Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.


Romans: 4:17:

(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.


Jesus Refutes the Sadducees


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.”





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