If there is to be one nation under God then it will have to meet the qualifications of a nation. A nation has a distinct culture. Its education, food, arts, music, and economics distinguish it as unique. This, in fact, is what God always wanted for His nation — one that would be distinguishable from all the other nations of the earth. His heart's desire is recorded in the book of Exodus:
Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites. (Exodus 19:5-6)
Israel was to be separate from all the other nations of the world. By the way it conducted itself, it would be a light to the surrounding nations. This was so that the people of all other nations could look and see what God's character was really like. They could look at the people and the way they treated each other and know that there was something special about them — something different from the rest of the world. This is what it meant to be "a light to the nations."1
However, it didn't take long for Israel to fall away from its commission, and only one of the eleven tribes stood with God and became the priesthood.2 Time and time again, they would fall into the worship of idols and get entangled with the nations around them. When the Son of God came, He pronounced judgment on the fallen tree of old Israel, saying:
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (Matthew 21:43)
Israel had been cut off. The kingdom would now be given to a nation that bore the fruit of it. That fruit was love, expressed in righteousness and justice. Just as good fruit on a tree is an outward sign of an inwardly healthy plant, full of all the necessary nutrients, being able to fight off disease and predators, the fruit of the Kingdom is outward love and unity, which must be the inward condition of the people who make up the nation. Apart from this, there is no light to the nations, and no way the world can know that God actually loves mankind.3
The establishment of this nation was everything the Son of God came for. His final prayer was focused on it:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:21-23)
Three times Christ prays that His disciples, the ones who would believe in Him through the message of the apostles, would be one just as He and the Father were one. This would be the thesis of this new nation. The antithesis would be division. Just like what God had wanted in the Old Covenant with Israel, now He had sent His Son to establish a new nation that would do all that was in His heart. Amazingly enough, we see this almost word for word in the New Testament:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Obviously, it is clear from this passage that God does want a nation of His own. But that nation has to exhibit all the attributes of the holy nation. It has to conduct itself like its founder, Christ himself, who said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight..."4 So, the nation that He established would not be of this world, entangled in the world's affairs, the world's politics, or the world's wars.
If God's holy nation was a specific country, then what would that mean for all the other countries with "believers" in them? Would they then not be part of that nation? Or what if there happened to be a war between two rival nations, with Christians in both? How could one justify the killing of his brother? After all, no murderer has eternal life.5
Any thoughtful person will conclude that God's holy nation cannot be entangled in the political affairs of this world. That is not their job. Their job is to build up God's spiritual nation (the Body of Christ)6 and be a light to all the other nations by how they interact with each other. All the believers are one, just as the Father and the Son are one.7 Just as John 3:16 says, they believe, but in Acts 2:44 it visualizes what that belief does outwardly: "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common..."8
This belief produced something: a nation — a holy nation, in fact, one that was set apart for a specific purpose: to be a light to all the nations of the world. How, pray tell, could this happen without the disciples living together, sharing all things in common, and demonstrating to a watching world the very love that Christ loved them with?
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
So, that is the only way the whole world would know who His followers were: by their obvious intense love for one another. In a world gone haywire, it would be pretty easy to identify a nation that had this kind of love. Can we honestly say that America is or ever was this way? The simple answer is: no. But, if not America, then what of the 39,000 Christian denominations all over the world? Are they truly exhibiting the kind of love and unity that Christ said would distinguish His followers from all other peoples of the world? Again, no is the answer.
But for those whose hearts long for more than compromise, "something old is being born." Just as countless men and women throughout history have longed to see the restoration of all things, there is a twelve-tribed nation emerging on the earth that has the same heart and behavior as their founder, the Son of God Himself. To gain citizenship into this nation, one has to sever fellowship with the world and all its ways, and enter, through baptism, into the new nation. It is life for life, just as Christ Himself said.9
In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul pointed out the fact that those who were part of the Body had to be sanctified (set apart) from the world into a particular place. Once in that place, they could then be made holy or purified just as 1 John 3:1-3 says. It would be impossible for someone to be purified while living, working, and building up a world gone haywire. Going to church once a week and doing good deeds does not equate to being separate.
No, Paul knew that to gain citizenship into the commonwealth of Israel10 you had to come into a specific locality -- a place where all those who believed lived together and shared all things in common. In that place, a person could be actually purified11 from all their wrong and hurtful ways and become like their Savior. In that place, brothers and sisters forbear and love each other by the power of the Holy Spirit.12 It is there, where the Son of God is, that His servants can follow Him and do His will.13 There could be no other way Christ's prayer for His followers to be one could be practically and visibly lived out.
God does want one nation under God, but that nation will be a spiritual nation, one that is separate and distinct from the nations of this world. This nation will never take up the sword, or even the voting ballot to get things done, but will instead focus on God's business, which is being a light14 to the nations so that His salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.15