Friday, January 15, 2010

Wondering After the Beast

This past week our nation was visited by the new Pope. In a world of 24 hours news networks based on a profit-centered mentality, this was “front-page-news.” I do agree that the Pope is a world-renowned spiritual leader and his visitation to our country is noteworthy. But I wonder why visits by the Dali Lama, or various Jewish Rabbi’s, and Muslim Clerics are not given equal news attention as the Pope. Hindu’s seem to get no press at all, Buddhists barely a mention in general, and Scientologists only when a dose of humor is required. In short, our news media seems biased towards Christian religious figures to the exclusion of most others. Is this what God would want?

After all Christians believe they serve the only TRUE God. In fact you could argue this entire blog series is definitely slanted towards the validation of Jewish and then Christian theology, with a smattering of understanding towards Muslims. So why not be happy when CNN chooses to make Papal coverage it’s nearly one and only story of the week. Isn’t it good for a representative of our true God to get a little attention? Doesn’t it serve to remind the world that religion still matters? And why on earth would I title this blog entry “wondering after the beast?”

The beast mentioned in Revelation 13:3 that I make reference to is a Biblical symbol for the evil that stands against God – in both his precepts, goals, and values. Satan of course is the anti-God, meaning that everything that Satan embraces stands in opposite contrast to what God embraces. Where God grants freedom of choice, Satan exerts total control. Where God invites debate and reason, Satan demands unwavering and unquestioning allegiance. Where God offers unconditional love, Satan demands unconditional addictive slavery. And finally, where God asks for faith and trust, Satan offers control and power. So many in our world embrace Satan’s way. Indeed, evil has a tremendous marketing machine that has warped the minds of millions into believing they are in control of their lives, can earn their own destinies, and do not need to serve anyone other than self. This is the nature of the beast described in Revelations.

Obviously, were Satan to visit our capital in the flesh, Christians would immediately decry his welcome. We would be appalled that our governmental leaders would openly accept and listen to words coming directly from the evil one. We picture Satan as red-skinned, dual horns from his head, 6-6-6 tattooed on his forehead, with a spiked tail and a pitchfork. This image is one we are comfortable with. But to picture him as a smooth talking Brad-Pitt look alike with words that offer hope and peace – seems counter to our imagery therefore not Satan. But what if it is? What if Satan is responsible for the red-skinned, pitch-forked image we imagine in the first place. What if he actually does look more like Robert Redford, with a voice like Andrea Boccelli, and with the speaking ability of Ronald Reagan (the great communicator). Dodging our preconceived ideas of his appearance we would undoubtedly give his words consideration. We might actually listen to his arguments. Lest you believe him ineffective, he was able to dissuade 1/3 of all the angels in Heaven to follow his ideas. This is not the mark of an idiot.

Could it be that the ‘Beast’ is already among us? Some have proffered the idea that G.W. might be the anti-christ. This may be humorous, but is unfair and untrue. G.W. is nothing more than flawed Christian, just like me, or just like you. His flaws may yield more consequences to us all, but it does not put him in league with absolute evil. But does one have to be entirely evil, to do the work of the evil-one? In short, no. When someone is given attention, the words they speak have consequence. If they stand and say something counter the principles of God, they speak on behalf of evil, and their tongue becomes the tool of the Beast. The papal system preaches the infallibility of the Pope, the idea that man can be saved by penance (his own actions), and the idea that man’s edicts are more important than the edicts of God. The papal system has re-written the original 10 commandments, and plainly admits to changing the day of worship God ordained from the seventh to the first day of the week. This entire series of arguments is not Biblically centered. It is works centered. It is based on the teachings of men. And it stands in stark contrast to the teachings found in the Bible. This set of beliefs is not just a disagreement among Christians over doctrine, it is a fundamental assault on the character of God himself.

Yet the Pope is followed by the press, and his fans, as would one of the great rock-stars of our era. His words are listened to for spiritual guidance even though the foundation of his belief system is essentially the same as every other false religion that has ever existed on this earth – that man can work enough to save himself – in short, man does not truly need God for Salvation, he can rely on his own efforts, or will fail by them. This does not make the Pope the antichrist either. That title would be too restrictive if ONLY applied to the Pope. Does not Buddhism and Hinduism proffer the same idea (man can achieve inner peace through the strength of his own determination). Does not Muslim religion teach that only strict adherence to the Quran will enable one to enter Paradise? - Or the Jewish faith essentially teach that ONLY by following the Torah can one be saved. All of these religions have beautiful aspects of truth found in them. And all of these religions have a singular fundamental flaw – that man can somehow save himself. True Christianity embraces man’s inability to save himself, and therefore the need of a savior. This is the fundamental distinction between the true God, and all of those who would proclaim themselves to be god.

Revelation 13:3 has sometimes been interpreted that after the Pope’s beheading by Napoleon, the Catholic Church would again rise in prominence until the entire world wondered after the beast yet again. This interpretation does not seem to be wide enough to incorporate the many representatives the Beast employs today. There are many competing ideas that regularly assault the fundamentals of Christianity. Those that assert your independence is your most closely guarded asset, teach you a principle opposite to the government of God. You are not independent in that control of your life is not up to you, nor can it ever be. Your life and fate will be determined outside of yourself. You have only to choose which power will have influence over it (good or evil). No choice for God is a default choice for Satan. It is not your independence that should be cherished, but your humble acceptance of your need of God that should be developed. Your recognition of your condition, not your denial of it.

When the Dali Lama says that inner peace is possible he is not lying. He is simply not telling you where the actual source of inner peace can be found. It is not in meditation that peace is achieved; it is in unselfish service to others. The principles of the government of God are the values to be cherished. Focus on self is to be avoided, focus on service to others, embraced. When those religious leaders speak contrary the guidelines of God’s plan, they become a mouth-piece of the Beast. When governmental leaders seek to impose their moral authority and demand an allegiance to their own version of ‘morality’ they become a mouth-piece of the Beast. When Christians stand and condemn others for their deeds or words or beliefs that run contrary to their own – they become agents of intolerance, and therefore the mouth-piece of the Beast. It would be impossible to confine the image of the Beast to just the Pope, or the Dali Lama, or G.W. – his image is everywhere. It has permeated this world to such a point it is almost impossible to escape.

There is beauty that can be found in any religion on the earth. Not everything someone else espouses to be true is inherently evil. The Pope himself is not the devil, nor is any Catholic, nor is any Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist. Protestant Christians are not immune from spreading a doctrine of self-reliance and intolerance. We are ALL imperfect. It is not the messenger that is the problem, but the message itself. Judging is no more up to man, than Salvation is to be earned by his own hand. People are not condemned by their mistaken beliefs; they are condemned through a constant rejection of the love God offers. To single out any particular religion, or person, and call them the antichrist, or claim they have embraced the mark-of-the-beast is to miss the entire point. The Beast’s message is to be countered with the truth, no matter who the messenger. The principles of Heaven should be espoused and placed in stark contrast with the principles of the evil one, no matter who the messenger is, or the where the forum for his delivery. The messenger should not ever be condemned, only the words that fall in contrast to the values of God’s character. There is hope for all of us, even Saul was made into Paul through the grace of God.

Being a mouthpiece for the Beast may not be full-time job. But it certainly appears that the following after his message has become a full time obsession. The media seems bent on giving it voice. It is no wonder that the prophesy of Revelation has been fulfilled in our lifetime. Our world seems to be inclined to embrace self rather than service. I hope the truth can be found amidst all the noise and distractions and I hope we are humble enough to embrace it …

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