Eschatalogical Conversion of Gentiles

Introduction

Much is written in the Bible about the eschatological implications of salvation in relation to Israel. The Great Tribulation strongly focuses on Israel (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:15-28; Revelation 21:1-8), as does the Millennium (Isaiah 2:2-4; 62:1-12). It may seem to some that God has neglected to speak about the salvation of the Gentiles in eschatological chapters of Scripture. But with just a brief overview of passages in both the Old and New Testaments, one will be able to realize that while God has not neglected His chosen nation of Israel and her promised eschatological blessings, He has also not left Gentiles without the hope of eschatological redemption and glory. Indeed, God has much to say regarding the salvation of Gentiles, specifically in the “conversion” of Gentiles. Thus, biblical observations will be presented to argue such a case.

 

Biblical Observations Concerning Eschatalogical Conversions of Gentiles

 

            Starting canonically in the book of Genesis, the very first prophecy of conversion pertaining to the Gentiles (though certainly Israelites would be included too) is the “proto-evangelium” passage of Genesis 3:15. God had not revealed to Adam and Eve His plans for an elect nation, only that, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The “offspring” who would gain victory over the serpent (who is Satan) is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 12). But in considering the conversion of specifically the Gentiles, one must begin with the “first Gospel” (proto-evangelium) to see that it is by faith in the Son of God that anyone, Jew or Gentile, can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Narrowing down to a more eschatological study, the passages to consider next would be from the book of Isaiah: chapters 2, 19, and 60 to name a few. Isaiah 2 speaks of a glorious future “concerning Judah and Jerusalem,” but within that prophecy is hope for surrounding nations, specifically their conversion. When Christ sets up His Kingdom reign, all nations will be attracted to the King and Zion itself, desiring to learn from and worship the LORD (2:2-3).

In Isaiah 19, Scripture speaks of the peace that is to come between historically contentious nations of Egypt, Assyria, and Israel. God even makes the mesmerizing prediction in verses 24-25, “In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.’” Some would count this passage as being shocking to hear with God’s comforting words towards non-Israelite nations, but indeed God has always had compassion for all people groups. Victor Buksbazen says verse 25 is “one of the most glorious lines in all of the Old Testament Scripture;”[1] one could hardly blame him. Israel (the believing remnant, that is) will turn back to God via the Great Tribulation, but interestingly, God’s Word provides the same hope for Egypt: “And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). Applicably, then, all nations have a future hope and a prophesied conversion (see Isaiah 60:1-3), but only through the Tribulation. God will strike the world to ultimately save it, so that all who repent and turn to Christ will enter the Kingdom of God.

            The precise details of Gentiles being converted and regenerated by God are foundational in the Old Testament, but further information is articulated in the New Testament. Whereas passages such as Isaiah 19 note that Gentile nations would have many converts to the LORD, preceded by God inflicting judgment, it is through Jesus’ Olivet Discourse that these future events are more clearly manifested. Following the Tribulation, Jesus Christ is about to set up His earthly Kingdom, but He must first judge the nations, illustrated in his parable of the “sheep” and the “goats.” Matthew 25:32 makes it clear that Jesus is referring not just to Israel, but all nations, declaring, “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Barbieri and Barbieri note the comparison to Joel 3:2, 12 and then further state:

The expression “these brothers” must refer to a third group that is neither sheep nor goats. The only possible group would be Jews, physical brothers of the Lord…A Gentile going out of his way to assist a Jew in the Tribulation will mean that Gentile has become a believer in Jesus Christ during the Tribulation. By such a stand and action, a believing Gentile will put his life in jeopardy. His works will not save him; but his works will reveal that he is redeemed.[2]

Therefore, by linking the Old Testament to New Testament prophecies of Gentile conversions pertaining to eschatology, one can begin to understand how God will save people from both Israel and Gentile nations.

Yet, there is one more passage that is worth considering in these brief and by no means exhaustive biblical examples: Revelation 7:9-17. Here, the people in focus are “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (vs. 9). These people are identified as “the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs. 14). John Walvoord says, “It seems evident that these ‘who have come out of the Great Tribulation’ have been martyred and were then safe in heaven.”[3] Therefore, while the Gentile believers in Matthew 25 were survivors of the Tribulations, those in Revelation 7 were killed for Christ’s sake. Hope of redemption for all Gentiles both now and in the eschaton is found in the LORD alone: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10)

 

Conclusion

 

            Although much of eschatology is related to God’s dealings with the nation of Israel, the idea that Gentile nations are neglected would be far from the truth. The conversions of Gentiles to Jesus Christ are made possible by the eschatological works of God through the Tribulation and Christ’s Kingdom. As always, the Holy Spirit will provide regeneration, the basis for salvation will be through the blood of Christ, and the requirement for salvation will be faith in Christ.[4] Far from being an afterthought of the LORD, Gentiles hold a special place in eschatology as evidenced in Scripture, all for the glory of God and the good of His followers.


[1] Victor Buksbazen, The Prophet Isaiah (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 2012), 218.

[2] Louis A. Barbieri and Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Mt 25:34–40.

[3] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Re 7:13–17.

[4] See especially J. Dwight Pentecost, “Salvation in the Tribulation,” BSAC 115:457 (Jan 1958), 56-59.

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