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). 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, 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 3:1-19).
“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).
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).
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). 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 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 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 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; 1 Corinthians 15:42-53).
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).
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). 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, “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!