:10). Our second study discussed how this great hope is fiercely contested by fallen evil powers who cast a pall of hopelessness over human existence at all levels. Strategically, they seek to keep the state of the “least, the last and the lost” in a grip of perpetual shame, as a visible message to unbelieving eyes (2 Cor 4:4) that the world is unredeemed.
In response, the church is called to image before a lost world and rebellious angelic forces that there is one Father of all families in heaven and earth (Eph 3:10, 14-15). This requires a united purpose of hope that excludes all cultural or racial discrimination within the body of Christ. Such oneness will surely inaugurate a global outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a great ingathering of lost souls before the return of Christ.The purpose of this final study is therefore to focus on the spiritual dynamics of God’s global vision for mission to the nations in our time.
Looking back over Christian history one can plot successive waves of expansion and contraction, with the pulse extending further outward with each wave. Combining this with the command of Jesus to “make disciples all nations”, it is certainly feasible to have a level of awareness of what the Spirit of God is saying to the church in our time. Whilst the churches in the non-Western world seem to be possessed of clear focus, it is the Western church, where organised religion is in serious decline, which needs to hearken to the Word of the Lord. This paper is a message for us.
Jesus’ Hope for All Nations
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the end-time temple of God as “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa 56:7). The context makes it plain that the vision is one of all peoples travelling up to Jerusalem to intercede before the God of Israel. The coming of Jesus brings this expectation to a radical and unanticipated fulfilment.
In Mark, when Jesus firsts visits the temple he functions as a prophet physically cleansing the premises from iniquitous trade. Christ’s words combine Isaiah 56:7 (above) with Jeremiah 7:11, ““Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”” (Mark 11:17). It was intolerable to Jesus that a space consecrated to prayer by the gentile nations be used for commercial profit. Effectively, the elect nation of Israel had excluded the gentiles from sharing in their covenant hope. Such a situation was, for the Christ of God, intolerable.
In John’s account of the temple cleansing, Jesus reorients the discourse to himself. The temple is now described in highly intimate language as, “my Father’s house” (John 2:16). Jesus went on to speak of the destruction and resurrection of “this temple” in “three days”, prophetically referring to “the temple of his body”. (John 2:19, 21). Jesus was declaring that God’s house of prayer was now his own personal life and that he is the medium in which God’s plan to unite all nations in prayer and worship will be fulfilled.
The Church as Hope for the Nations
When Paul says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12), he brings Jesus and the church into the closest possible relationship. This is not essentially a subjective reality, but a unity at the deepest personal level that relates intensely to the subject of hope.
Whilst it might seem audacious to say it, I believe that Jesus’ future is tied to the church. Paul teaches, “God …wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you, and he is your hope of sharing in God’s glory.” (Col 1:27) and “18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” (Eph 1:18). God himself has a hope and an inheritance and it is constituted by his presence amongst all the nations.
The church is “the household of God” in which he dwells “by the Spirit” (Eph 2:19, 22). The passion to see the “gospel of the kingdom …proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt 24:14) is not some legalistic injunction, but a means to God’s glorification in the universe. Only if people of all nations respond to the gospel before
the return of Christ will the manifestation of the glory of God amongst humanity be complete in eternity.
The passion of God for a complete household is so intense that he will go to the most extreme lengths to see this fulfilled. The New Testament speaks in apocalyptic language of the time of harvest between Pentecost and the Second Coming, “I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:19-21).
Hebrews proclaims, “but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” (12:26-27). The entire cosmic framework is destabilised in its current form so that the God’s kingdom may prevail. The author is actually quoting from a passage in Haggai relevant to hope for the nations.
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”” (Hag 2:6-9)
Given that the temple (“this house”) is now the people of God, it follows that the “treasures of the nations” are the nations themselves redeemed in Christ. A key text in Proverbs bears witness to the divine intention, “3 By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; 4 by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov 24:3-4). The eternal house of God is the nations filled with God’s saving wisdom in Christ. The Church reaches “mature manhood… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13) through sharing in “Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:2-3). The glory of God in humanity is nothing other than a family of nations filled with his wisdom. This opens up a vista on the importance of the church as a redeeming structure in the present universe.
The apostle Paul categorically declares that his purpose in gospel proclamation is, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:10). This is no mere “sky works display” but a sign to all the evil “cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Eph 6:12) that in Christ “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5). The impact of the gospel in creating a new undivided family of humanity conviction the evil powers that they have failed absolutely, from this witness they recoil in terror.
Prophetically, the book of Haggai declared, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14) Only a few weeks ago in prayer with folk from a variety of nations that the ultimate meaning of this text was unveiled to me. The scripture does not say, “the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” but “with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord”. The new earth will contain a single universal human consciousness (i.e. knowledge) of the divine glory manifested through “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages”. This is how the knowledge of God’s glory will penetrate everything.
The great vision of the end that transfixed apostles and prophets was of the new creation as one great home for God filled to the full with the presence of his love. The Word of the LORD about the first temple, “My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” (2 Chron 7:16) will then become true on a global scale. Divine and human existence will be so conjoined that all of existence shall be one great heart of love. This is not some mystical escapism, but a vision that must impact our lives now!
Seeing the Hope for All Nations
I see this image emerging across the planet NOW. I see global cooperation in prayer on such a scale that no city, no suburb, no street, no school, no building and no home is outside of a network of intercession. As the poles held up the tent/tabernacle (Ex 40:18), I see a ring of 24/7 prayer houses circling the globe in constant interaction for intercession as the Lord shares his heart for the needs of the planet. Christ is putting together a canopy of prayer that will shade the planet from the fullness of the fierceness of the wrath of God.
All of these activities will reveal “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10) as a preparation for the return of Christ. The time is coming soon when the church will receive the revelation that no single people group has insight into all the wisdom/knowledge of the glory of God. Just as in the End the cosmos will be filled with people groups filled with diverse perspectives of the wisdom and glory of God, so we today must live together as one global family in Christ united in love and humility. This requires a “perfect” relational unity across all observable human distinctions, especially race. Such a grand vision is surely shared by the Father, Son and Spirit; but there are many reasons to believe it is not our vision. I believe our real problem is that we do not understand the gospel.
The famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Do you know… what God’s estimate of the gospel is? Do you not know that it has been the chief subject of his thoughts and acts from all eternity?” Spurgeon is saying that the Holy Trinity contemplates the gospel above the creation of the universe, the exodus from Egypt, the resurrection of Lazarus, or any other object of attention. We struggle to understand Spurgeon because we have shrunk the gospel down to the level of an individual’s relationship with a God who presents an offer of a better lifestyle. We fail to grasp that contained in the gospel is the death, resurrection and glorification of the entire universe in Christ. It is the gospel that offers hope of an entire new creation (Col 1:3-5). This is the gospel that we are commissioned to preach!
A theologian of immense insight once said, “That which goes deepest to the conscience goes widest to the world.” P.T. Forsyth means that what impacts us most deeply on the inside will spread most widely through our lives into the world around us. There is a direct correlation between our insight into the glory of God in the gospel and the church’s proclamation of this saving message to all nations. Given that it is 2000 years since Jesus left and there are still hundreds of millions who have never heard of the love of Christ, where have we failed to obey God? I believe the Spirit has brought to my attention one crucial issue for the contemporary Australian church. It combines the subject matter of my last two articles, the angels and “the least, the last and the lost”, with the theme of Jesus’ house of hope for all nations.
In an intriguing text, Jesus said, ““See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 18:10). As the angels behold the face of God, their countenance radiates with the welcome that the Father extends to all his children. This welcoming role of angelic beings assists the powerless in their journey to God. A similar attitude should be the usual Christian disposition towards “the least, the last and the lost”.
The parable of the sheep and the goats is deservedly famous for its emphasis on the relationship between practical action and entering into eternal life. There is however a number of aspects of this parable that are often neglected, several appear in Jesus’ introduction, ““When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say” (Matt 25:31-34).
This is a court scene with angelic attendants; at the very least the angels are witnesses in the divine council supporting the judgement of the King (Jesus) because of their first hand knowledge of the actions of men. Secondly, those arraigned before the divine tribunal are “the nations”, sheep nations and goat nations. The sheep nations feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and come to the imprisoned (25:35-36). The goat nations do none of this (25:42-43). Neither groups recognised that Jesus himself was present with the afflicted and needy (25:37-38; 44-45), but the sheep nations did the good works of their Father to the (hidden) Jesus anyway! Like the angels who flank the Lord on Judgement Day, the sheep are those whose countenance is welcoming to the broken.
Those who extend a smiling welcome to the needy in Jesus’ name reflect the final vision of God for the restoration of all nations, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:1-4)
Australia is presently a goat nation. The contemporary issue that exposes this most forcefully is the illegal arrival of boat people in Australian waters. Though relative to the total refugee/immigration intake their numbers are small, the vast majority of Aussies do not want these people here at all. This is why in a recent report an insightful journalist comments, “No other issue sets the attitudes of average Australians so directly against those of the so-called intellectual elites.” and the arrival of boats “triggers an iron law of Australian politics; any Prime Minister is vulnerable if unable to halt the flow of boats.” 
In this matter, the majority Australian population are simply hypocrites, for as an aboriginal elder and Christian statesman (Cedric Jacobs) puts it, “To us, you are all boat people.” If we do not as a nation extend a heart of compassionand welcome towards these needy folk do we really expect that God will welcome us as a people into his kingdom? Certainly not! Is it too much to suggest that our prevailing cultural consciousness of unwelcome stymies even the angels?
Compare our attitude to that of another aboriginal Christian friend. Church and tribal elder Richard Evans appeared on the front page of our national newspaper recently concerning the arrival of a group of asylum seekers in his hometown of Leonora. Richard is reported as extending a welcome to these refugees and extending a desire to teach them about his land and country.
Whatever may have happened when the British first invaded the continent in 1788 is past, but until we learn to welcome “the least, the last and the lost” we cannot expect a genuine national revival. I have however seen some other things which point hopefully to a better future.
Into All the World
Some years ago in waking I saw multi-coloured streams flowing out of Australian cities into the nations. I sensed that these represented multicultural and multiracial mission teams sent out into the entire world. Later that same day, Ed Silvoso, the international founder of Harvest Evangelism, prophesied to a small meeting in Perth that our city could be like the biblical Antioch, a spring board to the nations.
This experience of multi-coloured streams was confirmed in 2007 in Kansas City when visiting the International House of Prayer. There I had an unusual experience facing the giant map of the world at the rear of the main auditorium. As I looked at Australia I could “see” all the colours of the rainbow spreading outwards into the world. I knew this was about God using marketplace ministries to penetrate the planet with the gospel. The colours of the rainbow signified Joseph’s “robe of many colours”, given to him by his father Jacob, because he “loved Joseph more than any other of his sons” colours.” (Gen 37:3). Prophetically, this coat symbolised the favour of God which was always with Joseph and led to his success despite betrayal, abandonment, the threat of death and repeated injustice. In this, Joseph is a type of the beloved Son of God and his death and resurrection.
Just as Joseph established a granary in Egypt for the alleviation of hunger “over all the earth” (Gen 41:57), so I believe the Lord is establishing granaries in nations across the globe to feed the hungry, both spiritually and materially. In contrast to the old covenant pattern where the nations come to a geographical centre of grace, in the new covenant age grace is actively taken out to ends of the world (Acts 1:8). In our time God is releasing marketplace ministries to go out from key centres into the world; these people will reflect in their lives and God-given success God the marks of the eternal wisdom of Christ. This presence will cause their workfellows to ask, “What is different about you?” Their categorical answer will be, “What you can see in my life is not my own, but the favour of God for his beloved Son Jesus who lives in me.” It is such marketplace ministries penetrating all the spheres of society wherever God sends them, who will be at the cutting edge of this final global move of the Spirit. This grand vision however is not quite finished.
All Together Again
When we approach the terminus of biblical revelation, we are presented with the magnificent scene of the restoration of all nations in their participation in the divine glory, “By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations.” (Rev 21:24-26). Two things here grasp our attention. The first is that the gates of the city are always open, signifying that the presence of God is available to all redeemed peoples at all times. No-one is excluded from the divine nearness by virtue of their national or racial origin, the whole family is together again. Secondly, the one who opens up this insight to the apostle John is an angel. In the End, the angels stand guard to ensure that the city gates are open continually. This reverses the role that the cherubim were commissioned to take on after the Fall of man, “to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen 3:24). All of God’s children, angels and men, reunited as one holy family, will flourish in his company forever. In the light of such great things, what then should we do?
Some years ago as I was praying for a local pastor well known for his mission heart I had a picture of a meteor crossing the sky. At the time I believed it had to do with his future involvement in a large scale release of young people to evangelise the nations in the name of Jesus. This morning I received an email from a prophetic intercessor where she says, “SHOOTING STARS ARE COMING FORTH FROM PERTH. to the surrounding nations..this is the vision I saw yesterday in church.”
Against the background of this paper I believe these “shooting stars” symbolise angels whom Jesus is commissioning to go out with his people from Western Australia to the ends of the earth. Given that this is the case, what can we do?
The call of God in the Spirit of holiness is to be a welcoming people. This means not only to welcome holy angelic and miraculous supernatural presences, but just as keenly to welcome “the least, the last and the lost”. This is what it means to welcome the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus himself. When this attitude prevails amongst us, he will do the rest.
 The plan which brings redemption is not a remedy for the failure of an original plan. See e.g. Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:20; 2 Tim 1:9; Rev 13:8, which indicate that God chose us graciously in Jesus in eternity.
 Redemption is universal in that the price for the whole world’s sin has been paid by the blood of Christ (1 Tim 2:5-6; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2). This does not mean however that all are eternally saved.
 Simultaneous with an intensification of persecution.
 A thesis advanced particularly by the historian Kenneth Scott Latourette.
 A major article in The West Australian newspaper this week (June 15 2010 p.3) headed “Losing the Faith” showed a significant negative decline in religious practice in Australia. For example, the number of people who identify with a Christian denomination fell from 50% in 1993 to 20% in 2010. (See also news.yahoo.com.au/thewest/a/-/latest/…/australians-losing-the-faith/ -)
 See also Isaiah 2:1-5; Zech 8:20-23.
 This pattern of the primacy of money has been repeated numerous times in the history of Christianity, up until the present time. It should be remembered that the sale of indulgences, a scandal that outraged Luther and led to the Protestant Reformation, was a money making exercise to raise funds to build a new St Peters basilica.
 The same principle underlies John 4:21-24, ““Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.””.
 Space prohibits a full discussion of this topic, but the final expression of Jesus humanity is intimately related to the end – time fullness of his Bride, the Church e.g. Rev 19.
 See the previous study about the relationship between nations and people groups.
 Compare, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Col 1:23)
 I have tried to express this carefully in terms of “manifestation”, as God’s own glory is eternal and limitless.
 In the sovereign purposes of God, for instance, it has often been remarked that the church in China only grew significantly after the rise of communism.
 Compare, “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). The book of Revelation of course is permeated with this sort of language.
 Compare, “By its (glory of God) light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev 21:24).
 Jesus is the totality of divine wisdom, “you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor 1:30).
 By this I mean a body/organism, and not an institution.
 “Apostleship” has become a stock phrase in certain parts of the church today. Any apostle who does not possess the perspective for the nations outlined in Ephesians should be considered a “false apostle” (2 Cor 11:13; Rev 2:2).
 I am, in principle, opposed to the use of Old Testament scriptures as lead texts for Christian enterprises. The fullness comes only in Christ (Col 2:17).
 A similar thought is contained in 2 Peter 3:13, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”.
 See Rev 5:6-14; 7:9-12.
 As in “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
 A full discussion of this would involve an exposition of the unity of the divine and human in Christ.
 I am using the word “see” here in a prophetic sense.
 I first saw this about 15 years ago, and found a plastic blow up globe of the world that could be covered with grid lines representing such a network. Advances in technology have made this vision much simpler to achieve.
 Analogous to, “Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6 There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” (Isa 4:5-6).
 “And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.” (Mark 13:20). This may be a sovereign action of God, but it is surely also an answer to prayer.
 This is not relativism (or radical perspectivalism) but like seeing different facets of the one diamond.
 “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23)
 It is God’s own vision of his glory in humanity, as an exposition of John 17:5, 22 would show.
 The context goes on to speak of the search for the one lost sheep, “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matt 18:14).
 See especially Luke 16:9, ““And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth (alms giving to the poor), so that when it fails they (i.e. angels) may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”” and 16:22, ““The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.””.
 Doubtless the same angels whose faces shine with welcome towards the “little ones” who are the lost sheep that Jesus died for.
 Whilst the standard of judgement applied in this parable extends to individuals, the usual emphasis in Western theology, I believe, is on the attitudes of people groups.
 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16).
 I support the exegesis that identifies the needy people of the parable as persecuted Christians, but the ignorance of the blessed over the presence of Jesus among the needy suggests a more comprehensive application than simply to Christians supporting each other. (Though the affluent church fails even in this.)
 Paul Murray, Boat People Dragged in Deep, The West Australian Thursday June 3rd 2010 p. 21
 Statistics are dynamic and debatable, but roughly 75% of the general population have strong negative attitudes to boat people – see Australian attitudes to the acceptance of refugees
 This has nothing to do, in itself, with legal procedures and security concerns.
 Not that anyone other than Christians can really understand this, all the more need for our repentance in this matter.
 I am of course not implying that even single Australian is unwelcoming to refugees, any more than every single Israelite was an idolater when God’s hand was forced to destroy the nation and send it into exile.
 Leader looks to asylum boost for Aborigines, The Weekend Australian June 5-6 pp.1, 8
 Leonora is 830 km from Perth and the asylum seekers were flown in by the federal government for processing in a camp, without community consultation.
 There are effectively two sections in Acts, in the first 12 chapters Jerusalem is central, but the church there appears to remain strongly conservative and never embraces the outward thrust of the kingdom of God. In the thirteenth chapter it is the church in Antioch, predominantly Gentile, that launched the Pauline mission into the nations that shapes the remainder of the book and climaxes in the arrival of the apostle in Rome.
 I was actually in Kansas City with three businessmen attending a Joseph Company Marketplace Leaders Retreat.
 Luke’s version of the beatitudes, ““Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) definitely includes both forms of poverty (compare the “poor” in the Psalms e.g. 34; 70; 72 )
 Usually they come up to Zion, see footnote 9 above.
 “Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you” (Rev 21:9)
 In the prophets God speaks of his wrath as “strange” and “alien” (Isa 28:21), it was never in his nature to punish. The holy angels must similarly experience their role in the judgement of God as somehow outside God’s original intention.