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Friday, May 6, 2011

Models of Eschatology Part 7: The Significance of Nations on the New Earth

A New Creation Model affirms the presence of nations not only in the Millennium, but also in the Eternal State. Three references indicate this:

Rev 21:24-26: The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.

Rev 22:3: in the middle of its street On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

It is significant that when we arrive at the final two chapters of the Bible, the ‘people of God’ are called “the nations.” This happens three times. These “nations” were probably in mind in Rev 21:3 when it was stated “and they shall be My peoples” (while many translations have “my people” the better manuscripts have “my peoples” which is laoi in Greek).

These references to nations cannot simply be references to Gentiles in a generic sense since Rev 21:24 mentions “kings of the earth.” These nations have leaders known as “kings” which implies that the nations have leaders that rule over specific nations with geographical territories. These kings bring their “glory” into the New Jerusalem which probably includes cultural contributions. (art, music, food, perhaps?) The fact that the kings of the nations bring their cultural contributions into the New Jerusalem suggests that nations exist outside of the New Jerusalem.

The declaration of Rev 22:3 that “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” may indicate that the nations in the Eternal State have continuity with nations during this present age. The nations that once warred with each other now experience continual healing and they exist in harmony. If there were no continuity with our present nations why would there be a need to mention “healing”?

The presence of nations also indicates that there is diversity in the Eternal State amidst the unity of salvation that all experience in Christ. Ethnic and functional diversity can exist alongside the unity of salvation in Christ just as men and women can be distinct in gender and function while still experiencing the same salvation in Jesus. The Trinity itself evidences both unity (one God) and diversity (three persons with differing roles). Yes, unity and diversity can exist in perfect harmony!

If one recognizes that “nations” exist in eternity, then certainly there should be no problem recognizing Israel’s role as a distinct nation among the nations. Thus, the presence of nations in eternity gives further evidence for national Israel’s existence into eternity.  Would it not be odd to have differing nations on the New Earth with no nation of Israel present? Isa 66:22 affirms Israel’s perpetuity on the New Earth:

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth
              Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,
             “So your [Israel’s] offspring and your name will endure.”

While the New Earth will certainly be filled with corporate worship of God, the presence of nations and kings outside of the New Jerusalem indicates that the people of God are involved in more than an eternal church service. The New Earth is full of diversity and activity. One of the greatest miracles which will bring glory to God is the unity that will take place among different ethnic groups and nations as they exist in peaceful harmony and work together to bring glory to our great God.

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