Red, White — and You
The liberties and freedoms of United States citizens are currently under attack
Justice is turned back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
for truth stumbles in the public square,
and uprightness cannot enter (Isaiah 59:14, NRSV).
America began her week with massive, joyful crowds celebrating a land of liberty and common purpose, but ended the week with a wrenching realization of just how deep are the divisions still among us.
“Courts of justice are corrupt. Rulers are actuated by desire for gain and love of sensual pleasure. Intemperance has beclouded the faculties of many so that Satan has almost complete control of them. Jurists are perverted, bribed, deluded. Drunkenness and revelry, passion, envy, dishonesty of every sort, are represented among those who administer the laws. ‘Justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.’ Isaiah 59:14.”
In case no one has filled you in, you really ought to know: the liberties and freedoms of United States citizens are currently under attack by the greatest and most cunning conspiracy in the republic’s 240-year history. The media are in on it. Governments—Federal, state, and local—are implicated. Politicians, entertainers and the judges are participants. Police are actors in the drama. Churches and even charities are included. Hollywood is fully engaged. Beyoncé is in on it. The governors of Minnesota and Louisiana are affected, as is the police chief of Dallas.
What’s really going on and what great powers are behind it? Why does it feel as though the land of the free took a pivotal turn for the worse this week?
I believe the United States is the most blessed nation to ever appear on this planet. It was founded by a document that drew on the principles of freedom of conscience and personal liberty taught in the Bible. It was, in Lincoln’s immortal words, “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Sadly, though, just as Bible prophecy predicted America’s rise and growth as a lamb-like beast of peace and prosperity, it foretold her final transformation and fall as a dragon-like power intent on subjugating those it had promised to protect. Revelation 13:11 describes this nation as having two horns like a lamb and [speaking] like a dragon.”Scripture makes a plain case that when a nation speaks, it does so through its laws – through its judicial system.
During this sad, frustrating week, we had daily reminders that Isaiah’s lament—“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance”—is being live-streamed in the chaotic images emerging from Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas.
Are you angry? I am. Are you frustrated?
So am I.
Is there any hope for the sickness that seems pervasive? Perhaps.
The great temptation of the moment is to pick a side—a cause, a race, a color, an ideology—and join the fray.
But wait just a moment.
A Bigger Picture
When we step back—even a little—from the drama of the “BREAKING NEWS”—from the heart-sickening images of violence against the helpless and violence against those who try to protect the helpless, we begin to understand that the darkness we are wrestling with is part of a bigger and more complex picture.
A century ago, a woman gifted with special insight wrote these words:
“In the word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold, above, behind, and through all the play and counterplay of human interest and power and passions, the agencies of the All-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will. . . .”
In the ancient book of Revelation, written nearly 2000 years ago, we find the cords that draw the curtains back, allowing us to see the great conspiracy that long predates the founding of these United States or even the principles of republican government.
Through a vivid series of violent, chaos-bringing beasts, John the apostle, Jesus’ beloved disciple, pictures for us the succession of great world powers that participate in a diabolical attempt to stamp out the truth of God and the freedoms with which God has gifted each human being. Intent on dominating both the lives and the minds of human beings in every culture and era, these powers strengthen and support each other with cunning, deception, and brute physical force.
In John’s dramatic account of his vision, recorded in Revelation 13, he sees the great tyrannical power of the Middle Ages—the Christian Church, apostatized from the peaceful religion of Jesus into a religious and political empire—handing on its power to a new beast—one that has “two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.” This is not merely a prophetic indication that another great power would arise after the Roman Catholic papacy: it is an explicit reminder that the newer power would“[exercise] all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast” (Rev 13:11).
The “Lamb-Like Beast”
For more than 200 years, thoughtful interpreters of Bible prophecy across many denominations and faith groups have identified the United States as that power that would begin with the qualities of a lamb but end by becoming yet another persecuting power aligned against God’s people. A nation that saw itself as the great counterpoint to religious persecution, and actually enshrined freedom of conscience in its founding documents, would nonetheless descend to a point in which the blood-bought principles of justice and liberty would become secondary to its desire to control and enforce conformity.
According to Scripture, all people—black, white, Latino, Asian, the powerless, the powerful, those oppressed and those oppressing—are themselves affected by a conspiracy bigger than any one historical moment, reaching across centuries, and challenging the very heart of God’s plan to rescue human beings from the results of their own mistakes.
Are we now witnessing the beginnings of that breakdown of personal liberties and the rule of law?
The events of this past week build a powerful argument that we are.
I believe the societal tension so unavoidable this week in the United States—and around the globe—is just what the Scriptures predicted as the final events of earth’s history begin to unfold. The tectonic plates are moving, and not only along the “Ring of Fire.” Nations, governments, institutions, people groups are being stirred by forces they may not even fully recognize, but that are nonetheless moving all of them toward a great, final cataclysm focused on loyalty to God.
These United States are being divided, both consciously and unconsciously, by a force intent on obliterating the principles of liberty and conscience on which this nation was founded. People groups, faith groups, and denominations are being divided, diabolically encouraged by the violence and hate into abandoning the covenant of trust and tolerance on which our society was originally constructed.
Witness the outpouring of grief and frustration on social media in the last four days as millions express their helplessness about a disintegration they feel powerless to stop.
It’s tempting for many in this moment to pick a side—identify with one’s race or clique or economic group—to the disparagement of others. This is just how hate compounds: it feeds on itself, creating even more isolation and distrust.
Or we can rise above this engineered crisis and see in God’s Word that we are, in fact, embroiled in a larger struggle than any one incident or one week of terrible headlines might suggest.
Let me be clear: the events of the last week—terrible, senseless, destructive—aren’t only the random bits of social disintegration they may seem to be. Don’t be fooled into thinking that once the investigations are completed, the rule of law restored, the victims compensated, and the perpetrators punished, that we will go back toward what we used to describe as “normal.” Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the elephants against the donkeys, black against white, the haves against the have-nots.
It’s a bigger conflict than we knew. It’s light against darkness.
The likelihood of our children living in that land that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, pictured in his soaring rhetoric seems even more remote after this week--“a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Our hope for a better tomorrow in the United States—or in any nation—doesn’t ultimately change the trajectory of the unfolding tragedies we’ve witnessed this week in the shootings of #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile along with the police officers in Dallas, or the hanging in Atlanta. These are, as the Bible calls them, “but the beginning of the birth pangs” (Matt 24:8, NRSV).
A Word in Due Season
Is there a word from God to give us some guidance in a time where it feels as though darkness has covered the earth and gross darkness the people?
Ellen White doesn’t sugar coat or minimize the causes that have led to this state of things, or attempt to deflect us from where they are surely leading. She wrote these words 35 years after America’s great convulsion of the Civil War:
“In India, China, Russia, and the cities of America, thousands of men and women are dying of starvation. The monied men, because they have the power, control the market. They purchase at low rates all they can obtain, and then sell at greatly increased prices. This means starvation to the poorer classes, and will result in a civil war.
There will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.... Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”
Make no mistake, all of the events we are witnessing are leading somewhere. And it’s not by simple chance they appear to be intensifying.
“...Anarchy is seeking to sweep away all law, not only divine, but human. The centralizing of wealth and power; the vast combinations for the enriching of the few at the expense of the many; the combinations of the poorer classes for the defense of their interests and claims; the spirit of unrest, of riot and bloodshed; the world-wide dissemination of the same teachings that led to the French Revolution—all are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France.”
If the chaotic and violent events of revolutionary France in the 1790s are what the prophet foresaw yet coming on a global scale, then we have every reason to expect more weeks like this last one—even as we work with heart and soul and mind to keep events like these from reoccurring. We aren’t called to passivity in the face of great evil, but to forestall it, defend the helpless, insist on justice for the oppressed, protect all who must be protected. Through all of what must be our enduring commitment to building justice where we can, we stay conscious of the apostle Paul’s realism: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12, NRSV).
There is, however, good news, for those who put their faith and trust in Jesus more than in any social compact or national identity. The Lord who is Himself observing this great, titanic struggle will yet move to save, redeem, and bless: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5, NRSV). He Himself gave us the reassurance that He will yet act to rescue all that now seems to be falling apart.—“that when these things come to pass, you may know that I am He” (Luke 21:28).
According to the Word of God, America the beautiful has a terminal illness. The flag of freedom--the Red, White and Blue--that for so long symbolized the ideals of freedom and justice, but certainly not always their reality for all--can already be seen fading into the angry hues of hate speech, divisive political rhetoric, acts of violence, and the unjust inconsistencies of our judicial system. We have no reason from God’s Word to expect a restored national order or a return to the fictional placidity of what we call the “olden days.”
As we wait on the brink of the greatest convulsion this nation and this world has ever known--the “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” predicted in God’s Word, my prayer is that the Spirit of God begins a stirring in your life that anchors you firmly in His will even “though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2, NRSV).
 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, 586.
 Ellen G. White, Education, 173.
 Ellen G. White, Manuscript 114, 1899. (General manuscript, untitled, typed August 13, 1899.)
 Ellen G. White,Education, 228