Reading through the book of Revelation last night I began to wonder about all the imagery of chapter 13 with its beast from the sea and from the land. Some Christian scholars believe that the beast from the land, or as it is often called “the lamb like beast”, is actually the United States or the American system that revolves around military, political and cultural domination of the world.
“Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.” Revelation 13:11-12
The theory behind the thinking revolves around the idea that a lamb represents Jesus (see Rev. 5) and yet this peaceful beast actually speaks like Satan (the dragon). Revelation 13 goes on to state, “It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men; and by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth, bidding them make an image for the beast who which was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” Revelation 13:13, 14
I’m not going to go into all the nuances of the verse and why it is sometimes equated to a global state under the authority and power of America, because we all have differing views of the text based on our hermeneutics. What I was wondering about, however, is would we really want to live under a Christian government that controlled our nation?
It seems to me that the problem of so many Muslim states is that they have not separated church and state. Religion and the Koran dictate how the state is to be run and what privileges are offered to the citizens of those states. Would we really want a President or Prime Minister running the country who dictated policy upon their understanding of what the Bible says?
What would our society look like? Would it really be more peaceful and conducive to better government? We expect our leaders to be moral and ethical leaders but would we really want them to lead us by a strict code of conduct taken from the pages of the Old Testament?
The Kings of the Old Testament were to reign over the people under the direction and instructions of God. Those instructions came from prophets and spiritual advisors who directed and helped the King follow the will of God. When the kings tried ruling alone without the prophets, disaster usually occurred because the rulers began to think of themselves as gods and their orders and commands to the people irrefutable. Would we really want a leader of our nation to see himself or herself in that light?
On the surface people may long for a strong Christian leader who rules according to the dictates of Scripture but the problem arises in the interpretation of those Scriptures. Would a strong charismatic’s understanding of Scripture, and his ruling the nation upon that understanding, be accepted by more conservative Christians? Would everyone be commanded to tithe 10% of their income to the state along with paying taxes? The list goes on and on but you get the point of what I am saying.
In numerous Islamic nations the religious leaders who control the government get to make the rules based on their understanding of how they understand truth. Stoning, beheading and long prison sentences for breaking religious rules are part and parcel of what it means to live under the dictates of a religious state government.
Free will is important for our relationship with God. When we tell people convert or die we are not really winning the hearts of the people. The basis of Christianity is not a nation enforcing Christian’s standards and morals but a nation of free men and women who can weigh the evidence and follow their own understanding of what is truth. We all must live with the consequences of what we believe and what we do, and that is a good thing.
To love God is a personal choice that takes place by weighing the evidence, listening to the Holy Spirit and following your conscience regarding what you believe is right. That can only happen in a free nation where we are able to hear all sides of an argument and then freely make our choice.
Under the rule of a Christian state the freedom of choice would be taken away from us. If we could only work if we were born again Christians then people would profess belief in Jesus, not because they truly believed but because they need work. If you could only buy or sell if you were a Christian then people would profess Christianity for gain not because of a genuine transformation of the heart.
Regardless of what your interpretation of Revelation 13 one thing is sure, at least in my mind, that I do not want a worldwide dominant political/religious organization or state dictating how we should believe. Our faith is personal and must always remain so. When a state, regardless of its religious affiliation, takes on the power of their religion and rules by its dictates, no good can come from it.
* Many people around the world have exercised their right to choose Christ but are told to “convert or die” (conversion to Islam in most places). Many make this decision unto death as the persecution of Christians continues. Please remember these people in prayer. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/