So far, we have identified two principles to guide us in our thinking about borders. They are:
Principle #1: God Has Established National Borders to Limit the Spread and Impact of Sin
Principle #2: God Disrupts Borders and Displaces People So they Will Search For Him
In this post I will identify one more Biblical principle about borders. Then we will move on to explore what the Bible says about another related topic, immigration.
To introduce this last principle let me point out the obvious, eternity is a longtime. When discussion turns to eternity and eternal things our thinking can start to get a little muddled. Sentimental images of floating around in some ethereal state or ethereal condition can pop into our minds. To ground ourselves in the future reality of eternity as God has revealed it we need to look into Revelation Chapters 21 and 22. My trustworthy Ryrie Study Bible labels these chapters “The Eternal State”. How we will spend the longtime of eternity is revealed to us. By revealing what eternity will look like God provides us with what we need to arrange our thinking and our lives now.
So, you may ask, what does the Bible say about borders in eternity? One thing we know it says is that nations will continue to exist into eternity.
They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. (Revelation 21:26)
Some might argue that the Greek word, ethnos, translated “nations” merely refers to people. Therefore, they would argue, this just saying that there will be people bringing glory and honor into the New Jerusalem. However, three things show that “Nations” is the right way to interpret this. First, the standard Greek Lexicon identifies two possible usages of this word. One is “a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common tradition”. The second is “people groups foreign to a specific people group”.1 To determine which usage is most appropriate interpreters look to the context. In this case the context is describing an enormous walled, gated city. It is the New Jerusalem, the ultimate gated community. In v. 24 nations are mentioned again along with “the kings of the earth”.
So, the context indicates that there are borders defining the New Jerusalem as well as leaders of geo-political entities. Therefore, “Nations” and not peoples is the right way to interpret and translate ethnos. This is confirmed by David Aune who notes that “The pilgrimage of the kings of the earth to the New Jerusalem presupposes the existence of the nations of the world and their rulers as well as the location of the eschatological Jerusalem on the earth.”2 Also, I checked seven different Bible translations (ESV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, AV) and they all render this word “Nations”. So, the context, other interpreters, and Bible translations all confirm that this refers to nations and not just people.
The fact that nations will continue to exist into eternity is also evident in Revelation 22:2):
through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)
What the nations will be healed means, and just why they need healing during the eternal state is a little beyond the scope of this post. My main point in citing this is to point out that there is even more evidence that nations, geo-political entities that have borders, a common land, a common language, and a government continue into that long time of eternity.
So, this brings us to the third principle:
Principle #3: In Eternity Nations Will Honor God
These three principles about borders are the borders of our Christian world-view on the topic of borders. These are the edges of the puzzle that help us fill in how we need to think about borders in a God-centric, Biblically informed way.
Next time I will look at the related topic of immigration. Like borders, we will find that the Bible has a lot to say about this and that what is says can inform our thinking.
1 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.), 76.
2 David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22, vol. 52C, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 1171.