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The Beast

The Bible foretells a time when political power, idolatry, and economics will converge around a system of individual surveillance so pervasive that no person will be able to evade it.  When this was written in A.D. 92 or so, the degree of control described by John in Revelation 13 was physically impossible to establish.  One of the reasons Christians have reacted so strongly against the current tide in political affairs is that so many initiatives are moving us closer to John’s nightmarish vision of a global government from hell.  Of particular interest to the student of prophecy is the modern political habit of using tax policy to shape behavior and mold society into the pattern our handlers wish.  This represents a subtle, almost invisible, and yet massive shift in the philosophy of governance.

Biblical model of government

The general biblical model sees governmental power as a God-ordained tool for accomplishing a limited set of purposes: to avenge crime, to protect national borders, to enforce lawful contracts, and to organize great public works impossible for the private sector.  To perform these things, taxation was required.  To ensure government remained within its sphere, taxation was limited to a certain percentage.  The percentage was high enough to ensure government could do its job but low enough that government could do only its job.  Taxation was a flat rate assessed on the net (i.e., the increase, cf. Dt 14:22) produced from the land, and everyone who had production was required to pay, rich and poor alike, at the same modest rate.

The Bible student will remember that under the reign of Joshua, Canaan was divided up with each family receiving an inheritance.  Canaan was actually the spoil of war, and Joshua’s government divided it up among the warriors.  The economic structure was then set up to ensure that no parcel of land could be permanently sold.  Each tribe possessed its inheritance in perpetuity and was responsible to make it productive for their own good as well as that of the nation.

In the biblical millennium, the inheritance-based economic structure becomes idealized.  The entire earth becomes the spoil when King Jesus returns to conquer it.  His people receive an inheritance, and Christ reigns over them from Mt. Zion for a thousand years as each man dwells in peace under his own vine and fig tree (Mic 4:1-8).  There is little unrest or dissent, and what little does arise is instantly put down by a monarch who literally controls the weather. (Zech 14:17)  In the final analysis, this is a religion whose outgrowth is an ideal state in which the king is both perfect, supreme, and God.

The new philosopher-kings

Over the past couple of centuries, numerous political philosophies have arisen, each one seeking to establish a sort of earthly millennium with a secular god to rule over it all.  Property is viewed as the spoil of war and its distribution is apportioned by a central authority.  There will be an enforced establishment, a ruling elite whose span of control is global.  Forebodingly, just as the biblical millennium admits no dissent or rebellion, so the modern utopians seek the establishment of a state in which brooks no disagreements.  Departure from the settled religious views of the establishment is not just a political difference; it is heresy.  This is religion, only its core is the idolatrous worship of state power.  The Bible shows, and history bears witness, that this eventually becomes the worship of the ruler.

Moving toward Revelation 13

John’s vision foresees these central elements:

Government surveillance of the individual
Economic control of the individual
A religion of state
A potent propaganda arm
Global reach
Lethal intolerance of dissent

The tool of surveillance will of course be the famous mark of the beast, the triple-six emblem of the end times.  The surveillance comes with a hammer: either take the mark or be denied the power to buy and sell, which in a consumer economy where few individuals are self-sufficient, is a death sentence.  These two features of pervasive surveillance and economic tyranny sum up much of the activity of the modern super-state.  No longer particularly interested in administering justice, it is endlessly inquisitive about the actions of ordinary people, prying into the personal affairs of troublemakers, and seeks to control all economic activity.  Even now, the American state wants to set the salaries of corporate executives.  Foolish people envious of opulent lifestyles never imagine that the power to control the salaries of the rich will one day translate into the power to control all the financial affairs of every individual.

One by one, the old Christian objections to emperor worship are swept aside.  The state grows in power, looking more godlike until its managers become mistaken for gods, and faith in the Creator is supplanted by service to the creature. (Ro 1:25)  Propaganda takes the place of preaching, and a new Great Commission projects state power to the ends of the earth.  Once the power is consolidated, dissent becomes treason, and dissenters must die. (Rev 13:15-17)

No single feature of this end-time dystopia is unthinkable any longer, not even the kooky elements of emperor worship.  Of course nobody really thinks the president is a bona fide god any more than the Romans thought Caesar Augustus was one.  The religion of state isn’t literal like that.  It’s rather that man’s innate tendency to experience religious feeling is co-opted by the state until the subservience eagerly offered to the true God is directed to the service of the state as personified by its ruler.  This has always been the way of such quasi religious governments, from the Babylonians of old worshiping a golden image of Nebuchadnezzar to the cult of the Dear Leader of the Norks.  So far, nobody has succeeded in perfecting the control and making it global.

Scared new world

The angel told Daniel that his prophecy would remain sealed until the time of the end when many would run to and fro and knowledge should be increased.  (Dan 12:4)  These two features of Our Time do suggest that we could be living in the latter times.  Travel and learning have increased by fantastic measures in the past hundred years.

And the increase in these two features of modern living have introduced a possibility which those in John’s day could not have imagined: the ability for a centralized super-state to exert economic and religious control over every individual on the earth.  It is no longer far-fetched to envision a central governmental authority scanning all the e-mails, using voice recognition technology to monitor phone calls, using point-of-sale technologies to ensure that only state-approved economic transactions occur, and so on.

What’s crucial is to see that modern philosophies of government tend to produce men that want to do this.  They have a vision of the way things oughtta be, and they use all the levers of government to make that happen.  So they do tend to sniff up what e-mails they can.  They put cameras all over the place, watching the traffic, watching the Washington Mall, sending the FBI to scarf up all the video tapes from convenience stores and banks.  They ask myriads of nosey questions in tax forms and census forms.

More to the point of Revelation 13, they use the tax code as a device for social engineering.  It rewards friends of the rulers and punishes their opponents.  Most importantly of all, they think this is a proper use of governmental power.  In their view, government does not wield an authority derived from God and thus subservient to his purposes and limited by his law.  Government rather is a tool to be used by powerful men to establish their own view of a millennial kindgom with themselves enthroned in the New Jerusalem.  In the coming super-state, every soul on earth will bow to this one man whom John says is no longer a man, but a Beast.  It will be the culmination of Satan’s works from the beginning of time, a brief moment when he gets all the world to worship an idol in defiance of the true God.  (Rev 13:8)

Come, Lord Jesus

The Lord gave John the Book of Revelation to show his servants the things which shall shortly come to pass.  (Rev 1:1)  The unveiling of Christ’s glory was to encourage the saints that the kingdoms of this world shall one day become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.  (Rev 11:15)  It also warns the secular and the faithless that however potent the engines of earthbound power may seem now, Christ will trample them underfoot when he arrives, and however fierce the armies of earth may seem today, they’ll be as nothing before the armies of the saints following him.  The high King of Heaven will rule, and no force of this earth can hinder him.

Jesus said, “What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”  The age of grace still prevails, and Christ still saves those who come to him.  This is the hour; seek him now.

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