The other day I received an email from a person whom, given his name, I presume to be a minister from Africa. In it, he was promoting a book that claims to have unlocked the secret of Revelation 12. In the email below the text, he had two pictures, one of which was of the earth, primarily focused on the continents of Africa, Europe, and Asia. The second picture had the first image turned on its side, and if you closed one eye, held your tongue a certain way, and stood on one foot, you could sort of make out how Europe, Russia, and Asia formed a Picasso-like dragon, which was about to consume the continent of Africa. The African continent, by the way, had a woman's face superimposed within its boundaries. I'm supposing he meant that the Revelation 12 Woman, who gave birth to the Male Child and was about to be devoured by the Dragon, was the continent of Africa.
I had to chuckle a little about this as if it were some new revelatory sign that had been hidden all these years. But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that we Americans are often guilty of doing the exact same thing, i.e., presenting Bible prophecy from a uniquely American perspective. While I'm fairly certain that every nation, in every age, has been guilty of doing something similar, what makes Americans unique? If we are going to be honest brokers here, we must ask ourselves the hard and honest questions of a) is America in Bible Prophecy, b) if not, why not, and c) what does this mean in relation to bible prophecy?
For the better part of the past two thousand years, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has gone forth into every continent and to every nation. Jesus told His disciples in Matt 28:19-20, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Again in Acts 1:8, Jesus gives His disciples a similar charge just prior to His ascension. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In fact, so bold and audacious would this claim be, that Jesus lists it as one of the birth pang signs He had given to His disciples shortly before His death, burial, and resurrection. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matt 24:14).
The "Good News" was always intended to go forth to every tribe, tongue, and nation. I'm certain God was also not surprised that as it did, these varied nations and peoples would soon begin to coopt parts of this divine story into their own telling. This would be similar to how most cultures (especially non-Christian ones) have a legend of a global flood that is coopted into their own history. Again, this was not a surprise to God because He intentionally scattered mankind shortly after the flood at the tower of Babel (Gen 11).
In the years following the resurrection of Jesus, and His ascension, the Gospel does in fact begin to go beyond Jerusalem, Judaea, and Samaria, and out to the rest of the world. It was the early churches outside of Judaea, which were largely Gentile, that was constantly plagued and harassed by both the pagans and the Judaizers, both of whom began to try to pull them away from the worship of Jesus. But after AD70 and the Roman sacking of Jerusalem, Judaism as an enemy of the Gospel, seemed to be no more. Such was the devastation and finality of that event that it seemed almost certain that the Jewish nation would never rise again.
This would mark the beginning of the national diaspora the Jewish people would come to find themselves in for the next 1,878 years. In Israel's absence, a vacuum was created, which the increasingly Gentile churches within Christendom would soon try to fill, seeing themselves as the natural heirs of the covenant prominently displayed in the pages of the Holy Writ.
We see the first demonstration of this in the early part of the fourth century Anno Domini (AD) when prior to his conversion to Christianity, the Roman Emperor Constantine claims he saw a vision of the Chi Rho in the sky, accompanied by the words, In hoc signo vinces (in this sign conquer). He claims this was followed the next night by a dream from Christ Himself, telling him to use this sign against their enemies in battle for victory. This symbol and verbiage would become the rallying cry for kingdom-building over the next fifteen hundred years in the very literal, physical, and militaristic sense of the word. Ironically, all of this seems diametrically opposed to what Christ actually taught over the course of His earthly ministry.
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36
This concept of kingdom-building (building God's kingdom on earth) began with Constantine but certainly didn't end there. It was progenerated and proliferated by the rise of the newly forming Roman Catholic Church, which, marrying church with the state, monopolized Christendom and appointed themselves as 'king-maker'. It was prolific from the Byzantine and Holy Roman Empires, all the way extending even as late as the French King Louis XIV (i.e., the Sun King) in the 1800s.
But it wasn't just the Catholics either. As soon as the Protestant Reformers broke away in the 1500s, kingdom building became just as integral in their own theological venturings as it was to the Roman Catholics. Granted, the Reformer's version of kingdom-building was less literal and more theological, but they did this by developing/perpetuating eschatological interpretations like Amillennialism, Post-Millennialism, and Dominionism.
However, is it the Church's role to physically conquer the earth?
After Matthew chapter 12, we begin to see a shift in Jesus' ministry where its focus moves from the offering of the Kingdom to the Jewish people to the message of His impending death, burial, and resurrection. The audience also changed as it was no longer just the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6), but rather, His disciples. Jesus began to arm them (scripturally speaking) by prophesying to them of things that would come to pass so that when these things happened, they would believe.
In Matthew 13, Jesus gave His audience the kingdom parables in mystery form. He would go on to explain to His disciples in private what He was talking about, since, as scripture indicates, they were just as confused as to the cryptic nature of these teachings as the audience had been. He began to teach them that He first must die and then be raised again on the third day. He told them He would have to leave for the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to come (John 14:15-18). After this, and over a long period of time, He would build His church (Matt. 16:17-19) which would in fact be the kingdom in mystery form. This ‘church’ would make up the singularly corporate body of Christ known as the church as the Apostle Paul would later go on to clarify in his epistles (Eph. 2:11-22). [See here for John Walvoord’s excellent discussion on Matthew 13]
Jesus had seven kingdom parables in Matthew 13. The Apostle Paul wrote seven letters to seven churches. Lastly, Jesus wrote seven letters to seven churches in Revelation. That cannot be a coincidence.
Simultaneous to the Gospel going forth into all nations, came the spiritual and then national collapse of the nation of Israel just as Jesus prophesied (Luke 19:41-44). After some time passed, Gentiles began to subsume the covenants and promises God had made to the nation of Israel all throughout the Old Testament as if it were theirs for the taking. We've come to label this as "Replacement Theology" or "Supersessionism" meaning that since Israel was no more, the church would inherit all the promises (and ironically, none of the curses) God made with the Jewish people. Nevertheless, this unbiblical theological position does not consider that only part of the Old Testament covenants was conditional.
1. The Mosaic Covenant, the Law, was a conditional (if/then) binding agreement based upon Israel's faithfulness to God. If the Israelites/Hebrews/Jews would faithfully follow all that was given in the Torah, then they would be blessed. If they didn't, then they would be cursed. We see examples of both throughout the Old Testament.
2. However, the Abrahamic Covenant (land, seed, and blessing) predates the Mosaic, and was unconditional, meaning, God would bless them even in spite of their unfaithfulness. The same goes with the Davidic and promised New Covenant as seen in the book of 2 Samuel 7 and Jeremiah. Again, these were unconditional, meaning, that regardless of Israel's behavior, God was going to impart upon them gifts and promises that would never change or end.
The only reason that Gentile powers could even attempt to claim Israel's title as "the chosen people" was because Israel was no longer a nation. Ironically, this is the exact same reason they (Gentile powers) were blinded from knowing where they were on God's timeline. Without Israel being back in her land as a nation, Bible prophecy becomes impossibly opaque.
What has become increasingly baffling to me is how that Israel has now been back in her land for 75 years, has reclaimed her holy city, and is seemingly on the cusp of building a third temple, most of Christendom still thinks they are the new Israel!
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.
Acts 17:26 (my emphasis)
When we read Bible prophecy, much as the African minister has done, we tend to see ourselves as the heroes of the story. It's human nature to want to make the story about us (or at least include ourselves in it) since we are alive today and everyone who went before us is not. The general mantra of any given generation says “Our time is now, not theirs, and we want to write our own future.” This is endemic to human nature writ large. But in order to study Holy Scripture accurately and rightly, we must keep some simple principles in place, if we want to be honest brokers. Not just honest brokers for the sake of interpretational integrity, but honest brokers in order to maintain realistic expectations about what our own future holds. Let me give you three examples of teachings that are wildly popular, and wildly wrong in the United States.
The teaching that America is the 'Promised Land' and that we patriots will one day, overthrow the shackles of the leftist, godless, elite and make America Great Again. [We see variations of this in the following belief systems: Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, Preterism, Post-Tribulationalism, and Replacement Theology]
The teaching that the Protestant/Evangelical/Catholic Church (pick your denomination) is the Kingdom Come on earth while Christ dutifully reigns from heaven. In His absence, He expects us (His Vicars) to reclaim the world by conquering the domains of men via (pick your slogan, e.g., Christian Reconstructionism, NAR, IHOP, Latter Rain, Joel’s Army, Kingdom Now, the Seven Mountain Mandate, etc). [We see variations of this in numerous denominations that promote Amillennialism, Post-Millennialism, and Dominionism]
The teaching that the United States is Babylon. I don't mean the USA being part of the global Babylonian network, I mean, the headquarters, the big enchilada, from whence the Antichrist (either Trump or Obama depending on your political persuasion) hails forth from and creates the dreaded Beast system. [We see variations of this in Post-Tribulationalism, Pre-Wrath Rapture, Partial Rapture, and numerous fringe cults]
My point in listing these is that the major issue stems from perspective. We tend to want to interpret our Bibles through our own national lenses, and we either see ourselves coming out on top in the end...or at least as a major component of the last days.
The disturbing truth is, there is no mention of a Christian (CINO) superpower nation like the United States in the Bible in the last days. I think, given the fact that while other modern nations like Russia, Israel, Egypt, Libya, etc. are mentioned, and we aren't...is beyond a little unnerving. It speaks to either our complete Atlantis-like demise or our complete absorption into something else, effectively erasing our nation's autonomy and heritage as if it never existed.
As troubling as our national future appears, we recognize that our appearance in the annals of history was not by accident, or even human intention, but by God. As Acts 17:26, Daniel 2:21, and 4:17 alludes to, the US of A was here for two reasons: 1) to be a vessel by which the Gospel of Jesus Christ would find both a haven and a point of departure to go into the rest of the world, and 2) to safeguard the nation of Israel at the appointed time (1948) until that time is complete. Since we have done those things, God blessed us. But since as a nation, we have increasingly become emboldened against Him and His disciplining, we are (nationally speaking) headed for Tyre-like destruction. For as much good as we have done in the world, our nation has been given over to the god-hating left who working feverishly to usher in the kingdom of the Antichrist.
But before this happens, the Church (the true Church Christ is building) must be removed from the earth. We are not saying the Rapture is soon because American Christians are heading into tough times. Rather, we are saying the Rapture is soon because we have arrived at the appointed time God established before He created the world. As it turns out, Christianity was not only allowed to flourish in a nation like ours to continue spreading the Gospel, but also long enough to build up the requisite level of knowledge so that our final national blessing, wouldn't be economic or political, but rather, eschatological. More specifically, the study of the last days within Christianity has had a safe harbor to build upon prior generations' heavy lifting, so we could exploit the technology to share this sobering reality with a lost and dying world that the end is near, and the world is heading into a meat grinder.
This might rankle some feathers but, if we take everything (OT and NT prophecies) into context, the Rapture couldn’t have been imminent in any generation prior to 1948. Israel had to be back in her land in order for the end to begin since the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th Week/time of Jacob’s Trouble) is the culmination of Daniel’s 70 Weeks. True, the Rapture has always been imminent in the sense that we mortals don’t know when it will happen, but its happening has never been arbitrary or random; God has always had a specific day in mind before the Creation of the world.
1. Could the Rapture have happened prior to 1948? No, since that time has passed and we are still here. Nevertheless, it would be highly impossible, given the fact that Israel wasn’t in her land yet, and there wasn’t the requisite technology available for the antichrist to do all that Revelation states he must.
2. Could the Rapture have happened between 1948 and 2000? Given the reality, that time has already passed, and we are still here, it is easy to say no. Nevertheless, even if we were back during those years, the technological limitations during that time would have taken considerably longer than seven years for the antichrist to assume total global domination the way Revelation describes it making the likelihood exceedingly improbable. Although the geopolitical and economic situations were converging (albeit slowly), they were not fully formed (i.e., strong US, strong Christian base, weak & divided Europe, no Gog-Magog coalition, etc.). Again, a large gap would have been required to bring the world to the place both the books of Daniel and Revelation predict.
3. Could the Rapture happen from post-2000 to the present? Yes, and absolutely certain, given the convergence of all the signs: Israel’s national sovereignty, technological advancements, geopolitical alignments, deterioration of Christendom, existential threats, prophetically biblical timelines and anniversaries, and the global economic desperation. We have arrived at the ‘perfect storm’ conditions for the Tribulation to happen not only quickly, but almost effortlessly.
From what I can see, the only role the United States plays in end-times bible prophecy is that in our collapse, we trigger a global economic and governmental collapse. When the Church is removed from the United States, (as opposed to the world writ large), it will collapse the already fragile American system. This then triggers the global collapse because America has had its political/economic/ financial/militaristic/diplomatic fingers in every country and region in the world since 1945. While America has moved forth in numerous perverse directions, each one, in and of itself, is worthy of divine judgment, it is in our attempt to adopt globalism as a new form of governance that God will not allow. Remember, God, sets the boundaries of the nations, not men!
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” Revelation 13:1-4
It is in our collapse though, that the Beast kingdom RISES up from out of the sea of humanity. Rising constitutes going from a lower place to a higher place. It seems to me, given our geopolitical trajectory, impending war with Russia, and economic demise, that the absence/lack of mention in the prophetic text signals that our demise is sooner rather than later. If the Rapture were still several decades away, the United States as it is today is still headed for extinction. The fact that a new global kingdom comes from all nations to rise up and form a regional-imperial superstate, means, we must be no more. Now, America will still exist on a map, but it will no longer be the United States of America. As such, it is my sincere belief and deep regret that one day very soon, the American will exist only in the history books.
As sad as this truth is I have just laid out, for which most of you already know, just remember where your true citizenship remains. It's not in this nation, or even this world, which is fallen and passing away, but with Christ, the creator and sustainer of all life and existence. One day very soon, He will come to take us home. And then we will return with Him in power and glory and no longer in mystery form, but gloriously arrayed in fine linen. At the Second Coming, we will come with Christ as He splits the skies in two, vanquishes His enemies, and establishes His rightful place on the throne of David forever. That is our destiny.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Philippians 3:18-21