Most of us are unaccustomed to thinking of nations, rulers, civilizations, and culture in Heaven, but Isaiah 60 is one of many passages that demonstrate that the New Earth will in fact be earthly and full of the Earth’s nations. God’s people will have a glorious future in which the nations and their leaders will participate in and benefit from a renewed and glorious Jerusalem. It won’t be only some nations but all of them: “All assemble and come to you” (verse 4, NIV).
This will be a time of unprecedented rejoicing: “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy” (verse 5, NIV). On the renewed Earth, the nations will bring their greatest treasures into this glorified city: “The wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come” (verse 5, NIV).
Will we have ethnic and national identities? Yes. Is the risen Jesus Jewish? Certainly. Will we know He’s Jewish? Of course. Our resurrected DNA will be unflawed, but it will preserve our God-designed uniqueness, racial and otherwise. The elders sing to the Lamb: “You are worthy. . . . Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10, NLT). Who will serve as the New Earth’s kings and priests? Not people who were formerly of every tribe, language, people, and nation. Their distinctions aren’t obliterated—they continue into the present Heaven and then into the eternal Heaven.
Tribe refers to a person’s clan and family lineage. People refers to race. Nation refers to those who share a national identity and culture. Some scholars argue that the image of God has a corporate dimension. Richard Mouw writes in When the Kings Come Marching In: “There is no one human individual or group who can fully bear or manifest all that is involved in the image of God, so that there is a sense in which that image is collectively possessed. The image of God is, as it were, parceled out among the peoples of the Earth. By looking at different individuals and groups we get glimpses of different aspects of the full image of God.”
If this is true, and I believe it may be, then racism is not only an injustice toward people but also a rejection of God’s very nature. On the New Earth we’ll never celebrate sin, but we’ll celebrate diversity in the biblical sense. We’ll never try to keep people out. We’ll welcome them in, exercising hospitality to every traveler. Peace on Earth will be rooted in our common ruler, Christ the King, who alone is the source of peace: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14, NASB).
On the New Earth, “the nations will walk by [Christ’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into [the New Jerusalem]. On no day will its gates ever be shut. . . . The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it” (Revelation 21:24-26, NIV).
Tribes, peoples, and nations will all make their own particular contribution to the enrichment of life in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 21:24-26). Daniel prophesied that the Messiah would be “given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:14).
Consider what it will be like to worship with Masai, Dinka, Hmong, Athabascan, Tibetan, Waodani, Icelandic, Macedonian, Moldovan, Moroccan, and Peruvian believers. In the sweeping breadth of his redemptive work, I believe that God may resurrect not only modern nations but also ancient ones, including, for instance, Babylon and Rome. Are ancient Assyrians, Sumerians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, and Greeks among God’s redeemed? We know they are, for no nation, past or present, is excluded from “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9, NIV).
Hundreds of nations, thousands of people groups, untold millions of redeemed individuals will gather to worship Christ. And many national and cultural distinctions, untouched by sin, will continue to the glory of God.
As we anticipate that coming New Earth, could there be anything more important than getting God’s Word to people around the world, so that they may know Jesus and enjoy life with Him forever? Earlier this year I spoke to a gathering of illumiNations partners (Bible translation and resource partners working together to eradicate Bible poverty in this generation). I shared about the gift of generous giving, as well as Revelation 5:9 and the hope of God’s Word reaching people of every tribe and language and nation:
I encourage you to check out the illumiNations site, where you can learn more and donate towards translation efforts.