Christian missions in the Old Testament

"They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." — Acts 17:11

Does the Old Testament (a.k.a. Hebrew Bible) have a missionary message?

drawing of a globeHarvest passages: 120 Old Testament verses relevant to world missions

Why is world missionary work important? We have a mission to fulfill: Biblical passages dealing with world evangelism

Here is a partial listing of Old Testament missionary scriptures — scriptures concerning missions — from the Hebrew Bible. Use these to encourage a clear missionary vision. Several passages have links to where they are cited on other pages of this website.

Some of these Bible verses relating to missions would make great Faith Promise convention themes.

In order of the number of verses on this list, Psalms has the most with 48. Isaiah is second with 29. Jeremoiah has 5. Deuteronomy and Zechariah each have 4 verses. Genesis, Ezekiel, 2 Chronicles and Micah each have 3. Exodus, 1 Samuel, Daniel and Zephaninah have 2. The following books have one verse in this listing: Numbers, Joshua, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, Habakkuk, Haggai, and Malachi. Jonah is listed with just one verse (4:11) but the whole book is the story of a reluctant missionary.

"We must choose this day whether weniel will hide our eyes from the need and close our ears to the call or whether we will tackle with new decisiveness, mixed with humility and devotion, the unchanging command of a faithful God who is still seeking." — Ralph Winter in Faithful in Christ Jesus: A mission reader

What do the Gospels, letters, and the book of Revelation have to say about world missions? 58 New Testament verses about world evangelism

Old Testament and World Missions

  1. Genesis 1:1 — "God created" (therefore is owed worship by all creation) — Engage magazine article
  2. Genesis 9:17 — God's covenant with "all life on the earth"
  3. Genesis 12:1-3 (repeated in Gen. 18:18, 22:17-18, 26:4 and 28:12-14) — Engage magazine article
  4. Exodus 9:14-16 — "I have raised you up for this very purpose . . . that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth"
  5. Exodus 19:6 — Israel was to be a "kingdom of priests" — Engage magazine article
  6. Numbers 14:21 — glory of Lord fills the whole earth
  7. Deuteronomy 4:6-8 — show your understanding to the nations1
  8. Deuteronomy 10:19 — "You are to love those who are aliens" — Engage magazine article
  9. Deuteronomy 28:10 — "all the peoples on the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord"
  10. Deuteronomy 32:1 - "Hear, O earth, the words of my mouth."
  11. Joshua 4:24 — "so that all the peoples of the earth might know"
  12. 1 Samuel 2:10 — "The Lord will judge the ends of the earth."
  13. 1 Samuel 17:46 — "the whole world will know there is a God in Israel"
  14. 1 Kings 8:41-43, 59-60 (also in 2 Chronicles 6:32-33) — "so that all peoples of the earth may know your name" (Solomon's prayer at dedication of Temple)
  15. 2 Kings 19:15, 19 — "Hezekiah prayed . . . : O Lord, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.'"
  16. 1 Chronicles 16:23-24 — "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples"
  17. 1 Chronicles 16:28 — "O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength."
  18. 1 Chronicles 16:31 "Let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, The Lord reigns!'"
  19. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 — "so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you"
  20. Psalm 2:7-10 — "You are my Son . . . I will make the nations your inheritance"
  21. Psalm 7:7-8 — "Let the Lord judge the peoples"
  22. Psalm 8:9 — "How majestic is your name in all the earth!"
  23. Psalm 9:11 — "Proclaim among the nations what he has done." — Engage magazine article
  24. Psalm 18:49 — "I will praise you among the nations" — Engage magazine article
  25. Psalm 19:1-4 — "their words to the ends of the world"
  26. Psalm 22:26-28 — "all the families of the nations will bow down"
  27. Psalm 22:27 — "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord" — Engage magazine article
  28. Psalm 24 — "The earth is the Lord's"
  29. Psalm 33 — "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord"
  30. Psalm 45:17 — "The nations will praise you for ever and ever"
  31. Psalm 46:10 — "I will be exalted among the nations"
  32. Psalm 47 — "God reigns over the nations"
  33. Psalm 48:10 — "Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth" — Engage magazine article
  34. Psalm 49:1 — "Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world"
  35. Psalm 50 — "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets"
  36. Psalm 57 — "I will sing of you among the peoples"
  37. Psalm 59:13 — "It will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob."
  38. Psalm 65:5-8 — "the hope of all the ends of the earth . . . where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy" — Engage magazine article
  39. Psalm 66 — "All the earth bows down to you . . . Praise our God, O peoples"
  40. Psalm 67 — "your salvation among all peoples"
  41. Psalm 68:32 — "Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth" — Engage magazine article
  42. Psalm 72 — "all nations will serve him"
  43. Psalm 72:9 — "the desert tribes will bow before him"
  44. Psalm 72:17, 19 — "All nations will be blessed through him . . . May the whole earth be filled with his glory"
  45. Psalm 77:14 — "you display your power among the peoples"
  46. Psalm 82 — "all the nations are your inheritance"
  47. Psalm 83:18 — "You alone are the Most High over all the earth."
  48. Psalm 86:8-13 — all nations will come and worship
  49. Psalm 87 — the register of the peoples — Engage magazine article
  50. Psalm 96 — "sing to the Lord, all the earth . . . Declare his glory among the nations"
  51. Psalm 97:1 — "The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice."
  52. Psalm 98:3 — "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."
  53. Psalm 98:9 — "He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity."
  54. Psalm 99:1-3 — "He is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name"
  55. Psalm 102:15 — "The nations will fear the name of theLord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory."
  56. Psalm 102:22 — "When the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord"
  57. Psalm 105:1 — "Make known among the nations what He has done" — Engage magazine article
  58. Psalm 106:8 — The reason for dividing the Red Sea
  59. Psalm 107:3 — "The redeemed of the Lord . . . those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south"
  60. Psalm 108:3 — "I will sing of you among the peoples"
  61. Psalm 108:5 — "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth."
  62. Psalm 110:6 — "He will judge the nations"
  63. Psalm 113:3 — "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised" — Engage magazine article
  64. Psalm 117 — "Praise the Lord, all you nations"
  65. Psalm 126 — "it was said among the nations"
  66. Psalm 135 — "our Lord is greater than all gods"
  67. Psalm 138:4 — "May all the kings of the earth praise you, O Lord"
  68. Ecclesiastes 3:11 — "[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men."
  69. Isaiah 2:3 — "Many peoples will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.'"
  70. Isaiah 5:26 — "He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth."
  71. Isaiah 6:3 — "They were calling to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'"
  72. Isaiah 11:9 — "Fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord"
  73. Isaiah 11:10 — "A Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples, the nations will rally to Him"
  74. Isaiah 12:4 — "Make known among the nations what He has done"
  75. Isaiah 24:14-16 — "From the ends of the earth we hear singing: Glory to the Righteous One.'" — Engage magazine article
  76. Isaiah 25:6 — "The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples"
  77. Isaiah 34:1 — "Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples!"
  78. Isaiah 37:16 — "O Lord Almighty . . . , you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth."
  79. Isaiah 40:5 — "The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together."
  80. Isaiah 42:4 — "In His law the islands will put their hope"
  81. Isaiah 42:6 — "I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles."
  82. Isaiah 42:10 — "Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise from the end of the earth"
  83. Isaiah 43:6 — "I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'"
  84. Isaiah 45:6 — "From the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me." — Engage magazine article
  85. Isaiah 45:22 — "Turn to me . . . all you ends of the earth"
  86. Isaiah 49:1-6 — "I will make you a light for the Gentiles"
  87. Isaiah 49:22 — "The Sovereign Lord says: "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples."
  88. Isaiah 51:4-5 — "My justice will become a light to the nations . . . the coastlands hope for me"
  89. Isaiah 52:7, 10 — "The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God."
  90. Isaiah 56:3 — "Let not the man from a strange land who has joined the Lord say, 'For sure the Lord will keep me away from His people.'"
  91. Isaiah 56:7 — "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations"
  92. Isaiah 57:19 — "Peace to those near and far . . . I will heal them"
  93. Isaiah 59:19 — "From the west, men will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere His glory."
  94. Isaiah 60:3 — "Nations will come to your light"
  95. Isaiah 62:11 — "The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth"
  96. Isaiah 65:1 — "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."
  97. Isaiah 66:18-19 — "They will proclaim my glory among the nations" — Engage magazine article
  98. Jeremiah 1:5 — "I appointed you as a prophet to the nations"
  99. Jeremiah 3:17 — "All nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord"
  100. Jeremiah 12:16 — "If they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, 'As surely as the Lord lives' -- even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal then they will be established among my people."
  101. Jeremiah 16:19 To you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, "Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good."
  102. Jeremiah 31:10 — "Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands" — Engage magazine article
  103. Ezekiel 34:4, 6 — "[My sheep] were scattered over the whole earth and no one searched or looked for them."
  104. Ezekiel 36:22-23 — "The nations will know I am the Lord."
  105. Ezekiel 38:20 — "All the people on earth will tremble at my presence"
  106. Daniel 2:47; 4:1-2; 6:25 — "Surely your God is the God of gods"
  107. Daniel 7:13, 14 — "all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him"
  108. jonah 4:11 — "And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh." Jonah's story — the missionary book of the Old Testament [ ebook on the message of Jonah for us today ] [ Engage magazine article ]
  109. Micah 1:2 — "Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it."
  110. Micah 4:2 — "Many nations will come"
  111. Micah 5:4 — "His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth."
  112. Habakkuk 2:14 — "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea"
  113. Zephaniah 2:11 — "Nations on every shore will worship him"
  114. Zephaniah 3:9 — "Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord." — Engage magazine article
  115. Haggai 2:7 — "Desire of all nations"
  116. Zechariah 2:11 — "Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people"
  117. Zechariah 8:20-23 — "Many peoples and inhabitants of many cities will come"
  118. Zechariah 9:10 — "He will proclaim peace to the nations"
  119. Zechariah 14:9 — "The Lord will be king over the whole earth."
  120. Malachi 1:10-11 — "My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun" — Engage magazine article

Is there a common thread?

Echoing throughout this list of Old Testament verses is that God's glory and name should be proclaimed among all the nations and peoples of the earth. That is evident in verses where it is mentioned that God created everything, and hence, all creation owes Him worship. The verses also highlight God's covenant with all life on earth and His plan to be known and glorified among the nations. Furthermore, the verses mention that Israel was to be a "kingdom of priests" and that all people on earth should know the name of the Lord. The Psalms repeatedly emphasize the message that God's glory and name should be declared among all nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun.

80 New Testament passages about world missions

Whatever groups we divide humanity into — races, nations, languages, cultures — it is clear that God loves all of them and wants people from all those groupings to be reconciled to Him.

Video: "Making disciples in all nations" (13 minutes)

In top-line blessings/bottom-line responsibilities categories used by Don Richardson and Bob Sjogren, many of the biblical passages on this page are of the bottom-line responsibility type.

Prayer: The mission of the church

"O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near. Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you.

"Bring the nations into your fold. Pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten the coming of your Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

  — Book of Common Prayer (Anglican)

"Make known among the nations what He has done." — Psalm 105:1

1In the Bible, the word "nations" does not mean political entities like China, India, and the USA. Rather, it means people groups or societies in which people speak the same language, have the same culture, and live in or have originated in the same area. "Nations" is synonymous with the plural word "peoples." In other words, nations in the Bible means all of the people groups of the world other than the people of Israel.

    -- compiled by Howard Culbertson,

Afterword: Does the Old Testament say anything about world missions?

Yes, the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, does contain passages that express God's desire that all people know about Him. One significant example is found in the book of Isaiah, where God emphasizes His plan for salvation note the inclusion of all nations in it.

Isaiah 49:6 says: "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." This verse reflects the prophet Isaiah's message that God's salvation is not only for the Israelites but also for all peoples, extending to the ends of the earth.
Psalm 67:2-4 says: "May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you."

These two passages, along with more than one hundred others listed above, show that God desires for His name to be known and praised among all peoples. The Old Testament clearly shows the universal aspect of God's plan of salvation along with His desire that every ethnolinguistic group know about Him.

PDF page of missions slogans, classic scripture passages and faces from the "crowd of witnesses"

"Throughout scripture, God made His passion known for the people of all nations. Right from the beginning, God was not just invested in the Hebrew people. He loves and longs for all nations." -- Louise S., Nazarene Bible College student

The barbarians become Christian

pointing rightIn the years 400-800 AD the Germanic tribes of central Europe turned to Christ in massive numbers. [ more ]

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