The Destiny Of The Nations In Revelation 21:1–22:5: A Reconsideration -- By: David L. Mathewson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 53:1 (NA 2002)
Article: The Destiny Of The Nations In Revelation 21:1–22:5: A Reconsideration
Author: David L. Mathewson


The Destiny Of The Nations In Revelation 21:1–22:5:
A Reconsideration

Dave Mathewson

Summary

There has been a variety of attempts to account for the presence of the nations in Revelation 21:1–22:5 and their inclusion in eschatological salvation, when their judgement and destruction has already been described in Revelation 19–20. Many scholars have suggested that John envisions the salvation of a segment of the nations, while the unbelieving meet their doom in the lake of fire. A few have suggested that the tension can be resolved by reference to universalism: ultimately even the wicked who are punished will be redeemed. One of the most significant attempts to account for the destiny of the nations is in the work of Bauckham, who suggests that John gives priority to the vision of salvation and envisions the conversion of the nations in fulfilment of OT expectations, while a few who refuse to repent will experience punishment. Through an examination of the key texts in Revelation 21:1–22:5, namely 21:3; 21:24; and 22:2, this article suggests that the tension between the judgement and salvation of the nations must be allowed to retain its full force. Neither side of the tension should be privileged over the other. The tension functions in a rhetorical manner: to present the options available to the nations, and to highlight the reversal of power structures and the absolute sovereignty of God.

I. Introduction

The question of the destiny of the nations in the canonical book of Revelation continues to puzzle interpreters of the Apocalypse. Commentators have failed to settle on the precise significance of John’s portrait of the nations’ inclusion in eschatological salvation, especially in the climactic vision of 21:1–22:5 where the destiny of the nations is articulated most clearly and receives its ‘eschatological

ultimacy’.1 More specifically, how is the universal language in John’s scenario of eschatological salvation to be construed? Does John envisage a mass conversion of the nations in the future to become the one true people of God and to worship the one true God, a conclusion which an initial reading of texts such as 21:3, 24–26; 22:2<...

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