This year, I’m going to miss our neighborhood’s Fourth of July parade. I’ll be out of town serving at our church’s youth summer camp. I’m happy to spend time with the young people of our church, but I will surely miss the time spent with my neighbors on this commemorative day in America. In the neighborhood where I live, the Fourth of July is not simply one more holiday—it’s an event. We don’t go down to the big boulevard in town to watch strangers put on a parade. We are the parade and it happens “smack-dab” in front of our front porches.
Starting early in the morning, many begin washing their vehicles that will be in the upcoming parade. The more creative begin to lace their vehicles with the national colors of red, white and blue. The more inventive types use their trucks as a base for homemade floats with statues of Uncle Sam or the American eagle. Soon you begin to hear the sound of “boom boxes” all over the neighborhood. But there’s no rap, heavy metal or Beatles music on this day. “God Bless America,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The Star Spangled Banner” pleasantly compete for attention. Finally, one of the “’80s crowd” amps up Neil Diamond’s “Comin’ to America” and you know there is going to be a celebration.
A community comes to life
Soon people start lining their neighborhood lawns with their chairs and make sure their flag is out. Many plant it, along with themselves, right at the curb. People start sharing coffee and donuts. A community comes to life! Neighbors ask the inevitable question, “Are you going to march this year?” A man replies, “No, I don’t think so. I did last year, but not this year.”
Little children can hardly contain themselves for what they know is coming. Then, all of a sudden, a roar of voices can be heard from a block away. You know the parade has started and the action is coming your way. But which street will they go down first? What will you do when it reaches your street?
The music gets louder and there, rounding the corner onto our street, is a sea of motion, color, music, chatter and the happy voices of our neighbors. Our granddaughter, Meghan, shouts, “Here it comes. Here comes the parade!” People stand up as the flag goes by. People laugh at the poodle going by all dressed up in its “Yankee Doodle best.” Parents carry their little ones on their shoulders as “living floats” to celebrate freedom. The flashy red fire engine from the local station comes rolling around the corner sounding its horn. Video cameras are rolling to capture all that’s best about America.
Freedom is on their minds
Remember the man who wasn’t going to march this year? All of a sudden he grabs the flag from his porch and says to his wife, “Grab the baby and get the wagon. We’re going to march this year—yeah, again!” It’s an amazing sight to see 400 to 500 of your neighbors winding up and down through the streets that you call home. It’s even more amazing when you are in the middle of it and have for the moment become a living float of freedom.
Mayflower Village is not a world apart from the Los Angeles Basin, but mirrors the rich diversity of peoples that inhabit the metropolis. The street is filled with every mix of race, ethnic group and language—but on this day there is no doubt what everyone is feeling. They are all Americans and freedom is on their minds.
But why am I writing this now? You will be reading this after the Fourth of July.
Never had so few dared so much
The “Fourth” is much more than a date on a calendar. The quest for freedom is ageless and boundless. It’s an ideal that was given life and breath over 200 years ago with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Its birthplace was in the most unlikely spot. It was drafted and ratified by Englishmen living in 13 colonies in the “New World,” an entire ocean apart from the great political and philosophical capitals of the time—London, Paris and Berlin.
These “colonials” dared to dream of a society in which men would be judged, not based upon the right of birth, but rather on how they successfully lived their own lives, based upon the newly established universal tenets of the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It was simply unimaginable at the time—a society of free people without a hereditary ruler reigning over them. The historical mode of human relationships had been completed altered. Humanity had experienced a geopolitical earthquake. Human society would never be the same. Never had so few dared so much.
A defining date of destiny
It would be the defining date of history in which the sovereign God of all nations would allow two peoples to depart from one another and establish their own prophetic destiny as rendered in 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×. The passage speaks of Jacob’s blessing upon his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, proclaiming, “He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”
This family of Joseph was guaranteed further prophetic blessings in Genesis 49:22-24 Genesis 49:22-24 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
American King James Version×, which describes it as a “fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob…” With these verses read, contemplate how a “great nation,” the United States, and a “multitude of nations,” Great Britain and its Commonwealth (formerly empire), dominated world history for the last 200 years in this critical time that we believe to be what the Bible calls, “the end of the age.”
Imagine world history without either America or Britain and their “special relationship.” Think of the outcome of the pivotal war years of 1815, 1918 or 1945; then think again. Think of the “archers” who shot at these two brother nations and even tried to undermine their special relationship, at times trying to break it apart.
Think of Winston Churchill’s words during the dark days of World War II, when he spoke of the United States as the “arsenal of democracy” coming to the defense of freedom. Think what the world today would be like without the United States as the world’s sole superpower with its trusted ally, Great Britain. Then think again of a world left solely to the imminent threat of terrorists and their well-meaning, but pontifical apologist allies who simply think time will solve everything.
Then think again to July 4th when a nation was granted birth by a watchful God keen to fulfill His prophecies. It was He who bequeathed to America a land of fruit and honey bound by two oceanic walls to protect them from adversaries. A land that did not advertise for royalty, intelligentsia or warlords, but put up the advertisement: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” Why? It was intrinsically believed that an atmosphere of freedom would be the great equalizer and defining element as to whether a person succeeded. America has always been about where a person is going, not where he has come from.
A day of reckoning
But America will not always be here to be a beacon of liberty! America itself has a day of reckoning. The Bible speaks in 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×of a time of “Jacob’s trouble.” A time in which the same nation that touts itself a “one nation under God” will not be divinely protected from the “archer’s bow,” because of its steady course into godless humanism and secular anarchy.
How far have we come from the words of James Madison, the father of the American Constitution, when he said in 1778: “We have staked the whole future of the American Civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions…upon the capacity of each and all of us…to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
If the near future does not look bright for my beloved country, what does that mean for the rest of the world? The incredible reality is that the great future hope of all humanity is not “one nation under God,” but rather all nations under Him in His Kingdom, established and ruled on this earth by Jesus Christ.
So, no more parade?
God never removes one blessing without replacing it with something even more special. God promises His followers a parade of color, action and interactivity, and a cast of multiple thousands. When the big moment comes, no one is going to miss it. It doesn’t matter whether I’m at a youth camp in the High Sierras, our house in Mayflower Village, the densest jungle in the Amazon Basin or the remotest oasis in the Sahara. Wherever we might be, when the ultimate Independence Day comes, you will see everything happen right before you.
Jesus Christ plainly described His future entrance into human affairs in Matthew 24:27 Matthew 24:27For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
American King James Version×: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Have you ever watched fireworks light up the sky with their bright illuminations? Especially, the moment of the grand finale? That’s exactly what His entrance will be like.
Everyone will see it everywhere. There’ll be no missing it.
Some in the congregation at Thessalonica thought they had “missed the parade.” They were concerned that the Day of the Lord had come and gone—and perhaps they were “goners” for missing it. But Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
American King James Version×thoroughly describes the ultimate parade of activity of the ultimate Independence Day when man is freed from the self-imposed tyranny of death. He gives the parade program in order. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
The apostle John adds a few more details of this epic event in Revelation 19:11-14 Revelation 19:11-14 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a clothing dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
American King James Version×so we will know this heavenly parade of strength, majesty and immortality is under way. “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True…His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns…And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.”
When you put all the dynamics of this future celestial parade in full motion, what we look forward to here in Mayflower Village every July 4th pales into insignificance. Talk about the ultimate interactive parade event with everyone watching and, yes, everyone involved! Just think of it—the Son of God coming through the clouds, the crowns, the beautiful white outfits of linen, armies marching by, the dead rising, the living being transformed into immortality before our very eyes. I don’t think I’ll miss Neil Diamond’s “Comin’ to America” when the trumpet sounds. I don’t think I’ll miss the eagle mounted on my neighbor’s truck when I stare at the wings on an archangel.
God’s children in this present world are described by Christ in Luke 12:32 Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
American King James Version×as a “little flock.” As Christians, never have so few dared so much by claiming a new citizenship in heaven.
Their hope and the words from Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×of “this is the way, walk in it” can best be captured in the echo of my granddaughter’s voice when she excitedly yelled out, “Here it comes; here comes the parade!” Her excitement and watchful heart for a temporary, earthly parade must be matched by our excitement for a parade that is right around the corner of human history and coming our way. —WNP