The Beast of Revelation - Part 2
The thesis of the previous article was that the Beast in Revelation is also the 4th beast in Daniel 7, so we can look in both books to learn about the Beast. The Beast is a specific character in end time events. But due to the composite nature of his image, we can apply some aspects to human political power more broadly whether they be kings, politburos, or representative governments.
To start, describing kings as beasts communicates something worth noting. The word beast has a connotation of something that is wild, dangerous, hungry, and aggressive. The beast images in Daniel and Revelation reinforce this intuition by describing the beasts as conquering, eating, and destroying. What is true of any beast is emphasized in the image of the Beast Daniel sees.
7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet.
Beasts are to be feared. They are to be avoided when possible. When that isn't possible you need to protect yourself from them. Not every king is a bad king, it is true. However, it is wise to apply the same logic to any government because of their basic beastly nature. Even more concerning is how the Beast speaks and acts towards God and His people.
25 He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.
5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns...
14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.
The Beast speaks out against God and wages war against believers. His anger and hatred is focused on a specific target. From the image of the Beast flows the principle that governments pose a major threat to God and His people. Obviously the Beast is a unique character with a unique mission against Christians, but my interest is more the principles we can draw about how we think and interact with governments today. The Christians in the Daniel and Revelation passages could be Jewish Christians only or they could refer to the whole Church. I recognize there are different schools of thought around this issue, but those differences do not affect this discussion.
Not only does the Beast target believers in the end times. We see earthly political powers following his example throughout history. Just off the top of my head, Israel was enslaved by the kings of Egypt. In the book of Esther, laws were written in the Persian Empire to kill all the Jews, though they were thwarted. In the book of Zechariah, he prophesizes against the leaders of Israel for oppressing and killing their own people. The Roman imperial government put Jesus to death. They then persecuted the Church for over 300 hundred years. Muslim kings still oppress Christian communities as second class citizens or dhimmis. In the French Revolution the new government executed many priests and religious people. The Russian Revolution did the same thing on a larger more bureaucratic scale. Laws in the US today persecute Christians for not pledging allegiance to secular notions of morality. In support of this idea, multiple early church fathers in the 2nd-5th centuries were suspicious of government.
All the powers and dignities of this world are only alien to, but are enemies of God. Through them, punishments have been determined against God’s servants. Through them, too, penalties prepared for the impious are ignored. – Tertullian
So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state. – Tertullian
Christians are not allowed to use violence to correct the delinquencies of sin – Clement of Alexandria
We are to scorn trying to ingratiate ourselves with kings or any other men – not only if their favor is to be won by murderers, licentiousness, or deeds of cruelty – but even if it involves impiety towards God, or any servile expressions of flattery and fawning. – Origen
Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor. – Augustine
I admit, not every church father or theologian has had such a negative view of government. But looking at the nature of the Beast started me down a path. The first, and very obvious, step is to consider the Beast as an enemy of God. The next step is to recognize that the Beast is not just one person (though he is one person) but also multiple sets of kings, the seven heads and the ten horns. At the end of the path, or maybe at the beginning, is the realization that looking at the image of the Beast widens our view to earthly kingdoms. Maybe not every king is a bad king. As much as a government upholds justice and protects its people from harm, Christians should support and encourage it. However, that doesn't change the biblical principle that the consistent adversary and most dangerous enemy to Christians is government.
The next logical thing is to decide what the Church must do to protect itself from such a formidable enemy. Whether in a personal situation or on a national scale, the very last option is violence. Only in a worst case scenario should we consider armed rebellion. Thoughtful personal defense includes several things first like avoidance, distance, de-escalation, and a secure home. Likewise, defense against the government beast should include things like separation of powers, rule of law, healthy protection of rights. Those are all things that set limits on a government's power over people. At the same time, the nature of a beast is the desire to wield power, to throw off any kind of constraint placed on their ability to rule. If Christians have any hope to tame the beasts which they live under, we also need to seek to reduce the size and scope of government. The more power a government yields the harder it will be to hold them accountable. In order to do that there are many other things we should do.
The more money a government has access to, the more power they have to act. Therefore, it is important to minimize the amount of money they take in taxes and remove their control over money and banking. It is harder for them to oppress citizenry when it is easier to move out of their area of jurisdiction. So Christians should push for political decentralization. That means breaking up existing governments into smaller geographic components. It also means giving more local levels of government more autonomy under national or federal levels. Lastly, it means building up non-governmental institutions that work to take care of society. These activities are things like retirement planning, homeless care, healthcare, elderly care, unemployment protection, etc. We need churches, extended families, private charities, businesses and other organizations to take more responsibility and governments to have less.
This is how we defang the beast. It won't prevent the Beast in Revelation from coming on to the scene in the last days. But it will protect people from oppression and violence now. In addition, the world Christians build today could also determine what kind of protection from the Beast believers will have in the future. More on that in the final part of this series.