We can imagine that it in the end it may look something like this:
They stood before him on Judgment Day, expecting a “king’s reward” in Heaven. They had spent their lives professing his name, driving out demons and performing many miracles, and therefore, should, in their estimation, be first in line for their heavenly inheritance. We can only imagine their surprise when they heard the following:
“Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in. I needed clothes, and you did not clothe me. I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They responded with “Lord, when did we not do any of these things?” And he replied to them “Whatever you did not do for the least of these, my brethren, you did not do for me,” at which point the faces of all the victims that had suffered and perished due to the callousness of those who now stood judged were brought as witnesses against them.
And those who stood there before Him on Judgment Day, having received the Mark of the Beast on the right hand or forehead, were cast into the fire that was prepared for them from the beginning.
Although brought here as a very short story, this scenario is not hard to imagine taking place at some time in the near future. The spirit of the day, at least in America, is one of viciousness and support for wanton brutality against innocent people, and what is worse is that its prominence can be found in that community of people who consider themselves to be “believing Christians.”
There is a lot of talk these days about the end–times and with all that it portends, particularly on the fundamentalist Christian talk shows. What with the war in the Middle East and the Palestinian situation, as well as the real possibility that the world could be wiped out by some megalomaniac with an arsenal at his disposal, people who heretofore were uninterested and unbothered with the prophetic warnings in the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, now are beginning to pay better attention. And one of those items found in the last book, the Mark of the Beast, has of late received special notice for its dramatic and important place that it occupies in the Christian faith.
The end times, according to the last book, are supposed to be a period wherein evil will run rampantly under the direction of an individual or system that is the embodiment of wickedness, known in the Apocalypse as the Beast. He will wage war against the innocent, spilling their blood over all the earth, repeating on a grand scale the first human act of brutality committed by Cain in the slaying of his brother Abel. He will have along with him a legion of followers and supporters, who will be talked into following him by a group of false prophets who praise his deeds and actions, masking the inherent evil in these actions from the rest of the masses. These followers of the Beast will bear his mark, a mark that on Judgment Day will cause them to be cast into Hell forever. Turn on the radio at just about any time of the night or day, and you will unavoidably run into someone who is talking about the Mark of the Beast and what they think it all means. Many think that it is a computer chip injected under the skin. Others think that it is a bar code, similar to those seen on products at the store that allows them to be scanned easily. And they may be right, it may be just that, but there is something else that they and we should consider before coming to any conclusions about it.
The last book of the Bible is extremely cryptic and complex. The Beast described in the book is supposed to have ten heads and seven crowns and two horns and a whole host of other things that, given their literal imagery, are highly unlikely, and therefore are invitations only to vague speculation. There is very little information given about what the mark itself is, other than the fact that the condemned bear it on their right hand or forehead, and that it will be tied to an individual’s ability to do business. However, luckily for us, there is a lot of information about what the characteristics of those individuals bearing the mark would be. They are found in several of the books, and range in their origin from the words of St. Paul to the words of Christ himself.
In one of St. Paul’s books, he describes these marked individuals as people who will be “lovers of themselves, boastful, abusive, without love, slanderous, brutal, always learning but never acknowledging the truth, men of depraved minds.” Christ also had his own thing to say about those people bearing the mark in the last days by describing them as individuals who would be led by false prophets, and as those whose “love will have grown cold.”
In our contemplation of who or what the Beast might be, we should consider that he will be absolutely ruthless in his application of violence and dehumanization, a pitiless creature who cares little to nothing of decency or filial affection or mercy, and his followers will applaud him in his brutality. We can suppose that given the cryptic descriptions of his outward appearance, along with the sensational images which are regularly seen in films such as Aliens or Independence Day, that it is therefore easily understandable why there are those among us who expect to see the Beast as something more fantastic than the most obvious, individuals who are, as the Bible describes them, “ignorant and unstable, distorting their understanding of prophecy to their own destruction.” It is for this reason that they cannot or will not recognize the Beast even though he may be in their midst at this moment, and that they themselves may be his followers.
The reality is that the Beast has been around forever, as evidenced in the Book of John, in his assertion that “already many Antichrists have come.” He made his grand entrance into mankind’s existence when Cain slew his brother Abel, and has since that time embodied many beings and many systems throughout our history, and many have bore his mark, from the highest to the lowest, in their embracing of cold-hearted and brutal behavior against their fellow man. This recently acquired interest in his expected and imminent arrival can be only be accurately ascribed to the fact that he has been more visible in the last 300 years than at any other time. Indeed, there is no time frame in the history of man that has been filled with more bloodshed and de-humanization than of late, from the enslavement, exploitation and dispossession of indigenous peoples resulting from colonization, to the major wars and brutal policies of both the communists and the capitalists. In the whole of human history, there has never been a period wherein human beings were valued so cheaply by one other, and in this fashion, all those who have shed their sense of decency, decency that is supposed to be the mark of a civilized person in a civilized age, have instead become the followers of the Beast who bear his mark. And there can be no better indication of who some of these marked persons are, nor of who one of the manifestations of the Beast’s person is than in examining the present situation in the Middle East. If brutality and hatred for fellow man give any clues about this mystery, perhaps we should consider some of the following statements:
“I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child that will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman and children are more dangerous than the men, because the Palestinian child’s existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited danger. I vow that even if I was only an Israeli civilian and met a Palestinian, I would burn him and make him suffer before killing him.”
“Neither morality nor tradition can be used to disallow terror as a means of war. We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with the national struggle. First and foremost, terror is for us a part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today…”
If the first two statements made above do not cause any raised eyebrows in Christian believers, than the following statement probably will not either:
“After meeting you, I’m actually going to take pleasure in burning Mosques and dangling Rag Heads…..At least Americans face their foes and fight like men. If I get into the war personally, I’ll gut the camel-riding scum and fill their lifeless bodies with pig guts, wrap them in pig skin and bury them in hog fat. All Islamists are cowards and faggots at heart, nothing but anti-Christian, anti-Semitic pieces of pork s***.”
The first was made by Ariel Sharon, the second by Yitzak Shamir, and the third by a prominent American talk show host who calls himself a “Christian believer.”
Although many of us have not been deceived about the bestial behavior exemplified by those who have occupied the seats of power in Israel since 1947, a position now held by Ariel Sharon, a “man of peace” as described by George Bush, many others have. Listen to any Christian talk show and you will hear those false prophets who we were promised would appear in the last days as they bow down before Ariel Sharon and his forbears for their bloodthirsty behavior and disregard for human life. In an age that has seen the brutality of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the rest who have earned a well-deserved place in history for their hatred of mankind, one would think that those who make a pretense of religious values would recognize the wickedness that exists in the violence inflicted against the Arab peoples, but they do not. And it is in their denial of the existence of this wickedness as well as their justification of its brutality by which they rush to find their place in line so that they may receive their mark that will earn them their eternal reward.
If there is no shortage of public mouthpieces in support of Israel’s Hitler-esque treatment of the peoples in that region, there certainly is no shortage of followers of these false prophets either. Here in the US, it would be nearly impossible not to find two or more people gathered together talking about “nuking the sand-niggers” or making light of the suffering that these people have endured and continue to endure today. They proudly display their Mark of the Beast as if it were some vulgar tattoo, in crude bumper stickers and t-shirts that very glibly or gleefully celebrate the killing of innocent people, many of whom are members of the same Christian faith to which these marked people claim to belong themselves. For those individuals who are not so outwardly base in their support of Israel’s war against the Arabs, they are nevertheless marked men as well, in that they will still support the unjust violence wrought against their fellow men, although skillfully masked in the pretty and perfumed garb of patriotism or religious sentimentalism. Boastful, abusive individuals, without love, slanderous, and brutal. Never does it seem to enter into these peoples’ minds that every woman killed by the Beast is someone’s mother, every man someone’s father, and that all the children that are deliberately shot or blown up are those same individuals whom Christ said never to harm, “for their angels always see the face of my father in heaven.”
In the eyes of those who worship at the altar of Zionism and Ariel Sharon, there seems to be no act of viciousness that is unacceptable. The murder of 20,000 people in Lebanon means nothing. The attacks on peaceful Palestinian villages, whether it is by dynamite, gunships, or simply shooting women and children for “sport,” (as described by New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges) means nothing. They are not troubled by the Israeli government’s murder of non-combatants, nor of the dehumanization that these people have endured for 50 years. They speak of the expulsion of the Arabs from their lands, and all of the suffering that it entails, whether in Palestine and Iraq today, or wherever tomorrow, as a just thing. The images of Arab children being forced to drink sewage water or urine mixed with powdered milk following the deliberate destruction of their water supplies by the Israeli government fills them with no pity. Tossing a few hand grenades into a schoolyard filled with children fills them with no outrage, as well as shooting elderly women and then disallowing medical personnel to bring them to the hospital. Even closer to home, when Americans who volunteer their time and labor, risking death in order to aid those who are suffering are then deliberately murdered by the Beast, as occurred to Rachel Corrie recently, the only attention they receive from “real Americans” is in the form of disrespectful jokes meant only to ridicule their fate, which in her case was the terrible circumstance of being crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. One would think that if these pseudo-Christians did not have enough decency that would lead them to recognize the brutality inflicted against their fellow man, that at least they would speak out against the destruction of Christian holy places such as the Church of the Nativity, bombed and set on fire deliberately by those same Israelis to whom they give all their support, but not a word is mentioned. With these examples given, what better depiction exists of a Beast, as well as of those who bear his mark?
Some slack could be cut for these false prophets who by their deception and seduction of the masses make possible the violence of these enemies of mankind, if the violence were not so one-sided, or if the reasons given for such support were well-reasoned and revealed that a careful, rational thought process was involved in coming to these conclusions. But this is not the case. Their reason for supporting Israeli violence against the Arabs is based on a faulty interpretation of two passages in the Bible, the first being that Israel belongs solely to the Chosen People, no matter what they do or how they may offend God, and the second is that the Arabs are descendants of an animal, in their words a “wild ass,” and that therefore they do not possess any rights. We should not be too surprised in their embracing of such religiously racist notions, since after all, these examples of twisted logic are identical to the reasons that people like them gave in justifying the enslavement of the Africans and the brutalization of the Native Americans. In the same way that many of these people believed that America was for whites only, and as a result all violence used in creating such a place was justified, in like manner believe in and justify the methods employed by the Beast in creating an Israel that is a “members only” club. “Men of depraved minds, ignorant and unstable, distorting their understanding of prophecy to their own destruction.”
Many of these false prophets are quite prominent on radio and television, from Limbaugh, Liddy, and Hannity to Falwell and Robertson. From time to time an individual calling into the program who speaks out against the brutality waged against their brothers and sisters in the Middle East is ridiculed for his stance over the air. What’s worse is the treatment dished out on someone of the Jewish faith who expresses his or her rejection or disgust of such brutality, at which time they are accused of “not being a good Jew” in their refusal to justify such inhumane behavior. These individuals who will not surrender their sense of decency and humanity, individuals who refuse to receive the Mark of the Beast are in effect called traitors to their race and religion, and in this way, the false prophets who celebrate the bestial behavior of the Israeli government resemble those religious leaders who Christ accused in his own time by saying “You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
Interestingly, nearly all of these modern day false prophets assert that in the last days a large number of Jewish people will convert to the Christian faith. This would truly be a miracle, given the flavor of viciousness that these men of blood attempt to pawn off as religion, a religion that they use in justifying their surrender of all sense of humanity, decency and justice. In the end, if this conversion does occur, it is safe to assume that it will be not be to the brand of Christianity espoused by these vampires masquerading as preachers, but rather to the faith that teaches and believes in the principles of charity and justice for all people, regardless of their color or race.
One of the indicators that Christ gave to his followers who asked him about the time frame for the Beast’s arrival was what he referred to as the “abomination of desolation” that would occupy the holy place. Most fundamentalist Christians interpret this as the Beast calling himself God and replacing the Jewish religion for a religion that focuses on the Beast himself. Certainly this could be applied to the present day situation in Israel, since Zionism, or the worship of the Israeli state, has become a replacement for traditional Judaism, as evidenced by the ongoing rift that exists between reform and orthodox Jews, but there may be something literal to this description as well.
“Abomination of desolation” is a phrase whose few short words speak prophetic volumes about what is the situation in the Middle East. The abomination that exists in the daily violence dispensed by Israel has brought nothing but desolation upon the peoples living around her. The history of murder and calculated genocide that has been waged against the Semitic peoples of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt by a Beast that has no more regard for human life than a beast in the wild would have for its victims is impossible to deny or defend. But still they try, these false prophets and their followers, who make a mockery of God’s justice and of his good name in their shameful worship of the Beast, and in such a way, have revealed their derision and contempt for the laws of charity which they have been commanded to recognize, and in doing so, have literally become the Devil’s Advocates.
“Don’t worry about the Americans, for we control America, and the Americans know it,” was what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said to his cabinet ministers right after George Bush’s election. These are pretty big words for a man who rules a nation of little more than 6 million people, words which reveal in him and in his coterie a confidence in their ability to execute whatever plans they have in store for their enemies, for in their control of America, the most potent military and economic force in the history of mankind, they have the ability to decide the fate of every nation and every inhabitant on the surface of the planet.
And when it is all over, it will be remembered that in the end, the mysterious and cryptic Mark of the Beast turned out to be plain old brutality, Cain and Abel style. Despite the best predictions of these false prophets, many of which sounded quite impressive, there were no soldiers rounding people up and taking them to some staging area where they were forced to receive their mark. There were no subcutaneous computer chips, bar codes or ID cards. The Beast did not reign only 3.5 years, as they had predicted, but rather for centuries. Receiving his Mark was not the dramatic event that they had assured all their followers it would be, but rather the simple act of choosing to accept the viciousness that was inflicted upon the innocent, and the refusal to speak out against it.
….And He answered them with, “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “But Lord,” they responded, “did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons and perform many miracles?” And before he closed the gates upon them in recompense for their mercilessness and injustice, said to them plainly, “Away from me, evildoers, for I never knew you.”
Mark Glenn is an American and former high school teacher turned writer / commentator.