The Greek word ethnos(plural: ethnon) does not adequately and accurately translate the Hebrew word goy(plural: goyim). No word in Greek can adequately translate “goy(im).” It is from the Greek word “ethnos” that we derive the English word ethnic and its cognates. Admittedly, ethnos is the nearest Greek word to the Hebrew goy. Whenever the word ethnos is mentioned, what comes to mind is the English equivalent, nation. Admittedly, the Hebrew word “goy” is also used to refer to a nation. For example, God promised to make a Abraham a great nation, “goy gadol”(Gen.12:20. The modern socio-political concept of nation is that of nation-state such as Ghana, Nigeria etc. However, in Hebrew, the word goy is any person other than a Jew. The Jewish political and religious mindset recognizes only two groups of people in broad categories, viz; the Jew who is any descendant of Abraham through Jacob, and the non-jew which is the rest of humanity. In other words anyone who is not a descendant of Abraham through Jacob. The Jews are the “circumcision,” and the non-Jews are the “uncircumcision” or “goyim”(Eph.2:11).
The term Jew is an English derivative of the Hebrew “Yehudi,” which means man of Judah, the official reference to the Israelite of the Southern Kingdom under the leadership of the Davidic dynasty. After the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC, it became the common appellative of all Israelites of both the Southern and Northern Kingdoms descent. We must remember that the Northern Kingdom was taken into captivity into Assyria in 722 BC. As Assyria was defeated by the Neo-Babbylonian Empire in 612 BC at the battle of Nineve, the Israelite exiles in its realm of Northern Kingdom descent were absorbed into the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Thusly, the name of Judah gained supremacy over his brethren in fulfillment of the prophecy of Jacob concerning Judah on his deathbed in Goshen in the land of Egypt: ” Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise”(Gen.49:8).
The LXX consistently translates goy as ethnos. In English ethnos and goy are variously translated as nation , heathen or pagan. Both heathen and pagan smirk of religious discrimination. In judaistic religious thought any non-Jewish person is a goy, a heathen or pagan- a person that does not know the God of Israel- a person in a non-covenantal relationship with the Jahweh of Judah, the LORD GOD of Israel. Therefore there were the Jews and the heathen which referred to the non-Israelite ethnic groups that inhabited the land of Canaan primarily, and generally the rest of humanity. This is the judaistic and OT dichotomous view of humanity. The OT dichotomous view is a broad categorical view which did not take cognizance of the petty religious discrimination and racial segregation within Judaism which classified Gentile proselytes to Judaism into several categories. The only way for a non-Jew not to be a heathen or pagan was to convert to Judaism, i.e., become a Jew. When a non-Jew converted to Judaism, he or she is no longer a pagan or heathen, but a Jew, though with reservations contingent on the depth of conversion and degree of commitment and observance of the Law of Moses. This understanding probably explains why the worshippers in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost were regarded as Jews though, obviously some were proselytes to Judaism(Acts 2:10).
The predominantly Jewish protochurch in Jerusalem expressed bewilderment over the gift of the Holy Spirit to non-Jews who had not earlier converted to Judaism(Acts 10:44-48), and chided Peter for dining with the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion(Gal.2:12,13). It may be pertinent at this juncture to remind us that there was no dust raised over a similar conversions amongst the Samaritans who were mongrel Jews(2 Kin.17:24-44), but rather Apostles Peter and John were dispatched to administer the Holy Spirit to them(Acts 8:14-17). Proselytism was an accepted means of conversion of a non-Jew to Judaism(Matt23:15). From the foregoing, it was evident that if a non-Jew wished to be a Jew, he had to convert to Judaism. Although he was not well accepted, it was evident that this practice of discrimination against the proselytes was contrary to divine injunction in the Law of Moses. If a Gentile who lived amongst Jews wanted to observe the Passover, he was welcome, but he must first be circumcised(Exod.12:48). When the children of Israel left the land of Egypt, the congregation was a mixed multitude. There were Egyptians as well as other sojourners in the land of Egypt who saw the wonders, and signs performed by the God of Israel who decided to cast their lot with the people of Israel. They were strangers alright, but they were free to worship the God of Israel alongside native born Israelites. It was for this reason of discrimination and segregation that Jesus chided the Pharisees who compassed land and sea to make proselytes, only to turn round and make twice a child of Hell than themselves(Matt.23:15).
We must remember that the Jewish eunuch so rendered, either from natural, accidental, intentional or deliberate orchidectomy was barred access into the congregation of Yahweh(Deut.23:1). One born outside wedlock was also denied access into the congregation of the Lord(Deut.23:2). So also was the Moabite and the ammonite because they did not meet the children of Israel with bread and water on the way when they came out of the land of Egypt(Deut.23:3-6). we conclude therefore that the word Gentile more appropriately captures the meaning of goy in the OT Jewish religious thought.
The Bible records that on the day of Pentecost, there were Jews from every nation under heaven in Jerusalem(Acts 2:5), some of then no doubt were proselytes to Judaism. Following Peter’s message, about three thousand souls were added to the number of the disciples(Acts 2:41). Is there evidence that they were all Palestinian and Diaspora Jews only? Of the Gentile converts to Judaism, were there none that believed on that day of Pentecost? Evidently some of them believed on that day, and were also filled with the Holy Spirit. Why was it that no one raised eyebrow about that? Why did it not raise a lot of furors? If these Gentile converts were regarded as non-Jews, why were the Jewish leaders of the protochurch in Jerusalem fussy with Peter over the conversion of the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius?(Acts 11:1-18; Gal.2:1-21). The bone of contention was not just that those men were of Gentile descent, but they were uncircumcised. The Gentile coverts to Judaism were circumcised just like the Jews as a sign of covenantal relationship with the God of Israel. When a Gentile converted to Judaism, he was required to be circumcised like his Jewish counterpart as a sign of covenantal relationship with Yahweh, the God of Israel. Naturally, the Jewish male infant undergoes the ceremony of “brit milah” on the 8th day from the day of birth according to God’s command to Abraham(Gen.17:9-14; Rom.4:11), which was later incorporated into the Law of Moses(Jon.7:22,23).
Although Gentiles who showed interest in Judaism were categorized as inquirers, audientes, supplientes, genufletes etc, when a Gentiles advances from inquiries arising from curiosity to commitment to the God of Israel by submission to circumcision and observance of the Law of Moses, he was regarded as a true proselyte to Judaism, and therefore a Jew, even though he was not quite well accepted. This probably explains why no dusts were raised over the Gentile proselytes to Judaism who were in the number added to the protochurch on the day of Pentecost though the Jewish leaders of the Protochurch in Jerusalem were later to be fussy with Peter over his preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. Cornelius was probably regarded as a righteous Gentile, i.e., a Gentile who showed interest in the God of Israel, and followed it up with good works especially towards Jews and the nation of Israel, but was not yet fully converted to Judaism by being circumcised and being fully observant.
When Christianity began in Palestine, it was as a sect within Judaism. Paul was accused of been heritical to the point of blasphemy because he taught the Jews in Diaspora that circumcision and the observance of the Law of Moses was not necessary for salvation(Acts 21:21; cp Gal.5:6, 6:15), contrary to the teaching of the judaisers from Jerusalem. Jews who abandoned their commitment to Yahweh in the days of Antiochus sought to remove their jewishness by hiding the mark of circumcision(1 Macc.1:11-14). Paul’s Jewish convert to Christianity in the Diaspora had no such scruples. As far as the protochurch in Jerusalem was concerned, a true Gentile convert to Judaism who had proved his commitment to Yahweh by circumcision and strict adherence to the Law of Moses was Jewish, otherwise the fussy reaction of the leaders of the protochurch in Jerusalem to Peter’s incursion to the house of Cornelius with the Gospel was sensless and meaningless if the protochurch had earlier admitted to her fold Gentile converts to Christianity who had no prior conversion to Judaism; inasmuch as it was evident that some of the converts to Christianity on the day of Pentecost were proselytes to Judaism as contained in the phrase ” …. visitors from Rome ( both Jews and converts to Judaism ); ….”(Acts 2:10,11).
It was the teaching of the Judaisers in Antioch in Syria, which was contrary to that of Paul and Barnabas that gave rise to the Jerusalem Council and the first encirclicle from the Church leadership in Jerusalem to the Gentile Church in Antioch in Syria. Both Paul and Barnabas conveyed this good news to the other Gentile churches they founded. Paul encountered these Judaisers in various Gentile cities he ministered in the Roman Empire. It was these Judaisers and Judaists who informed the Jerusalem community against Paul(Acts 21:21). In order to please the elders of the church in Jerusalem, avoid an uproar, and prevent persecution against the Nosrim, Paul compromised his Faith in Jerusalem, a hypocritical act of which he had earlier accused Peter in Antioch(Gal.2:11-21). Paul was not afraid of being lynched or imprisoned on account of the gospel he passionately preached, nor did he lack the intellectual ability to defend his teachings; his choice was a misguided love of the brethren. The counsel of the elders in Jerusalem was ill-informed and led to compromises on both their part and that of Paul(Acts 21:17-26). It availed nothing in that Paul in spite of adherence to the counsel of the elders was subsequently arrested, molested, tried, and imprisoned(Acts 21:28).
However, with its trichotomous view of racial groups, the NT introduced a new dimension to the Jewish religious concept of identity, by the divine creation of a new international community of believers who have expressed faith in the soteriological and substitutionary works of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Like the OT dichotmous view, the NT trichotomous view is also a broad categorical view which within the OT dichotomous view creates room for Jews and Gentiles in one international family of God whilst disregarding the petty religious discrimination and racial seggregation within Judaism in relation to the rest of mankind. This is only possible because of the new life in Christ Jesus. Therefore Paul commands believers to give no offence neither to the Jew, nor the Gentile, nor the church of God(1 Cor.10:32). The Church, the Ekklesia, a called out people, are called out from amongst Jews and Gentiles into Christ. So, the Church consists of any number of these two groups, who have expressed faith in the risen Saviour, Jesus The Christ, our Lord. The relationship between the three groups is represented in the diagrammatic schema of two circles. The intercept of the two circles constitutes the Church of God.
With regards to the Church, petty religious and ethnic discrimination was evident from the very beginning. For example, in the early church in Jerusalem, the Grecians complained against the Hebrews that their women were neglected in the daily distribution of provisions(Acts 6:1). The Grecians were Hellenized Jews. The Hebrews were native born Palestinian Jews. The grecians also felt that they were not well recognized as the other Jews. Besides, further attempts were made to coerce the Gentiles believers to submit to the Mosiac ritual of circumcision as a prerequisite to true conversion and salvation. Efforts to resolve this disturbing development led to the convening of the Jerusalem Council and the injunctions that follwed(Acts 15). Therefore, it was a self-evident fact that petty religious discrimination and racial segregation were rampant in early Christianity as in Judaism. It was therefore virtually impossible to devise a concept of categorization that could take care of the various groups. As is common in our day, nearly any social parameter, vocation, city of origin, language etc could constitute a means of categorization. This phenomenon was not altogether unprofitable; for some of these groups catered to the needs of their member more efficiently than the larger body of Christ would do.
With regards to divine retribution, the Bible clearly states in Rom.8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit….” The believer in Christ Jesus will not be judged in the sense that he will not be sentenced and banished to Hell, being already justified by faith in Christ Jesus ( Eph.2:8,9 ). What will be tried or judged is the work of the believer(1 Cor.5:10). The Bema Seat judgment of the believer (1 Cor.3:11-17 )is one of two events that will take place in heaven after the Rapture of The Church during the 30-day Reclamation Period of the kingdom(Dan.12:11), the other being the marriage of the Lamb. It is the outcome of this judgment that will determine our roles as co-regents with Christ during the Millennium(Matt.14-30). There are other views of the location of the Bema in the sky, and on Earth, of which one would do well to take note of. However, the location of this event is not our concern in this reflection.
The Jew will face trial during the time of Jacob’s trouble which is the Great Tribulation, and the Trumpet Judgments(Jer.30:7; Matt.24:21). The unbranded and saved remnant of Israel will be exempt from the Bowl Judgments being hidden in Azal(Zech.14:5). There are some biblical scholars that argue that the Great Tribulation is strictly judgmental of Israel. Hence, the christian may not be involved, the Rapture having occurred earlier, except for the so called Tribulation saints. This view is pretribulational. It does not have the mandate of the Scriptures; it is not strictly an explicit biblical teaching, but rather an inference derived from a theological mold. There is no single verse of Scriptures that teaches rapture before tribulation. The assumption that the Great Tribulation is strictly a divine retribution against Israel, and therefore excludes Christians is blatantly unbiblical.
The Great Tribulation provides trial and purification for the Jew, Gentile, and the Church of God, the three divisions of humanity. The hour of temptation(Peirasmos) that shall try all those who dwell upon the Earth(Rev.3:10), which is the Great Tribulation is inclusive of all, and exempts no one, the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God. The faithful and uncompromising Christian exemplified by the Church of Philadelphia is not exempted from the Great Tribulation, but is given protection within its sphere, and then delivered totally out from within its sphere after its interruption by the celetial disturbances associated with the breaking of the 6th seal(Rev.6:12-14; Matt.24:29-30), prior to the breaking of the 7th seal which is the wrath of God. The compromising Christian, exemplified by the church of Thyatira is not offered divine protection during the Great Tribulation, and therefore faces the full brunt of the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist, but is also delivered from it after the cosmic disturbances interrupt the Great Tribulation. The 144,000 are not sealed till after the cosmic disturbances which portends the wrath of God is about to be poured out upon the living wicked earth-dwellers(Rev.6:15-17; 7:1-8). They have passed through the Great Tribulation before being sealed for protection from the wrath of God in the trumpets and the bowls.
In the interlude between the 6th seal and the breaking of the 7th seal, the Church is rapture and the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel are sealed for protection by the appearance of the Son of Man in the heavens, the Shekinah. Therefore the interlude protects from the wrath of God by the rapture of the Church and the sealing of the 144,000. The remnant of Israel other than the 144,000 are further purged, purified and cleansed by the outpouring of the wrath of God in the trumpet judgments. Shortly before the sounding of the 7th trumpet, the unbranded remnant of Israel are saved, thus completing the spiritual kingdom of God(Rev.10:7). The bowl judgments target the antiChrist and his minions, all those who have the Mark of the Beast. This accounts for the survival of the Gentiles who do not have the Mark of the Beast after the battle of Armageddon, who will appear at the Sheep and Goat Judgment. The Sheep, those justified, will repopulate the Earth in the Millennium alongside the saved remnant of Israel.
The Prewrath Rapture view is acceptable because it understands that there is only one Second Coming of Christ, the episunagogue being an integral part of the Parousia, the first initial act being the cosmocelestial disturbances(Matt.24:29-31). As the Church is a bride to be joined to her husband and therefore must be purified, even so is Israel an estranged wife to be reconciled to her husband after her purification. At the Second Coming of the Messiah, every unbranded Jew shall be saved(Zech.10:10-12; Rom.11:25,26). This would come as a result of their recognition of the Jewish Messiah as the historic and Christian Jesus; ” they will call upon Him whom they have pierced.” In the three divisions of humanity in our reflection on ethnon, there is no room for Tribulation saints. The Pretribulationist are yet to offer any scriptural basis for the fate of these saints. Will there be second rapture or will they enter heaven or the millennium in their mortal bodies? The Church Age closes with the rapture of the Church. No one can be saved and become a part of the bride of Christ after the rapture.
In the Sheep and Goat Judgment in Matt.24:31-46, The Son of Man has come in His glory with all the holy angels. He sits upon the throne of His father, David, and all nations are gathered before Him. There are some that believe that the Sheep and Goat Judgment is an allegory of the wrath of God upon the heathen in the Day of the Lord. In structural symbolism, this is understood to be the same as the trumpet and bowl judgments of Revelation, which are contained within the 7th seal, and culminates in the final destruction and devastation of Babylon, and the war of Armageddon at which the armies of the nations are annihilated( Rev.8,9,16,17,18,19; Is 13:19-20). This view is at best tenuous and allegorical and therefore has not gained much traction and credence amongst biblical scholars.
Before the nations are judged in the Sheep and Goat Judgment, Satan must be incarcerated in the shaft of the abyss for a thousand years(Rev.20). So, there is really no need for chapter break between Rev. 19 & 20, insofar as the incarceration of Satan in the bottomless pit for a millennium is a direct consequence of Christ’s defeat of his human armies at Armageddon.
As we have pointed out earlier, the Greek word translated nations in KJV, is ethnon, which is the plural of ethnos, is best translated Gentiles. As previously mentioned, the word nations immediately invokes in our minds the modern socio-political concept of nation-states such as Egypt and Syria etc. But this is not what is in view. What is in view is the sun total of all non-Jews, peoples of all races other than Jews who have not received Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour, but are not branded with the Mark of the allegiance to the antiMessiah(Rev.13:18).
Obviously God does judge blocks of peoples socio-politically referred to as nations such as Ghana, Nigeria, etc. This judgment is an on-going process as we can see from both remote and Contemporary events. The war of Armageddon and the destruction of political Babylon and the Babylonian harlot indicate the final eschatological and consummative annihilation of the antiChrist and antisemites from all nations which as we pointed out some biblical scholars believe to be allegorically portrayed in the Sheep and Goat Judgment of the Gentiles. In the Sheep and Goat Judgment, Ghanians who survive the war a of Armageddon who are not beast marked, are not brought together to be judged as Ghanians based on the iniquities of the nation of Ghana. Rather, antisemites and antiChristians from all nations who survive the war of Armageddon and are not beast marked are ultimately wiped out, leaving the Zionist and the pro-Christians to enter the Millennium and repopulate the renovated Earth. This is not to say that national boundaries may not be recognized by the government of Christ. The Earth will be totally renovated and reorganized and new boundaries may be created. No nations will be subjugated by others, and all nations shall be subject to the rule and reign of Christ.
The Bible makes it clear that God is providentially involved in the affairs of nations of the world. The Scriptures state unequivocally that God reigns in the affairs of men and of nations, and also determines the boundaries of nations(Deut.32:8). For example, in the scramble for Africa, Western European nations struggled to acquire colonies in Africa with the egoistic motive to procure cheap labour, and raw materials for the support of their domestic industries, but the invisible hand of God was in operation, behind the scene as it were, determining and setting the boundaries of the new nation-states of Africa in relation to the number of the children of Israel. The Sheep and Goat Judgment will be the judgment of all Gentiles involved with Israel and the believer in Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation. These two groups of peoples, the Jews and the Christians are covenantally related to Jesus, the one according to the flesh, and the other according to the Spirit, and could be referred to as His brethren in a relativistic sense(Jon.20:17).
The criterion for their condemnation or justification is their relative treatment of Christ’s brethren. Admittedly, His brethren would be Jews waiting for the coming of the Messiah, and believers in Jesus waiting for the Second Coming of Christ who repudiate the authority of the antiChrist(Rev.12:17). Interpretatively, the context would be the eschatological 70th Week of Daniel. Granted, the text has a wider application. In the middle eastern culture, hospitality to the stranger is associated with the recognition of whoever the stranger represents(Gen.24; Matt.10:46; Mk.9:41). Consequently, any hospitality shown to the Jew or Christain in dire need at any time whatsoever, is indirectly, and in an ultimate sense shown to Christ, and would invariably and inevitably receive a commensurate reward. Evidently, this would receive an added impetus in the context of the 70th Week of Daniel.