“Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7
First we need some clarity about what prophecy is. In its strictest form it is a “divinely inspired utterance or revelation; a message of divine truth revealing God’s will.” (dictionary.com) This may involve predictions of future events if God is revealing these things to His prophets, but it can be simply an announcement of God’s will or instructions to the believer or the Church. That said, prophecy is usually used now in reference to future event predictions, where instead it should include what most pastors announce in their sermons.
In regard to future predictions, there is a simple rule for determining if a prophet is actually speaking God’s word: “You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) And, in fact, the penalty for speaking in God’s name falsely was to be punished by death. (v 20)
In the 1970s I recall reading a quote from Ruth Graham saying, “if God does not judge America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” This has shown up in a variety of sermons and quotes since. From a letter posted on the Billy Graham Association website, my memory proved correct:
“Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
“She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).
“I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”
Billy and Ruth Graham’s opinions are in line with most evangelical thinkers of our generation, but I am doubtful she was speaking as a prophetess, but more lamenting the deteriorating moral values she saw in our nation.
There are more “prophets” speaking of judgment on America in more venues than ever before, but I wonder if these prophets are accurately presenting messages from The God Who Is There, or more their own views of what they believe God ought to do, combined with popular news reports and the entertainment industry. We will be able to tell after the events predicted, but what about preparation for events if a prophet has spoken?
An example is Dr. Patricia Green of Joy Ministries, who predicts a major tsunami over the east coast which will inundate New York, New York, Washington, D.C. and cover much of Florida. She wisely does not put a date on this, but this is something earth scientists, who are not Christ-followers, are predicting:
Dr, Green appears to use the scripture more wisely than some, encouraging introspection and prayer to ask God for guidance, and to rest in the assurance of a solid Biblical salvation. Others, such as Geoffrey Grider and a host of others, who claim Obama will be the last president of the U.S. are further out on the fringe of conspiracy theorists, along the lines of Harold Camping who predicted Christ’s return several times, changing the date each time it did not happen.
So this brings us to our question: Will God judge America and, if so, how soon? Jesus words should provide us with some perspective on studying prophecy as it applies to the end of this age: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:29) The point of Biblical prophecy is not to stockpile food, or to move to a safe location or to store up weapons to protect your family. The point of Biblical prophecy is to encourage you to prepare your heart to be ready to meet God before the moment you actually meet Him, and to invite others along.
God is intentionally vague about future events because He knows the callousness of our hearts. If He had said, “The world will end on June 11, 2012,” and given clear evidence that this was the day He would show up, how many people would have lived without Him in view until June 10?! Then in a rush of “repentance” people would come to Him, but how many could be sincere? How many would have learned to walk with Him and Heaven in view?
Will God judge America? Yes, as He will judge all the nations of the earth on a Great Judgment Day (Revelation 11:18), which date is unknown to any man, nor can it be known (Matthew 24:36). America has been depraved in other times (the 1850s, 1920s, 1960s) and God did not destroy us for our wickedness. Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared for ten righteous people (Genesis 18:32); would He not spare America for the many hundreds of thousands of righteous among us? This is not to be arrogant or presumptuous of His grace, but realistic about God’s love for us, even when we were still enemies of His. This does not preclude problems associated to declining moral values, devaluation of the needy, dismissal of the poor, or dehumanization of “inferior” classes of people.
However, God’s specific judgment of nations ended with the judgment of Israel, taking the people into Babylonian captivity. He continues to act within the geopolitical sphere to prepare the world for the Day when Jesus will return (Acts 1:11), but His interest and focus is not on the nations, but on the individual who must make the decision whether or not to believe in His saving grace revealed in Jesus’ death on the cross.
As to why the Americas are not mentioned in scripture, it could be that we will be ineffectual and unimportant for the end time events that will center on Israel. We could be under martial law if major natural disasters strike the coasts of the U.S., and of no interest to the rest of the world. We could have been reduced to a third-world economy by events that have yet to unfold. But such scenarios are for scientists and economists to worry about and for politicians to argue. For the Christ-follower, we have a clear message to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
So what do we say to those who are busy scouring the Bible to find out if America is to be judged, or to those who search the Quran to find out when the 12th Imam will be revealed? They would do better to look into the Bible and find out what God expects from us here and now: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:7-8)