As was discussed in the last article, nations and cultural systems would have developed even if Adam had not sinned. Had Adam and his heirs remained in right standing with God, they would have sought heaven’s will for all their dominion labors. When it came to re-making the earth into a new and improved form, the children of God would have accessed God’s will, gained true knowledge, and reproduced godly creations. Each heavenly reproduction would have brought glory to God. Earth would have continued to reflect eternal realities. The people who comprised the nations would have been holy and the systems within those nations would have been holy.
But --- sin did occur. The serpent entered the garden and offered to Adam another covenantal relationship and another earthly reality. Adam was given the choice to love and obey His Father or to value and follow the words of the serpent. Whoever Adam chose would be his ‘god’ and the source of his right and wrong. Not only would Adam’s ethical choice originate with his ‘god’ but the patterns for all of man’s systems would also be the outworking of the will and purposes of that ‘god’. Adam, and all humanity in Adam, aligned with the serpent. Adam’s fall not only meant that humanity would fall short of the glory but also that all of humanity’s works would fall short of heaven’s patterns. Fallen mankind would build a fallen world.
The Greek word for world is the masculine noun kosmos (Strong’s #2889), and it means orderly arrangement. Kosmos is based upon the verb komeo (Strong’s # 2885), which means to tend, to take care of, to properly provide for. The action of tending (komeo) produces an arrangement (kosmos). When speaking about the arrangement or the systems of the world, it must be noted that someone is doing the arranging. Who are those someones? The someones are people; the workers are humanity; the arrangers are the sons of Adam who received the commission to tend to the earth in Genesis 1:28, 2:15. Because of Adam, those arrangements reflect the ideas of the ‘god’ from which humanity receives the patterns. In Adam, mankind cares for the world, but because of fallen patterns, mankind arranges a fallen kosmos.
Adam and Eve departed the Garden with the dominion mandate still in force. Immediately they began to be fruitful and to multiply. They had Cain and Able. The boys reflected the fallen nature. Cain killed Able. The boys also reflected the mandate to build systems. Earth’s first economic system was in its developmental stage. Cain was a farmer and Able was a rancher. They had to discover how they would exchange, barter, share, and work together as each man took a portion of the earth and developed an occupation. They were beginning the arrangement of the kosmos. And the systems reflected the fallen nature. With Abel out of the way, Cain could steal or take whatever he needed of Abel’s portion.
Within the first few chapters of the Bible, God assiduously communicates that fallen men build fallen systems. After the murder of Abel, Cain was judged of God and sent away from God’s presence. (Please note the re-play of Adam’s story here as fallen man lives out his fallen beliefs to produce a fallen arrangement. This sequence causes God to arise, bring judgment, and disinherit the rebel. The pattern holds true throughout the whole of scripture. The unrighteous and their works are always judged and then they are removed.) Cain departed from near the entrance of the Garden to travel eastward to an area known as Nod. There he began his family and built a city (Gen.4:16-17). He continued the mandate to be fruitful – fruitful to reproduce the children and fruitful to build the systems. Or, it could be stated that he and his family tended (komeo) the earth and built an arrangement (kosmos). What was the condition of Cain’s kosmos? Fallen! It reflected the will, goals, and patterns of its ‘god’ who was that notorious serpent who first directed the kosmos Adam built.
Five generations from Cain was Lamech, a villainous killer. Scripture describes the occupations of Lamech’s children: Jabal was the father of those who dwelt in tents and tended cattle; Jubal was the father of all that became proficient with the harps and organ; and Tubal-Cain became an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron (Gen. 4:20-22). The sons of fallen Lamech from Cain’s lineage were building systems. A kosmos was burgeoning in the earth. The business sector included both agricultural commodities and the products of industry. The entertainment sector provided an occupation for a whole segment. There was also a religion realm which, although not mentioned in this portion of scripture, is later seen in the story of the tower of Babel (Gen. 11). Kosmos building was in full development. And what was the condition of the kosmos? Fallen!
The next article will discuss the flood as God once again arises, brings judgment, and disinherits the rebellious earth builders.
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.
As a last official act before He ascended to His throne of the right hand of the God (Mk. 16:19), Jesus commissioned His Kingdom followers to be His earthly ambassadors with the following words: “Go you, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28: 19-20).
The disciples of Christ had learned about the Kingdom and practiced principles of the Kingdom throughout the years of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus had hand-picked each man and personally tutored them. He had shared heavenly mysteries, interpreted Old Testament law and prophesies, trained in healing and deliverance, revealed His mission and His destiny. Jesus modeled before His followers the administration of a fully mature Son of God over the created order. The elements of heaven and earth, the creatures of the land and sea, the temptations of the devil and activities of his realm, the miraculous power of the Father and His heavenly host, the plots of His religious antagonists, the sincere cries of the hurting and afflicted: all of these subjects and domains were handled in perfect harmony with the will of heaven. Jesus’ management juxtaposed the dominion efforts of the first son of God, Adam. Christ’s disciples were thoroughly exposed to the meaning of “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Mt. 6:10).
Jesus exercised perfect and holy dominion over the earth. He managed the property of the Father, as God is the rightful owner of the earth (Ps. 24:1); and He stewarded the earth in proper congruence with heavenly principles. This was Adam’s original assignment (Gen.1:26-28; 2:15). Jesus succeeded where the first man failed. Adam practiced His mission in the
Garden. Jesus accomplished His directive in the area of Judea and Galilee. Then, Jesus commissioned His church with the same charge but their territory was all nations. “Teach all nations . . . to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” And then, Jesus departed the earth leaving the management of the nations in the hands of his disciples.
What Adam was called to do in the small, unpopulated, unoccupied, and non-cursed Garden, the disciples were mandated to do in the entire earth that was filled with people groups with ethic identities, and geopolitical structures with societal customs. The church was called to nations. The church was commissioned to disciple nations. The delegation of Kingdom ambassadors was presented with the systems of men and summoned to teach those nations the same Kingdom lessons that Christ had taught to them. The disciples were called to disciple – NATIONS.
The church has long known that all the nations in the earth were to be afforded the chance to hear the good news of Christ coming to earth to save the people of the earth. The history of evangelism proves that the commissioning of “Go you, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” has been a mantra for spreading the gospel. Because nations are not baptized but only people are baptized, the application of the scripture was often limited to finding souls in all nations and baptizing those who believed. Throughout the past two millennia, the church has historically shared the message of salvation in Christ and been faithful to cross borders, travel the seas, sacrifice personal safety, and spend large sums of money to carry the story of Jesus as found in the pages of the Scriptures. Those saved souls have also been discipled to be followers of all that Jesus taught. The Holy Scriptures have been held by the church to be the rule of conduct and the method by which individuals should live a faithful and holy life. People in all nations have been taught.
However, disciplining people is not the exact same thing as discipling nations. According to the Strong’s dictionary, nations comes from the Greek ethnos and means “a race (of the same habit), i.e. a tribe.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines nations as “a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together, a company, troop, swarm; a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus.” Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language inhabiting a particular country or territory.”
Teaching nations extends beyond teaching individuals in those nations. Jesus was commissioning His disciples to disciple groups, multitudes, cultures, and territories. The people and their systems, the inhabitants and their customs, the ethnos and with their ethnicities: these were all within His scope when Jesus inaugurated His church into their dominion assignment. Next week’s article will continue to discuss the concept of discipling nations.