United States President Donald Trump ran for office with the stated intention to, in the words of his campaign slogan, “make America great again!” He’s caught quite a bit of criticism for putting his country first.
Of course, all countries wish to be great. And all national leaders should do their best to ensure that their countries are the greatest they can be. Who doesn’t want their nation to be successful, prosperous and great?
Prosperity and greatness
Unquestionably, the United States of America is the most powerful nation militarily, and the most affluent economically, that the world has ever seen. No wonder so many immigrants push through the country’s borders, legally or illegally, for a chance at a better life.
In general, those in the English-speaking nations are better off in many ways than most of the world’s population. Many blessings have been showered on the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. But these nations are also seeing a great moral decline—with the shunning of God and biblical values in the public arena—which does not bode well for their future.
Sadly, as we look at humanity in general we see gut-wrenching poverty, hunger, violence, hatred, war and disease. So we ask, broadening focus beyond America—which many would say is already great, relatively speaking—what would it take to make the rest of the world great? Is it remotely possible to make the whole world great?
Every nation and every person wants to be great. But it’s not going to happen by fanciful wishing. It can only come from God
Can social media make it happen? Facebook boasts a page titled “Make the World Great Again.” Its mission is “2 unite as 1 big happy family in hopes of making our lives meaningful again!”
Of course, I ask this in jest. It’s going to take far more than a mere social media posting, Facebook page or widespread media campaign to bring about such change.
However, the solution is actually quite straightforward and not all that complicated.
Jumping on the bandwagon
Since President Trump’s bold proclamation about making America great again, a lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon and used the phrase towards making their own lives great. Other nations and countries are doing the same.
For example, an Associated Press report early this year stated: “Hungary’s prime minister says there is an opportunity for the European Union to adopt reforms that will ‘make Europe great again.’ Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at a conference in Brussels … that the EU should abandon its federalist aims because only strong member states can guarantee the bloc’s success” (“Hungary Leader Orban Says It’s Time to Take Trump Seriously,” Jan. 26, 2017).
It’s become quite a popular catchphrase! Everyone wants their country, their continent, to be great. It’s interesting that the word “again” is often added. This presupposes that conditions in the nation or the world were great sometime before.
Can we go back to a period in history when the world was great? When all was good? When all was prosperous? When there was no war? When there was plenty of food for all? When the whole earth was peaceful?
We haven’t experienced it in our lifetimes, or those of our parents, or grandparents, yet at one time the world was great! But we have to go as far back in human history as we can to learn of this period.
The Garden of Eden: when the world was great
What was God’s original intent for our planet? We’re told that it was created “very good” (Genesis 1:31 Genesis 1:31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
American King James Version×). Everything was perfect and worked together in harmony. The trees were pleasant to the sight and good for food.
Do you ever wonder what the Garden of Eden was like? Have you imagined Adam and Eve living in an idyllic setting—with a perfect climate, to the point that not even clothes were needed for humankind to be comfortably warm. And how about all those magnificent animals dwelling in perfect peace with Adam? God even brought the animals to Adam and asked him to give them all names. None attacked him, or bit off his head, or clawed open his face. It was paradise!
Eden has come to represent a kind of paradise or perfect environment to us. Wouldn’t we all like to live in paradise? Adam and Eve were placed in a luxuriant garden . In the beginning human beings were at peace with nature—not fearing bad weather or wild animals. This was a perfect setting to prepare human beings for their ultimate destiny in the family of God.
But what became of it?
Something happened in that garden that forever changed the course of human history! And that something wasn’t pretty. It was terribly ugly.
Two trees in the garden
As prelude we are told that “out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9 Genesis 2:9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
Among the trees of the garden were two that were especially notable—the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God told them not to eat of the latter. Understanding the importance of these trees is critical to seeing how the world can be made great again—like the Garden of Eden once more!
How do we get back to paradise? It all has to do with the story of the two trees!
Sadly, Adam and Eve decided they would figure out for themselves what was right and wrong. Shunning God’s instructions, they took for themselves the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was forbidden to them (Genesis 2:16-17 Genesis 2:16-17 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×; Genesis 3:1-19 Genesis 3:1-19 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: 5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 And the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you? 10 And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11 And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14 And the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. 16 To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. 17 And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return to the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and to dust shall you return.
American King James Version×).
“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24 Genesis 3:22-24 22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from from where he was taken.
24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
American King James Version×).
Everything suddenly went horribly wrong when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned—and the problems didn’t end with them.
Choices have consequences
As we understand from these and later scriptures, the way of disobedience to God became embedded in their children and their grandchildren— all the way down to you and me today!
The gravity of humanity’s sin led to the needed sacrifice of our Lord and Savior in order for us all to regain any hope of the original intent of the Garden of Eden with the tree of life—which is eternal life in the family of God.
Now, ever since that fateful time, our world has been cut off from sufficiently full knowledge of God and His plan for us. Humankind no longer has direct access to that tree or to God. We can see the results of that all around us.
The tree of life is introduced into the biblical narrative in the first chapters of Genesis, and we see it again in the final book of Revelation. Amazingly, what we see in between these two books, the rest of the Bible, is the story of humanity living by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—and oh, how it shows that!
Our world today
We obviously don’t have the Garden of Eden any longer. What is our current situation?
Sadly, we see the results of humankind taking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong—instead of having access to the tree of life.
The majority of humanity lives in poverty, is ravaged by social unrest and war, is hungry, is poorly clothed, and does not have access to clean drinking water. Corrupt governments and political officials keep their subjects pushed to the limits of abject poverty. The wealth and freedoms of the major English-speaking nations and other Western countries are the exception, not the rule.
Jesus Christ told us it would be like this. In fact, He said that without God’s intervention we would all eventually destroy ourselves. Notice this prophecy He gave shortly before His crucifixion and resurrection:
“Now as He [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’
“And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name … and will deceive many [thus false religion, even false Christianity]. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences [or disease epidemics], and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows’” (Matthew 24:3-8 Matthew 24:3-8 3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×).
Jesus warned that these are only the beginning! We are told that pestilence, war, hunger and false religion will permeate the world until Jesus Christ finally returns. And what we see in our world today is only “the beginning of sorrows.” Conditions will grow far, far worse before they get better!
As Jesus foretold almost 2,000 years ago, we are headed down a terrible path of destruction.
The first and absolutely essential task of any government is to establish a public order based on the rule of law that enables people to live in peace and security. Those countries that do not establish order have in recent times been referred to as “failed states.”
A failed state has several attributes: central government being so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; failure to provide public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.
The population living in failed states represents a significant swath of our world’s population. It’s quite clear that while many of the Western nations of our world are considered comparatively “great,” billions of others definitely do not live in great circumstances. In fact, many live in subhuman conditions—a far cry from the original intent of the Garden of Eden!
The four horsemen of the Apocalypse
As we look more at our current world situation, note a parallel account to Jesus’ prophecies of Matthew 24 in Revelation 6 with the infamous “four horsemen of the Apocalypse.” The first two represent false religions and widespread war. The next two are described beginning in verse 5:
“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.’” This horse represents famine and shortages, with the prices of basic needs and luxuries skyrocketing.
“When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades [the grave] followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:5-8 Revelation 6:5-8 5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and see a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
6 And I heard a voice in the middle of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see you hurt not the oil and the wine.
7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given to them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
American King James Version×). This horse represents disease epidemics (that so often follow war and famine) along with other disasters.
What Jesus told His disciples, and what we see prophesied in the book of Revelation, is that there is coming a time when sorrows will increase and the horsemen of famine and plague will ride with even greater terror. War and false religion will permeate our globe. At this point the nations of this world will be looking not for greatness, but for just the basics of human survival!
It seems rather bleak, then, for much of humanity today and for the whole world in the not-so-distant future. So we must ask: Will paradise ever be restored? Just how can the world be made great again?
Do what God says and be blessed
Alexis de Tocqueville was a French diplomat, political scientist and historian. He is well known for his work Democracy in America, first published in two volumes (in 1835 and 1840). He traveled to America in the 1830s to discover the reasons for the incredible success of this new nation, and he stated the following in his book:
“Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things … Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power … The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom” (emphasis added).
So De Tocqueville saw the connection between religion, security, morality, freedom and law. Here is where it leads us, and it’s quite simple: All nations must follow the Creator’s instruction manual, and they must have the tree of life offered to them.
In Revelation 2:7 Revelation 2:7He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
American King James Version×Jesus states: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
We see here that the tree of life is what brings us back to paradise. Yet notice—it requires overcoming. But overcoming what?
We read more about this in the last chapter printed in your Bible. Look there and see. This concerns the time of the new heaven and new earth introduced in chapter 21, when the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, will descend to the earth with God the Father to dwell with us.
Revelation 22:2 Revelation 22:2In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
American King James Version×states: “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
So the tree of life is what will lead to humanity being healed and our world turned into paradise again. It requires this connection to God. But there is a major requirement, and again it’s about overcoming.
Revelation 22:14 Revelation 22:14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
American King James Version×tells us: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”
Here we see that access to the tree of life requires obedience to the commandments of God. It requires putting sin out of one’s life and overcoming our own selfish desires. And the tree of life enables us to have a relationship with God, His Spirit joining to our human spirit—leading eventually to our eternal life as spirit beings ourselves (Romans 8:11-30 Romans 8:11-30 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 15:42-53 1 Corinthians 15:42-53 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
American King James Version×).
How to be a great nation
What makes a nation great? Look at these words from Deuteronomy 4 that Moses spoke to the Israelites in the wilderness before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. These words tell us how to be a great people, how to be a great nation:
“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you … Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess.
“Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:1-8 Deuteronomy 4:1-8 1 Now therefore listen, O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers gives you.
2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD your God has destroyed them from among you.
4 But you that did join to the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.
5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call on him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
American King James Version×).
Did you notice how many times “great nation” is mentioned in that passage?
Following God is what makes a nation great. Keeping His laws and righteous judgments is what makes a great nation. A nation that “has God so near to it” will be awesome! And by extension, this is how to make the world great again! Following God is what will make the world great again! That will happen when Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth to rule the nations.
God’s Kingdom will not be a failed state. It will be the most successful government ever seen. It will be strong and effective, it will control its territory, it will provide the best of public services, there will be no governmental corruption, refugees will no longer flee its borders, and the economy will burgeon!
It takes much more than mere knowledge, however, to produce lasting peace and cooperation. A spiritual change in people is necessary. It will be that spiritual change in the people that will inspire entire nations to want to emulate it. It’s a change of spirit, a change of heart. It’s having God near. It’s having access to the tree of life and not deciding for oneself what is right and what is wrong.
A warning to you and me
But now, notice the next verse in Deuteronomy 4, because in it is a warning for you and me: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life …” (Deuteronomy 4:9 Deuteronomy 4:9Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life: but teach them your sons, and your sons’ sons;
American King James Version×). We must take heed and never forget what we have seen and what we have been given. Don’t depart from the truth of God all the days of your life.
Those truly called by God the Father, who become converted and filled with His Spirit, and who live a life of obedience to His law, have been given the tools necessary to become great in God’s family. We have received the promise of the gift of eternal life. Spiritually we are already rich—no matter our economic, social or health circumstances. Spiritually we are not in poverty, confusion, unhappiness or strife. And one day this will extend to everyone who has ever lived.
It seems that every nation, every people, and every person wants to be great again. You can do an Internet search for almost any country and see the people’s wish to be great again. But it’s not going to come about because of some fanciful wish. It’s only going to come from God, and only by our being led to obey His commandments and laws. That’s how, as we read in Deuteronomy 4:6 Deuteronomy 4:6Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
American King James Version×, “this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
Back to the tree of life
The world at one time was created perfectly, with the tree of life existing in the Garden of Eden. But because of the sins of Adam and Eve and every person since, our world today is barred from access to that tree, and men and women have decided to determine for themselves what they think is right and what is wrong, still in effect taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
But very soon Jesus Christ will return and give access to the tree of life once again to all of humankind—and this will truly allow all nations and all peoples to be great. But it requires a change of world government, overcoming sin and giving obedience to the law of God.
Yes, there is a definite plan for the ideals of Eden to be brought back, to make the world great again. Sadly, man has been on a tragic ride these past 6,000 years since Adam and Eve first sinned. And we have all followed suit. We’re all to blame! But God intends to rescue us.
Our dream of a utopian, almost impossibly ideal world will come true in His time—soon. Godly paradise will be restored. This is how the world will be made great again. It’s all about God’s intervention, helping us to reject the choice man made between the two trees in the Garden of Eden and to instead make the right choice!