Commissioned to go to all the nations within the earth and equipped with the lessons that they had learned from Christ, the New Testament church began to go forth under the Lord’s mandate. Nations – the church was sent into all nations. Acts 1:8 states that they were to spread from Jerusalem into all Judea and Samaria, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Philip, Timothy, John Mark and many others traveled throughout the inhabited world to take the message of Jesus. Although compiling of the cannon came to an end and the names of the early Christian evangelists and apostles ceased to be recorded in Scripture, the work of proclamation and disciples-making continued. Historians have recorded the names of those who spread into all the nations.
The idea of all nations hearing, receiving, obeying and being discipled by the Kingdom of God fits into the overall narrative and ongoing storyline of the Bible. One only needs to consider God’s intent when He created the earth. He created everything from His original will and purpose. He not only determined what He would make and why He would make it, He then acted upon His will and created everything. And, all that He created serves His design and plan. Because God is the creator of all, He is likewise the owner of all. The earth and all that is within it belongs to God (Deut. 10:14; Ps. 24:1; 115:16).
All was created without flaw and everything existed in perfect harmony with everything else. All was “good.” Upon completion of the created order, God gave management rights to Adam and Eve. They were told to be fruitful and fill up the earth (Gen.1:28). That multiplication mandate existed on at least two levels. First, they were given the power to reproduce children and to begin the process of populating the earth. Consider what would have occurred if sin had not entered the world. Adam’s children would have grown up, found mates, and produced children. Adam’s grandchildren would have done the same. The newly formed families would have eventually become tribes. The need for more land space to host more people would have demanded that the tribes spread throughout the earth. Cities would have formed; territorial divisions would have occurred; localized citizens would have taken responsibility for local regions. In other words, nations would have developed. When God gave Adam the mandate to reproduce, God had nations within His view.
Another way that Adam would have fulfilled the mandate to be fruitful and to fill up would have occurred in conjunction with his work assignment to care for the earth. Although the earth was perfectly formed, it was not fully matured. Every tree had the potential to become an orchard. Every rock had the possibility to be forged into a sculpture or assembled into a structure. Man’s work was to find out what the earth could do and then work with the earth to unleash the latent potential locked up within the resources of the earth.
In order for man to discover the possibilities, build the new versions of the earth, and tend to the expanded assets, more time and work would be required. Because man, even pre-fall man in Adam, was limited to 24 hours a day, time was a scarce commodity. Men would need to work with other men to help cover all the demands of a developing earth. In order to accomplish the “fruitful and fill up” commission, men would have needed to diversify in their fields of labors. Instead of Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel, both doing all the same jobs, Cain became a farmer and Abel became a rancher. They diversified and specialized. Cain could use his limited asset of time to become better at getting a yield from the earth. This specialization would have meant, however, that he had no cows to milk. But, because his brother would have had cows but no grain to feed the cows, the brothers would have needed to exchange, barter, or trade with one another. This process would have been necessary even had sin not entered the world.
As people groups grew and as nations developed and occupied new land masses, new resources would have been discovered. These newly found assets would have demanded more diversification, more specialization, and more trading. Markets, commerce, and businesses: these would have been part of mankind’s existence even had the fall not occurred. When God gave Adam the mandate to reproduce, God had cultures and social systems within His view.
Nations, developing cultures, systems by which men cooperate, cultures that identify people groups, and the methods by with men govern their interactions would have all been part of an uncursed earth. A whole earth functioning in harmony with heaven’s will was always in God’s plan. A whole earth released to manifest the potential that was latent in it when God made it was always in God’s view. A whole earth filled with the glory of God and reflecting the perfection of heaven was always God’s desire. God made the earth perfectly and then empowered mankind with the mandate to steward by way of building nations, building systems, and building cultures. It should then be no surprise that Jesus commissioned His disciples to go to all nations and redeem, restore, and rebuild those cultural systems back to God’s original intent.