Few people can remember a time when the United States did not dominate the world. At the dawn of the 20th century the country had only just emerged on the world scene after victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Forty years later, on the eve of World War II, the nation’s military strength still ranked below that of Portugal and Greece, its army the size of Romania’s.
Today it is indisputably the world’s greatest power. Ten years after the demise of its Cold War rival, the Soviet Union, the United States is the only superpower.
Power and influence are not measured only in terms of military capacity. American culture is pervasive. Movies made in Hollywood are dubbed into countless languages and shown all over the world. Television stations in Prague, Hong Kong, Kampala, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Barbados and just about everywhere else broadcast American television shows. In most of the world’s capitals fast-food outlets sell America’s favorite junk foods, often washed down by those symbols of American imperialism, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
No matter what you might think of the United States, the world would be a much different place if it did not exist. Without the United States the world would have succumbed to one or other of the two despotic tyrannies that struggled for world dominance for several decades from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Fascism and communism both threatened the peace and security of the world during that span of 50 years. Victory for either would have meant the end of life as we know it. The basic freedoms many take for granted today would have been denied this generation and future generations had not these twin evil ideologies foundered on the strength of American resolve.
Yet few people 200 years ago could have imagined that America’s position of global leadership would be the destiny of the fledgling republic.
How did America reach a point of global dominance? Is it possible that the United States was overlooked in the biblical prophecies about our time? Or was everything foretold a long time ago? What does the future have in store for the nation?
America might not have been
Some years ago America’s noncommer cial Public Broadcasting System televised a series of documentaries on the American Revolution. The historians researching and presenting the series came to the interesting conclusion that the Revolution should not have happened. Others through the years have said the same.
Gordon Wood, a professor of history at Brown University, wrote in his 1991 book The Radicalism of the American Revolution: “… The social conditions that generically are supposed to be behind all revolutions— poverty and economic deprivation—were not present in colonial America. There should no longer be any doubt about it: the white American colonists were not an oppressed people; they had no crushing Imperial chains to throw off. In fact, the colonists knew they were freer, more equal, more prosperous, and less burdened with cumbersome feudal and monarchical restraints than any other part of mankind in the eighteenth century” (p. 4).
Modern American history goes back 400 years to the founding of the English-speaking colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts. Later other colonies were added, settled primarily by people from the British Isles. Americans before the Revolution saw themselves as Englishmen and were proud of their heritage.
“In the year 1775, when the War of Independence began, the thirteen colonies had a population of perhaps 2,418,000 people, of whom possibly one fifth were black. Small Dutch, German, and Swedish minorities were included in these statistics, but the vast majority of white inhabitants were of British stock” (Russell Kirk, America’s British Culture , 1994, p. 69).
The land of the free
In the 18th century the English were the freest people on earth. Englishmen living in English colonies were even freer than their kin at home. They enjoyed freedom of the press, free right of assembly and freedom to trade without the restraints that governments placed on people in other nations. Each colony had its own parliament. Eighty to 90 percent of all free (nonslave) men could vote. By virtue of an act of the English Long Parliament (1640-42), before the English Civil War, they even had the right to bear arms, without which the American Revolution could never have started.
The colonies were also the home of religious diversity. The colonial governor of New York, Thomas Dongan, wrote in 1687: “Here bee not many of the Church of England; few Roman Catholicks; abundance of Quakers preachers … ; Singing Quakers, Ranting Quakers; Sabbatarians; Antisabbatarians; Some Anabaptists[;] some Independents; some Jews; in short[,] of all sorts of opinions there are some, and the most part [are] of none at all” (Jon Butler, Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 , 2000, p. 185).
Religion had played a major role in the development of the American colonies. The first British colony at Jamestown, Virginia, was planted by Anglicans; the Pilgrims set- tled at Plymouth 13 years later; the Puritans arrived at Boston in 1630—while Calvinists spread elsewhere throughout New England. Catholics followed in Maryland in 1634 and Quakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1682. Baptists and Methodists came later.
With all these basic freedoms, why did the Revolutionary War take place? The answer is quite simple: in order that Bible prophecy should be fulfilled.
The outcome of the Revolutionary War was far from certain. Historian Thomas Fleming, in a chapter titled “Unlikely Victory: Thirteen Ways the Americans Could Have Lost the Revolution,” states: “When a historian ponders the what ifs of the American Revolution, chills run up and down and around the cerebellum. There were almost too many moments when the patriot cause teetered on the brink of disaster, to be retrieved by the most unlikely accidents or coincidences …” ( What If? The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been , Robert Crowley, editor, 1999, p. 157).
But the Bible prophesied that the American and British peoples would separate.
Ancient prophecies fulfilled in recent times
In the book of Genesis we read of a time when the descendants of the two sons of Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob (also known as Israel), would become “a multitude of nations” and a “great” single nation (Genesis 48:19 Genesis 48:19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
American King James Version×). This prophecy was never fulfilled by the people who now live in the Middle Eastern nation of Israel, either in ancient times or recently.
At the beginning of Genesis 49 we read: “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days’ ” (verse 1, emphasis added throughout). This was not a prophecy to be fulfilled in ancient Israel, but by the descendants of Jacob “in the last days”—before the second coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
(We might note here that many people erroneously assume that when the Bible mentions Israel it refers only to the Jewish people. Biblical and secular history, however, shows that this common belief is wrong. In fact, the first time the Bible uses the term Jews, in 2 Kings 16:6-7 2 Kings 16:6-7 6 At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelled there to this day.
7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am your servant and your son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me.
American King James Version×in the King James Version, they are at war with the kingdom of Israel! The story is spelled out in greater detail in our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)
Genesis 49 lists the strengths and weak- nesses of each of Jacob’s sons. In verse 22 Jacob prophesies of his son Joseph’s descendants: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall.” From Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to come “a multitude of nations” and the “great” single nation that would be incredibly fruitful, industrious and productive, spreading out from their boundaries to other parts of the earth.
God had promised Jacob that his descendants would number “as the dust of the earth,” spreading in all directions, and that “all the families of the earth” would be blessed through his offspring (Genesis 28:14 Genesis 28:14And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×). His descendants would also be blessed with great material and agricultural wealth and abundance and dominate other nations of the earth (Genesis 27:28-29 Genesis 27:28-29 28 Therefore God give you of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve you, and nations bow down to you: be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you: cursed be every one that curses you, and blessed be he that blesses you.
American King James Version×).
Thousands of years were to pass before these prophecies would be fulfilled. Their fulfillment came in relatively recent times with the rise of the British Empire and Commonwealth, the “multitude of nations”; and the United States of America, the greatest single nation.
A separation prophesied
Until the 1770s the 13 American colonies were content to be a part of the British Empire. The colonists had recently fought alongside the mother country against France, winning a war that gave the English-speaking peoples domination of the eastern seaboard of North America. George Washington had fought in that war.
The British Empire was continuing to grow, with colonies and strategic sea gates around the world. Americans’security clearly lay within the empire, their freedoms protected by the Royal Navy and British armies. Each colony looked to the mother country rather than to neighboring colonies.
Then friction suddenly arose over taxation, the levies the British tried to raise to pay for the recent war against France. This discord rapidly escalated and led to the events of the Revolution and the eventual birth of the United States.
The events recorded in Genesis 48 show us that, for prophecy to be fulfilled, the United States had to separate from the British Empire. A distinction would eventually become apparent between the “multitude of nations” and the “great” single nation.
A rising empire
The British Empire, later to become the British Commonwealth, was then in its early stages. It would go on to encompass countries scattered around the globe. Some would be colonies ruled from London, represented locally by a British governor. Some would be protectorates, territories that in some cases had asked to be a part
of the empire and retained their own traditional leaders.
The Indian Empire, with its 320 million people, was to be the jewel in the imperial crown. The dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would become independent, sovereign nations, joined by the self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia. Altogether more than 60 countries around the world, each with its distinct culture and way of life, would form an empire upon which the sun never set.
These nations traded heavily among themselves. All benefited from considerable British investment. They enjoyed a common security backed up by the Royal Navy. But, above all, one institution united them—the British crown. Even the independent dominions, by their own choice, recognized the British monarch as their head of state.
For prophecy to be fulfilled America had to break away from this growing multitude of nations and sever its tie with the crown. There was no immediate demand for that drastic step when disputes arose between England and the colonists. The dispute was with the British government, not the king. The king was a constitutional monarch, seen as the guarantor of liberty against ambitious politicians, the symbol of unity for English-speaking peoples every- where regardless of their political affiliation.
Once the violence started, however, the bitterness between the belligerents grew so great that a total break—a severing of the tie with Great Britain and the crown—was inevitable.
John Adams, one of the leaders of the Revolution and America’s second president, wrote to his wife,Abigail, on the day after Congress’s approval of the Declaration of Independence: “It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever” (William Federer, America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, 1996, p. 9).
After the war George Washington discussed with Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, the idea of writing their memoirs. Historian Thomas Fleming writes that “between them the two men probably knew more secrets than the entire Congress and Continental Army combined.”
But the two men decided that their memoirs would be a bad idea. “It would be too disillusioning if the American people discovered how often the Glorious Cause came close to disaster. They jointly agreed that the real secret of America’s final victory in the eight- year struggle could be summed up in two words: Divine Providence” (Fleming, p. 186).
Birth of the republic
Some Americans, aware that the English Republic of the 17th century and others before it did not last long before succumbing to dictatorships, still wanted a king. Some put forth the name of George Washington, leader of the Continental Army, which had defeated the British.
Here we should note America’s biblical name, Manasseh, the great single nation (Genesis 48). Manasseh means “forget.” Americans were to turn their backs on Europe, forgetting their past. They were to build themselves up into the world’s greatest single nation, expanding westward, developing a wilderness into the most powerful economy in history.
Washington, America’s first president, was to warn against “foreign entanglements,” alliances that would have been inevitable if America had adopted a monarchical system of government. The children of monarchs marry the children of other kings to cement alliances. Had America adopted such a system, it would have looked backwards rather than to the future. But Washington had no heirs, making the possi- bility of a monarchy much more difficult.
The fledgling nation’s form of government remained an issue. No republic in history had lasted long. At the end of the Constitutional Convention, when the delegates emerged from the meeting hall in Philadelphia, a leading lady of Washington society called out to Benjamin Franklin: “What is it to be, Mr. Franklin? A monarchy or a republic?” Was the United States to be a constitutional monarchy, or a republic— a nation without a king? His answer: “A republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.”
Stability: Key to a nation’s success
America had already had representative government in colonial times. Now the new nation was to step out and boldly attempt representative government without a king. Here George Washington’s leadership was crucial. After two terms as president—a total of eight years—he voluntarily stepped aside, setting a precedent that contributed substan- tially to America’s stability as a republic.
This was no minor accomplishment. Often other nations that have adopted republican forms of government have failed in arranging the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another. America’s political stability, however, has been a key to its success. The United States, without a doubt, has been the most successful republic in history, the country Sir Winston Churchill would call “The Great Republic.”
Political stability was essential for prophecy to be fulfilled. Without stability, the country could never have become the greatest single nation in history.
The nation’s spiritual beginnings played a crucial role in its stability. The United States did not have one official religion as other nations had. Instead, virtually all people belonged to various churches that shared a high regard for the Bible. The United States was founded on Christian ideals by men who for the most part were strongly and deeply religious and convinced God was guiding the country.
Almost 40 years after the events that surrounded independence, John Adams wrote Thomas Jefferson that “the general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of Gentlemen could Unite … And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all these young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence” (Federer, p. 12).
Separation of church and state did not mean that the country was not to be a Christian nation, based on Christian principles and the Ten Commandments. Rather, it meant that no one church should enjoy a special status as was the case in England.
The oath of office, written by the founding fathers, states: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Washington, the first president to take the oath of office, spontaneously added, “I swear, so help me God,” and kissed the Bible—a tradition that his successors have followed for more than two centuries. The sincere desire of America’s founding fathers was that the republic would last. Built on Christian principles, with the Ten Commandments as its basic law, it would endure.
With a successful system of government in place,America was on course to fulfill its destiny as the greatest single nation in history.
In the next issue we will examine the astounding story of how the United States rose from newly independent former British colony to world superpower. GN