24 March 2022

No Middle Ground

Disciples who give unrestricted allegiance to the state, any state, run the risk of taking the mark of the beast. 

In Revelation, humanity is divided into two and only two groups – those who follow Jesus, and those who give their allegiance to the “Beast from the sea.”

Members of the former group will be exempted from the “second death,” but everyone without exception who takes the latter’s mark will experience it in the “lake of fire.” There is no third option.

What determines one’s fate is whether he or she renders homage to the “Lamb” or to the “beast.” This rather graphic image has profound implications for Christians and their relationship to the state.

The group called the “inhabitants of the earth” consists of men and women who take the “number of the beast,” 666, and they do so by acknowledging the “beast” as overlord.

And in Revelation, that “number” is derived from King Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogant claim to absolute power recorded in the third chapter of Daniel, where he commanded all his subjects to “render homage” to the great golden image that he had erected, and it measured 60 cubits by 6 cubits. Anyone who refused to do so was cast into the “burning fiery furnace.”

Revelation employs this storyline but does so ironically. The inhabitants of end-time Babylon “render homage” to the “beast” and have his name “branded” on their right hand or forehead. Their names are blotted out of the “book of life,” and they are cast into the “lake of fire that is burning with brimstone.” In contrast, those who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes” are found standing with the “Lamb” on Mount Zion with the name of his Father “inscribed” on their foreheads. Rather than the “lake of fire,” they inherit everlasting life in the city of New Jerusalem.

What distinguishes the “inhabitants of the earth” from those who “tabernacle in heaven” is not their locale but their choice of the “beast” as their master rather than the “Lamb.” But the “beast” and his minion, the “false prophet,” are little more than puppets of the “ancient serpent, the Dragon.” Wittingly or not, anyone who renders homage to the “beast,” in fact, worships the Devil.

In this scenario, there is no middle ground, no third option, no neutral ground. The “beast” is granted authority over “over every tribe and people and tongue and nation,” and in the Revelation, “all” means exactly that, ALL. Either you “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” and inherit life, or you render homage to the “beast” and undergo the “second death.” It is one or the other, period.

So, what does this mean for the Christian man or woman today? First and foremost, he or she must decide now to whom and what to give absolute allegiance, to the beastly systems of the present age, or to the kingdom of God and its sovereign, Jesus Christ. We may not yet be living under the tyranny of the final “beast,” but sooner or later he will appear on the world scene. Better to decide now who we will serve before it is too late. And in God’s kingdom, there is no concept of “dual citizenship,” no room for split loyalties. In the end, only one kingdom will be left standing on the earth, AND ONLY ONE.

And the arrival of the final “beast” will not be something entirely new. History has seen plenty of attempts by political leaders and governments to dominate all humanity, regimes that demand absolute loyalty from everyone within their domain.

Moreover, the “beast from the sea” is the seventh in a long line of beastly powers. By John’s time, the first five had already come and gone, the sixth was in power, which could only be the Roman Empire, and the seventh had not yet come (“five are fallen, one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a little while”). When its final manifestation does arrive, it will not be the Devil’s first attempt at global domination.

Finally, while Christians are called to obey laws and give due respect to governing authorities, they must never give them the allegiance and veneration that belongs to Jesus alone. But if they do so, they will find themselves well on their way to taking the “mark of the beast.”

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