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Why did some nations emerge and thrive at a specific point in time, while others remained quite primitive and mired in poverty? How did tiny Britain manage to assemble a global empire, and why did America become the greatest nation on the face of the earth? Why is Australia called the “Lucky Country” and why did South Africa and other British territories develop and prosper, while other nations are still struggling to develop?
Questions like these have long puzzled leaders and scholars—such as historian Davis Landes, whose work The Wealth and Power of Nations: Why Some Are Rich and Some Are Poor focuses on the mystery. However, the Bible contains important answers to these intriguing questions, answers that are largely absent from academic textbooks and little understood by world leaders. The rise of what has been called “the Anglosphere”—Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and America—was no accident. The Bible reveals that God is working out a divine plan on this earth (Daniel 2:21), and these British-descended nations were prophesied to play an important role in this God-ordained plan that would have a powerful impact on the entire world.
The beginning of that plan is found in the book of Genesis, in a remarkable series of prophetic promises that God made to Abraham and his descendants. In Genesis 12:1–3, Abraham was told that if he obeyed God, he would become a great nation and be a blessing to all nations. In Genesis 17:1–8, Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations, and, as a result of his obedience, these promises became unconditional and were expanded. Still later, he was told that his descendants would multiply “as the stars of heaven” and possess the gates of their enemies (Genesis 22:16–18; 24:60). They were prophesied to spread around the world, and Abraham was told that “in his seed” all nations would be blessed (Genesis 28:14–15). In Genesis 35:9–10 the name of Abraham’s grandson Jacob was changed to Israel (his descendants would be Israelites), and in Genesis 48:14–22, Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Jacob’s grandsons, were prophesied to become a great nation (Manasseh) and a great company of nations (Ephraim). Our free booklet The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy explains how the peoples of the “Anglosphere” have fulfilled these amazingly specific prophecies and are the modern nations that have descended from Abraham through Joseph.
But why did God record these ancient prophecies about the future of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? While the Apostle Paul mentions that the nations of the world will be blessed spiritually through Abraham’s seed, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8, 16), history records how Abraham’s other descendants have been a blessing to many nations of the world as well, and in many ways.
In Exodus 19:5–6 we read that the Israelites (descendants of all twelve sons of Jacob) were to be a “special” people because they were given the laws of God that would set them apart from other nations (Exodus 20–23). God intended the Israelites to be a model nation, benefiting from the blessings that would flow from Him in the areas of health, prosperity, peace and happiness when they obeyed His laws—showing them to be “wise” in the sight of other nations (Deuteronomy 4:1–9; 6:17–18; 7:12–15). Jesus gave similar instructions to His disciples—to be “lights” to the world (Matthew 5:14–16). Although the ancient Israelites eventually turned away from God and His laws and disappeared into captivity, this did not invalidate the prophecies and unconditional promises of future greatness and future blessings for other nations.
Numerous ideas have been advanced to explain the so-called “miracle of the West”—an event that includes the rise of the British-descended nations, particularly Britain and America. Historian Jonathan Daly catalogues these ideas in his work Historians Debate the Rise of the West. While these speculative ideas credit the role of geography, climate and even luck, what is largely overlooked today are the biblical prophecies that foretold the rise of the Israelite nations to global prominence after a lapse of 2,520 years (see The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, p. 29). What is also overlooked by most progressive scholars is the role of the Judeo-Christian ethos in molding and fashioning the unique culture of the British-descended nations.
Some researchers believe that the burst of scientific and technological progress in the West was the result of a way of thinking fostered by a unique approach to the Scriptures in northwest Europe, where the influence of Judeo-Christian culture prevailed: that God, “the Intelligent Designer of a rational universe,” created the universe to operate on laws that were discoverable, and that the duty of “Christians” was to learn to apply the discoveries to improve the lives of people (see How the West Won, Rodney Stark, pp. 5, 315–317). This approach, and other vital factors, launched the Industrial Revolution in England. That “revolution” brought many difficulties to families and society, to be sure, but also many startling benefits, and began “an era of immense and stunningly rapid progress” with the unprecedented development of labor-saving technologies. Innovations that followed include power looms, steamboats, railroads, electric lightbulbs, telephones and, eventually, computers, medicines and advances in understanding the transmission of disease, which have benefitted peoples all over the earth—and, in a real way, have created our modern world (Stark, pp. 325–337; Daly, pp. 23–26). Interestingly, 80 to 90 percent of all Nobel prizes in science and other fields for work that has improved the lives of millions have been awarded to individuals in the United States and the United Kingdom.
While the nations of the “Anglosphere” share a common language and similar institutions, many of their common cultural values—similar ideas of right and wrong, individual liberty, the rule of law, secure property rights, respect for human life as a creation of God, a biblical approach to marriage and family, the importance of God-centered education, the ideas of progress, freedom to innovate, and concern for others as for self—have roots in biblical ideas and have been fundamental aspects of Western Civilization. As the influence of the British-descended nations spread around the world (including through the translation and distribution of Bibles), these values also influenced the civil laws and cultural values of many other nations in beneficial ways (Daly, pp. 7, 13, 25; Stark, pp. 339–355). And it was the “Anglosphere” nations that led the effort to eliminate the global slave trade, liberated Europe and nations of the Pacific from tyranny during World War II, and helped lift the “Iron Curtain” from Eastern Europe.
The rise of the British-descended nations around the globe fulfilled ancient Bible prophecies and was a turning point that dramatically altered the course of world history. The nations of the “Anglosphere” were able to positively influence the health and prosperity of untold millions of people all over the earth—both through generously sharing their material blessings, and through spreading certain Judeo-Christian moral and cultural values. In spite of their many imperfections, the evidence of history indicates that these nations have played a significant role in physically fulfilling God’s word to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3)—a promise that will soon see its complete fulfillment in the return of Jesus Christ.