Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he
believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as
though they were.
Question: What is the meaning of the second part of this verse: “God who . . . calleth those
things which be not as though they were.”?
Answer: To properly understand this, we must consider the entire verse, and compare it with
other Scriptures. The quotation “Thou shalt be a father of many nations” comes from
Genesis 17: 4: “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many
nations.” This is one of many promises that God made to Abraham.
According to the Scriptures, Abraham and his family foreshadow important features of God’s
Plan. Perhaps the best explanation is found in Galatians 4: 22-31. Although beyond the scope of
our answer, the Apostle Paul here clearly shows that the mothers Sarah and Hagar, and their
respective sons, Isaac and Ishmael, pre-figure or type various individuals, classes and covenants.
Abraham in this context seems to type God as the “begetter” – through the Law and Grace
covenants – of the Jewish nation and the Church respectively.
Returning to v. 17: “Before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead.” When
these words were recorded the resurrection was (and is) future.
God always speaks of those features of His Plan which are yet future as if they have come to
pass. Many unbelievers think that death ends all. But Jehovah intends to awaken all the dead
from their graves, an expectation based on the sure foundation of Christ’s ransom-sacrifice, and
therefore, an absolute certainty from God’s point of view. He sees the dead as merely
experiencing a temporary suspension of life, as being asleep.
On one occasion, the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection or any future life, tackled Jesus in
an attempt to refute His teachings on this point. Jesus’ answer to them is in Luke 20: 37, 38:
37 Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he called the Lord
the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
38 For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
Jesus here confirms a future life on the basis that God would not refer to Himself in the present
tense as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had they gone out of existence forever. Jesus
asserts that though man may regard the dead as extinct, from God’s anticipatory standpoint, “for
all live unto him”; in other words, to God, all are alive, that they only sleep, awaiting the
resurrection morning. Though the original sentence upon Adam and his descendants was to
death, that verdict has been overturned by the ransom-sacrifice of Jesus.
God declares the fixedness and unalterable nature of His great Plan of salvation for the world of
mankind. His infinite wisdom and sovereign power guarantee His predictions, and give the
Christian a strong foundation for faith (Isaiah 46: 10):
“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet
done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”