“Why do the heathen rage?”
What is in store for the nations of the earth? What is their future? Will they continue to exist, and for how long? Before facing these questions we need to examine the question in the chapter heading above. This question is found in Psalm 2:1, “Why do the heathen (i.e. nations) rage and the people imagine a vain thing?”
It should be noted first of all that there were no nations as such during the first 1800 years of man’s history. There was just mankind, or humanity. Genesis 11:1 states: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” It wasn’t until about 2200 B.C. that mankind was divided up into raging, warring, striving nations. That took place at the tower of Babel when God came down in judgment and confounded their language and scattered them abroad upon the face of the earth. This was the beginning of nations (Genesis 11:5-9). Here we have the disunited nations, while today we have the so-called United Nations, which is man’s effort to undo the damage, and while one may appreciate their lofty aims, their efforts are sadly doomed to failure. The nations will not be truly united until they are united under the rule of that One who is “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
What was the reason for the judgment that was visited upon the human race at Babel? We find the reason in the first chapter of Romans. There we learn that God had revealed Himself to man, not only in His creation but otherwise as well. But in spite of the abundance of revelation, rendering them without excuse, they turned away from the only true God and worshipped and served gods of their own devising. We read: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God … And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:21,23). They forgot God. At Babel it was “us, us, us,” and the wrath of God fell upon them. The nations of the world, including our own, should take heed, for it is written, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). The ancient world gave God up and He perforce gave them up. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28).
Why do the nations rage? According to Webster the word “rage” means to be in turmoil, uncontrollable. This is an apt description of the nations of the world. It is interesting to notice that in Daniel 7 God is describing four kingdoms, or nations, and He pictures them as wild beasts; a lion, a bear, a leopard, and the fourth as dreadful and terrible. And many nations today have ravenous beasts as a symbol. There is the British lion, the Russian bear, and our own American eagle with its cruel claws and deadly beak. This is a sobering thought. God sees the nations as wild beasts raging and preying on one another, and it is folly to think they are going to be tamed. In fact, their wildness will increase as we approach the time of the end. Jesus said we would see, not peace, as men like to dream, but what? He said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars … for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6-7).
Why do the nations rage, and why is all this true? The question in Psalm 2:1 is answered in the very next verse: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” The nations are raging and troubled because they have rebelled against God and think to get along without Him. And they rage because they are deceived by Satan and blinded to the light. In Revelation 12:9 Satan is described as “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”
When God gave up the nations at Babel, He brought on the scene a new nation. That was Abraham’s seed, the nation Israel, and for the next 2000 years God confined His dealings with the human race to that nation. But that nation, though highly blessed of God, proved no better than the others and God was finally forced to turn away from them also. Here the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, stands guilty before God and ripe for judgment. It was then that God sprang a grand surprise and through a new apostle revealed that instead of judgment it would be grace. This dispensation of grace that was ushered in, made known through Paul, has already lasted almost 2000 years. In this dispensation God is not dealing with nations but is saving individuals out from among the nations and offering eternal life as a free gift to as many as will put their trust in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
Is there a future for the nations when they will be owned and blessed of God? The answer is yes. God always had blessing for the nations in view. This is indicated in the call of Abraham when God said: “In thee and thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Peter referred to this in Acts 3:25 when he told his Jewish audience, “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” Peter then immediately adds, “Unto you first.” According to God’s prophetic program, Israel was to be blessed first and then the nations blessed through Israel. Both the nation and the nations will be blessed, but first they will have to go through the Great Tribulation, a time of purging.
The end-time is that future period of yet unfulfilled prophecy, in particular the seventieth week of Daniel’s great prophecy. This is a period of seven years, the latter half of which is called the Great Tribulation. The Lord spoke of this when He said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). This is “the time of Jacob’s trouble” but all the nations will be troubled as well. Luke writes: “And upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear” (Luke 21:25-26). The Great Tribulation will truly be a time of unparalleled suffering for all nations of the earth. The saints of that age will suffer but their enemies will also suffer when God “ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isaiah 2:19).
The Great Tribulation will end with the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ as the rider on the white horse pulverizing His foes beneath His feet. There will then be the judgment of the nations. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32). Here it will be determined which nations will enter the millennial kingdom. The basis of this judgment will be the treatment accorded the witnesses who, during the tribulation, have been preaching the gospel of the kingdom. In Matthew 24:14 we read: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” In some of the nations these witnesses will not be received; they will be persecuted and even put to death. In other places they will be welcomed and cared for, and their message received. These are the sheep nations, and certainly we know that nations are made up of individuals, and these will be saved and enter the millennial reign of Christ. All who enter the Millennium at its beginning are saved, but those born during the Millennium will be born sinners and will need to be born again. Some of them will, while many will not and may be among those who take part in the final revolt at the close of the thousand years. But during the Millennium there will be nations, with a national identity, and they will be participating in all the blessings of that time and will be sending their representatives to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 14:16).
Many years ago there was a popular song titled, “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise.” People didn’t know what they were singing about, but in reality the world is waiting for the Sun of Righteousness to rise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2). Then Psalm 72:8-11 will be fulfilled and we will see the nations paying homage at His feet. “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.” For a thousand years earth will have rest. Wars will be ended, the desert places will become fertile and fruitful, and even the wild animals will be domesticated. Society will be tranquil with justice for all and an equal distribution of earth’s resources. This seventh millennial day in man’s history will indeed be a sabbath of rest.
In light of the above it is truly amazing that after a thousand years of the peaceful and beneficent reign of King Jesus, there will be those among the nations who will still rebel when given opportunity. Note Revelation 20:7-9, “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” The Millennium is man’s last test and again he fails, proving that latent in the human heart is a spirit of insubordination against God and His anointed. All of the nations are not involved in this rebellion but only those defined as “the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog.” Bullinger says: “This suggests that the people of Gog had purposely got as far away from the centre of government as they could. As their hearts were far away, so they removed their persons.” This final rebellion is short lived. The rebels are summarily destroyed and Satan finds his final doom in the lake of fire. The fire from heaven visited on the rebels, the casting of Satan into the lake of fire, the dissolution of the heavens and earth, and the great white throne judgment, mark a stormy end to this present scene. But beyond the last storm lies the eternal calm. Time is now ended and eternity has begun. There is a new order altogether, referred to as a new heaven and a new earth, with the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down and the nations walking in its light. After the description of the New Jerusalem we read: “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it” (Revelation 21:24). Ford Ottman says: “At the close of the Millennium, as during it, there shall be nations. In this conception there is no difficulty, nor is there any in the fact of their having access to the holy city, unto which they shall bring their glory and honor.” Dean Alford says: “There shall still be dwelling on the renewed earth, nations, organized under kings, and saved by means of the influences of the heavenly city.” Dr. Bullinger writes: “Those nations, during the Millennium, that walk in the Divine light of the earthly Jerusalem, are transferred to the new earth, to walk in the Heavenly light of the New Jerusalem.” Here the hopes and dreams of the nations will be fully realized. When God said to Abraham, “In thee shall all families (nations) of the earth be blessed,” He did not mean just for a brief period of time, but eternally.
Meanwhile, as the nations await the fulfillment of God’s prophesied program of blessing for them, God has brought in an unprophesied program by which He is visiting the nations and saving out of them a company of believers who constitute His blood-washed, ransomed and redeemed Church. Paul was the emissary to make this good news known. He was reminded of his commission in Acts 26:17-18, “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles (nations), unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
In I Corinthians 10:32 is found God’s division of the human race. There we read, “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” Each one of these three has their own sphere of future blessing and it is important to recognize this as we study the Scriptures of truth.