The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Greatest Mystery of Bible Prophecy (Part 1 of 4)

Tree of Life

There are many mysteries in Bible prophecy. For example, when Revelation 17:5 mentions “Mystery Babylon” as the end times headquarters of the Antichrist, is it referring to the site of ancient Babylon or to modern day Rome? And what about 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12? Does this passage mean that those who hear the Gospel and reject it before the Rapture will continue to do so throughout the Tribulation?

These are difficult and hotly debated questions. Even those who believe in the interpretation of prophecy for its plain sense meaning disagree on the answers. And the reason is simple: prophecy is not always precisely clear. And that, in turn, provides room for honest disagreement as to its meaning.

I have studied Bible prophecy intensely for 40 years. Most of it I think I understand. But there are definitely areas where it’s like looking into a dim mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12). And so, I have compiled a list of questions for the Lord, for we are promised that when He returns He will make all things clear to us (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

The great Bible teacher, Vance Havner (1901-1986), put the problem this way:1

There are a lot of questions the Bible doesn’t answer about the Hereafter. But I think one reason is illustrated by the story of a boy sitting down to a bowl of spinach when there’s a chocolate cake at the end of the table. He’s going to have a rough time eating that spinach when his eyes are on the cake. And if the Lord had explained everything to us about what’s ours to come, I think we’d have a rough time with our spinach down here.

With regard to prophecy, the Bible contains a lot of detailed prophecies about Israel in the end times and about end time events like the Rapture, the Tribulation and the Millennium. But it has very little to say about the Eternal State.

We are told that the Redeemed will live in New Bodies in a New Jerusalem which will be located on a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-8).

Beyond that, all we are told is that God will descend to the New Earth to live in the New Jerusalem with us and that we will see His face and serve Him forever (Revelation 22:3-4).

The Greatest Mystery

For me, the greatest mystery of Bible prophecy relates to something that is said about the Eternal State.

But first, for those of you who may not be so familiar with the book of Revelation, let me lay it out for you in chronological order.2 In chapters 1 through 3, Jesus appears to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos 65 years after His death, burial and resurrection. Through John, Jesus assures His churches that He is with them in the midst of their persecution by the Roman Empire. At that point, John is raptured to Heaven (Revelation 4:1) where he experiences the incredible throne room of God and the glorious worship that fills it constantly (chapters 4 and 5).

The Lord then begins to give John a prophetic panorama of end time events:

Chapters 4-18 — The Tribulation
Chapter 19 — The Second Coming
Chapter 20 — The Millennium
Chapters 21-22 — The Eternal State

Near the end of chapter 21, as John is describing in detail the various aspects of the New Jerusalem where the Redeemed will reside forever, he suddenly interjects what is to many a jolting statement about nations that will be on the New Earth outside the New Jerusalem:

24) The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.

25) In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;

26) and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it;

27) and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Nor is that all that is said about these nations. In the next chapter, John tells about seeing a River of Life flowing from God’s throne with the Tree of Life on each side of the river bearing twelve kinds of fruit every month (Revelation 22:1-2). And then comes the next mysterious statement: “…and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

These verses pose some intriguing questions:

  • Who are the nations on the New Earth outside the New Jerusalem?
  • Why do these nations need healing?

Proposed Solutions to the Identity of the Nations

Most commentaries just ignore these verses and the questions raised by them. For example you will not find any commentary in books about Revelation written by such notables as Charles Swindoll, W. A. Criswell, Donald Grey Barnhouse, William Hendriksen, H. A. Ironside, Herbert Lockyer and Ray Stedman.

Even the best and most detailed book ever written about the Eternal State — Heaven by Randy Alcorn — fails to develop these enigmatic verses in any depth.3

In the second segment of our study on the greatest mystery of Bible prophecy, we’ll look at three potential solutions to the eternal nations conundrum.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan serves as the Founder and Director of Lamb & Lion Ministries. He is a life-long Bible student, teacher, and preacher whose sermons have been distributed worldwide and has led 45 pilgrimages to Israel. Dr. Reagan is the host of the television program Christ in Prophecy.

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  • There is a writer from the nineteenth century that has today been almost forgotten, although many of his writings still grace the shelves of many libraries. This is William Kelly, who write detailed commentaries on almost every book of the Bible. His understanding of prophecy was no less than astounding, having predicted, solely on the basis of the scriptures, what is going on today more accurately than any other writer of the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries.

    Just as two examples, in speaking of Daniel 11:42 he said, “by this we know that before the end comes, there will be a great collection of gold and of silver, somewhere in the middle east.” And in speaking of the vessels to be used by the “swift messengers” in Isaiah 18:2, he suddenly launched into a discussion of the Hebrew word translated “vessels,” saying, “This is a very strange word, used in this way nowhere else in scripture. It is obviously some kind of a vessel, but it is definitely not a boat.” And he wrote both of these in the 1860s!

    He discussed the passages you are speaking of in great detail, and you an read his discussion online at: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/kelly/2Newtest/REV_PT4.html

    Many of this man’s writings are available at:

    http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/kelly/

    And many other writings from the nineteenth century Plymouth brethren, of which he was a member, and a close associate of John Nelson Darby, who is often (incorrectly) said to have originated the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. Are available at:

    http://www.stempublishing.com/

  • Hello David,

    Leading up towards answering your questions above, Ezekiel 47 mentions from verses 1 to 11 about the waters that will issue from the Christ’s throne in His Millennial Temple – chapter 45:1; and in verse 12 the scripture says this (KJV):

    (Ezek 47:12) “And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat [FOOD], and the leaf thereof for MEDICINE.”

    The point here is that in the Millennium, Christ reigns as Earth’s supreme ruler – and as the current world’s air, soil and oceans have become horribly polluted to date; so ‘healing’ will need to take place AFTER Christ’s second coming if the inhabitants of it are to live in a healthy environment for the following one thousand years. The waters that do this will originate from under Christ’s throne, as stated below:

    (Ezek 47:1) “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house [Christ’s Millennial Temple]; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar.”

    I believe that as the ‘natural man’ of flesh, bones and blood continues to live in Christ’s Millennial kingdom (Matt 25:32-40) they will have a tendency to live according to their “fallen” (or Adamic) nature that brings about pollution of the environment that leads to sickness requiring “medicine” for “healing” to take place. So in the New Earth, scripture indicates that the same “healing” and “medicine” will be needed. The scripture verses below reveal the same pattern of “healing” and “medicine” throughout the New Earth as for Christ’s millennial period:

    (Rev 22:1-2) “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb [i.e. New Jerusalem]. {2} In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month [for FOOD]: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations [or MEDICINE].”

    In the previous chapter (21) it says that there are “nations” located outside the New Jerusalem – some of which are “saved”; indicating that there will be other nations that are ‘not saved’:

    (Rev 21:24) “And the NATIONS of them which are SAVED shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.”

    Three verses later it then identifies what human characteristics represent those in the ‘unsaved” nations who are refused entry into the New Jerusalem:

    (Rev 21:27) “And there shall in no wise enter into it [the New Jerusalem] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

    Again in chapter 22, it says this about these ‘unsaved’ nations:

    (Rev 22:14-15) “Blessed are they [in the ‘saved’ nations] that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city [New Jerusalem]. {15} For without [in the ‘unsaved’ nations] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

    So, where you asked the following questions:

    Who are the nations on the New Earth outside the New Jerusalem?
    Why do these nations need healing?

    I tend to believe that God ALWAYS mingles His ‘good’ people amongst ‘evil’ people – so that He can determine from their interactions who are His “good and faithful servants” (Matt 25:21) and who are merely “hearers of the word and NOT doers of the word” (Rom 2:13; James 1:22).

    It is my belief that at Creation, God created many ‘pagan’ couples (in the same manner as He created Adam and Eve) who formed other nations (in which Cain entered into and married his wife – Gen 4:16) but it was only through the Adamic (or ‘godly line’) that humanity survived the Great Flood of Noah’s day and commenced the replenishment of this present world.

    In a similar pattern, Christ’s Millennial kingdom will have a godly (or holy) people represented by the glorified, resurrected saints from the Rapture, etc.; then the “sheep nations” of natural men and women who are ‘saved’, and presumably the redevelopment of the “goat nations” (as time progresses) that rise up and eventually rebel against Christ and His saints at the end of the Millennium, as stated below:

    (Rev 20:7-10) “And when the thousand years [i.e. the Millennium] are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, {8} And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle [against Christ and His saints]: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. {9} And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved [Millennial Jerusalem] city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. {10} And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

    Therefore, in answer to your question, “the nations on the New Earth outside the New Jerusalem” represent humanity that continues to corrupt itself as evidenced by their disobedience towards obeying God’s commandments. Some of those who obey God’s commandments become “saved” and are allowed entry into the New Jerusalem – presumably to obtain “medicine’.

    In regards to “Why do these nations need healing” – scripture says that God withholds the rain on nations that offend Him (Jer 3:2-3; Amos 4:7). As anyone from a ‘rebellious’ nation will be refused entry into the New Jerusalem, their starvation and their land’s healing can only take place by their change of heart and of their obedience towards God’s commandments. No change of heart means sickness and starvation.

    I hope this response goes somewhat towards answering your questions, David.

    Blessings!

    Alan Manson
    http://www.christianspiritwalk.com

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