ANSWER: A quick Google of this question reveals that thousands of Christians are asking it these days. There’s a certain logic to the question, built on the following premises:
- We are living near the end of time when God’s plans for the consummation of human history will take place.
- Those plans are at least partially revealed in Scriptural Prophesy.
- Those plans have a global scope.
- The USA is the only global superpower left in the world.
- Any plans God has for global judgment would mention the biggest powers on earth.
- Therefore, Scriptural Prophesy must include mention of the USA.
I believe all those premises are fairly sound, except the first one which undermines the whole conclusion. There is no guarantee that we are living within a few years of the return of Christ and consummation of history. So while it may be that we should expect any dominant power on earth to be mentioned in passages which predict the future, there is no guarantee that the USA will be around when those events take place.
ARE THE OTTOMANS IN SCRIPTURE?
Therefore, we shouldn’t automatically expect the USA to appear in bible prophesy – any more than the Ottomans should have been offended when they read Revelation and realized that there was no mention of Turks anywhere! Today, the Ottoman Empire is broken up and globally insignificant. Most Americans couldn’t locate its former terrain on a map even though they ruled the world more internationally than the USA does today. What will the USA be in 200 years? Maybe a blip in a history text.
In fact, we find no overt reference to the USA anywhere in Scripture. Since God speaks his word through the culture and language of the inspired Biblical authors, this shouldn’t surprise us. No one in the Ancient Near East had any knowledge of the New World even existing. If God were to refer to the USA and have it be meaningful for the original authors and audience, he would have to do it through some cryptic or symbolic reference.
THE U.S.A. AS BABYLON?
Therefore, many prophecy buffs do try to find such symbolic references. The problems with these attempts are twofold:
- The references usually are much better explained as references to entities known to the author in the immediate context of writing.
- The references are hopelessly contradictory.
For example, one prophesy buff assumes that every time apocalyptic passages refer to Babylon, that’s a reference to the USA. It’s true that Babylon is sometimes code in Scripture, but it’s likely that the early church considered Babylon to be code for Rome. For example, when prophesying about a prostitute in Revelation 17:5, John calls her Babylon and says she sits on “7 hills”. Rome has always been known as the “city on 7 hills”. This is how the first audience would undoubtedly have understood it.
Another example, the goat of Daniel 8 is said by one scholar to be the USA because it comes from “the west” vs. 5. This goat defeats the ram which this scholar said represents Islam and refers to modern events concerning the War on Terror. The goat is subsequently defeated from internal strife and is broken up. It’s an intriguing bit of speculation until you realize that this is one prophesy where the explanation is not open to speculation… the interpretation is given explicitly by the angel Gabriel to Daniel! The goat is actually Greece and the ram is Media-Persia (vs. 20-21).
HIDDEN IN THE LAYERS?
The only way to see the USA in this prophesy is to assume a layer to the prediction. It is not unusual for prophetic events to have an immediate fulfillment, and a later fulfillment. And usually the latter is larger fulfillment (see the prediction of Isaiah’s son, and the virgin birth of Messiah; Isa. 7:14). And it is true that Daniel says this vision relates to the very end of time (Dan 8:19). However, the burden of proof must be on the scholar to show some consistency in interpretation as to why a layered reference could also be the USA.
The same scholar sees the USA as the first of the four beasts of Daniel, because the beast is a lion with eagle’s wings. The reason? The lion has been the national symbol for England and the Eagle for the USA, which came from England. Again the problem is this interpretation requires us to yank the text out of context and forget everything else Daniel said about it. Shouldn’t Daniel be the first to flesh out our understanding of the prophesies he himself gave? In Daniel, the four beasts are explained directly. They are four empires to follow each other, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (7:17). The same prediction is made again with a vision about a four tiered statute (2:31-44).
IS PROPHESY “ADVANCED NEWSPAPER”?
This really highlights a problem in prophecy circles in general: A habit of reading apocalyptic literature first as an “advanced newspaper” depicting modern events rather than first as a deeply meaningful commentary on ancient events. This is not to deny the predictive elements of Scripture at all. But even the predictive elements in Scripture clearly have relevance to the audiences being written to and about.
Daniel for example, clearly predicts what will happen in the future, but his prophecies begin with Babylon, his adopted homeland. And they would have deep meaning for the entire ancient near east. They should be first read as such. Also John in Revelation writes first to a church under the oppressive thumb of Rome, and (likely) the Diocletian persecution. So most of what he wrote would find some application to that first audience.
Yes, it is true that Daniel is told to “keep the vision a secret until the time of the end.” However, that can’t mean that he wasn’t supposed to share it with his contemporaries since clearly he did share it. It was meant for them first, even if there were elements that would not be understood until much later.
The same may be true of us. There are things within prophecy that we now see clearer than Daniel did. Such as Daniel’s vision of the four beasts and the four-tiered statue. We clearly see a picture of Empires the author had never seen. Yet we now understand the “Iron Kingdom” was Rome and we see with perfect hindsight what Daniel only saw in foresight: how that last empire was struck by a rock – a supernatural Messiah – whose Movement would eventually crush Rome’s power.
What this means is that if there are events yet future in Daniel, that may refer to the USA, it may be that they are not meant to be understood until AFTER they occur! Prophecy is sometimes given, not to appease our curiosity, but to provide a witness to God’s sovereign power and plan that will bring him glory only after the fact. (John 12:16)
Therefore, it is my contention that if the USA is mentioned in scripture (perhaps in a layered prophecy that has had a prior fulfillment in another age) then we may never know it until after the fact. Modern Christians assume too often that prophecy is given only for us to set our calendars by or appease our banal curiosity. It is given most often to vindicate our amazing God, to show His sovereignty over all things, to show off his plan and his care for the human race, and to provide testimony against his detractors of the truth of all this.
USA AS “COASTLANDS”?
Now, under the assumption that prophets wrote first to their audience in ways that would be accessible to them, we might look for phrases that could be understood by inhabitants of Bible lands as referring to a great nation across the sea, in the west. We find a few references to those who dwell on “coastlands” or the “islands of the sea” (Eze 27:35, Dan 11:18) but they usually refer to Mediterranean sea cultures such as Tyre or Philistia. And such references never give us any significant role for this “coastal” land to play.
PART OF “ALL NATIONS”
The only real clear future reference that must refer to the United States (again assuming it’s around as a political entity at the time of the End) are those verses that talk about what “ALL NATIONS” will do. At some point Scripture indicates that all nations will be judged, all nations will be gathered against Israel for a final battle, and all nations will bow before Messiah upon his return. So we can conclude that America will be in that number.
If America is around when all these things happen, then it must be influencing or acting through or with the other end times players explicitly named, but whose identities remain shrouded in mystery: such as “Babylon the Great”, “the Beast”, “the Prophet”, “the Horn that speaks boastfully”, the “Man of Lawlessness” and others.