“Make America Great Again” turned out to be a winning slogan and a powerful brand for president-elect, Donald Trump.
Although the phrase had been used at other times by other candidates, it hadn’t been leveraged to Trump’s degree. Many analysts attempted to explain why exactly the phrase resonated with American voters.
Throughout the campaign we heard a lot about America “not winning anything anymore.” And there was a seeming consensus that education quality, employment opportunities, financial stability, and moral character were all important areas in which America had regressed. In short though, the nostalgia-inducing slogan seems to harken back to a period of our country where we believed we were leaders in the world. And many who remember that feeling, or simply want that feeling, were willing to roll the dice on a candidate who’s claiming to offer it.
I’d like to propose a slightly different thought though. I believe the slogan is powerful because it actually reverberates deep within our souls. In other words, the collective consciousness of humanity recognizes there was a time when things were great, that we’ve fallen from that greatness, and that we’re looking for a powerful leader to come and usher us back into greatness once again, a return to paradise.
In the Christian Church year, we currently find ourselves in the season of End Times. And Judgment day is the day on which Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the world, will literally come back to Make Earth Great Again.
What does this mean?
In our best picture of the End of Days, the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John writes:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life… There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.” (Rev. 22:1-2, 5)
None of that imagery really makes any sense according to our finite, limited understandings of time and space. Rivers, in our experience, flow down from mountains into oceans. They don’t flow from thrones. They don’t flow down the middle of streets without FEMA getting involved. You don’t experience daylight without the sun. And you don’t have trees that grow on both sides of a river. This is a city with a great infrastructure, crystal clear water, great park system, the light always shines but without a sun, and none of this is comprehensible based on our experience. It’s similar enough to our existence that it’s relatable, but still perplexingly different.
John also highlights the reason why our current experience of earth is drastically different in vs. 3 “No longer will there be any curse.” (Rev. 22:3) Our experience of earth is different from the New Heavens & New Earth because our current earth is under a self-imposed curse. By that, I mean that when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, the rest of creation began rebelling against Adam and Eve. Humanity’s sin overturned the authority structure that God had created as the dominion of a perfect universe. But on the last day, Jesus is coming back and turning it right-side-up again.
I used to be of the impression that, upon Judgment Day, believers would be sent away to a distant galaxy to live in a far off heaven (and new earth). But then I realized that in Revelation 21, John says, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:2). We’re apparently not going off to heaven as much as heaven (i.e. the essence of which is the presence of Jesus) is coming down to us. In that perfect experience of our new earth, “He (Jesus) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Rev. 21:4)
Most believers understand that the resurrection means our physical bodies will be brought back to life, better than before, the way they were truly supposed to be. And they will. But isn’t it fascinating that God doesn’t just give our souls brand spanking new bodies? Instead he gives us redeemed and resurrected bodies. He doesn’t just send us off to a distant galaxy. Heaven comes down to this earth.
Here’s the point: In a sense, our bodies are a metonymy for what all of life and all of creation will be. The wrongs will not just be gone; they’ll be made right. The knots caused by sin won’t just be cut off; they’ll be unwound. The evil will become untrue. It’s not just that there is now a line of demarcation from which life will always be good. For his children, just as he grabs from the grave our old bodies ravaged by sin and long decayed, God reaches back into our past and, in a sense, mysteriously undoes what was wrong.
When Adam and Eve sinned, humanity was banished from paradise. We cursed ourselves. But because of the grace of Jesus, we’ll return to paradise. The curse is being undone. When God created man, he created him from dust. But because man sinned, he returns to dust. Curse. But because of the grace of Jesus, in the end, humanity will rise again from the dust. The curse is being undone.
The Doctrine of Resurrection on Judgment Day means that every wrong will be made right, in an incomprehensibly beautiful way. The curse is gone. The spell is broken. It’s not just new. It’s revisited, revitalized, and resurrected but perfected old. Do you realize how powerful this is? The shame you’ve been carrying for the stupid things you did in your youth – the Bible doesn’t seem to be suggesting that you’ll merely be lobotomized and forget about them – it will be as though they had never been. The abuse you endured and the lasting scars that remain – those scars won’t just be gone. Seemingly, somehow, it appears the experience of heaven means it will be as though they had never been!
You say, “Well that doesn’t make sense.” Well, sure, no more sense than a tree that grows on both sides of a river or a world that’s constantly lit with no sun. But the doctrine of Resurrection (of both humans and earth) on Judgment Day suggest it’s true.
Dostoyevsky once wrote,
“I believe … suffering will be healed and made up for … that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened …” (Brothers Karamozov)
Because of the impending resurrection made certain by Christ’s own resurrection, he’s right.
C.S. Lewis used to say that “heaven is the remote music we were born remembering.” Yep. We know paradise was here. And we know it’s coming again. And when people, even political figures, unwittingly tap into this truth, it moves us, though we don’t entirely know why.
But the Bible explains why. We were born in paradise. We miss paradise. And for the sake of Jesus, we will return to paradise.