The International Scope of Prophecy

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The International Scope of Prophecy

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Skeptics who accuse God of favoring the descendants of Israel to the detriment of other nations are often unaware of the scope of God's master plan. Though the people of Israel play a pivotal role in the fulfillment of the plan, their role is not just for their own benefit.

God promised Abraham, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3 Genesis 12:3And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
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). To fulfill that objective, God also promised Abraham: "I will make you [through the people of Israel ] a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you" (Genesis 12:2-3 Genesis 12:2-3 [2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: [3] And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
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).

When we carefully examine Bible prophecy, we find that God is simply remaining faithful to His promise. Individuals and nations who oppose the way God has chosen to use the people of Israel—because of His promises to Abraham—are doomed to ultimate failure. This is not because Abraham's Israelite descendants are better than other nations. It is because such people set themselves against God's will.

God's plan extends to all nations

God is fair. He severely punished ancient Israel and Judah when they rebelled against Him. He blesses anyone who complies with His instructions and punishes those who do not. He ultimately shows no partiality in His treatment of Israelites over non-Israelites (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 Deuteronomy 10:17-19 [17] For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regards not persons, nor takes reward: [18] He does execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loves the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. [19] Love you therefore the stranger: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
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).

In the text of the Ten Commandments, He explained that His laws apply to all: "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:5-6 Exodus 20:5-6 [5] You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; [6] And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
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).

God judges people by their responses to His instructions. He specifically told the people of ancient Israel to love the stranger (foreigner) because they themselves had once been foreigners in Egypt (Leviticus 19:34 Leviticus 19:34But the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
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). God explained to Abraham that His master plan calls for blessing "all the families of the earth" (Genesis 12:3 Genesis 12:3And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
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).

That plan involves using Abraham's descendants through Jacob in a prominent and special role. Jesus Christ, of course, is the principal offspring of Abraham in the plan (Matthew 1:1 Matthew 1:1The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
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; Galatians 3:29 Galatians 3:29And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
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); salvation is accessible only through Him (Acts 4:10-12 Acts 4:10-12 [10] Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. [11] This is the stone which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. [12] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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).

But the other physical descendants of Israel play a vital role in God's plan. It is important that we comprehend the international implications of biblical prophecy so Israel's role is not misinterpreted. God is focused not only on Israel. His purpose concerns all nations, all peoples.

Isaiah begins his prophecy with these words, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!" (Isaiah 1:2 Isaiah 1:2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
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). He soon adds, "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it" (Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah 2:2And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
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). In the last chapter of the same book, God tells us through Isaiah, "It shall be that I will gather all nations...and they shall come and see My glory" (Isaiah 66:18 Isaiah 66:18For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
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).

Prophecy transcends national borders. Though God focuses more attention on His plan for the descendants of Abraham, He does not forget the rest of mankind (Acts 10:34-35 Acts 10:34-35 [34] Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
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). He will bless all who obey Him and will punish all who stubbornly set their will against Him—Israelites and other nations alike.

God's long-range purpose is to change the behavior of all people. This is because He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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). He promised, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7 Isaiah 56:7Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
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).

Prophecy explains how this will happen.

God loved the world

Even though God chose Israel as "a special treasure...above all people" (Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:5Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
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), His purpose goes far beyond the Israelites. Moses explained this when God was establishing Israel as a nation: "See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me ... Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people'" (Deuteronomy 4:5-6 Deuteronomy 4:5-6 [5] Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it. [6] Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
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, NIV).

Over the protests of the prophet Jonah, God sent him to prophesy to the gentile city of Nineveh. Its citizens responded to his warning and repented, and God spared them. He has concern for all peoples.

To Israel God gave the crucial responsibility of living God's ways as a model for the benefit of other nations. At that time the Israelites did not have a heart to obey God (Jeremiah 7:23-24 Jeremiah 7:23-24 [23] But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well to you. [24] But they listened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.
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). So their success as a role model was short-lived. Over time their conduct degenerated to the same level as that of the other nations around them.

Finally God temporarily withdrew His blessings from the descendants of Abraham, and they were taken into captivity. God then offered Nebuchadnezzar, the gentile king of Babylon, an unusual opportunity to serve Him. Daniel, the prophet who was a key administrator in Nebuchadnezzar's government, recorded that God offered this gentile monarch the chance to repent of his sins and apply the laws of God to his kingdom.

The nations and peoples in Nebuchadnezzar's vast empire would have benefited immeasurably had he accepted God's offer. Then this knowledge and understanding of the ways of God could have passed on to future generations.

God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to rule an empire whose culture and influence would far outlast him, extending into the empires and cultures that would succeed Babylon. But, because Nebuchadnezzar wouldn't submit to God, Babylon 's influence would be far more evil than good. Scripture shows this evil influence will continue through time even to the second coming of Jesus Christ (Revelation 17:5 Revelation 17:5And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
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; Revelation 18:2 Revelation 18:2And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
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).

The future revealed to a gentile king

To get Nebuchadnezzar's attention, God revealed to him, through a dream, a glimpse of the future. Daniel explained 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 2:28 Daniel 2:28But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
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).

Daniel continued: "The God of heaven has given you a kingdom...But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron...And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed;...and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:37-44 Daniel 2:37-44 [37] You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. [38] And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold. [39] And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. [40] And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. [41] And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, for as much as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay. [42] And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. [43] And whereas you saw iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not join one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. [44] And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
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).

Because of Israel's sins, God granted gentile rulers dominance in that region until a final kingdom—the Kingdom of God—would reign at Christ's return. God revealed this most basic prophecy—an outline of future dominant powers in that region—to Nebuchadnezzar.

At about the same time, God sent Daniel to tell the monarch, "O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous" (Daniel 4:27 Daniel 4:27Why, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, and break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of your tranquility.
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). Although he temporarily acknowledged God's greatness, Nebuchadnezzar never really heeded Daniel's admonition.

God humbled the king by giving him over to insanity for seven years. During that time he was incapable of administering the affairs of Babylon. Daniel had warned him: "They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen ... till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (Daniel 4:25 Daniel 4:25That they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will.
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). God made sure Nebuchadnezzar was left with no excuse for disobeying Him.

When it was all over, Nebuchadnezzar issued a proclamation: "To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation" (Daniel 4:1-3 Daniel 4:1-3 [1] Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied to you. [2] I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God has worked toward me. [3] How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
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).

The Babylonian king acknowledged God's power and authority over the earth. But we have no indication that he permanently changed his idolatrous ways and began serving only the true God. He came to understand, however, that Daniel's God was greater than all the other gods he worshipped.

A lesson of history

What God has shown, and history has repeatedly demonstrated, is that neither national leaders nor their people are able consistently to obey God on their own. Paul summed it up when he wrote: "What then? Are we [Jews] better than they [gentiles]? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks [gentiles] that they are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one'" (Romans 3:9-12 Romans 3:9-12 [9] What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; [10] As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: [11] There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. [12] They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.
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).

Not until Jesus Christ establishes the Kingdom of God on earth, and God gives His Spirit to "all flesh" (Joel 2:28 Joel 2:28And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
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; Acts 2:17-38 Acts 2:17-38 [17] And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: [18] And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: [19] And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: [20] The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: [21] And it shall come to pass, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. [22] You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know: [23] Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: [24] Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held of it. [25] For David speaks concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: [26] Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: [27] Because you will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption. [28] You have made known to me the ways of life; you shall make me full of joy with your countenance. [29] Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. [30] Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; [31] He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. [32] This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. [33] Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear. [34] For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he said himself, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, [35] Until I make your foes your footstool. [36] Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made the same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ. [37] Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do? [38] Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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), to those who willingly repent, can righteousness become widespread. God revealed this same truth to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel: "The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
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).

This truth is the focus of Bible prophecy. Prophecy shows how the Creator God will intervene in mankind's affairs and establish His Kingdom, which will bring peace, righteousness and salvation to all humanity.

Bible prophecy is international in scope. It is centered on the only Ruler—Jesus Christ, the Son of God—who can establish utopia on earth.

Now let's see how that promised utopia will come about.

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