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Christians throughout church history have debated the nuances of Eschatology. These debates will doubtless last until Jesus Himself decides to end them. Until then, the theological battles extolling or condemning premillennialism or postmillennialism, pre-tribulation Rapture or post-tribulation Rapture, etc., will continue. To be sure, this column is not an attempt to resolve or even argue these interpretations of Scripture. Let every man be persuaded in his own heart. Personally, I don't think it's worth arguing about.
Whether a Christian is premillennial or postmillennial, whether he or she believes in the pre-tribulation Rapture or not is immaterial to our responsibilities. We Christians have a duty to be the "salt" and "light" of society until Jesus returns--whenever that is. And, frankly, the time of His return is His business, not ours. If we would concentrate on those matters that truly belong to us, we would be much more effective. Arguing and battling between Christians over the nuances of Eschatology only serves to advance the cause of the Enemy. It is counterproductive and fruitless to anything worthwhile.
That being said, a brief reference to the belief that a literal antichrist is yet to come is in order. Accepting this interpretation of the Book of Revelation, there will come in the days of "great tribulation" a Western World leader, known as the antichrist, or beast. Christians accepting this interpretation believe that the antichrist will unite the Western World, mainly Europe and the United States, and will implement a satanic despotism.
Part of the antichrist's reign upon the Western World (called, by some, The Revived Roman Empire) will be the demand that everyone accept "the mark of the beast" in his hand or forehead. Of course, the number Scripture uses is 666. Everyone who does not accept this mark will be deemed to be an outlaw: unable to buy or sell, or contract normal daily business of any kind. However, acceptance of the mark will also mean rejection of God and salvation.
Premillennialists believe they will be "raptured" to Heaven before these events take place. Some believe the church will go through the "great tribulation," while most postillennialists don't believe in a literal "tribulation" at all, but believe these Scriptures are related to other events altogether.
Regardless of how one interprets the Book of Revelation, I think most all believers will accept the Apostle John's warning that the spirit of antichrist is already in the world. (I John 2:18; 4:3) Can we not readily agree that anything that resembles antichrist is a form of antichrist?
Accordingly, did not the German church have an obligation to resist Adolph Hitler? Of course they did. However, at the end of the day, out of over 14,000 pastors and church congregations in Germany at the time, only 800 properly discerned the evil Hitler for who he was and openly opposed him. The rest not only tolerated him, but openly praised him, promoted him, and punished anyone who failed to do the same.
Yet, Hitler definitely personified the spirit of antichrist. While publicly professing to be a Christian, he privately disdained Christians and was caught up in secret societies and the occult. He was driven to lead Germany into preemptive wars of aggression. He cast off Germany's republican form of government and consolidated power unto himself. He implemented a total surveillance society in the name of national security. He was so completely accepted and adored by Germany's churchmen that German congregations were told that in order to be good Christians they had to be good Nazis and that to support any other political party than Hitler's was to fight against God. He enacted strict gun control laws. Why did Germany's pastors and Christians not recognize Hitler for who he was?
Can we not say that, in their own way, Germany's pastors and churches accepted the mark of the beast? Sure they did. No, Hitler was not THE antichrist, but he certainly exemplified the spirit of antichrist. As such, he deserved to be resisted.
However, before we become too judgmental toward the Christians of 1930's Germany, we should look in the mirror. Are not many Christians in these United States behaving in the exact same manner? Have not many of us already embraced the spirit of antichrist? And if so, have we not, in our own way, already accepted the mark of the beast? Sure we have.
Many pastors and Christians embrace the authoritarian policies of one George W. Bush with the same enthusiasm and blind loyalty as Germans did Hitler. For example, according to White House insiders, while publicly embracing conservative Christians, the White House is privately said to have nothing but disdain for Christians. Mr. Bush acknowledged being a member of Skull & Bones, a secret society with a dark history. Others have reported that he is a member of Bohemian Grove, which, according to some, is an occultist society of the most sinister variety. Yet, all of this is rejected out of hand by most Christians today.
Plus, George W. Bush (as did Adolph Hitler) has led America into a preemptive and aggressive war against a foreign nation without provocation. Now, there is even talk at the White House of expanding the war in Iraq with attacks against Iran and Syria, and maybe even Pakistan. In addition, he is in the process of turning America into a Hitlerian surveillance society where our every move, phone call, and email are being monitored by federal police agencies.
Yet, conservative Christians are still so infatuated with President Bush that they actually believe that anyone who resists the President is resisting God. They further believe that if anyone votes for any candidate who is not a Republican (Bush's party), they are fighting against God. They gladly surrender their constitutional liberties and safeguards. They enthusiastically support an unconstitutional war in Iraq and would no doubt support expanding the war to wherever Bush decided. They happily cede Bush the power to tap their phones, read their emails, or open their mail (without warrant or court order, no less).
Regardless of one's politics or religion, the spirit of Big Brother, the spirit of military aggression, the spirit of occultism, the spirit of a police state mentality, the spirit of deception are all part of the spirit of antichrist.
Therefore, whether one identifies himself as a premillennialist or a postmillennialist or anything in between; whether we believe in a Rapture or not; no matter what our understanding of Eschatology might be, every Christian has a duty to "resist the devil" in any form in which he reveals himself. And that certainly means that any political leader, regardless of party, who embodies or exemplifies the spirit of antichrist, must be resisted. Anything less means to accept, in a way, the mark of the beast.