Can we just stop it Christians? Can we just stop it? COVID vaccinations are NOT the mark of the Beast.
Nor for that matter was your credit card back in the 1970s.
Or the ID card that you had to have in the 1980s.
Not even your PIN – even if it has three sixes in it.
And while we are at it, former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, is not the anti-Christ.
Mind you, he is still alive and 98 years of age, so perhaps there is time for that good old seventies conspiracy to come back. Though now even as I Google him (it pays to fact check if he is still alive!) of it, Kissinger looks remarkably healthy for 98.
Remarkably healthy. I wonder what his secret is? A great skin care regime? Or has he sold his soul to the devil? Hmmm, come to think of it, what with the shamefully prohibitive price of skin care products these days we should leap to premature conclusions.
But as a friend just wrote to me today:
Is it my imagination or are we suddenly finding that we had a lot more conspiracy-loving friends than we used to?
To which I replied:
it’s not your imagination. However the Left/conservatives used to be the conspiracy people , and now it’s the Right/conservatives. Christians line up with that on the Right at the moment.
To which he replied:
That makes sense. I had a mate tell me yesterday that he legitimately thought this was the Mark of the Beast getting ready to be rolled out. Caught me a bit off guard.
I blame the parents (and Henry Kissinger).
Actually I blame really poor theology. Especially a really poor theology of end times. And a virtually non-existent biblical eschatology in many churches, that oscillates between “Best Life Now” and “The Rapture and Why You Can’t Have Two Christian Pilots On a Commercial Flight”.
You see, here’s the problem: Having a bad theology of end times, especially a poor understanding of the book of Revelation, -or the Apocalypse of St John as it is formally called, is kinda cute, and kinda of no consequence in the real world, until it is. It’s kinda okay to hold to conspiracy theories when they only have private implications within your own little context.
But it’s not okay when they affect public policy. Or domestic health matters. Or international political matters (bad eschatology is one reason so much US money has been poured into efforts to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem).
Years of poor biblical literacy (and best selling books by Hal Lindsey), and a penchant for the arcane means that the purpose, audience and genre of the book of Revelation, leaves you hopelessly exposed to all sorts of bad ideas. Including conspiracy ideas about marks and beasts and raptures and stuff.
Before I hear “Yes but!”, go do yourself a favour and buy a copy of Allan Chapple’s book “A Gospel Pageant: A Reader’s Guide to the Book of Revelation”. It’s a fantastic guide to the whole book and it dials the crazy ideas way down. Allan Chapple does some revealing in this book, especially the facts around apocalyptic literature, why it was used and who it was intended to be used for.
And here’s the rub: The book of Revelation is not all about the Beast, nor is it all about one world governments. It’s not even about vaccinations or the oil crisis in the 1970s. It’s about Jesus and his Gospel. The true reveal – the ultimate apocalypse – in the book of Revelation, is King Jesus. It’s about his victory over the powers, visible and invisible, and it’s about his victory for the sake of the church. The book of Revelation is all about Jesus.
Perhaps the true conspiracy is that the devil will get God’s people distracted from Jesus and his victory by almost any means possible. I mean what better way to hide his intentions than to use the actual Word of God, Scripture to draw away our attention from the Word of God, the Lord Jesus. It’s a killer strategy.
As I said above, conspiracy theories about government intent are not new, and so many of them were from the more progressive side of politics, which is why we were inundated from the 1970s through to the 1990s with Hollywood movies about deep, dark government agendas. Hollywood is the progressive exemplar of all that stuff. Or at least used to be. Now it’s down the more strong Right wing side of the population, including, it seems, many Christians.
There’s much more to say on this stuff, but perhaps we should leave the last word to Jesus himself, who in the so-called mini-Apocalypse of Mark’s Gospel, said this to his disciples:
3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Mark 13:3-8)
Apocalypses come in layers. In fact they have more layers than puff pastry does on an apple strudel. Jesus is telling his disciples that even in their day, the signs they see of the ends of the age are just the beginning. And these are the blokes who, after his resurrection, were still convinced he was about to restore the kingdom to Israel.
Sadly, it is the two express commands that Jesus makes in that statement above that we seem to ignore. So busy are we reading the signs, checking the blogs and the online webpages for proof that this issue or that concern is a sign of the End, that we overlook these words:
“See that no one leads you astray.”
“Do not be alarmed.”
Jesus is NOT talking about governments leading us astray, he is talking about false teachers leading us astray! Without doubt, false teaching, accompanied by it’s sicklier sibling, poor teaching, has led many astray and caused many, down the centuries to be alarmed.
Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commands”. How often those commands were about not worrying or being alarmed!
The world is alarmed. The world runs on alarm. Our local city newspaper is shameless in its alarm, because alarm sells newspapers. Alarm is good clickbait. So in recent weeks it alternately published alarming and misleading headlines about Astrazeneca blood clots (one tenth of the risk compared with flying), then headlines lamenting the loss of trust in the AZ vaccine. Who is the winner here? The newspaper circulation and conspiracy theorists.
The world fears death. Ironically, the world sees a demon behind every bush. We are not to follow the world. Yet here we are again, showing – again – that we have as much fear in us, perhaps more, than even the world does.