When the Fourth of July is mentioned, most people think of the flag, food, and fireworks. Few, very few, think of its significance in the fulfilment of Bible prophecy.
While prophecy does not specifically mention the birth date of this nation, it does indeed mention the birth—a fact that most students of prophecy recognize from Revelation 13:11: “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”
Though prophecy does not mention the specific date of this nation’s birth, it does give clues as to the approximate point in history. As the pioneers of our faith studied the Scriptures, they determined that this two-horned beast was indeed the United States. Uriah Smith wrote in his classic Daniel and the Revelation, “The struggle of the American colonies for independence began in 1775. In 1776, they declared themselves a free and independent nation. In 1777, delegates from the thirteen original States … in Congress assembled, adopted Articles of Confederation. In 1783, the War of the Revolution closed with a treaty of peace with Great Britain, whereby the independence of the United States was acknowledged, and territory was ceded … . In 1787, the Constitution was framed, and by July 26, 1788, it was ratified …; and on the 1st of March, 1789, it went into effect. The United States thus began… . Thus we come to the year 1798, when this nation is introduced into prophecy.”
Further confirmation of the United States in prophecy occurs in the book that Ellen White deemed to be the one that should be the most widely distributed of all her writings, The Great Controversy:
“… The beast with lamblike horns was seen ‘coming up out of the earth (Revelation 13:11).’ Instead of overthrowing other powers to establish itself, the nation thus represented must arise in territory previously unoccupied and grow up gradually and peacefully. It could not, then, arise among the crowded and struggling nationalities of the Old World—that turbulent sea of ‘peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues’ (Revelation 17:16). It must be sought in the Western Continent.
“What nation of the New World was in 1798 rising into power, giving promise of strength and greatness, and attracting the attention of the world? The application of the symbol admits of no question. One nation, and only one, meets the specifications of this prophecy; it points unmistakably to the United States of America. Again and again the thought, almost the exact words, of the sacred writer has been unconsciously employed by the orator and the historian in describing the rise and growth of this nation. The beast was seen ‘coming up out of the earth’; and, according to the translators, the word here rendered ‘coming up’ literally signifies ‘to grow or spring up as a plant.’ And, as we have seen, the nation must arise in territory previously unoccupied. A prominent writer, describing the rise of the United States, speaks of ‘the mystery of her coming forth from vacancy,’ and says: ‘Like a silent seed we grew into empire.’ (G. A. Townsend, The New World Compared With the Old, 462). A European journal in 1850 spoke of the United States as a wonderful empire, which was ‘emerging,’ and ‘amid the silence of the earth daily adding to its power and pride.’ The Dublin Nation. Edward Everett, in an oration on the Pilgrim founders of this nation, said: ‘Did they look for a retired spot, inoffensive for its obscurity, and safe in its remoteness, where the little church of Leyden might enjoy the freedom of conscience? Behold the mighty regions over which, in peaceful conquest, … they have borne the banners of the cross!’ – Speech delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 22, 1824, 11.” The Great Controversy, 440, 441.
Unmistakably the United States has existed in the mind of God since eternity, for the role it has played in the past, continues to play today, and will play in the future of the great controversy between Christ and Satan is clear in the unfolding of that controversy.
What role has the United States played in prophecy in each of these eras—the past, present, and future? Again we turn to the writings of our pioneers for understanding.
“In that grand old document which our forefathers set forth as their bill of rights—the Declaration of Independence—they declared: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ And the Constitution guarantees, in the most explicit terms, the inviolability of conscience: ‘No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.’ ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ ” The Great Controversy, 295.
“…The Constitution [of the United States] guarantees to the people the right of self-government, providing that representatives elected by the popular vote shall enact and administer the laws. Freedom of religious faith was also granted, every man being permitted to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience. Republicanism and Protestantism became the fundamental principles of the nation. These principles are the secret of its power and prosperity. The oppressed and down-trodden throughout Christendom have turned to this land with interest and hope. Millions have sought its shores, and the United States has risen to a place among the most powerful nations of the earth.” The Great Controversy, 441.
Until recent years, these principles that have made this country the great nation that it is have allowed it to become the most prosperous nation on earth, but prophecy does not end there.
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” Revelation 13:15.
“By the decree enforcing the institution of the papacy in violation of the law of God, our nation will disconnect herself fully from righteousness. When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 451.
“When the protection of human laws shall be withdrawn from those who honor the law of God, there will be, in different lands, a simultaneous movement for their destruction. As the time appointed in the decree draws near, the people will conspire to root out the hated sect. It will be determined to strike in one night a decisive blow, which shall utterly silence the voice of dissent and reproof.” The Great Controversy, 635.
“The same masterful mind that plotted against the faithful in ages past is still seeking to rid the earth of those who fear God and obey His law. Satan will excite indignation against the humble minority who conscientiously refuse to accept popular customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God. Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them with contempt. Persecuting rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry appeals they will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a ‘Thus saith the Scriptures’ to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack. To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for a Sunday law.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 451, 452.
Despite these ominous and foreboding prophecies, God’s people can take great comfort in His inspired promises.
“The eye of God, looking down the ages, was fixed upon the crisis which His people are to meet, when earthly powers shall be arrayed against them. Like the captive exile, they will be in fear of death by starvation or by violence. But the Holy One who divided the Red Sea before Israel, will manifest His mighty power and turn their captivity.” The Great Controversy, 634.
As prophetic events unfold, those who have studied prophecy can take great comfort. Recognizing fulfilment of prophecies past provides assurance that prophecies future will also be fulfilled, and that God’s people—those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus—will indeed stand without fault before the throne of God.
As we observe the 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, let us reflect on the role of the United States in prophecy and give praise and thanksgiving to our loving Father for having given us understanding of that role—especially as we see the final events transpiring that tell us that the meeting of time and eternity are drawing nigh.