Psalm 82: Part Four – The Messianic Inheritance of the Nations

These posts are all excerpted from my newest booklet, Psalm 82: The Divine Council of the Gods, the Judgment of the Watchers and the Inheritance of the Nations. You can buy the booklet here.

In my previous posts (1,  2,  3), I unpacked Psalm 82 to show that it talks about God having a heavenly host of divine beings (“gods”) around his throne that counsel with him and carry out his judgments or decisions. They are called “holy ones” (Deut 33:2-3; Jude 14), heavenly host (1King 22:19) the divine council (Psa 82:1), and the Sons of God (Job 5:1; 15:15).

Then I showed how God had separated the Gentile nations at Babel, placing them under the authority of fallen Sons of God, now also called Watchers (Dan 4:13, 17), who were supposed to rule with justice, but instead ruled unjustly and in darkness. This resulted in their punishment of death like humans, and most likely destruction in the lake of fire.

It is now the question of when this judgment of the Watchers occurs that I want to address. Many would assume it occurs at the end of the world in our future. But I think the text of Psalm 82 implies that it has already happened in our past.

Here is the full text of the Psalm:

Psalm 82:1–8
1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;

7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

The Foundations of the Earth are Shaken

There are three reasons in the Psalm that make me conclude that the capital punishment of the fallen Watchers occurred in the first century in conjunction with the coming of Messiah. 1) Verse 6 refers to “the foundations of the earth” being shaken. This is a reference to the consummation of the new covenant that came in Christ to overturn the Deuteronomic inheritance. 2) Verse 8 sets the context of the judgment at the resurrection of Messiah which resulted in 3) Messiah’s subsequent inheritance of the nations in the first century.

Let me explain each one…

First, the phrase “all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (v. 5) ties the context of the Watchers’ judgment to the arrival of the new covenant. The concept of the shaking of heavens and earth is a common notion in the Old and New Testaments. It is used figuratively to describe the spiritual reality of an earthly event.

In Haggai 2:21-22, the prophet is told to tell the governor of Judah that God is going to “shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations.”

This prophecy explains the shaking of heavens and earth as a symbolic reference to the destruction of the strength of kingdoms. Shaking heavens and earth is commonly used as a metaphor for God overthrowing kingdoms or establishing a new authority (Isa 40:3-5; Hab 3:6-7, 9-10; Micah 1:3-7; Jer 4:23-30; Nahum 1:4-6; Psa 18:6-15; Judges 5:4-5).

The New Testament uses the imagery of shaking the heavens and earth as an expression of the spiritual impact of covenants or a change in powers (Luke 3:2-6). In Hebrews 12, the creation of the old Mosaic covenant is described figuratively as God “shaking the earth,” with the institution of his world-changing covenant. The new covenant in Christ is then referred to as a final shaking of the heavens and earth. The institution of the new covenant kingdom of God will never be shaken, that is, never be changed.

Hebrews 12:26–28
26 At that time [of the old covenant] his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

The arrival of the new covenant kingdom in Christ was a spiritual shaking of the heavens and earth of the old covenant, in order to replace it with a superior permanent new covenant. So the reference in Psalm 82:5 of God shaking the foundations of the earth is a reference to the arrival of the new covenant kingdom linked to the judgment of the Watchers.

This connection between Psalm 82 and Hebrews 12 is made all the stronger when one realizes that Hebrews 12 is quoting Haggai 2 that prophesies the new covenant kingdom.

Haggai 2:6–7
6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.

Notice that the last part of that cosmic spiritual shaking of heavens and earth includes the drawing of the nations, the Gentiles, into God’s house. The new covenant would involve the inclusion of the Gentiles into the very house of God. That means that the allotted inheritance of the Gentiles to the Sons of God would be removed with the arrival of a new covenant, a new inheritance.

That leads us to the next element of our context, the inheritance of the nations.

The Inheritance of the Nations

The last verse of Psalm 82 places the event of the judgment of the Watchers at the time of the inheritance of the nations.

Psalm 82:8
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Before we proceed, it must be noted that the Greek word for “nations” (ethnos) is the same as for Gentiles. In other words, the English words that we read as Gentiles and nations are usually the same Greek or Hebrew word in the Bible. Scripturally, a Gentile was nothing more than a member of one of the seventy nations of Genesis 10 that were allotted to the Watchers in Deuteronomy 32. Sometimes, I will use the words together as “Gentile nations” only to remind the reader of that contextual reality.

This concept of inheriting the nations is messianic. The prophets predicted that when Messiah came, he would not only unite the houses of Judah and Israel, but he would bring the Gentile nations, normally cut off from his covenant, into his new covenant kingdom (Zech 2:6-11; Hos 1:10-11, 2:23; fulfilled in Rom 24-29).

At this point, it would be helpful to remember the Deuteronomy 32 worldview with which we started this narrative. God allotted the Gentile nations as an inheritance of the rebellious heavenly Sons of God (Deut 32:8-9).

But now in Psalm 32, we read that God will inherit the nations. Or more accurately, Messiah will inherit the nations. God will take away the land deed of the Gentile nations from the Sons of God and give it to Messiah. How do we know this? Because in Psalm 2 it explicitly tells us.

Psalm 2:6–8
6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Now, some would read this and argue that Jesus becoming king and his inheritance of the nations may not occur at the same time period in history. It is possible that he is enthroned as king, but doesn’t inherit the nations until later in our future.

And they would be wrong.

In Acts 13:32-33, the apostle Paul quotes the Psalm, “You are my son, today I have begotten you” as a reference to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus became the firstborn from the dead, declared as God’s son (Col 1:18). In Acts 2:30-35, Peter explains that “God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ… being therefore exalted at the right hand of God.” So Christ was enthroned as universal king on heavenly Mount Zion at his resurrection and ascension (Heb 12:22-24). And that throne is over all authority, in heaven and on earth (Eph 1:20-22).

“All authority” by definition  includes the Watchers in authority over the nations.

At Babel, God gave over the rebellious Gentiles to the false gods they worshipped. He placed them under the authority of the fallen Sons of God. These spiritual princes ruled over their earthly kings and rulers and their fates were intertwined. But the point is that the gods of the nations had the title deed to the lands of the nations, and with it, their people.

It is my contention that when Messiah died, resurrected and ascended, he conquered those Watchers and took back the deeds to the nations, which allowed the Gospel of the kingdom to go out into all the world and draw people from every tribe and nation into the new covenant kingdom of God.

In order to see this narrative, we need to turn to the New Testament affirmation of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

New Testament Principalities and Powers

The idea of heavenly principalities over the earthly powers first instituted at Babel and continued on through Daniel is not lost on the New Testament writers.

Paul in particular frequently alludes to the heavenly/earthly connection of principalities and powers.

Colossians 1:16
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities…

When Paul tried to encourage the Ephesian Christians suffering persecution from their local authorities, he did so by reminding them that those earthly powers were not the ultimate enemy, the heavenly powers behind them were. Those powers were led by the “prince of the power of the air” Satan (Eph 2:2).

Ephesians 6:12
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

But how would these powers be defeated? The secret was rooted in the Gospel that Paul called the “mystery” that God kept from those powers (1Cor 2:7-8). And guess what that mystery is? The adoption of Gentile nations into the new covenant kingdom of God through Christ.

Ephesians 3:6
6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Remember how those Gentile nations were originally the allotted inheritance of the rebellious Sons of God? Remember how Messiah was promised to one day inherit the nations from those powers? Well the unity of Gentiles with Jews in the Body of Christ, the Church, is the fulfillment of that messianic inheritance of the nations.

Ephesians 3:10
10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Exactly when did Jesus take back the territorial rights of the nations from the heavenly powers? Paul links it to the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the right hand of God.

Ephesians 1:20–22
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet.

So Christ’s attainment of authority over all those heavenly powers occurred through his resurrection and ascension. His enthronement constitutes the legal authority by Christ taken away from the heavenly powers.

But there is more. For Paul also reveals the ascension of Christ as involving a violent overthrow. He quotes Isaiah to show that after Christ ascended, he then descended to earth to give spiritual gifts to the Church (Eph 4:11-13).

Ephesians 4:7–10
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?)

Notice that Christ’s ascension is described as “leading a host of captives.” Some Christians assume these are human captives freed from Hades through Christ’s sacrifice. But that is not what the phrase means. It is actually a reference to the common ancient Roman triumphal procession, which involved military victors parading their conquered foes, dead or alive, through the streets of a city. It was rubbing the noses of the vanquished in their defeat, and declaring the victor’s new authority over those defeated foes.

Paul is saying that when Christ ascended in power, he led the conquered gods of the nations captive through spiritual streets. This interpretation is reinforced in Colossians where Paul writes that through the cross, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:15). Christ’s apparent defeat of the cross led to the surprise victory of the resurrection and ascension to universal authority.

There can be no doubt that the principalities and powers, those Sons of God who were allotted the nations at Babel, were finally conquered at the cross and led captive at the ascension of Christ to his enthronement over all powers and authorities in both heaven and earth.

Returning to Psalm 82, that very same resurrection is hinted at as being the source of Messiah’s inheritance of the nations.

Arise, O God

Psalm 82:8
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

I believe that Psalm 82 is referring to the complex of events surrounding Messiah’s death, resurrection and ascension. “Arise, O God…” is on the surface, a call to action for God to stand from his seated throne of judgment and actively perform his judgments (Psa 44:26-27; 74:22; 76:9-10). But I believe it goes deeper.

You see, the word for “arise” (anasta) in the Greek Old Testament is a word used of resurrection in the New Testament (Mark 5:41; Acts 9:40; Eph 5:14). So I think Psalm 82 is making a veiled reference to the resurrection of Messiah as the foundation of the inheritance of the nations.

But I am not making this symbolic connection from my own poetic imagination. I got it from the apostle Paul. In Romans 15, he writes about Jesus and his resurrection being the catalyst that brings in the Gentiles, as foretold in Isaiah.

Romans 15:12
12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

But when you go back and look at the passage in Isaiah that Paul quotes, we see a slight different interpretation of the “arising.”

Isaiah 11:10–12
10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the [Gentiles] nations inquire, … He will raise a signal for the nations…

Paul quotes the Greek Old Testament here that interpretively changes the raising of a battle standard into the raising of a person. Paul claims that person is Jesus who arose (anasta). And it’s that same Greek word, anasta that is used in the Greek version of Psalm 82:8 (“Arise, O God”). As New Testament scholars like N.T. Wright point out, the fulfillment of Christ “arising” to rule the nations (Gentiles) is an obvious contextual pointer to Christ’s resurrection.

So the claim of seeing the resurrection in the statement, “Arise O God, judge the earth. For you shall inherit all the nations (Gentiles),” is not only consistent with apostolic interpretation, it fits the parameters of the new covenant kingdom of Messiah that brings judgment and salvation for all.

The resurrection of Christ is all over Psalm 82. It is the very context that results in Messiah’s enthronement and his inheritance of the nations.

Some Christians believe that there are still Watchers with territorial control over nations today. That there is still a heavenly “prince of Russia” or “prince of Persia,” etc. They justify this by appealing to the fact that many countries are still majority pagan, atheist or Muslim and therefore in bondage to the elemental spirits that Paul wrote about.

But if this is true, it would be equivalent to saying that Jesus did not triumph over the powers at his resurrection (Col 2:15); that he did not lead them captive (Eph 4:8); that Jesus is not enthroned at the right hand of God above all principalities and powers (Eph 1:21); that the Watchers are not under his feet (Eph 1:22); that Messiah did not inherit the nations (Psa 2:6-8); that the Gentiles cannot come into the kingdom because they are still in bondage to those spiritual powers (Rom 15:12); all of which defies the Scriptures, the Gospel and simple observation.

The very reason why people from all tribes and peoples and languages are becoming Christians through the Gospel is because Jesus the Messiah has freed the nations, because Messiah has disinherited the Watchers and has inherited the nations.

Simply stated, the Messiah could not draw the nations to him if there were still Watchers in authority over them. The Watchers have been disinherited, judged and executed as Psalm 82 predicted.

But after establishing this narrative of Christus Victor, Christ’s victory over the powers, there remains one big glaring issue: If the powers were defeated at the cross, if they were led captive at Christ’s ascension, then why did the New Testament describe Christians as still in a wrestling match with them? (Eph 6:12). Does this mean that this struggle with those Watchers over the nations remain for us today? I’ll take a look at that in my next post. And that will be the most amazing, controversial and powerful of all these posts. Just wait and see.

To see how the rule of the fallen Watchers over the Gentile nations may have played out in history, read my novel series, Chronicles of the Nephilim. To see what the Watcher’s final destruction might have looked like, read my series Chronicles of the Apocalypse.

These posts are all excerpted from my newest booklet, Psalm 82: The Divine Council of the Gods, the Judgment of the Watchers and the Inheritance of the Nations. You can buy the booklet here.

 

 

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