Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the introductory blog post you really should click here to read it first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
In this post, we will see what is God’s ultimate purpose in all He does. We have seen this in God’s Heart for the Nations blog posts but it will be helpful to see it again, especially as a foundation for the reality and presence of spiritual warfare.
In this first chapter of the book, Jerry Rankin recounts a trip he took in response to an invitation to speak at a Baptist leaders conference in the Khond Hills of the State of Orissa in India. It was a monumental trip that left Mr. Rankin thinking he had reached beyond the fringes of the Great Commission and was at the ends of the earth.
Topping a ridge, they suddenly caught sight of a massive crowd milling around an intersection ahead. This was their destination and the crowd was there to welcome them. More than three thousand people had gathered from every village in the Khond Hills. When everyone was seated, the man who seemed to be in charge shouted something, and all the people responded with a shout. Mr. Rankin didn’t understand the words but presumed that this was simply a customary way of beginning a public gathering or perhaps a way of greeting us as the honoured guests.
His interpreter asked him if he knew what they were saying. He said, “The leader is shouting, ‘Who is Lord?’ And all the people are responding, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ As this was repeated several times, goosebumps appeared on Rankin’s arms and a chill went up his spine. Here were a people that were not a people, a people who had lived in darkness but had now become the people of God. This is what Paul referred to as he quoted Hosea in Romans 9:6.
As he heard these people declaring that Jesus is Lord, Rankin immediately thought of Philippians 2:9-11 and the implications of what he was seeing. “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Just as these people of the Khond Hills, geographically isolated and separated from God, living in spiritual darkness, had now become the people of God, one day all people will recognize Jesus as Lord. God will be glorified by the confession of praise being declared from every tongue, “Jesus is Lord” to the glory of God the Father.
God’s ultimate purpose and desire is clear: to be glorified through the redemption of the nations. He alone is worthy of all praise and honour. His purpose is to be known and worshipped and exalted by the nations and peoples of the earth. The culmination of His divine activity in the world is expressed in the book of Revelation. “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (Rev 4:11).
Everything created in the world should be seen in the context of existing for God’s glory. Every activity and endeavour should be to glorify Him, not only in our lives and community but among all peoples, even to the ends of the earth.
Then the authors pick up on what is called the ‘linguistic thread’ of Scripture. The movement and mission from God can be traced through a linguistic thread woven throughout Scripture. The thread began under the rebellious circumstances in Babel and became the platform for God’s mission through Pentecost and His glory in Revelation. Following this linguistic thread allows us to better understand our mission with God and for God. The thread throughout the Bible also traces God’s relentless pursuit of a people for His glory.
As people gather at the end of the age, we read in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” What will that sound like? Will everybody praise in a different language? We don’t know, but we do know that it will be one voice. In unity brought about by God’s presence and kingdom, from distinct people groups, His people will worship in the many languages they spoke during their earthly lives, giving praise to the Lord and glory to the Father.
When the Holy Spirit arrived to indwell believers in Acts we see a picture of the “beginning of the end” in God’s plan. In God’s plan, the church was given the supernatural ability to speak in languages (tongues) and they were understood by the crowds in Jerusalem as the gospel was proclaimed at Pentecost. Through the person of the Holy Spirit, God’s purposes were accomplished like no other time in history. When God’s power is manifested, no arguments of man or principality can stand against it.
The linguistic thread began in Genesis 11. The scene is the Tower of Babel and the birth of heathenism (self-glory) as the result of one tongue among men. Satan is alive and well and his desire for fame and glory is passed on to man.
Remember God’s instructions to Noah after the flood? His family members were to scatter and populate the earth (Genesis 9:1). Yet the nature of man was seen in his desire to create another plan. ‘Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth”’ (Genesis 11:4). In only two chapters after the flood, mankind began not only to sin alone but to sin in groups. God, as before the Flood and in the garden, found Himself set aside by mankind. God was distant from the minds and hearts of self-absorbed men. But He remained relentless in His pursuit of them.
What was the issue? “Let us make a name for ourselves.” The very thing rightfully belonging to God, man immediately claimed for himself - a famous name. Man wanted the glory that belonged to God alone. Since the garden, man has gone east, away from God, setting his own course. But God’s fame is seen as every tongue, tribe, and nation returns to His name, His glory, and His worship. It was lost at Babel but returns via Pentecost and is completed at the end of the age in the book of Revelation.
God scattered people at Babel, changing one language to many languages. Man’s desire to make a name for himself had terrible consequences. Was God intimidated by the potential of man to accomplish things with one tongue? God is omnipotent, which means never intimidated. God knew Babel would become a civilization of frustrated, godless people if He didn’t intervene. Never for a moment did He fear their potential to overthrow and actually supplant His glory.
Language is God’s gift to man. Different languages are a demonstration of God’s relentless love of man. Every time you hear a conversation in another language that you do not understand, thank God for His love. God saw that man would destroy himself and attempt to live life apart from Him. He lovingly gifted us with diverse tongues to slow us down. He gave us tongues to go deeper into relationships with fewer people. Tongues reveal our limitations and helplessness. What a creative and loving way to discipline a self-absorbed, self-promoting, sinful man.
And so, as we look ahead again to Revelation 7:9-10, we see the conclusion of God’s purposes in the earth, to be surrounded by every tongue, tribe and nation, receiving the praise and the glory that are His alone.
Have you gotten any new insight from this overview of God’s glory and His heart for the nations?
What kind of people and things do you regularly pray for from day-to-day? Does your prayer life reflect God’s ultimate desire and purpose to be worshipped among the nations?
Is there anything that you could adjust your time and/or friends so that you can go on mission trips to help reach the nations or give more so that others can reach the nations with the gospel?