John and the Future of the Nations -- By: Eckhard J. Schnabel

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 12:2 (NA 2002)
Article: John and the Future of the Nations
Author: Eckhard J. Schnabel

John and the Future of the Nations

Eckhard J. Schnabel

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

John’s vision for the future includes statements concerning the nations of the earth that have been interpreted in terms of a final conversion of all nations in the future. Most interpreters find such a soteriological universalism in Rev 21:3,24-27 and 22:2-3, R. J. Bauckham seeks to establish such a hope for 11:3-13; 14:14-16 and 15:2-4 as well. Bauckham rejects the traditional view that the vision of the New Jerusalem refers only to Christians, the covenant people redeemed from all the nations, as the inhabitants of the new world. He argues that John fuses the OT promises for the destiny of God’s own people and the universal hope that all the nations will become God’s people: John foresees the full inclusion of all the nations in Israel’s and the church’s covenant privileges and promises. This paper interacts with Bauckham’s interpretation of the relevant passages in Revelation.

Key Words: Apocalypse, John, eschatology, future, conversion, nations, universalism, mission, R. J. Bauckham

The first book of the Hebrew Bible begins by depicting God’s creation of a perfect world (Gen 1-2) before narrating the entrance of sin and its avalanche-like growth on the path on which man and woman began to walk when they acted in violation of God’s will (Gen 3). After Adam and Eve had been expelled from the garden in which they enjoyed God’s presence and perfection, their descendants continued to walk on this path of autonomous self-determination (Gen 4-11). God brought ever greater judgments on mankind, but he never withdrew his mercy. God preserved the physical life of Adam and Eve in the immediate aftermath of their rebellion; he promised Cain ultimate protection; he guaranteed Noah and his descendants the physical survival of the human race. The story of the Tower of Babel ends, however, without a promise of mercy: the language of mankind becomes “mixed up” as the people “left off building the city” (Gen 11:8).

Mankind is scattered over the face of the earth to form nations that cannot understand each other.1

At this point in the narrative a fundamental questions arises: What is the relationship between God and these nations? The answer to this most universal of all questions is given in Abraham’s call and

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