QUESTION: What is God's plan for Israel after the Tribulation?
ANSWER: It’s a great question, and I’m going to take the liberty of expanding it a little to ask: What is God’s plan for the world’s nations (including Israel), in the future?
We need to take a look at how the nations relate especially to two periods, in the plan and program of God: first, the thousand-year Millennium following the Tribulation, and second, the unending eternal state to follow that.
While there is a great deal of Scripture that relates to the Millennium (sometimes called the Kingdom Age), relatively little is said about what things will be like in eternity. We have some clues and brief comments, but for the rest we’ll have to wait and see.
Premillennial Bible expositors and scholars, whom I greatly respect, differ on whether the nations will still exist as separate entities in eternity. The disagreement often centres on the interpretation of Revelation chapters 21 and 22, especially 21:9 to 22:7. The passage includes this descriptive statement:
“The nations of those who are saved shall walk in its [New Jerusalem’s] light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it....They shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it” (vs. 24, 26).
Here are the two main views taken by premillennialists, regarding whether there will be nations in eternity:
1) That after describing the beginning of eternity (in 21:1-8), the passage reverts to a discussion of the Millennium. Therefore, in the above verses, we’re seeing the nations and their rulers paying tribute to God during the thousand years of Christ's earthly reign.
2) That the passage in question continues on from the creation of the new heavens and new earth (21:1) and it all (including 21:24, 26) describes the eternal state. And that, therefore, it is clear there will indeed be nations in eternity.
I tend to favour this latter view, but not dogmatically. I’m open to more light on the subject.
When the Lord Jesus returns, with His church (I Thess. 4:14) to reign for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-4), He will destroy all the wicked on the earth (Rev. 19:11-21). Only the righteous will survive to have a part in the earthly kingdom.
These will be those of Israel and other nations who have been saved during the Tribulation, and who have survived this terrible time (Matt. 24:13, 22). They will still be in their mortal bodies, but long-lived, and many children will be born to them, over a period of a thousand years of peace and prosperity.
This wonderful conclusion to the world’s history is necessary because it represents the fulfilment of the Old Testament covenants with Israel (such as the Abrahamic Covenant, Gen. 12:1-3, 7, and the Davidic Covenant, II Sam. 7:16)
The Millennium will also witness the victory of the Messiah, and fulfil many prophecies yet unfulfilled regarding His earthly triumph. Where once He was crowned with thorns, He will wear a monarch’s crown (Ps. 2:7-9). And the nation of Israel will be central to His rule (Deut. 26:19; Isa. 2:1-4; 9:6-7; Zeph. 3:20; Lk. 1:31-33).
It is speculated that the city of God, New Jerusalem, will descend and hover over the earthly Jerusalem for that period. While there is no Scripture that precisely says that, it seems to be a logical deduction. The church will be living with Christ in the heavenly city, but when our reign, as glorified saints in resurrection bodies requires it, we’ll be able to descend and conduct our business, returning afterwards to our dwellings in the city (Rev. 5:10; 20:4).
After the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and earth (II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), the New Jerusalem will descend to a newly created earth more beautiful than Eden, where it will remain forever (Rev, 21:2-3, 5). The New Jerusalem, where the throne of God is, will be central to the earth, but I believe all the earth (and perhaps beyond it) will be a venue for our activities in eternity, as we serve the Lord (Rev. 22:3).
Redeemed Israel will have a place in the New Jerusalem. In fact, the names of the twelve tribes are written on the gates (Rev. 21:12). This is the city “whose builder and maker is God” to which Abraham looked forward (Heb. 11:8-10). The church of Jesus Christ, the Lamb’s bride, will be at home there too (Rev. 19:7-9), dwelling in the “many mansions” prepared for us (Jn. 14:2-3).
Fittingly, the foundations are inscribed with the names of “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14). And there are many saved belonging to the Gentile nations, so they have a place there too. (Enoch, Noah, Job, and multitudes of other believers, predate both Israel and the church.)
Some argue that the nations came into being at Babel, as a result of God’s judgment, and therefore are temporary. But it was only the confusion of languages that took place at Babel (Gen. 11:7-8). National distinctions were established after the flood, through the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 10:31-32).
Grace was extended to all nations at Pentecost, when the various groups represented heard the word of God in their own languages (Acts 2:7-11). And there is coming a day when all will be able to worship God in one purified language (Zeph. 3:9).
I see no reason why the nations of the world cannot continue to exist eternally. We definitely know that Israel will. The Lord says in Isaiah, “‘As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the LORD, ‘so shall your descendants and your name remain’” (Isa. 66:22).
As to other nations, the words of Revelation 21:3 give us a possible reference to them. It says, “He [God] will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.” But, as a number of translators have noted, that last word can be translated “peoples,” referring to many national entities.
Of course there will be no more international tensions between nations in eternity. And the various ethnic groups, purified in heavenly glory and living in perfect harmony, would bring a unique variety to our worship.