I know I’m being redundant here, but it’s really important to call out the kind of Christian thinking that added into the attempted insurrection this week.
In the book of Revelation there is what might be described by some as a “glorious letdown.” The whole court of Heaven hears that the lion of Judah has entered the room. Perhaps we might imagine John pushing through the crowd of heavenly beings to catch a glimpse for himself, but when he finally breaks through the crowd, he sees a bloodied and broken lamb hobbling up to the throne. No lion is ever seen, only announced—and this lamb is him.
This is the savior. This is Jesus. And John is telling his audience that they too must become like this lamb. Some of them will not survive persecution. The government will imprison them and kill them for following this lamb as their king. They too will bleed, break, and hobble into Heaven’s courtroom.
Then John gives us a visual glimpse of the enemy that will persecute them. The first is a dragon whose identity is Satan. The second is found in the Biblical motif of a “chaos creature”—a beast that rises out of the chaotic sea, whose identity is the dark power behind nationalism (in John’s case, Rome). The second beast seems also to be a chaos creature, but this one has risen out of the earth, and it represents the emperor. They are different, but the same—an unholy Trinity if you will.
Then there’s also Lady Babylon, which, of course, represents the nation as well. All of these creatures are in league with one another and John traces all their lines back to the dragon. Satan is pulling their strings and empowering them, and that’s why those who follow Jesus will be persecuted and die.
But the second beast (the emperor) is described in a rather intriguing way: “It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.” Try to imagine that for a second, because it’s a hilarious image to reflect on. A giant beast pulls itself out of the earth, roars like a dragon, but tries its very best to pretend it’s a little lamb—in other words, it tries to convince people that it’s Jesus. No one could ever fall for this trick!
And yet Christians fall for this all the time. And some did again at a whole new level on Wednesday.
Friends, the beasts and Lady Babylon are a cycle. They appear over and over again whenever politics and nationalism have given their hearts over to Satan for the pursuit of power, wealth and glory. We know Babylon is a cycle because that nation had already collapsed when John mentioned it. He was clearly talking about Rome when he said Babylon. The cycle of domination that Babylon once was had recycled itself into his time in Rome. And so it has continued into ours, seeing as how you could match America to John’s exact description of Lady Babylon.
Likewise, the beast in John’s time was the emperor. The number 666 was likely code in a Hebrew system called gematria where numbers equaled letters. The number 666 can be used to spell Emperor Nero. And even if they weren’t referring to Nero, they were referring to someone everyone knew because John truly believed the churches he was writing to would understand what he was secretly saying.
And so just as Lady Babylon is also Rome and America and other nations like it, so the beast is Nero, Hitler and any other emperor/king/president/politician/person-in-power that decides to wield it in similar ways. In my opinion Trump has crossed the line of what it means to act like a beast over and over again throughout the years, but you can make your own decision on that.
Christian nationalism is a religion that wants to tell the bleeding, broken, hobbling lamb to go away and come back when it’s a lion. It’s a religion that has been duped by the beast-dragon trying to pretend it’s a lamb, hissing, “Worssssssship me. I am the way, the truthhhhh, and the lifffffe.” And when we worship that thing, then by John’s standards we have left Jesus and Heaven behind and joined a kingdom and false god that are doomed to die.
Satan offered Jesus the same kingdoms and power and Jesus refused it every single time. But for some reason, we think we can handle it. Repent now and leave Christian nationalism behind. Just follow Jesus.