U.S. President Barack Obama said this recently in an address to the American Legion in North Carolina: “The United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.”1
Is America really “the one indispensable nation” in the world? Will it remain as influential as it is today… as it has been in the past?
These are heavily debated questions both in secular and religious circles. Geopolitical analysts have differing opinions. Some say that the 21st century will belong to the U.S. as did the 20th century. Others are sure that the superpower of America is in decline and will eventually become an isolated and dissipated nation.
In religious circles the debates are myriad, too. Islam predicts that it will win the entire world for Allah. That implies, of course, that America must fall to become subservient to Dar Islam. Humanists (most certainly, a religion), on the other hand, see the matter as a human competition for technology, resources and dominance. To them, the outlook is “bullish” for America as far as the eye can see.
In Christian-influenced circles, the perspectives are more diverse and nuanced. They range from the uniquely American idea that it is a kind of new Israel with manifest destiny. Some (such as the offshoots from Armstrongism) believe that America is indeed one of the so-called 10 lost tribes of Israel (that were vanquished and deported by the Assyrians). Therefore, America will be punished by God and will then ultimately rise in power when all Israel (12 tribes) is unified and back in their ancestral country.
Some are sure that America is mentioned or pictured in the Bible (though not specifically by name); others, that it may be in a form of a Covenant with God (somewhat similar to Israel). Still others are sure that America is not mentioned in the Bible. There are many more differences in the finer points. In these views, America may be prominent or facing judgment.
What view do we espouse? This, obviously, is a potentially treacherous question as there are so many vested viewpoints. Nevertheless, we must seek to base our perspective on the literal words of the Bible and to avoid any speculation.
America as a nation is not in a covenant relationship with God. This is unique to Israel and it is this latter nation that ultimately will prove to be the “indispensable country,” contrary to President Obama’s statement. Nor do we see America itself specifically pictured or mentioned in the Bible. America may certainly be numbered among the nations of the last days that the Bible addresses in prophecy. We cannot be entirely sure of this in every mention of the Biblical phrase “the nations,” as we do not know the future exactly.
However, the Bible does most certainly confirm that “all the nations” will arise against Israel in the last days. For example: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her […]” (Zechariah 12:3). The Lord says that He “[…] will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it […]” (14:2). Therefore, America (most certainly Canada, too, which at the moment has a staunchly pro-Israel Prime Minister) will be among “all the nations” that arise against Israel.
When the Bible uses the word “nations,” this refers expressly only to peoples other than Israel. The word used for “nations” in both the Old and New Testaments means “Gentiles.” When the phrase “among the nations” appears in the Bible (over 70 times in the NIV), it is customarily referring to the world outside of Israel—the Gentiles living in the world at large.
The Bible also refers to the nations of the world as the “islands” (i.e. Isaiah 41:1) or the “islands of the seas” (Isaiah 11:11). This definition also does not include Israel (or any of its tribes, for that matter). Revelation 6:14 and 16:20 speak of “every island” being judged (in this context again excluding Israel). That proves that all the “islands of the seas” are Gentile, as Israel is not mentioned to number among these countries. Therefore, most certainly, the U.S. would be included in this number.
There is only one country not said to be counted among the nations, and this is not the USA or any country other than Israel. Balaam prophesied: “From the rocky peaks I see them, from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations” (Numbers 23:9, NIV). The King James translates this verse somewhat differently, saying that Israel “shall not be reckoned among the nations.”
Someday Israel will stand alone, says the Bible. The Israel meant here is the unified 12 tribes of the patriarch Israel, the father of Jacob and Esau.
Did God Plan the Rise of America?
In conclusion, the United States of America is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. However, we would argue that it is certainly counted among “the nations” and is one of the “islands of the seas” that are mentioned in prophecy (assuming it continues to exist).
In past articles (See “10: The Magic Number of Endtime Post-Globalism,” MCM December 2009; and “ Endtime Shoes: Fitting the World for 10 Toes,” MCM January and February 2009), we have argued that it is mostly likely that America must first decline, in order for all prophecy to unfold.
However, that does not mean that God has not used America in bringing about His purposes in the world. Nor does the fact that America is not expressly referenced in the Bible mean that God did not have America in His eye (though not as the “apple of His eye” as in Zechariah 2:8) from the beginning of time.
God does foreknow all things and mostly certainly foreknows the geopolitical outcomes of the world’s competing nations. But even more than this, God has created the earth as the theater in which mankind lives through His various dispensations. The physical geography of the world itself has played a role in determining a portion of mankind’s history and destiny.
That leads us to this question: Could the continent of North America itself have been created outside of God’s purposes? Of course not. We will consider just how unique this continent really is.
America the Bountiful
The country of America is truly one of a kind—like no other. It is extraordinary in so many ways. From an earthly perspective today, it is by far the most prosperous nation, the most powerful and the most influential. We all know this. For example, for some time, its defense expenditures have been greater than the combined outlay of the entire rest-of-the-world. Its economy, popularly measured, is still the largest of all nations by far. We could outline a long list of superlatives.
But, how did it get to this position? Surely, the pivotal factors that have shaped America were not accidental.
Though this writer is a Canadian, I have traveled to almost every U.S. state from Alaska to Hawaii, exploring its wide open and remote areas as well as visiting most of its major metropolises. My wife and I have explored the many corners and cultures of the U.S. over the years, having traveled there hundreds of times. Earlier this year, we toured through the states of Wyoming and South Dakota. Once again, we were awestruck. What an expanse … what varied and beautiful landscapes … the immensity of resources … like no other nation!
Canada is beautiful, too, and in fact, is even slightly bigger than the U.S. geographically. However, much of its area sits atop the Canadian Shield or the northern muskeg and tundra. These have little use other than for canoeing and portaging trips (of which I have also done a number beyond count).
Over 90% of Canada’s population lives within 200 miles of the U.S. border. Vast as it is, Canada for the most part, lives within a narrow ribbon of land some 5,000 miles long.
Despite its size and grand wildernesses, Canada does not have the natural physical blessings of the U.S. On the other hand, God has greatly blessed America with many physical advantages.
The Middle East Blessed from Long Ago
Just how blessed is America? What benefits and geographic advantages have been given to this country? The answers are most interesting.
But first, allow us to take a bit of a detour—briefly turning aside from the question of America’s origins and destiny—to better prepare for this discussion. We pose this question: Have world developments that align with long-term Bible prophecy been entirely circumstantial? Could some prophesied events have been shaped from the time of Creation?
Did God shape the pattern of our modern world from the beginning? For example, why was the Middle East the cradle of mankind and its dominant cultures?
It is one thing to say that world history navigates around the timeline of the Jew, because God has pre-planned it that way. But why did civilized man also find his roots in this arid, Middle Eastern region as we see it today? Could not mankind have originated from another region on earth?
Of course, out of faithfulness to what the Bible says, we conclude that God created the world and therefore also ordered the earth’s regions and features that would shape mankind’s efforts to, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
Nevertheless, it is interesting to reflect on the means that God used to influence the movements of mankind and the development of its societies and civilizations down through history. It is wondrous to consider these facts.
Jared Diamond, an anthropologist and Pulitzer-prize-winning author, provides some insightful perspectives on the question of how God shaped such a destiny in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies. Mr. Diamond shows how natural geography early on concentrated human development in the Middle East and then spread outward from there.
He documents that the availability of key types of plants and animals that could be easily domesticated was clustered in the Middle Eastern region. Of all the large mammals living upon earth that were candidates for domestication—either for food or burden—almost half are found in this Eurasian region.2 Furthermore, 13 of the 14 animals that were successfully domesticated worldwide found their start in this area. The only large animal productively tamed outside of this region was the llama (and the related alpaca) in South America.
Why was domestication not possible in other parts of the world? Why could horses from Asia be tamed and not zebras in Africa? In form, these two animals look similar. Yet, God created it such that only the horse could be domesticated. It is for these types of causes that farming and commerce first thrived in the Middle East, specifically the well watered area of the two rivers (Mesopotamia).
That is the area where man was first placed and where his progeny first prospered. Therefore, the early societies of the Middle East stood to have the most influence upon successive human culture and societies around the world. We can see that the Creator formed the cradle of civilized man with the necessary geographical features and sources of food to prosper in his commission on earth.
We may be a few steps closer to learning why Abraham was born in the Middle East and why human history and its dominating kingdoms would later be anchored to the timeline of the Jew; and the land of Israel; and the Middle East.
Similarly, the Creator has had His hand in the birthing of a superpower called the United States of America. Again we ask: How so?
No other nation has been given the natural advantages of America. Let us count the ways. We borrow heavily from Stratfor’s popular monograph The Geopolitics of the United States,3 and editorialize a bit to expand the focus to the entirety of North America.
• No other nation in the world has as much arable land as the U.S. The American Midwest is the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland. In addition, there are other major agricultural areas, namely in South-Central Canada, the Atlantic Coastal Plain, California’s Central Valley and others. These are significant compared to agricultural capacity in the rest of the world.
• The Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined.
• The Greater Mississippi Basin, together with the Intercoastal Waterways, has more miles of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined. In addition, the river systems of the Missouri, Arkansas, Red, Ohio and Tennessee are significant. Why are rivers so important? Navigable rivers have two banks, coasts only one.
• Adding to the power of America is the fact that it has a wealth of sheltered bays and extreme indentations allowing for ports—St, Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay and a number of others.
• A most important feature of North America is the river network in the middle third of the continent. Unlike major rivers in the rest of the world, vast tracts of America’s rivers are navigable because few of their tributaries originate in high elevations. That has meant that America has had the cheapest and most efficient transportation system in the world for its products.
• The vast bulk of America’s prime agricultural lands are within 200 kilometers of a stretch of navigable rivers.
• American has two coasts—the Atlantic and the Pacific. Moreover, it allows America to trade with these two major regions of the world—both Asia and Europe.
• From a national security perspective, America is naturally insulated from any enemy. The two major oceans of its coastline are a natural barrier to any enemies. To the south there is desert; to the north timberland, mountains or lakes. Its geographic layout today makes America very secure like no other its size.
• The United States is the least densely populated of the major global economies in terms of population per unit of usable land. (Russia, Canada and Australia may be less densely populated but vast tracts of their land are economically useless … i.e. Siberia, the Canadian North and the Outback, respectively.)
• The U.S. has no fewer than 20 metropolitan areas with more than 2.5 million people. In contrast, most major countries have a single, primary political and economic center such as Paris or London.
We could list many other factors. All the above translates into a low requirement for capital, cheap transportation, and low defense costs in its earlier days. These were major factors that enabled the rapid rise of America in world trade and influence. Canada, on the other hand (to illustrate this contrast), needed to spend massively to develop the St. Lawrence Seaway and the required canals in the Great Lakes.
Just what other nation has been endowed with such wealth, resources and geographical features?
Reading all the above, this crucial question begs: Viewed over the last several centuries, is the success of America alone attributable to its people and leaders? Could it be correct to believe that the rise of America over the last 200 to 150 years was not significant in the prophetic timeline of the world?
The correct answer, we think, would be “no.” The rise of America on the world scene was not accidental. God has had His purposes for America. Nevertheless, this nation is free to make its choices. It is free to choose whom it will serve and to bear the corresponding judgments in the last days.
In Part II, we further examine America and its possible prophetic role in the world.
Accessed August 26, 2014.
2 Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies. 1999, New York. Pg. 162, Table 9.2. The definition used to categorize large animals is 100 pounds or greater.
3 Stratfor. The Geopolitics of the United States, Part I: The Inevitable Empire; Part II: American Identity and the Threats of the Future. August