A few years ago I was able to sit in on a Sunday School Class that our own Dr. Mike Kruger was teaching on the book of Revelation. In the class he was defining various interpretations of exactly who or what the beast is. Various schools of interpretation see the beast as either unfaithful Israel (Preterist View), a historical character such as Pope Leo X or Hitler (Historicist View), some future man of lawlessness yet to come (Futurist View), or demonically inspired earthly kingdoms which oppose Christianity (Idealist View). Expounding this later view, common among Presbyterian and Reformed scholars, he explained that the beast has been, is, and will be any earthly kingdom, which animated by demonic powers, makes war on the church in an effort to silence her witness.
As I sat there pondering the weight of that definition, various beastly empires filtered through my mind. One cannot but help think of kingdoms such as Nero’s Rome, Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Ida Amin’s Uganda as prime examples of state-sponsored persecution, torture and murder of Christians.
For example during the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich in the 1930’s, he systematically attempted to take over the church. He created a state church, the Reichskirche, whose motto “Ein Reich, ein Volk, eine Kirche” (One State, One People, One Church) came to symbolize his best attempt at replacing authentic Christianity with a Nazi prototype. He went so far as to have Bibles removed from churches and replaced them with his own Mein Kampf (My Struggle), he removed crosses, with their inherent reminder of weakness replacing them with the Nazi flag, he even ordered that rather than confessions of faith, the church must declare Hitler as supreme leader and guide.
From those reveres I began to ask the question: Where is the beast today? Which earthly governments are warring with the church around the world, inflicting harm and damage, in an effort to silence her, or destroy her entirely? I quickly eliminated Russia, a perennial favorite “beast” during the cold war, the church there is growing, Putin is, at least nominally, in favor of the Russian Orthodox Church. China is certainly a contender, she persecutes the church still, yet the church there is thriving and her reach is limited, confined to her own shores. One must consider the various Muslim Countries where Christians are being killed today, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. Certainly these must be numbered among the beastly countries in our day, along with North Korea.
But I began to wonder: what country does the most to harm the church? Who most advances the agenda of the devil through its production and worldwide exportation of movies, music, immorality, and materialism? What country turns a blind eye to Christian suffering worldwide, when it could significantly help? What country advances the agenda of world-wide acceptance of gender-confusion, whose supreme leader, in fact, travels and bullies other nations into embracing all forms of gender-confusion as normal while within his own shores encouraging through all the means at his disposal the social engineering of the military, the educational system, and the health system so as to discard Christian teaching and morality and replace it with immorality?
It struck me like a ton of bricks. The United States! Today, under its current administration, the US may be the single earthly power doing the most worldwide damage to the church. I hesitate to think it, or write it, so much do I love my country. But at some point we must admit the truth to ourselves. Our country, once almost miraculously blessed with Christian influence and structures has been changing rapidly in the last fifty years. We Christians now find ourselves in the very uncomfortable position of living in the very belly of the beast!
While surprising to me, this is, of course, no surprise to our Father, who very regularly calls his people, his church, down through the millennia, to make their homes precisely in the belly of the beast, in Babylon, as it were. Indeed, the Christian faith is one meant to be lived in tension with the world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life– is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn. 2:15-17)
If my musings are correct, or even mostly correct, then we will have to live more and more as strangers and sojourners here, and less and less, as saints at ease in Zion. This is neither terrible nor discouraging, but it is different perhaps than what we have expected or hoped. It is perhaps a good time to consider what it means to live as strangers and sojourners in this country which has made itself more clearly hostile to the church. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13 ESV) We find ourselves in the belly of the beast, strangers and exiles on the earth, and here we will need Jesus, his people, and his Word, more than ever, just to live. And that is not a horrible place to be!
Author: Rev. Dr. Tom Hawkes
Image: Found here