At the end of World War II the two English-speaking victorious allies seemed destined to dominate the world for centuries. Germany and Japan were in ruins, Hitler’s 1,000-year reich ended after little more than a decade. The ancient countries of Central Europe lay devastated by years of war and carnage. The Soviet Union had suffered so much from two world wars, revolution, civil war and the purges of the 1930s that it seemed it would forever remain a nonthreatening backward power.
It may have looked that way in 1945, but it was not to stay like that for long.
Soon the British started dismantling their empire, exhausted after years of war and almost two centuries of playing the role of international policeman. Germany, though in ruins, began rebuilding almost immediately. With help from the United States and Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany organized in 1949. Monetary reform the previous year laid a solid foundation for prosperity to come. The Soviets responded by forming the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), a communist state whose very existence divided Germany in two and contributed to the Cold War, which was to separate the halves of Europe for more than 40 years.
Standing against tyranny
With Britain in seemingly terminal decline, the role of international policeman fell to the United States. If America had repeated its post-World War I isolationist withdrawal from international affairs, no one could have doubted that the whole of Europe would have fallen to communism. Instead the Cold War began while the Soviet Union strengthened its military hold on Eastern Europe, ringing down an “iron curtain” across the middle of the Continent. The United States would now serve as leader and defender of the free world.
Before World War II, Moscow had expected communist revolution to break out everywhere-and was surprised when it didn’t. Instead, many nations had turned to fascism in the two decades that followed World War I, with the Second World War the inevitable result. But what the communists had failed to gain at the ballot box or through internal revolution they could now conquer in the aftermath of war.
As Moscow’s forces swept across the nations of Eastern Europe to defeat Germany, they essentially annexed them. The Baltic countries became a part of the Soviet Union. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria kept nominal independence, but in reality had to toe the Soviet line. Communists also led Yugoslavia and Albania, but those nations remained free of Moscow’s direct control.
Within a short time the Western democracies had exchanged one enemy, fascism, for another, communism. Only American power could help save the world from further tyranny. Only the United States had emerged from World War II powerful and prosperous enough to take up the role of world policeman.
But the United States could not enjoy anything like the century of world supremacy that the British had maintained from the defeat of Napoleon to World War I, a century that saw no major challenges to British power. Instead, America found itself facing another nuclear power. In 1949 the Soviets developed their own atomic bomb and, four years later, the hydrogen bomb. A new arms race had begun, with far more deadly potential than any previous arms rivalry in history.
Before the end of 1949 the world’s most populous nation, China, also fell to communist control. The north of Korea and the north of Vietnam were soon added to the list of communist powers. The “domino theory” became the prevailing wisdom-that one nation after another would fall to communism unless something were done to stop it.
America’s response was to create alliances around the world, such as NATO, that would enable the United States and smaller nations to work together to stop the spread of communism.
Realizing that alliances on paper would achieve nothing without prosperity, America’s Marshall Plan helped resuscitate Europe’s moribund economies after World War II. No nation had ever been so generous, with much of the generosity benefiting its defeated enemies, Germany, Austria and Italy. Japan also received aid and investment, enabling it to eventually become one of the world’s great industrial powers.
A bulwark of freedom
Lutheran clergyman Heinrich Richard Wurmbrand eloquently described the crucial role America would play in the decades of the Cold War and beyond. Persecuted for his religious beliefs in his own country of Romania, he left prison in 1964 after serving a 14-year sentence. In 1967 he said:
“Every freedom-loving man has two fatherlands; his own and America. Today, America is the hope of every enslaved man, because it is the last bastion of freedom in the world. Only America has the power and spiritual resources to stand as a barrier between militant Communism and the people of the world. It is the last ‘dike’ holding back the rampaging floodwaters of militant Communism. If it crumples, there is no other dike, no other dam; no other line of defense to fall back upon.
“America is the last hope of millions of enslaved peoples. They look to it as their second fatherland. In it lies their hopes and prayers. I have seen fellow-prisoners in Communist prisons beaten, tortured, with 50 pounds of chains on their legs-praying for America … that the dike will not crumple; that it will remain free” (quoted by William Federer, America’s God and Country , 1994, pp. 705-706).
American resolve was to be sorely tested.
The tide turns
The 1950s saw many English-speaking nations, led by the United States, embroiled in the Korean War. But something went wrong. Here, only a few years after its triumph in history’s greatest war, the United States failed to gain a clear-cut victory. North Korea’s goal of an undivided communist nation was thwarted, but North Korea was not defeated. It remains a hard-line Stalinist nation, a relic of a monolithic communist past-and still a major threat to world peace almost 50 years after the cease-fire that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula.
Other conflicts broke out, seemingly everywhere. Political contenders campaigned in the American election of 1956 against the backdrop of war in the Middle East and a crushed uprising in communist Hungary. Cold War tensions reached their height, and the growing Arab-Israeli conflict provided another avenue for Soviet expansion. Moscow was to be the main supporter of the Arab powers in the years to come while the United States backed Israel.
In 1962 the two major nuclear powers came their closest to direct conflict, a war that might have destroyed civilization. After the fall of Cuba to communist forces in 1959, Moscow started positioning nuclear weapons on that island, aimed at the American mainland. President John F. Kennedy demanded the Soviets withdraw their nuclear missiles from Cuba or face drastic consequences. Although Moscow backed down after a few days of rising tension, Cuba remains a communist country.
More war was to follow. The next major conflict was to see the United States in alliance with Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and South Vietnam to preserve the freedom and independence of the latter. Yet, at the height of the Vietnam War, it seemed as if America itself were falling apart. Antiwar sentiment divided the nation while race riots and assassinations threatened the cohesion of the republic.
America lost the war after its withdrawal as South Vietnam fell to communist forces in 1975. In rapid succession Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia and Afghanistan all likewise fell.
The Cold War was not so cold anymore. Although the two major nuclear powers managed to avoid direct confrontation, their proxy states around the world often fought each other, with dire consequences for their citizens. America was clearly losing its battles for the hearts and minds of people.
The 1970s saw little improvement. A major war in the Middle East led to worldwide inflation as the price of oil quadrupled. Scandal in Washington brought down a president. Before the decade was out, Islamic-fundamentalist Iranians held Americans hostage in the U.S. embassy in Tehran for 444 days.
President Jimmy Carter called America’s difficult time a malaise. French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing remarked of Americans, “You have begun to question your identity … You have ceased to believe in your destiny” ( Time , May 24, 1976).
The 1980s, however, were to see marked improvement in the U.S. situation as a popular conservative president made Americans feel proud again and raised American prestige around the world. By the end of the decade communism was in retreat as nation after nation behind the iron curtain overthrew its communist rulers and embarked on democratic and free-market reforms.
The fall of communism, however, did not mean the end of conflict. In fact, the demise of the Soviet Union led to a proliferation of conflicts around the world. Iraq seized Kuwait, triggering the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The United States again led the way in repelling aggression but ended up with another long-lasting and costly stalemate.
Where to go from here?
The beginning of the 20th century saw America emerge as a world power after victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The 20th century was to become known as America’s century. But what is America’s destiny in the 21st?
Previous articles in this series, published in the last two issues of The Good News , have shown that the Bible predicted America’s destiny thousands of years ago. The United States was to become the world’s greatest single nation in history; Great Britain and her overseas possessions were to become a multitude of nations.
God would give incredible wealth and prosperity to the two peoples, the descendants of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Through them great prosperity would come upon the rest of the world as Joseph’s descendants were prophesied to be, in the “last days,” a “fruitful bough” (Genesis 49:1 Genesis 49:1And Jacob called to his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
American King James Version×, 22-26), exporting capital and expertise around the globe.
These two nations were also destined to struggle against the hostility and attacks of others (verses 23-24) to preserve peace and freedom around the world. How remarkably America and Britain have fulfilled these prophecies!
Blessings tied to obedience
In the role of international peacekeepers, these nations would help bring religious freedom to much of the earth. People from the two nations have also been at the forefront of translating and distributing Bibles to the nations.
Clearly, the God of the Bible and His Word are recognized as having played a major role in America’s history. America’s founding fathers intended to build a Christian country, realizing that a nation would prosper to the extent that it was built on and lived by the Ten Commandments. The founding fathers gave no one church preeminence, as England had, but they understood that the laws of God were to be the foundation of the nation’s laws.
This was true until the 1960s.
That decade of great turmoil in the United States was also the decade that saw the nation turning away from its biblical foundation. Pressure began building to adopt the same permissive laws that had already been introduced in many European nations. Advocates of “free love” spurned marriage and family life. The birth-control pill, introduced in 1960, made it possible for people to adopt sexually promiscuous practices without the fear of pregnancy (though the consequence of sexually transmitted diseases remained, and infections skyrocketed). Marriage rates declined as more and more couples simply cohabited.
Within a few short years, states introduced no-fault divorce, legalized homosexual practices and sanctioned abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment to the Constitution protected pornography. Like ancient Israel thousands of years before, Americans were rejecting the moral laws of God.
The social consequences of such thinking and practices are not hard to see. Broken homes, violence, sexual perversions and licentiousness grew out of control. Today America is a hedonistic society. With other Western nations, the United States is fulfilling a prophecy of the apostle Paul, who warned us of “perilous times” in the “last days.”
“… For men will be lovers of themselves,” he wrote, “lovers of money,… proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …” (2 Timothy 3:1-4 2 Timothy 3:1-4 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
American King James Version×).
It is not mere coincidence that America started to fall apart internally in the 1960s as the country was turning away from the moral laws of God. Twenty years later the moral climate improved after a minor resurgence of traditional values, but that was short-lived and too weak an effort to undo the damage or restore godly laws needed for a meaningful societal change.
Consequences aren’t always immediate
The Bible reminds us that the consequences of a nation’s turning away from God are not always immediate. In fact, they may be delayed or extend over generations. Note these words in the giving of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me … For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:3 Exodus 20:3You shall have no other gods before me.
American King James Version×, 5).
Consider, for example, slavery as practiced in the early United States. Although this great evil was finally abolished by the Civil War, the negative consequences of racial tension linger to this day, affecting virtually the entire country.
In a similar way we see more clearly the negative consequences of the liberal agendas of the ’60s and ’70s. Almost two generations later, the consequences of rejecting God’s laws become more obvious. America may be richer than in the past, but morally the country is bankrupt, its society in decline.
God warns His people to remember that He is the source of blessings: “… When you have eaten and are full-then beware, lest you forget the LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:11-12 Deuteronomy 6:11-12 11 And houses full of all good things, which you filled not, and wells dig, which you digged not, vineyards and olive trees, which you planted not; when you shall have eaten and be full;
12 Then beware lest you forget the LORD, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
American King James Version×). This passage reminds us that God gave us the land on which we dwell as well as its great material abundance. Yet failure to remember and obey God will result in dire consequences (Deuteronomy 8:18-20 Deuteronomy 8:18-20 18 But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And it shall be, if you do at all forget the LORD your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the LORD destroys before your face, so shall you perish; because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
American King James Version×).
Deuteronomy 28 sums up well the consequences for a nation that abandons its Creator. A nation that is faithful to God and His laws will be blessed, and the nation that rejects God and His laws will be cursed. Curses come on the United States and other nations when they turn away from their Creator.
It wouldn’t take much for the situation to dramatically worsen. America’s whole way of life is built on its enormously powerful economy. But what would happen if the economy took a dramatic downturn? Would the nation hold together? What would happen if the country were defeated in a major war?
Indeed, America dare not allow its wealth to make it complacent. It has built much of its material prosperity on borrowed money. The physical blessings it enjoys now could easily become the curse of unpaid debt if the economy plummets.
It is good to remember that at the dawn of the 20th century British power seemed, in the words of a German nationalist newspaper at the time, “practically unassailable” (quoted by J. Morris, Pax Britannica , 1968, p. 28). How quickly this changed in just a few decades! American power, too, can diminish overnight.
Mankind in general has always had the freedom to make its own choices. The descendants of the men who built the United States on a foundation of their understanding of the Ten Commandments were free to reject those laws, but the consequences of having done so are inevitable.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the people who dominate our culture and those who led the country at its founding is that people today believe America can succeed without God. Right legislation can solve any problem. All it takes is the right allocation of funds.
The reality is that the further the nation drifts from God the more complex-and costly-the problems become. Only a return to the laws of God will solve the nation’s ills.
God’s promises are sure
If the United States-and other English-speaking nations that sprang from the biblical tribe of Joseph, including Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa-doesn’t genuinely return to God, terrible consequences will result, warns biblical prophecy. Some of these nations have already fallen far from their peak of power. But things could get much, much worse. The Bible speaks of the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7 Jeremiah 30:7Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
American King James Version×), when the United States and other descendants of ancient Israel will suffer the severe consequences of turning away from God (see “More Disasters on the Horizon?”).
We have seen in this series of articles how America’s birth and rise to power have been an astounding fulfillment of Bible prophecy. But let us also recognize that, just as the prophecies of national greatness have come to pass, so will the prophecies about America’s fall from greatness because of its continuing drift from God and slide into greater and greater sins.
Yet it is not too late. God says, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it” (Jeremiah 18:7-8 Jeremiah 18:7-8 7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them.
American King James Version×).
America has tragically lived up to the negative side of its biblical name, Manasseh, which means “forgetting.” The nation has lost its way, and God pleads with it to find its way back to Him. “Yet the Lord pleads with you still: Ask where the good road is, the godly paths you used to walk in, in the days of long ago. Travel there and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that is not the road we want!’” (Jeremiah 6:16 Jeremiah 6:16Thus said the LORD, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
American King James Version×, The Living Bible).
Sadly, as a whole, America and the other modern nations descended from Israel are not likely to heed God’s warning before suffering calamity the likes of which has never been. But, as individuals, each of us still has the opportunity to repent of his sins. We can turn our lives around to serve the great God. “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3 Zephaniah 2:3Seek you the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have worked his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be you shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.
American King James Version×).
True repentance, committing from the heart to obey God from now on, is the only way to find forgiveness of sins and true happiness-and ultimate freedom.
The Scriptures show us that, after America experiences the negative consequences of rejecting God, there will come a time of national repentance-and Americans, together with the other descendants of Israel, will turn back to their God. After that happens the nation will once again be one set on a hill, an example for other nations to follow.
But you don’t have to wait until then. You can repent now-and be an individual example of the blessing and freedom that comes from following God. GN