The Greatest Mystery of Bible Prophecy (Part 2 of 4)
By Dr. David Reagan
Applied to the Millennium
Many commentators over the years who have paid attention to the mystery of the nations on the New Earth have tried to solve it by arguing that the verses are a flash-back to the Millennium when we know for certain that people in natural, sinful bodies will be living on the earth — these being the believing survivors of the Tribulation and the children born to them during the Millennium.
A good example of this view can be found in the commentary by G. R. Beasley-Murray (1916-2000): “The symbolism is more suitable to the order of life in the kingdom of Christ than in the new creation.”4
But there is simply no textual basis for assigning these verses to the Millennium. They are located in the midst of the description of the New Earth and the New Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the New Jerusalem does not descend to earth until after the Millennium when the present earth has been consumed by fire and remolded into the New Earth.
Saved Nations of Glorified Saints
A second solution for the mystery is based upon faulty manuscripts of Revelation 21:24. This is the easy way out of the mystery for most of the authors who even bother to pay attention to it.
The King James Version reads, “…and the nations of them which are saved…” Based on this reading, many commentators simply conclude the Redeemed will be able to live either inside the New Jerusalem or on the New Earth outside the city or both. Some of the authors who take this position include Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Daymond Duck, John Walvoord, Salem Kirban, Tim LaHaye, Herschel Hobbs and Mark Hitchcock.
The problem is that the phrase, “of them which are saved,” is not found in any of the oldest manuscripts. It was apparently added by some scribe along the way who was attempting to solve the mystery. This phrase has been deleted from nearly all modern versions (NIV, NASB, RSV and ESV). The New King James Version keeps the phrase but provides a footnote that explains it is not found in the oldest manuscripts.
So, based on this manuscript error, one cannot conclude decisively that the nations referred to as being outside the New Jerusalem on the New Earth are made up of glorified saints. And this “solution” does not solve the second problem as to why the nations need healing.
Other Redeemed People
A third solution to the mystery is the idea that those saved during the Tribulation who entered the Millennium in the flesh, and those born of these people during the Millennium who accept Jesus, will be transferred to the New Earth in their natural bodies and will live outside the New Jerusalem and repopulate the New Earth.
Take, for example, the famous illustrator of the Bible, Clarence Larkin (1850-1924). He argues that before the earth is consumed in fire, God will “take off the righteous representatives of the Millennial nations that He proposes to save, and when the earth is again fit to be the abode of men, place them back on the New Earth, that they may increase and multiply and replenish, as Adam and Noah were told to multiply and replenish the current earth” (Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 9:1).5 He further states that when the ever increasing population of the earth becomes too large, the excess will be used to populate other planets.6
Larkin concludes with this observation:7
God will not permit Satan to block His plans for peopling this earth with a Sinless Human Race. The death of Christ was not merely to redeem a few millions of the human race, but to redeem the Earth and the Race Itself from the curse of sin, and the dominion of Satan.
Likewise, Henry Morris (1918-2006), the renowned creation scientist, speculates that the nations on the New Earth could very well be those saved during the Tribulation and Millennium who will be transferred to the New Earth in natural bodies.8 He admits that this interpretation is “fraught with difficulties,” but he points out that it solves several problems. After all, the Scriptures refer many times to “perpetual generations” (Genesis 9:12) and to “everlasting covenants” (Genesis 9:12-16). Also, we are told in Isaiah 9:7 that “there will be no end to the increase of His [the Messiah’s] government or of peace… forevermore.”
Morris admits that his proposal is “highly speculative, but does appear somewhat reasonable.”9 He then states that perhaps “the more likely alternative exposition” is that these are “nations of the saved” who are residents of the New Jerusalem, “but have also been given national boundaries on the new earth.”10
David Hocking agrees with Morris’ speculative proposal. He writes: “Probably those who come out of the Tribulation period, those described as ‘sheep’ in Matthew 25:31-46, and those born during the Millennium who do not rebel against the Messiah, are all a part of the ‘nations’ on earth in the eternal state.”11
John MacArthur agrees: “Another possible interpretation is that this phrase [nations on the New Earth] refers to the believers living at the end of the Millennium. According to that view, the statement… refers to the translation of those believers before the uncreation of the present planet.”12
Others agreeing with this idea include E. W. Bullinger, J. A. Seiss and Keith Krell. It is also the position of Hal Lindsey.
J. A. Seiss (1823-1904) wrote: “I …hold it to be a necessary and integral part of the Scriptural doctrine of human redemption, that our race, as a self-multiplying order of beings, will never cease either to exist or to possess the earth… Ransomed nations in the flesh are therefore among the occupants of the new earth, and the blessed and happy dwellers in it, as Adam and Eve dwelt in Paradise.”13
Keith Krell, pastor of Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane, Washington and associate professor of biblical exposition at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, explains his position in the following way:14
It is clear from the context that John is talking about a group of people who have access to the New Jerusalem but who don’t live there.
There is only one group of people left on earth to go into eternity in their physical bodies — believers that served Christ during His millennium kingdom. They go into eternity in their physical, glorified bodies, not spiritual glorified bodies like we [Church Age saints] will have because they did not experience death and resurrection. These people will go into eternity with bodies like Adam and Eve had at their creation before they were flawed by sin.
This explanation raises another mystery: What is a “physical glorified body”? This is something never mentioned in the Scriptures.
In the third segment of our study on the greatest mystery of Bible prophecy, we’ll look at some unusual explanations to the eternal nations conundrum.