Joachim Jeremias on Jesus’ Promise to the Nations

Jeremias was a German scholar writing in the mid-twentieth century whose best-known work is probably his volume on Jesus and the Parables. He write extensively on New Testament matters including a short 1958 work entitled, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, which aims to investigate the missional dimensions of Jesus’ eschatological sayings. I’ll reproduce here the contents plus Jeremias’ forward and conclusion to give you the idea:


I. Three important negative conclusions
   a. Jesus pronounce a stern judgement upon the Jewish mission
   b. Jesus forbade his disciples during his lifetime to preach to non-Jews
   c. Jesus limited his own activity to Israel

II. Three important positive conclusions
   a. Jesus removes the idea of vengeance from the eschatological expectation
   b. Jesus promises the Gentiles a share in salvation
   c. The redemptive activity and lordship of Jesus includes the Gentiles

III. The solution to the problem

IV. Conclusion: What about the Mission?


The present work has a twofold aim. It is in the first place a New Testament study, and secondly an examination of the basis of missionary activity. Following the suggestions of Sundkler, it seeks, first of all, to draw attention to a neglected element in the message of Jesus, and attempts ot show how large a place in the eschatological sayings of Jesus is given to the Old Testament conception of the pilgrimage of the nations to the Mountain of God.
At the same time the author also hopes that this work may have some significance for the inner logic of missionary activity, and for its Biblical basis. There can be no doubt that the exposition of the ‘negative’ element in the first part of this work, enables us to get a clear view of the immense extent of the promise which Jesus held out to the nations. The events of Easter ushered in the dawn of that final day in which the fulfilment of this promise to the nations and to Israel began to take effect. The special glory of the missionary endevour lies in the fact that it is a very palpable part of the final consummation inaugurated at Eater.


What about the Mission?
What conclusions for the modern missionary task may be drawn from the strictly eschatalogical outlook of Jesus? Has it been rendered superfluous by acceptance of the fact that according to the preaching of Jesus it will be by God’s act of power that the Gentiles will be brought in to the Kingdom of God in the final consummation? Far from it. WHat is significant for the missionary task is the realization to which we have been brought, that it is firmly rooted in God’s redemptive activity. In Jesus’ sayings about the Gentiles we find: 1. an unparalleled insistence on humility. Man can do nothing. It is not our preaching that brings about the ingathering of the Gentiles. Even Jesus himself did not make the world Christian, but he died on the Cross. God alone does it all. The fundamental note and inmost core of the message of Jesus, resounding in all his sayings about the Gentiles, is confidence in the reality of God and the vastness of his mercy.
But at the same time the sayings of Jesus about the Gentiles are: 2. a revelation of the overriding importance and value of the missionary task. Easter saw the dawn of the Last Day. The Gentile mission is the beginning of God’s final act in the gathering of the Gentiles. The Gentile mission is God’s own activity. As God’s eschatological activity it is an anticipation of the visible enthronement of the Son of Man, and as such it is ‘the actual sign’ of the period between Easter and the Parousia. The firstfruits of the Gentiles are signs, an earnest of the fulfilment, foretastes of the final consummation. Just as justification, the gist of the Spirit, sonship, the communion of the Lord’s Table, are God’s gracious gifts for the period of waiting for the consummation, so too are the Gentiles whom God brings into the Church of Jesus Christ. The missionary task is part of the final fulfilment, a divine factual demonstration of the exaltation of the Son of Man, an eschatology in process of realization. It offers the possibility of co-operating with God in his gracious anticipation of the decisive hour of redemption described in Isa. 25: the Gentiles accepted as guests at God’s Table (v. 6), the veil torn from their eyes (v. 7), and death abolished for ever (v. 8).

I came across this book thanks to my good friend Richard Johnson, who runs Qoheleth Resources, the second hand theological booksellers. He sends out a weekly sheet with loads of bargains so I’d recommend getting on the mailing list.

Exodus, Church and Mission

Exodus, Church and Mission is the title of an evening class mini-series we are running at Redcliffe College in May.

Here’s the blurb from Redcliffe’s website

Evening Classes: Exodus, Church and Mission
With Richard Johnson, Associate Lecturer in Biblical Studies

2 sessions:

Monday 17 and 24 May 2010, 7.30pm to 9.30pm

In partnership with the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission

The book of Exodus is full of exciting stories and important teaching about God, his people, and their role in the world. This mini-series of two evening classes will help you to understand the big picture of Exodus, as well as how it applies to living as the people of God in the 21st century.

Monday 17 May – An Overview of the Book of Exodus
How does the book of Exodus fits together and how does it fit into the wider story of the Bible? As well as addressing these questions Richard will also deal practically with how we can get the most out of reading Exodus on our own or in small groups.

Monday 24 May – Themes for Church and Mission in the book of Exodus
Drawing on themes from the book of Exodus, Richard will suggest ways in which these apply to church life and mission in the 21st century.
Formerly Redcliffe’s Head of Biblical Studies, Richard Johnson is now an Associate Lecturer in Biblical Studies, runs a bookselling business, and has an itinerant teaching ministry. For more details about Richard please visit his website Qoheleth Resources.

Cost and booking
The mini-series costs £6 per session, which is payable on each night. Pre-registration is required. To book your place, contact

Directions: Please see our directions page for details on how to find us.