All nations

A common thread running through most of these extraordinary passages is that the people God is gathering into his kingdom are from every nation. To our modern ears, this idea sounds rather lovely—that all the peoples of the earth might finally be brought together, and might celebrate together, despite all the linguistic and cultural differences that separate us; a kind of heavenly United Nations in which all the rich diversity of humanity is represented. This, after all, is how most of us in the post-enlightenment West have been taught to think about the diversity of human language and culture—as a gorgeous human tapestry, with each people group contributing its own unique and wonderful colours and threads. And indeed, we do find all the goodness and beauty that God has woven into his creation present in every corner of it. But in the Bible’s depiction of history and of God’s plan, the scattered diversity of the nations has a dark underbelly. It is a consequence of the judgement of God at Babel. According to Paul in Acts 17, it is meant to induce a humble searching after the true God who has scattered us. The gathering of all nations around the throne of God in Revelation is not so much a celebration of cultural diversity as a celebration of how God has overcome the one foundational problem that all the nations share—that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

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