The Dragon stood on the shore of the sea. I saw a Beast rising from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads—on each horn a crown, and each head inscribed with a blasphemous name…The Dragon turned over its power to it, its throne and great authority…
The whole earth was agog, gaping at the Beast. They worshiped the Dragon who gave the Beast authority, and they worshiped the Beast, exclaiming, “There’s never been anything like the Beast! No one would dare go to war with the Beast!”
The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for forty-two months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God’s holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.
Are you listening to this? They’ve made their bed; now they must lie in it…
I saw another Beast rising out of the ground. It had two horns like a lamb but sounded like a dragon when it spoke. It was a puppet of the first Beast, made earth and everyone in it worship the first Beast, which had been healed of its deathblow.
This second Beast worked magical signs, dazzling people by making fire come down from Heaven. It used the magic it got from the Beast to dupe earth dwellers, getting them to make an image of the Beast that received the deathblow and lived…
(Excerpts from Revelation 13 (MSG Version)
Revelation is a beloved book of the Evangelical Dispensationalist. This passage descries two beasts, the first beast is what has been misappropriated as the “Anti-Christ” at least since the Reformation. This is incorrect as the term “Anti-Christ” is used only 3 times in the Bible (twice in the first epistle of John, and once in the second epistle of John), each time referring to false teachers that come out of the Church itself and their doctrines. The Anti-Christ is not a political leader as so many suppose, it is in the Church itself. The term “beast” used here actually means a venomous beast. I tend to picture a kimodo dragon in relating to that term, a beast that inflicts a deadly wound and follows its victim, waiting to the venom to take effect before overtaking its helpless victim.
The second beast is regarded as a religious leader or group which follows and supports the first beast. Together, they dupe people and convince them to follow the first beast. By following the first beast, they are in fact following Satan, the Dragon, who gives the beast its power. There does not actually have to be anything “magical” here in the beast’s power to mislead people into following the beast and Satan: lies, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, blasphemy – they are all from Satan; the only trick comes in getting people to believe them. If there is anything that the last 3 years have proven, it is that it is not very hard to get people to believe lies. All you have to do is tell them lies they want to hear.
There have probably been many beasts of Revelation, and there probably will continue to be many more as long as human civilization continues. Ever since Akhenaten of Egypt and Constantine of Rome, every political leader knows the value of a gaining religious allies; and the more “conservative” the political leaders, the more “fundamentalist” the religious leaders, the more valuable they are to each other. But now we are facing the beasts of Revelation here in the United States. Donald Trump and his minions in the Republican Party, along with this current manifestation of Dispensational Evangelicalism, are in every way the description of the beasts of Revelation 13.
Reading Revelation 13 should send chills up the spine of the Dispensationalist, but it doesn’t to the Evangelical today. They have had almost 2oo yrs of believing that real news is fake, and their own fake news is real; they have lived their lives in distrust of media, science, and government, even when it is for their good. They have been told over and over that anything that deviates from the capitalist world view is of the Devil, and progressive world views are evil and will take away their freedom to worship. Further, in order to keep the fear and hate that they have built up intact, they will completely turn their backs on the teachings of Jesus Himself. It can be no surprise at all that they will follow along with Trump’s message of hate and mistrust of anything but what he tells them is real. It is exactly the message they want to hear, and have spent years believing was true.
So, this is the bottom line, this is where the Church in this country finds itself today. Are non-Dispensational, non-Evangelical denominations prepared to handle this challenge? No, they are not.
You may be wondering at this point why I utilize the term “main stream” as opposed to the more accepted term “mainline” when referring to the established Protestant denominations. It’s because I see this phrase as more fitting to what Protestant denominations have become. Protestants in their churches today seem to be floating down stream, overall oblivious to the difficulties and dangers that they are facing. Main stream Protestants are dying off, quite literally. It is an aging demographic, and predictions are that by the year 2030 they will cease to function as any organized religious entity. Yet they still seem content with the “that’s the way we have always done it” mentality. They remains largely resistant to any change in the Ecclesiastical structure or Liturgical mannerisms that will allow them to address the needs society today. In short they are old fashioned and want to stay that way, even if it means that eventually they will be left with no choice but to close their church doors.
Main stream denominational leaders remain woefully ignorant of the dangers that Dispensationalism presents, most do not know what it teaches, and in many cases, may not even know what it is. Yet its underlying message of hate and distrust, do reach into the pews of the main stream denominations. The people sitting in those pews still watch Fox News, still watch 700 Club, still listen to conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh. The central message of the Dispensationalist Evangelical is still getting through, and disturbingly, the more main stream Protestants attend church, the more likely they are to fall prey to it.
This article details a disturbing trend that was found following the 2016 elections. Even in the most progressive denominations, the more often someone attended services and church activities a week, the more likely it was that they would vote for Donald Trump:
The article seems to end in bewilderment, how could this be? But the answer is really quite simple. Main stream denominations have failed. They are faced with a challenge they do not understand, and are ill prepared to deal with. Their leaders can write position papers, and doctrinal statements to their hearts content, but they mean nothing to those sitting in the pews. They are really just worthless scraps of paper. Why is that? This is the work of the second beast – the real Anti-Christ…
The language we use is an expression of who we are, how we see the world, how we make sense of our environment. It is very difficult to understand someone who speaks another language than you do. You may find a way to communicate, but it is through a set of assumptions that we human beings hold to be universally true; a smile means happy, or a frown means sad. However there can be much more to a smile and a frown than just that, and it is those things that can be misconstrued. The same holds true of main stream Christians and Evangelicals. Both will make assumptions about what the other is saying based on their particular understanding of what Christianity means, but many times they will both be wrong.
It was not until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized that the Rapture was not a universally taught doctrine in Christian churches. I had always pretty much assumed that everyone knew of the Rapture – I was wrong. Looking back now, I guess I really should have figured it out, but I just never made the right connections. It was at that point that I also realized that had been speaking a different language than other Christians all along. When the Evangelical says, “Jesus is coming again.” It is the Rapture they are referring to, other Christians will use the same words, but they are referring to Christ returning to set up his kingdom on earth. When the Evangelical sings “Oh what a wonderful day it will be, Jesus is coming again!” They are not thinking of the same “day” as others are – they are thinking of the Rapture. The difference is not subtle. It is a real, and a wide, chasm that exist between to two expressions.
The same is true of the word “Grace”. To most main stream Christians, Grace is the work of God in our lives to move us into a relationship with Him, it leads us in the directions that we should go to follow Him, it calls us back when we fall off our way – it is the extended hand of a loving God toward imperfect humans. But to the Dispensationalist, Grace is simply “unmerited favor” that God extends to human beings. Beyond that though, Grace is also a period of time, the current Dispensation, which means, that Grace also has an end. And in the end, those dirty sinners will get what’s coming to them (after the Dispensationalist has been Raptured of course). That is not something that is taught in main stream churches, but the underlying attitude, that hateful distrust, does find its way into main stream pews. Again, it is not a subtle difference, it is a wide, and very real, chasm that our main stream churches and leaders do not understand.
This second beast is there to wrap the lies of the first into religious propaganda that will appear to those hearing it to be coming from God, and yet the meanings of the words are not what they think. Lies are hidden behind a phrase from a verse here and another phrase from a verse there in the Bible. This second beast causes Christians to ignore the teachings of Christ to follow along after the things they want to be told; and shown in the above article, this modern Evangelical beast is alive and well in even the most progressive (on paper) Protestant denominations. The second beast has been very successful in its mission!
So what is needed? I am calling for a RE-Formation of the Church in our country. Not another Reformation, and we certainly need no more revivals. Rather a Re-Forming of the Church in seeking what Jesus Christ Himself actually wanted His Church to be.
That is the subject of our next post…