Some people are under the impression that God did not hold people in the Old Testament accountable for their sins and will not in the Day of Judgment. This thinking is sometimes based on Acts 17:30, “Truly, the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” Is this saying God excused those who lacked knowledge of right and wrong?
We can know this is not true because of what Paul wrote in Romans 1. He said the Gentiles were under the wrath of God because they rejected Him (Rom. 1:18-22). When this happened they went into idolatry and all forms of immorality (Rom. 1:23-32). Will all this be overlooked in Judgment?
One example should suffice: Sodom & Gomorrah. “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). The “similar manner to these” has reference to angels who sinned and are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). The wicked people of Sodom and the surrounding area are going to hell; God has not and will not overlook their sin.
So, what “ignorance” did God overlook? It was the ignorance of His plan for redeeming man. The nations had not known God because they rejected Him (Rom. 1:18-32). The Jewish nation received the Law of Moses as a special people to God; entered a covenant with Him. This covenant, however, was not an evangelistic one. The Jews were not told to go and convert the heathen. Rather, they were told to destroy them (Deut. 7:1-5).
Now, under the covenant of Christ, the people of God are to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19, 20). This covenant is an evangelistic one. God wants His messaged dispersed throughout the world.
Did God not care about the nations in the Old Testament? Yes. There are glimpses of Old Testament of God dealing with them. There was a law He expected them to abide by, otherwise not one member of those nations would ever have been guilty of sin (cf. Rom. 4:15). He simply did not deal with them like He did the Jews.