Saturday, August 13, 2016

OF NATIONS AND KINGS

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)

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The Nations

As we continue on in the passage, we read this: “The nations will walk by its light [speaking of the light of the New Jerusalem], 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” (Revelation 21:23-25 NAS).

We learned earlier that the gates are made of a single pearl, but apparently the pearls are for adornment only, since they are never rolled in front of the gate entrance (or whatever other method would be used for closing the gates). The fear of thieves or lack of security is never in question in the New Jerusalem, so the gates remain open always. 

With this sentence, John brings up another subject about not only the New Jerusalem, but the entire New Earth. He speaks here of the nations. Who are these people and are they inhabitants of the New Jerusalem? Of course, we have no answers that are certain, but does not the existence of these people of the nations bring up several interesting questions?


The first mention that we have of the nations in the book of Revelation is back in the second chapter in the letter written to the church in the first century church at Thyatira. In the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, there are seven letters in all. Each of these letters is to a different church located in a region of Asia, which today is the country of Turkey. Although they are letters to first century churches, they also have reference to the very end times. [1]

The letter to Thyatira, written by Jesus Christ, in part says this: “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26 NAS, see also Psalm 2:8).

In yet another vision of John’s, he saw what he said was, 

A great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10 NAS) 

Since the early days of creation, God’s desire was that men and women should distribute themselves throughout the face of the earth so that there would be a diversity of peoples. It is obvious in every aspect of the created world, from the great variety of plants to the great variety of animals, that God loves diversity. It is the same for we, as people. God has never desired that we be a homogenous human race.

The very first words that God spoke to the first man and woman, at least the first ones that are recorded for us were, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

When men later fought against that mandate and decided to build a great city at Babel, specifically so that they would not be scattered, God was obliged to confuse their languages so that they could not understand one another, thus compelling them to separate into different regions.

I earlier mentioned the time that I lived in India. I am grateful for those years and I am also grateful for the opportunities and the privilege that I have had to live and work among other nationalities and in other areas of the world. It has been a great delight to me to do so and I can understand why God also delights in this diversity. We are all so different. We all have something about our personality, our culture, and even our appearance that no one else has. Life and creation itself would be boring indeed were it not for these differences.

Because of this, it is not surprising to me that in eternity there should still be nations. We are different as people, and those differences will be continued into eternity. In these present days, the differences among us very often brings about strife between us. But in the New Earth, none of this strife will exist. That is because the nations will walk by the light of the New Jerusalem.

The subject of light in the Bible has a duel meaning, as you know. The first is the physical light, as is exhibited by the city that radiates illumination. There, its light comes from its very walls. This was the sense of the word that John first spoke of when he talked about the glory of God illuminating the city. But it is the second meaning about which John now speaks when he says that “the nations will walk by its light.” The nations will be walking and living together in a manner shown to us by the light of truth with radiates from the heavenly city. In that place, “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” will ever enter. These things will not be part of our new existence.

We instead will be walking by the light shown to us by the heavenly city. Instead of strife, the differences among us will serve to highlight our individuality and perfection of how God created us.

Today, if you are a very unusual person in some way, this sometimes may cause you some unhappiness because you are not like what the world perceives and the “ideal person.” We must remember that this is the world’s standards and has nothing at all to do with how God looks at us, and in fact, they are usually opposed to how God views us. In that future day in the New Heavens and the New Earth, everyone will truly appreciate your unique characteristics. Our differences will be the cause to give glory to God for how he has made each one of us, unique in our own way.

Diversities among us will be abundant in the new creation. Not only will they be abundant, but they will fill our lives with delights instead of the suspicion and distrust that we today often feel about people who are different than us.

Indeed, the delights of the diversity in the New Heavens and the New Earth will far exceed any flower garden that we today might see, alive with a wide variety of blossoms. In a well-kept flower garden, we look at each blossom and see how beautiful it is as an individual flower. But then we step back and view the entire garden. The joy of the whole of the garden singing together far exceeds any single individual.
Heaven will be like that. 

The Kings of the Earth

Another group of people mentioned in this verse is the kings of the earth. We may be a little surprised that there might still be rulers on the New Earth since, as the Apostle Paul puts it, in the conclusion of all things, we will all be under “the administration of Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). Jesus Christ will be over all.

Still, did not Jesus speak several times of rewards in heaven given in relation to our faithfulness during this present age? Once, when speaking in the context of what would happen in eternity, Jesus told the parable of the talents. In this story, three men were given a sum of money with which to invest while their master was away on a journey. Each was given an amount according to his ability to do a responsible job. Two of them handled the money wisely. Thus, upon the master’s return, their faithfulness was rewarded and they were put in charge of many additional things (Matthew 25:14-29). He told much the same story on at least one other occasion, in which the words of the master to the faithful servant were, “Well done…because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17 NAS).

I mentioned earlier the letters in the first part of the book of Revelation. These are the letters to the seven churches of Asia. Although the letters were put to parchment by John, they are really letters from Jesus Christ, who is called “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5 NAS). Those kings of the earth are apparently not only for this age, but also for the age to come.

It is true that there are presently rulers in this world, whether they be kings or other heads of governments, who do not recognize Jesus Christ as their ruler. However, throughout the book of Revelation, we read how these types of kings, along with the beast and antichrist, make their final stand and set themselves to war against God (Revelation 16:14; 17:14; 19:19). They will not prevail. These evil kings are annihilated. It is only those kings of the earth who recognize that they themselves are under the Lordship of Christ who will be bringing the glory and honor of the nations into the New Jerusalem.

It should not be such an unusual idea for us to think of these positions of authority among us, even in eternity. It is true that in our present thinking in this world, we tend to think of someone in a position of great authority as someone who is more worthy or in some way better than other people. But this is a corrupted idea of what true authority is. One who understands true authority does not see it as a position of privilege, but rather as a position of servitude. He or she is put in that position to serve those under them.

Even in the concept of the body of Christ, which is the church, Paul makes reference to the various parts of the human body. There are many parts to every body, each with its specific purpose and function. There is not one part that is more important than another, but it is just that each has its own responsibility for the proper working of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-30).

Paul even goes so far as to say, “Those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow a more abundant honor” (verse 23, NAS).

Jesus said much the same thing when he said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 NAS). He said also, “Many who are first will be last, and the last, first” (Matthew19:30 NAS).

Thus, when we hear references of the “Kings of the Earth” in the New Earth, vanquish from your mind any thoughts of kings and rulers in our own present day. The kings of the earth that follow the pattern of the world will be no more. Our experiences of this age have much less to do with what the arrangement will be in eternity than we might think. We now only know corruption. In that day we shall know perfection.

These kings of the earth who enter the New Jerusalem will be ones that are under the administration of Christ, and who recognize him as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). 

The Honor of the Nations

John mentions that the kings of the earth will bring the “the glory and the honor” of the nations into it. I wrote earlier about the glory of the nations in regard to our own bodies, our own beings existing in a glorified state. That is, we will exist without any remnants of corruption or rebellion. We will exist in a perfect manner, the manner in which God created us to be. This is what it means to be glorified.

But I believe that it is not only the glorified people themselves that John is speaking about. It is not only the glory of the nations that enter the city, but also what the passage of the Bible calls “the honor of the nations.” The word honor has a slightly different meaning from what we usually think of this word. What the kings and the nations are bringing with them as they come to the New Jerusalem are articles that hold a great value to them. These they are bringing to present to the Lamb who is on the throne. These articles of honor are their worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords. We will be bringing what is best about our cultures and our ethnic groups. We, as the kings of the earth and as the nations will be bringing “our glory” and “our honor” into the New Jerusalem, the city of light.

Again we can see that the diversity of the nations does not disappear in heaven. There are distinctive and very unique characteristics not only about the individuals of the nations, but also about what they do and the things that they make. Our own sense of creativity does not cease to exist in heaven. We will continue to produce those items of handcraft, of art, agriculture, ingenuity and imagination, or a whole list of skills that we will continue to do even in heaven. We do these things not because we need to make a living, as we do here in this present age, but simply from the pure love of our own creativity. The creativity that we possess is what God has instilled within us from his own creativity. What we do with our hands and our minds are our worship to the Lamb who sits on the throne.

So it will be in the New Jerusalem. John describes an existence of complete peace and contentment, where the pressures that we face in this life will be no more and where we will fully recognize our Savior God as creator of all that there is.

John writes, “Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it (speaking of the New Jerusalem), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

In the teachings of Jesus and or reading in the book of Revelation, we can see that our actions here in our present life are very important and will have significance even into eternity. But in this verse we see that, despite the importance of our actions in this present life, our admittance into the New Jerusalem, and indeed, our very existence in eternity does not depend upon what we did or what we did not do in this life. The only factor mentioned is that our names be written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

The Lamb’s Book of Life

Like many things regarding eternal matters, the teaching that we have concerning the Lamb’s book of life is not complete. We told only a small portion of all that there is to know about it. You may have heard preachers tell you that you need to make sure that your name is written in the book of life, and according to the verse we read in Revelation, this much certainly seems to be true. Then these preachers may tell you that when you are saved, your name is written in the book.

Actually however, nowhere in the Bible does it say this. In the story of the lost sheep, Jesus talks about the angels in heaven rejoicing over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7), but he does not talk about writing the repentant person’s name in the Lamb’s book of life.

But if our names are not written into the Book of Life at the time when we are saved, then when are they? The Bible gives no answer on this. The prophet Malachi has written, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name” (Malachi 3:16-17 ESV), but from this rather cryptic statement, it is difficult to conclude anything.

The only indication of timing that we have is one that is in the negative. In the book of Revelation there are two instances of people who are rebelling against God and whose names are not found written “from the foundation of the world” in the book of the Lamb (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). These are the ones who worship “the beast” instead of the Son of God. From this it might seem that this is a book with names written in from the beginning of creation.

The very first mention in the Bible that we have of such a book, if it is the same as the Lamb’s book of life, was by Moses. In entreating God to forgive the Israelites at that time. He pleaded with God, “If you will, forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out from your book which you have written.”

God responded, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of my book” (from Exodus 32:32-33).

In fact, the only action that we see in the Bible of God doing something to the book of life is blotting out or erasing someone’s name from it. David writes of the evil nations, “You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish. You have blotted out their name forever and ever” (Psalm 9:5 ESV).

Although much in unclear about when our names are entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life, the important thing for you and for me is that our names do appear on its pages. Jesus at one time told seventy of his workers above all else in which they could rejoice, the greatest was they should “rejoice that their names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).

In my way of thinking, it seems more likely to me that God places our names in his book when he created us, in the anticipation that we will recognize him as our creator, and that we believe in him and give our lives to him. God is optimistic by nature, and rich in grace. He wants all men and women everywhere to be saved.

The Apostle Peter has told us this about the return of Christ, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

If you are reading these words today, even if you are not yet a believer in Christ, you can rejoice that God is still holding his hand out to you, waiting for you to recognize that there is nothing in this present world that can give you hope of a bright future. Our only hope is to turn our backs on the world to give our lives completely and finally to Jesus.


[1] Please see my book, Watching for the Day
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(Next - The River of Living Waters)

1 comment:

  1. Your entire post is great and meaningful.
    Thank you for your powerful statements about diversities and their eternal significance in God's kingdom! They need to be shared far and wide, as they are timely and timeless!

    ReplyDelete