When Christians think of the missionional work of God through his people we tend to think it starts with Jesus’ command recorded in Matthew 28 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”, and subsequently empowered by the Holy Spirit, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).” A more careful reading of the Scriptures leads us to a mission-hearted God from Genesis to Revelation. The Fall of Man effects us all: “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12).” We immediately get a hint of missional blessing toward humanity when God tells the serpent in Genesis 3:15 of a future ‘serpent crusher’. This promise is made more explicit to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the world shall be blessed (Gen. 12:3).” In the bible’s last book we see the results of God’s mission: he has ransomed people “from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9).”

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God doesn’t ‘flip a switch’ as we move to the New Testament and suddenly have compassion upon the world; from Adam to us (and beyond), God has always had a missionary heart to the world. Even before The Fall, God’s mission included spreading his glory into all creation. The Garden was a form of temple where God’s glory was on display. Adam was to be fruitful and multiply whilst serving as the earth’s priestly-king. Though Adam fails, God honours his promise by calling and blessing Abraham. You may wonder, what of Israel? Were they not the object and extent of God’s missional activity through the Old Testament? God established the nation of Israel because of his covenant with Abraham, but the goal (as we noted above from Genesis 12:3), was always the nations!  Jeremiah wrote, “Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest (Jeremiah 2:3a)”, and Isaiah, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Is 49:6).”