Saturday, July 04, 2009

Beast Day?

People celebrating Independence today may actually be worshipping the terrible beast of Daniel's vision.

After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time (Dan 7:7,8,23-25).
This frightening kingdom devoured the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing everything that stood in its way. This is a description of a powerful military empire that will dominate most of the earth.

Not Europe
Most biblical commentators say that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the European Union transforms into a super-state, like a restored Roman empire. There are real problems with this view. Disagreement between the EU members means that they will be unlikely to hand over full sovereignty to the European parliament. Europe is economically weak and its population is declining. European military forces are very limited and the anti-war sentiments of the population would make a military build-up difficult. Therefore, if this prophecy is being fulfilled in our time we need to look outside Europe.

A Union of States
The most obvious interpretation of the beast with the ten horns is that a number of independent nation states hand over their sovereignty to become part of a single united nation. One third of these nations refused to hand over their sovereignty and are forced to join under threat of military force.

America is only once place where this has happened in recent history. The thirteen states that gained independence from Britain were each independently governed, autonomous nation states. They joined together to fight for their independence, but they remained politically independent. After the war of independence, these nation states came together and established the United States. They created a federal system in which they handed over very limited powers (mostly defence) to the federal government. All other powers were retained by the states.

We sometimes get confused by the use of the word state in this context. These states were not provinces of a greater state, but independent nations that gave some power to a federal government. Because they joined freely, many states considered that they could also withdraw from the Union. At the beginning of the civil war, the southern states attempted to withdraw from the Union and establish a separate confederacy.

The civil war was primarily fought over the right of these states to secede from the Union. The army of the twenty northern states (two thirds) destroyed the armies of the 11 southern states (one third). The victory of the union forces enabled them to maintain the union, eliminating the power of the states to secede. This opened the way for a gradual shift of power to from the states to the federal government.
During the following century, the United States became the most powerful nation in the entire world and the states are now just provinces of this greater entity.

Commentators are looking for a powerful confederacy of nations. They forget that a powerful union called the "united states" already exists. Daniel saw a group of nations (ten horns) joined together to become one nation (a single horn). At first the federal government had very limited power (a little horn). The federal government defeated a group of states that tried to withdraw from the union (three horns) and then the federal government became very powerful (little horn becomes large beast).

The numbers ten and three should not be taken literally. Ten symbolises completeness, indicating that all the states joined freely. The number three indicates that 3/10 of the states would be defeated in their attempt to secede. The number also symbolises God. At the time of the civil war, the southern states were the more godly, whereas the northern states were dominated by a heresy called Unitarianism.

Ten minus three is seven. Seven symbolises divinity. This indicates that the conquering states would take attempt to take on sovereignty that belongs only to God. The beast attempts to "try to change the set times and the laws". This is a reference to a rejection of God’s laws.

Since the civil war, the United States government has become increasingly secular and humanistic. The Supreme Court has forced through a separation between church and state that has shut the influence of Christianity out of the corridors of power. Whereas the thirteen original states had laws directly based on the bible, American law is now dominated by pragmatism and humanism.

More at Terrible Beast.

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