The Greatest Mystery of Bible Prophecy (Part 3 of 4)
By Dr. David Reagan
Two very renowned biblical expositors present highly imaginative and challenging explanations of the nations on the New Earth. They are J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) and David L. Cooper (1886-1965).
McGee taught that the New Jerusalem would never come to earth. Instead, he thought it would become a new planet, with the present earth becoming a satellite orbiting around the city. He believed that Israel and Gentile nations would occupy the orbiting earth and would have access to the New Jerusalem. Only Church Age saints would live in the New Jerusalem.15
Cooper believed the New Earth would be much larger than the current one in order to keep the gigantic New Jerusalem in proportion. He also believed that the nations on the New Earth would be composed of “a new race of people who will be created” and will be immune to sin, living “in perfect harmony with the will of God throughout eternity.” It is this “new race of people” that the Church Age saints will rule over forever.16
A third well-known Bible prophecy expert, George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982), is the only person I could find who took the position that the nations on the New Earth would be composed of unsaved people. He wrote: “Taken literally, this verse suggests that in the new earth there will be two companies of people: the redeemed who inhabit the new Jerusalem, and unregenerate nations of earth who live outside the city but who are influenced by its presence, walking in its light and bringing their glory to the city.”17 But he goes on to say: “However, it is equally possible that John is using conventional human language to describe the universality of the knowledge of God in the eternal order”18 — whatever that gobbledygook means!
Hilton Sutton (1924-2012) took the position that only Church Age saints would live in the New Jerusalem. All the rest of the Redeemed — Old Testament Jews and Gentiles, and the saved of the Tribulation and Millennium — would occupy the New Earth.19 But this flies in the face of the fact that Abraham was given a revelation about him and his descendants living forever in a new Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:10, 16).
The most detailed discussion of the nations on the New Earth that I have been able to find in a published commentary is the one by Robert L. Thomas who is professor of New Testament language and literature at The Master’s Seminary in California. He also served on the editorial board of the New American Standard Bible, and in 1990 he served as the president of the Evangelical Theological Society.
In his highly detailed, two volume commentary on Revelation, he considers nine different interpretations of the nations on the New Earth.20 He dismisses all nine for various reasons and then presents his theory:
…the “nations” are composed of saved people who survive the millennial kingdom without dying and without joining Satan’s rebellion and who undergo some sort of transformation that suits them for life in the Eternal State. They will be like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall. They will be unresurrected human beings who will inhabit the new earth …These will be the ones over whom God’s resurrected saints will reign. Nations, peoples and men on earth must continue in the flesh as Adam and Eve did before the Fall.
This explanation leaves me wanting more information. For example, what is meant by “some sort of transformation that suits them for life in the eternal state”? And why must “nations, peoples and men on earth” have to continue in the flesh?
There are two very detailed articles about perpetual generations that can be found on the Internet:
– Darrel Mitchell: “God’s Plan: Eternal Inhabitants.”21
– F. M. Riley: “A Thousand Generations”22
Both of these authors agree that there will be nations of people on the New Earth who will exist in natural bodies. They also agree that these people will be composed of unresurrected saints who come from two groups:
– Those saved during the Tribulation who live to the end of the Tribulation and are allowed to enter the Millennium in the flesh.
– Those born during the Millennium who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The Scriptures indicate that both of these groups will have their life spans extended to the “lifetime of a tree” (Isaiah 65:20- 22), meaning they will live to the end of the Millennium, at which time these writers assume they will be transferred to the New Earth in their natural bodies.
Both of these writers affirm that “the earth was created to be inhabited by ‘natural’ beings that were promised the earth as an ‘eternal inheritance’” (Exodus 32:13; Psalm 37:29; and Matthew 5:5).23 They also make the point that God originally created Man to live forever in his natural body, and that those existing on the New Earth in such bodies will fulfill God’s original purpose of replenishing the earth with natural people (Genesis 1:27-31 and Genesis 9:7).24 Both authors also agree that the sin nature will be removed from these inhabitants of the New Earth, restoring them to “the state of purity and innocence that Adam and Eve were in when God created them.”25
Both writers recognize that an objection to their concept is the Apostle Paul’s statement: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Their counter argument is that these nations on the New Earth are subjects of the Lord’s kingdom and not inheritors. Only resurrected saints in glorified bodies are co-heirs with Christ in His eternal kingdom (Romans 8:17).
In the fourth and last segment of our study on the greatest mystery of Bible prophecy, I’ll provide you with my conclusion.