New Testament Nations in Eschatology

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by David Shedlock, Dec 29, 2013.

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  1. David Shedlock

    David Shedlock Puritan Board Freshman

    I see that the nations will be judged in Revelation 19:15, and again in Matthew 25:31-46. That all the nations will come to Christ, as well as kings, in particular, is prophesied throughout the Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments. While there are different views of those verses, I cannot think that the two (M 25, Rev 19) are really saying that at the end of time will judge nations as "governments" The Lord simply means men of all nations.

    In particular, Mt 25 says that they will be judged on feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, etc. If this is governments, it seems as if a socialistic point would be in view.

    In Revelation 19, this appears, as others, to be referring to the last day? How can nations go to hell? Does this refer to Scotland, Germany, the United States, Babylon?
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    While I don't think nations can go to "hell" per se, it is a lacuna in much post-Enlightenment eschatology that we really can't account for nations in a theological sense. Most of us are conditioned to think that "nations" aren't "spiritual" (shades of Plotinus!) and eschatology is focused on the individual. Perhaps acerbating this problem is a reactionary tendency from the extremes of dispensationalism. We are so apprehensive of over-privileging one nation (Israel) that we simply write off all nations.

    Also is that most people probably operate with a very flawed exegesis of Galatians 3:28. We see that that verse denies distinctions pace the Church, most people simply think it denies national distinctions, period. But taken consistently, that reasoning is silly, since one would also have to ontically deny sexual distinctions between male and female (which is precisely what Maximus the Confessor did with regard to eschatology!).

    As to prophecy, we could opt for the route " it's not supposed to be taken literally." In that case, "nations" can be spiritualized to mean "group bible studies" or "parachurch ministries."
  3. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Welcome to PB, David!

    From the amillennial viewpoint, Revelation 19:11-21 is one of a number of “camera angles” on the battle of Armageddon (others being Rev 20:7-9; 16:12-14, 16; 11:7ff). This is the last battle, wherein the forces of the devil, beast, and false prophet seek to eradicate the saints, and where the Lord returns to “judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth” (Rev 6:10).

    The actual day of judgment is what is seen in Matt 25:31-46. I think you are right when you say all nations will be gathered but simply as men of all nations, not the governments per se. However, the Lord Jesus does single out cities that will reap particularly severe judgments due to their not repenting in view of the greater light they received and spurned (Matt 11:20-24).

    We can see in Rev 21:24, regarding the glory light of the city of God, that “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” – so there will be separate nations of the redeemed gathered from all the earth in the eternal state.

    Also, I do not think the standard of judgment will be “on feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, etc” per se, but whether it was done to the brethren of the Lord (25:40), which the regenerate will do in solidarity with them, but which the children of darkness will not do.

    And I would say that Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Communist nations who grievously persecute God’s people as governmental and social policy would accrue to themselves very severe judgment as well. So perhaps there is a mix of individual judgments as well as societal / national.

    We see in Revelation – and OT prophecy as well – an end-time entity called Babylon which on the one hand represents all ungodly culture worldwide in opposition to God and His people, and yet in the OT types, the Chaldean Babylon and Roman empires, these Babylons were headquartered in city-states, and it was the hearts of these empires – the city-states – that were judged.

    So in the last and most horrendous manifestation of Babylon, if there is a city-state in which it is headquartered, then one might expect to see a nation judged as no other nation has been to date, per Revelation 18.

    Jacob, prophecies are indeed to be fulfilled literally, though often the particulars are couched in symbolic language and imagery, which is normal for apocalyptic and prophetic genres.
  4. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Or we could just take it according to its natural significance in the context of a history which distinguishes between Israel and the nations. Many of the difficulties in New Testament eschatology can be resolved by discerning the fact that the apostles were intricately concerned with showing that the privileges of Messiah were not the property of a geopolitical nation. As Old Testament eschatology included the attachment of sacred significance to people, places, and things, so New Testament eschatology involved the "desecrating" of these in order to establish the crown rights of the Redeemer over all nations.
  5. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I for once would agree with you on an eschatological matter, Matthew, though I would prefer the word desacralize to desecrate. And we likely see the implications of the King's "crown rights" in this present age differently.
  6. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    To Israel after the flesh it was a "desecration," hence the quotation marks. To the Messianic community the true desecration was the treading under foot of the Son of God, Israel's Messiah. This was nothing less than an abomination of desolation.
  7. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Christ crucified, or the continuance of temple sacrifices in rejection of Messiah as the perfect paschal lamb?
  8. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Matthew, you said,

    I think that is a profound statement. After I agreed with you saying, “though I would prefer the word desacralize to desecrate”, you then remarked,

    Response: I do not think the views of “Israel after the flesh” pertain to genuine Old Testament eschatology, for what validity have the apostate’s musings? Though you are right in that to them it would be desecration.

    Whereas to desacralize (remove the sacredness from) does apply to divesting the OT types of that sacredness which truly belongs to the antitype.

    You are also right with respect to the apostates’ rejection and slaughter of their Messiah being a desecration and an abomination, but – technically speaking – the “abomination of desolation” pertained to Antiochus Epiphanes desecrating the temple, and its future fulfillments.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    One doesn't have to hold that nations today are "sacred" in order to affirm the proposition that the NT says it will deal with nations judgmentally.
  10. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think the point in that case is not that the nations ARE sacred but that anything that WAS sacred about Israel has been deprecated when the type was devolved
  11. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Jacob, I think this refers more to types such as the temple, OT Jerusalem, the OT nation of Israel, the sacrificial system, etc. – as Tirian has indicated.
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I would regard the crucifixion of Christ as the primary focus. In the Gospel of John this is nothing less than the destruction of the temple and the people are portrayed as consciously offering Christ in sacrifice for the nation. The element of offering unholy sacrifice is condemned in the prophets, so the continuance of temple sacrifices must be seen as a part of the complexity, but must be subordinate to the main idea that Christ Himself is the temple.
  13. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Antiochus Epiphanes is no part of redemptive history, and our Lord specifically indicates that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel would be seen in that generation. The "recapitulation" theme of Matthew's Gospel should be carefully observed and chapter 24 interpreted in light of the covenant sanctions of Deuteronomy. By doing so one can see that the destruction of Jerusalem, Babylonish captivity, and final restoration are all accomplished in the Saviour.
  14. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I take the point, Steve, and agree that desacralise is the proper word to describe the process. I was simply trying to point out that there was a perspective which was counteracted by the New Testament, namely, that of the unbelieving Jews. Their perspective is seen in the NT itself.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Sure. My point has nothing to do with "sacred-ness." The proposition "God will deal with nations" has nothing to do with whether those nations are set apart for redemptive value in redemptive history.
  16. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Matthew, if one does not see the visions of Daniel having historical referents (your view), then of course Antiochus Epiphanes is not part of redemptive history. But if Daniel did see AE coming (Dan 8:13), and Gabriel explained the particulars, then this prophecy had multiple fulfillments, seeing as the Lord Jesus does indicate, as you say, it would also realize in that generation.

    Where you go wrong is saying that all prophecy is “accomplished in the Saviour”, as opposed to accomplished by Him and to the ends He determines.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Multiple fulfilments would make multiple Messiahs.

    Act-revelation requires word-revelation to interpret it, as Vos helpfully shows in the introductory material to his Biblical Theology. Your view of Antiochus and redemptive history would require the canonisation of an apocryphal book.

    It is a relief to know that I "go wrong" from a non-Messianic viewpoint.
  18. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello Matthew! I hope the new year brings you health and joy from the Giver of these things! May my friendly – though sometimes pointedly humorous – opposition not trouble you overmuch.

    You said,


    Geerhardus Vos, speaking of Paul’s discussion in 2 Thessalonians 2 of the error circulating among those in Thessaloniki “that the day of Christ is at hand”, notes he does not simply correct the error. Vos remarks,

    When instead of this the Apostle launches out into a somewhat detailed exposition of the entire subject, it becomes difficult to escape from the impression that Paul took a certain personal delight in drawing the figure at full length. And what he says seems to be derived from a fixed fund of knowledge. In the pre-Pauline tradition of the N.T. there is but one thing that could throw light on this. We refer to the phrase of our Lord in the great eschatological discourse βδελυγμα της ερημωσεως , translated in the English text by “abomination of desolation” : “When, therefore, ye see the abomination of desolation, spoken of through Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that reads understand).” The Daniel-context refers proximately to a desecration of the sanctuary in Jerusalem expected, it seems, from the sacrilegious hand of Antiochus Epiphanes. That Jesus shaped the matter in his mind after the same fashion is plain; only he projects the horrible event from the past in which it had once taken place into a future beyond his own point of speaking. The monstrous concept is neither by Daniel nor by Jesus clothed directly in the form of a personal antagonist to God; in this respect the technical terms of the Antichrist-tradition do not yet appear, but as ominous shades they hover already in the background. In our later treatment of the prophecy we shall endeavor to make clear that the same phenomenon observable in Paul and with Jesus already characterizes the representation in Daniel. Already there things are spoken of and not explained; there lies a world of not unknowable, and yet only half-known mystery beyond what is disclosed. Thus we are enabled to draw through the line from Paul to Jesus and from Jesus to Daniel and from Daniel to something already an object of knowledge, be it as yet only vague, to an older generation. This continuity is of great value to all Christian scholars who seek to deal with the Antichrist-subject. At bottom it furnishes the main scriptural justification for dealing with the subject on a typical basis. The modern mind may scorn this as one more instance of the unscientific, “rabbinical” treatment of the Old Testament by the New. Whatever maltreatment may be charged, it is a comfort to know that the crime was committed before by both Jesus and Paul. (Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, pp 95, 96)

    You also objected to my view that, “Where you go wrong is saying that all prophecy is ‘accomplished in the Saviour’, as opposed to accomplished by Him and to the ends He determines.” You replied,

    I don’t think Geerhardus Vos will support you. In his book, The Eschatology of the Old Testament, Vos says,

    Eschatology is the genus of which messianism (messianic prophecy) is the species. Hence, all messianism is eschatological, but not all eschatological forecasts are messianic. (p 45)​

    In other words, not all prophecy is messianic in its forecasts, but all prophecy is – as I previously stated – accomplished by Him and to the ends He determines.

    As you sought to enlist Vos as a supporter of your views, I am rereading chapter V in his Pauline Eschatology, “The Man of Sin”, where he explicitly refutes your “consistent idealism” with his finding historic referents in apocalyptic visions / prophecies.

    There are events the Lord wishes John to highlight through the symbolic imagery in the visions. You may not object to our seeing the birth of the Saviour and His resurrection / ascension in Revelation 12:4, and the subsequent persecution of the church throughout the NT era (vv 6, 13-17).
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Your personal reflections are insulting. You would do well in a point of debate to refrain from reflecting on the person with whom you are interacting.

    You are confounding prophecy and eschatology.

    Vos' essay on the "Eschatology of the NT" quite pointedly states the Messianic focus and organisation: "The NT does not follow the Jewish theology along this path. Even though it regards the present work of Christ as preliminary to the consummate order of things, it does not separate the two in essence or quality, it does not exclude the Messiah from a supreme place in the coming world, and does not expect a temporal Messianic kingdom in the future as distinguished from Christ's present spiritual reign, and as preceding the state of eternity. In fact the figure of the Messiah becomes central in the entire eschatological process, far more so than is the case in Judaism. All the stages in this process, the resurrection, the judgment, the life eternal, even the intermediate state, receive the impress of the absolute significance which Christian faith ascribes to Jesus as the Christ. Through this Christocentric character NT eschatology acquires also far greater unity and simplicity than can be predicated of the Jewish schemes. Everything is practically reduced to the great ideas of the resurrection and the judgment as consequent upon the Parousia of Christ. Much apocalyptic embroidery to which no spiritual significance attached is eliminated. While the over heated phantasy tends to multiply and elaborate, the religious interest tends toward concentration and simplification." Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 27-28.

    I quoted Vos on the introductory concepts of biblical theology. You are taking my quotation of Vos out of context. I never claimed he held to the consistent idealist view.

    I don't object to you seeing any event in any of the visions, as long as this is restricted to application and not made a point of interpretation. The main objection is to making the visions apply to events which are the contrary of the message the visions were intended to convey.
  20. PaulMc

    PaulMc Puritan Board Freshman

    Matthew, who or what would you recommend to read and study with regard to the 'idealist' view of eschatology/Revelation?
    And are there any books which give a balanced presentation of both the 'idealist' and 'historicist' view?
  21. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Sorry, Matthew! I meant to be humorous, not insulting to one I consider a friend. I deleted that.
  22. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Matthew, your quote of Vos’ in post #19 beginning, “The NT does not follow the Jewish theology along this path...” does not achieve what you intend, for Vos himself demonstrates against this in his eschatological views. I think particularly of his writing on the “man of sin” in The Pauline Eschatology, chapter 5. He does not mean what you are taking him to say, seeing as he explicitly says otherwise.

    In any event, this is departing from the point of the thread, which is, are nations qua nations judged? David, to return to your question, the nations of the unregenerate are – as per Rev 19:15 – destroyed in the final battle, judged, and consigned to eternal torment. There are also the nations of the saved (Rev 21:24), who have been “redeemed . . . out of every nation” (Rev 5:9; cf 7:9).
  23. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Paul, the standard introduction from the idealist perspective is Hendriksen's More than Conquerors. A little more complexity can be found in the works of William Milligan on Revelation, whom Hendriksen mostly followed. Milligan's works are available on

    The historicist view has many and varied exponents. This divergence does not reflect well on the approach. David Brown's "Apocalypse: its Structure and Primary Predictions" is an useful work for understanding the historicist view. There is a section which attempts to show the weaknesses of the idealist approach, but which I find unconvincing. This book is also available at
  24. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Thankyou, Steve. The humour must have been lost in translation. I am sorry if I took unnecessary offence.
  25. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Men, I very much appreciate input from both of you. Thank you for your efforts to contend for the glory of Jesus our Lord.
  26. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Steve, as noted, I do not claim Vos explicitly taught the view I am espousing. I do attempt, however, to follow through on his eschatological insights, and I believe these move in an idealist direction. As he stated in the portion you have quoted, the subject must be dealt with "on a typical basis." Most of what Vos says on the subject is directed against the type of literalism which ignores or opposes the "typical" Messianic element of NT eschatology. Though it appears he did not elaborate on this, he has provided the leading features which constitute the idealist view.
  27. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Matthew, thank you for your gracious heart in overlooking my transgression.

    Back to the issue we are discussing: it is telling that you claim Geerhardus Vos as providing “the leading features which constitute the idealist view” while he militates against the “consistent idealist” hermeneutic by his interpretation of specific texts, specifically the one I brought up re “the man of sin”. You do similarly with William Hendriksen, who is of my school and not yours, i.e., modified idealist and not consistent.

    This is likely because both Hendriksen and Vos are idealists in the main (as are Beale, Poythress, DE Johnson, Azurdia, Riddlebarger, et al – myself included) but not pure idealists, rather eclectic or modified idealists, all of which use the idealist basic paradigm of, among other things, recapitulation and parallelism, as well as typical and symbolic discernment instead of literal, yet taking from other interpretive schools those methods that have valid but limited application, keeping them subservient to the primary idealist method. This is why you value and appreciate Hendriksen and Vos, but you dismiss them as inconsistent to their primary idealist approach when they vary from it.

    Did they not vary from it they would do violence to the crying need for nuanced interpretive skills in understanding Revelation.

    This is how Vern Poythress, in his little gem of a book, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, fleshes this approach out:

    Combining the Insights of the Schools

    All the schools except the historicist school have considerable merit. Can we somehow combine them? If we start with the idealist approach, it is relatively easy. The images in Revelation enjoy multiple fulfillments. They do so because they embody a general pattern. The arguments in favor of futurism show convincingly that Revelation is interested in the Second Coming and the immediately preceding final crisis (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-12). But fulfillment in the final crisis does not eliminate earlier instances of the general pattern. We have both a general pattern and a particular embodiment of the pattern in the final crisis.

    Likewise, the arguments in favor of preterism show convincingly that Revelation is interested in the seven churches and their historical situation. The symbols thus have a particular embodiment in the first century, and we ought to pay attention to this embodiment.

    Finally we have a responsibility to apply the message of Revelation to our own situation, because we are somewhere in church history, somewhere in the interadvental period to which the book applies. Here is the grain of truth in the historicist approach.

    We can sum up these insights in a single combined picture. The major symbols of Revelation represent a repeated pattern. This pattern has a realization in the first-century situation of the seven churches. It also has a realization in the final crisis. And it has its embodiment now. We pay special attention to the embodiment now, because we must apply the lessons of Revelation to where we are. (p. 37)​

    Perhaps it may be helpful to say we are the children of Milligan, much as the Biblical Counseling school at CCEF are the children of Jay Adams, while they differ from him in the direction they have taken while yet standing on his shoulders, as it were. For the sake of those looking in on our discussion, it may be helpful to know this interaction between Rev Winzer and myself regarding idealism properly began in this thread, and then continued in this one, while we continue afresh in the present.
  28. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The "school" is of little importance so long as the interpretation is faithful to the meaning of the text and in accord with the analogy of faith.

    I haven't seen anything in the methodology of Vos which requires a modification of idealism. His discussion on the man of sin moves towards the typical and offers criticisms on various nominees from the literalist party. Hendriksen, at the least, sought to trace out the idealist approach with consistency, and he offered no modification to it when he interpreted the loosing of Stan the way that he did. I take it he was at least trying to be consistent. Those who have followed have sought to create a methodology which allows for the inconsistency.

    Beale's eschatological work is remarkable. However, his idea of multiple fulfilments in terms of inauguration, continuation, and consummation is quite unnecessary and burdens the text with multiple meanings it simply cannot bear. The true and full sense of any Scripture is not manifold but one. If the typical element of biblical eschatology were kept in view it would be apparent that there cannot be multiple fulfilments because every fulfilment would by nature be an Antitype, and thus lead to numerous Antitypes. (Hence my previous comment that multiple fulfilments would require multiple Messiahs.) The value of Beale's work in both Revelation and New Testament Theology is that it gives such a sufficient account of the typological element of eschatology that it removes the need to look beyond the inauguration for a further fulfilment. The kingdom has come in the person of the Messiah. The great coming kingdom of the future has penetrated the present. What follows by way of continuation is not a further fulfilment but merely the development of the state of affairs ushered in by the Antitype. And the consummation is nothing less than what the term means. It cannot indicate a further fulfilment without destroying the very thing that is to be consummated.

    The two-age structure of New Testament revelation is essential for establishing the important distinction between the "already" and the "not-yet." Without it, there is no "already" from which a "not yet" may be discerned. Compartmentalising the benefits of the kingdom as if some of them are for the present and some of them are for the future is essentially a denial of inaugurated eschatology. All the benefits belong to the church through Christ. The already/not-yet distinction is not the same as redemption accomplished and applied because redemption is already applied through union and communion with Christ. The attempt to place "application" in the same category with the "not yet" only succeeds in establishing a futuristic eschatology. The eschatological Spirit applies these benefits "already" as the earnest of our inheritance which is "not-yet." The application of redemption is the application of something already accomplished. It is not the re-accomplishment of it.
  29. PaulMc

    PaulMc Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you - I have Hendriksen's More Than Conquerors so I will put it on my reading list.
  30. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Paul, strange that Rev Winzer recommends the very same book I would as the first to read to comprehend and appreciate the modified idealist view! I also heartily recommend Hendriksen's More Than Conquerors.
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