All Nations Under God
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.
Whether or not they recognize it officially in a pledge of allegiance or some other way, the fact is that all nations are "under God." They were formed by God in the first place, are being evaluated by Him, and eventually have been or will be judged by Him.
A key text on this subject is found in Paul's reminder to the Athenian evolutionists. "(God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:26). Somehow, God has led each nation into the territory it was intended to occupy. After all, "The earth is the Lord's," and He can divide it according to His own will (Psalm 24:1). Furthermore, the duration of that occupation has been controlled by Him, using criteria revealed in His word.
Thus God has a deep interest in each nation as such, as well as in the individual citizens of that nation. In fact, one can discern at least five criteria by which He evaluates the nations and determines their appointed times.
The Righteousness Criterion
One obvious measure God uses is His standards of righteousness. For example, although God told Abraham that his nation would receive the land of the Canaanites, they would have to wait a long time, for "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Genesis 15:16). Similarly, when God was ready to terminate the period of time allowed Sodom and Gomorrah "because their sin is very grievous," He agreed to spare them if there could be found even ten righteous people there (Genesis 18:20,32).
There are other Biblical references to this effect. "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). If anyone wonders how a nation could know what God's standards of righteousness were before the law was written by Moses, an answer is given by Paul: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts . . ." (Romans 2:14-15). God has encoded the fundamentals of His standards of righteousness in each person's conscience.
A second criterion was noted by Paul, who attached it to his testimony about the times and territories appointed to the nations by God. The purpose of this allocation was that "they should seek the Lord,. . . though He be not far from every one of us" (Acts 17:27). God had promised that "those that seek me early shall find me" (Proverbs 8:17). "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him" (II Chronicles 16:9).
Furthermore, God has provided such an abundance of evidence in the creation itself that those who see these wonderful phenomena and still refuse to seriously seek God are "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Most definitely, "He left not Himself without witness" (Acts 14:17).
But the sad fact is that all those ancient nations, "when they knew God, . . . did not like to retain God in their knowledge . . ." (Romans 1:21,28). By the time of Paul, that apostle said that, at least as far as the nations themselves were concerned, "there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11). They did have various "gods" to worship, but all had rejected the true God. "For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens" (Psalm 96:5).
The Blessing of Israel
A third criterion which God uses to evaluate the nations is their treatment of His chosen nation Israel. When He called Abraham to found His elect nation, He said: "I will make of thee a great nation. . . . And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee" (Genesis 12:2-3).
God had promised to send a Savior into the world so "that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). That Savior would have to be God Himself, but incarnate as a man, so a nation had to be prepared into which He could be born and carry out His mission of world redemption. Although the nation Israel has often failed miserably, there has always been a remnant true to God and His revealed word. Despite severe divine judgments, Israel has survived and God has promised it will continue forever.
God has occasionally even allowed ungodly and wicked nations (such as Babylonia and Assyria) to chastise Israel, but then terminated those same nations for their wickedness and their treatment of Israel.
Response to the Gospel
In this present age, God has raised up another chosen and "holy nation, a peculiar people; . . . now the people of God" (I Peter 2:9-10). This nation has no king but Christ, who has redeemed them with the blood of His cross, so they have become citizens of His heavenly kingdom, serving on the earth as "ambassadors for Christ," seeking to persuade others to "be . . . reconciled to God" (II Corinthians 5:20). The response to this wonderful gospel of salvation, as they seek to "teach all nations" its saving message (Matthew 28:19), is yet another criterion by which God is evaluating the nations of the present world.
When the Lord sent out His first disciples on a preliminary evangelistic mission—a sort of training mission, as it were—He said: "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. . . . It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, then for that city" (Matthew 10:14-15). This very action was taken by Paul and Barnabas when their gospel preaching was rejected (Acts 13:51). Any nation that persecutes either Israel or the church will eventually regret it.
The Dominion Mandate
A fifth criterion is derived from God's very first command to Adam and Eve and therefore to the nations they would generate. "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it and have dominion . . . over the earth" (Genesis 1:26). This mandate implies a large population and every honorable occupation—science, commerce, education, etc. This "dominion mandate" amounts in effect to a magnificent divinely-commissioned stewardship for man over God's great creation—to understand its processes and develop its resources to the glory of God and the good of men.
Although man has failed miserably since sin entered the world, and the other criteria had to be established, this first command has never been withdrawn, so is still in effect for all the nations, Jew and Gentile alike, and Christian believers and unbelievers alike.
The mandate was renewed and expanded after the great judgment of the Flood. So far as the record goes, there were no nations as such until the dispersion at Babel, with its supernatural imposition of different languages for different families. There were 70 original nations after Babel, but these have now proliferated into about 200 organized nations and perhaps as many as 7000 languages and ethnic groups.
Many nations have perished throughout the ages and new nations have arisen. God has been evaluating and judging them throughout the centuries and millennia, presumably on the basis of the five criteria we have discerned in Scripture (there may be others also that we don't yet see). God is not capricious, and we can be sure that He has good reasons for His "appointed times and boundaries" for each nation of past or present.
The Future Nations
We read also in the Bible about a future judgment of whatever nations still exist when Christ returns. "Before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another" (Matthew 25:32). One group "shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matthew 25:46). Since the Greek word for nations is also, depending on context, used for both "Gentiles" and "heathen" (the same is true for the Old Testament Hebrew), this judgment apparently applies to individual Gentiles, but seems also to apply to Gentile nations as such.
There will be distinct nations in both the future millennium and the ultimate new earth as well, according to a literal interpretation of the passages dealing with them (see Revelation 20:3,8; 21:24,26; 22:2).
Which nations will these be? Certainly not those ancient nations that are already gone and largely forgotten (Sumeria, Phoenicia, Scythia, etc.). Presumably some of the present nations will make it, but most of them don't seem to rate too highly in terms of the criteria discussed herein. Some have contributed very significantly to the accomplishment of the dominion mandate, but few have been friends of Israel, for example. Some nations have responded heartily to the preaching of Christian missionaries (e.g., South Korea), but many Moslem nations have vigorously opposed all who would proclaim the gospel.
What about our own nation? We have been the best friends of Israel and have also contributed more than most other nations to the dominion mandate. Our nation was founded in large measure to serve the Lord, and has sent out the largest number of missionaries in modern times. In the past, at least, our moral standards were relatively high.
However, there is no doubt that our positions relative to all five of the criteria have badly declined in recent decades. There is hope that the "good old U.S.A." will be a viable nation in the ages to come, but there is a great need for true Biblical revival in this age!
Cite this article: Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. 2002. All Nations Under God. Acts & Facts. 31 (10).