The Beast We Face
It is humiliating before the Lord to face that your own national government is an extension of Satan’s kingdom of lying, theft, and murder. The majority of citizens are complicit, for they pursue their own lives and pleasures. Our spiritual deadness and unrighteousness are the poison soul from which the beast of totalitarianism has sprung up. Unbelief breeds revolution and tyranny, if given sufficient leash from the reigning King, whose “ways are past finding out.”
This beast has a long history, all the way back to the pre-Flood world and Babel. John wrote of this beast in Revelation. This beast is inspired by Satan to build the city of man in opposition to the city of God. The beast revealed cryptically in John’s vision is a blasphemer, in that he repudiates the living God and his law, rejects his Christ, claims to be God on earth, and wars against the saints (13:1-7). The Lord uses the beast to judge wicked men and nations, permits him to make war against the saints, and for a time to overcome them.
This was hard for the first-century believers to read, as it is for us. Is not Christ the Lord of men and nations? Yes, he is. Then, why would he give such a long leash to the beast? First, he permits this war against his people to separate worshippers of the beast from his true worshippers (13:8). The Lamb will have his followers marked by faith in his word and refusal to have the mark of the beast. Second, he exercises the faith and patience of his saints (13:10); he throws their faith in the fire to purify it. By these weak means, the illustrious power and grace of the Lamb of his revealed. He overcame Satan by the word and promise of God, and his saints will overcome in no other way.
The tyranny of the beast reveals his statist pretensions to be God on earth. He has Satan’s power to make fire come down from heaven – wars, wrath, intrigues, oppression, manipulation, fear, and deception are his weapons (13:13-14). He has an “emperor cult” that sings his praises (13:14), forces compliance (13:15), and compels all men to have his mark upon their foreheads (13:16). This mark is the word of man, the divine pretension of statism, and exclusive allegiance to an omnipotent state. No one can do business or earn a living unless he bears the beast’s mark (13:17). God’s saints as far back as Ezekiel have a different mark upon their foreheads (9:4). They have the name of God written upon their heads (3:12) and a victor’s crown upon their heads (12:1).
Before drawing a few parallels to our present version of the beast, it is necessary to understand that John was writing in a very “political” way. It is true that he does not exactly “name names,” but the first century believers understood of whom John wrote. They lived under the boot of the Roman Empire and its Caesars, who increasingly ruled as God on earth, even demanding to be addressed as “God.” Local businesses throughout the empire were part of trade guilds, at whose meetings incense to the emperor was burned. One could not be “licensed” without this public declaration of allegiance. Dissent meant poverty. Local religions were permitted, provided that the highest allegiance was given to Caesar and his gods. Permission to practice one’s preferred religion required state permission; dissent meant persecution. Wars were incessant; life was cheap. Currency manipulation through debased coinage propped up the economy. Thus, the book of Revelation is at a secondary level a political manifesto against this beastly statism. It warned God’s people that they could not give allegiance to the beast, even with crossed fingers behind their backs, and serve the Lamb-King, Jesus Christ.
The beast we face is eerily familiar to readers of John’s Revelation. Our nation foments wars throughout the earth, all in the name of “American interests” and the cry of “democracy.” Since democracy means to believe and act in accordance with what the state deems acceptable, democracy means totalitarianism. Our military and alphabet agencies are engaged in covert operations around the world, creating unrest and wars, which are then blamed upon other “evil nations,” thus justifying our hypocritical moral outrage and more public involvement. Ubiquitous license requirements to do business are the modern equivalent of burning incense to the emperor. Our economy is propped up through the “emperor cult,” otherwise known as the Federal Reserve System. Churches that seek licensing from the state through incorporation will experience increasing scrutiny as to what is preached. Sadly, the churches in this land have done this voluntarily. We will rue that choice, I fear. The beast of statism, as it thirsts for ever increasing power to prop itself up, tolerates no rivals. Many since the 1970’s have been warning us of the rising threat of statism, and they were laughed at as tinfoil hat wearing kooks. Yes, perhaps some were, but their warnings went unheeded. As Americans slept, watched football, built suburban palaces, and grew rich on the state’s manipulations, the beast has grown. It cannot pay its debts now and uphold its currency without more wars, legal assault against dissent, and digital forms of currency which place our very lives and livelihoods in the hands of non-elected bureaucrats.
It sounds bleak, I know. It sounded bleak in the first century, as it did under late medieval papal rule, which our Reformation fathers and mothers identified as the beast of its day. But the beast is doomed. This is the inspiring, challenging message of Revelation. There is a way for the church to overcome totalitarianism. Do not participate. Reject the idolatrous, God-like pretensions of statism. Do not worship his image, bear his mark, or recognize his claims. We still must honor the king in that he represents God’s authority. He may be corrupt and an enemy of God, but as Paul recognized when standing before the wicked Jewish high priest, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:4). Overcoming the beast is not in the way of arrogance and vilification of the powers that be. God’s way is very different, very challenging to us as followers of the Lamb.
Three truths receive emphasis in Revelation 13. First, recognize the beast of totalitarian statism for what it is. It is opposed to God. It claims to be God. It grows on lies, violence, war, economic theft, intolerance, and state worship. It is an enemy of Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Think carefully about this as you speak to others about what is occurring in our land, what you look for in acceptable candidates for public office, the educational institutions to which you give your children, and your pursuit of “the American dream.” The Lordship of Jesus Christ is not a theory for Sunday mornings. He is the King, and he is making war against the beast.
Second, when you follow the Lamb, you become a participant in this war. The beast is Satan’s way of making war against Christ and his followers (Rev. 12:17), against you. To be a Christian is to confess, “Christ, not man, is King” (Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11). Satan does not make war against his slaves (2 Tim. 2:26), but against true believers in Jesus Christ. In this war, you must not yield to discouragement or fear that stops using the weapons God has provided. They will overthrow the beast (2 Cor. 10:4-5), whether the sins in our lives, families, and congregations, or the more public evil of statism. Each is deadly in its own way, and only God’s armor will protect you. Learn to use it. Trust God’s weapons.
Third, we may not worship the beast, have his mark upon our foreheads, trust his lying promises, or bow before his claims. We must not believe or live by the beast’s signs in our day: technology, science, politics, pluralism, gender bending, cheap credit and easy money, egalitarianism, and all the rest. The claims of our beast are very public. The Lord Jesus has loosed his chain, and he has thrown off his disguise. Bow or lose your business. Bow and take our medicines. Bow and educate in our schools. Bow and abort your unwanted children; Molech’s fires are blazing again. Bow and support our wars. Bow and trust that we know what is best for you. Bow, for we are the new gods, the new designers that will build a better world.
Remember those two little words: patience and faith. Agitation, fear, and despair are the devil’s weapons. They lead to bad decisions and bad compromises. They rob us of courage and hope. They deny our Savior’s promise: “I am with you to the end.” Instead, we must realize that only our King has the battle plan. He is moving his pieces where he wants them. He calls us to live by faith in his promises. He already has the crown upon his head, and he will place it on ours. Time, history, and more importantly, God himself are on the side of the patient believer. This beast must fall, for the Lord Jesus Christ will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and the brightness of his coming.