Return from Exile – And the Mark of the Beast

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Much of the bible was written to poorer people, or to people under central oppressive rule, or to people in exile, whether for their sins or the sins of others. Whether it’s Israel, Jesus, or the early church, this was the kind of state they were in when much of the scripture was written. Scripture is therefore difficult for us to understand if we read it from a middle-class perspective. When we go through oppression for many years, and the world shuts its ears, and the world’s systems aren’t working for most of the people, we start to look up, to put our stock in faith, hope and love, to see God’s hand as the only reliable one. We become less concerned of what others think of our faith, because only God has credibility in the end. No matter how others mock him, he remains the only one who is true. This meek hope within isn’t to be confused with “extremist fundamentalism.”

Many of us also mock the eschatological views of “simpletons.” “Conspiracy theories are for the deplorables.” We assign the “uneducated” to irrelevance. “They have no right to speak, they should be censored.” We are in danger of doing what the elite in scripture did, who could not see the kingdom of God. Our left/ right, futurist/ preterist, globalist/ populist, secularist/ fundamentalist, vax/ antivax camps won’t work. Reactions, even in politics happen for a reason. Instead of hating one side, we need to see how the other side gave rise to it. We like a monopoly of ideology, a monoculture. It helps our virtue signalling. These camps aren’t serving us well. We need new holistic categories, and these come from the rejuvenation themes of creational and Sabbath faith.

Every time we join a camp, we throw out a “baby with its bath water.” This is one of the roots of injustice in our relationships. We don’t listen. We don’t have empathy. We don’t walk in the other’s shoes. The scripture speaks of a creational theology which embraces aspects of both the left and right wing: environment, family, justice, freedom, life. Here is a fresh non-political orientation that is truth and that should be uniting Christians. We have been radicalised, not by religious ideas, but secular ones. The left wing in English speaking nations was developed by Catholics and Methodists in their concern for the poor. Today, “left-wing” means identity politics (more individualism) which has moved into elitism and cares little for the poor. This is not the same left wing. “Left wing” is now a draconian movement, militant like the Communist left wing, or is it a militant fascism? They blur together at this level of inhumanity.

Israel’s first exile of fame was in Egypt. From their deliverance or Exodus event came many of the paradigms for their gospel literature. Israel’s “return from exile” history is the best framework for building a faith that engages positively in politics and social wholeness. It’s far more inclusive and cohesive than any of the political categories above. Israel’s deliverance was not just a spiritual one, but social and economic, building a new community of responsibility for one another, rather than the individualism we see so much of today. Our middle-class gospel has become one of individualism, “spiritual,” private, and not engaged in the matters of local or global justice: building inclusive, sharing witness, in the face of greed and alienation.

We have built ourselves into another exile today, through our individualism, from which we need a return, in the sense that Hebrew scripture speaks. This has caused us to greatly misinterpret the message of both Jesus and Paul. We have limited the scope of the gospel, and as such it isn’t truly a Hebrew gospel, about the redemption, reconciliation, and rejuvenation of the whole “cosmos,” including our neighbours, enemies, and natural environment: the entire creation. This misrepresentation of the gospel has left us vulnerable to a kind of “Christendom,” where we build a kingdom of this world, like the other kingdoms, instead of being the temple, bringing heaven and its relationship values into the world. Instead of God transforming our kingdoms into neighbourliness, our kingdoms have “transformed God.”

Biblical exiles are depicted in mythological terms, like in Isaiah 27, where Pharaoh and Egypt are called Leviathan and the Monster of the Sea. The sea often depicts the raging waters of covetousness, which destroy the land, environment, and community: an oppressive force of injustice. It is a dictatorship that usurps God’s place in the world and over the souls and lives of humanity. Another major exile event in Israel’s history was from Babylon. The king of Babylon was depicted as a beast, and the succeeding kings following him were also called beasts.  This continued the tradition from Israel’s early mythological narrative of their deliverance from Egypt.

When we say “mythological” here, we don’t mean non-historical, but a poetry that enables the faith community to share their deep experiences, feelings and hopes. It is not an uneducated or inarticulate way of speech but is actually much fuller in meaning and content when discussing themes of salvation, of the individual and of the cosmos in justice. These themes are central to our faith community and its place of renewal in the world: being a lamb community, instead of possessing a beastly individualism that destroys the integration of society and creation for personal ends. This biblical mythology should not be despised when we hear it expressed by the faith community, especially by the oppressed. It is far more descriptive of reality than our intellectualism perceives.

When we see these themes carry over into John’s Revelation, this language of the beast does not occur in the context of the end of the world but the context of the struggle between Nero (allied with the elite of Jerusalem) and the early church, who were the vulnerable and weak. Nero’s insane personal interests gave character to the empire in general, and to individuals who profited form it at the expense of truth and justice towards their neighbour. End of the world themes are represented in the Revelation, in regard to judgement, the resurrection and the final victory of the cosmos over death and falsehood, but these themes are the light that shines on our current struggles in each generation. We can employ themes of the beast and return from exile from Revelation without predicting so-called “end of the world events.” We are simply employing a very proficient set of historical symbols that well describe greed and recovery in any generation.

I remember my early days in the Pentecostal church. Prior to that, I grew up in a well-to-do suburb and went to an elitist church. (Even my father saw it that way.) When I came to a real personal faith in Christ it was at a church on the margins, where there were a lot of struggling people. People from broken homes, from abused childhoods, from poorer socio-economic groups, from marginalised ethnicities. There was a “climate of exile” in these circles that was unknown in more elite places. The well-to-do didn’t struggle with the powers of the world in the same way, but they often were the powers of the world. They were less likely to indulge in apocalyptic terms to describe their better lives. But for the poor, apocalyptic language from Revelation seemed to describe their struggles. The beast was more real to them. End of the world themes were more common to them, employed to express their yearn for deliverance. They longed for a return from exile, maybe a rapture to heaven. It reminds us of the “spirituals,” also often despised by the empowered. What interests me here is the song Amazing Grace by John Newton, in which he used an African melody he would have heard on his slave ships. This describes what amazing grace is: its ability to turn our heart towards the oppressed, whoever they are. This is our inner return from exile.

We all need a return from exile. For some of us, it’s from our capacity in oppression. For others, it’s our inner capacity as the oppressor, even though we mightn’t be aware of it. However, those of us doing better in life often look down on these eschatological themes, because in some sense we have already arrived in heaven. We don’t see what the struggle is about. We are less likely to hold to this same strength of desire for the victory of Christ in our circumstances. We are more likely to despise the eschatology of broken, uneducated, marginalised people. We may believe we deserve our better lot in life: we have worked harder or are smarter! It has often been said that Pentecostalism is the faith of those longing for a return from exile, looking with intense desire for the advent of God’s Spirit to come with power. This hunger for justice is treasured deeply by God. We should never despise it. In Elijah and Elisha’s time, the power of God came to those who were “unaccredited” by the elite of the day.

So it should not be a surprise for us to hear people in ravaged nations speak of Bill Gates in these terms, as the beast, and of their concerns about his growing markets and dictatorial control. There should be no surprise that they adopt language about the “mark of the beast” to describe their sense of powerlessness. Such people have been ravaged by beastly world power for generations. It is real. When Christians want to communicate their concerns, it is natural for them to reach into their biblical traditions and draw out the language that best fits. These themes do fit our current day. Concerns about the 5G network and how some have linked these to conspiracy theories are very legitimate, even if some of the details might be farfetched. This technology represents a further loss of freedom to the powerless that is not mere imagination. It represents a further shift of economic power to monopolies that is certain.

To see Bill Gates as the symbol of this economic colonialism that has impacted nations for generations isn’t at all simplistic. To see him as a conspirator behind the Covid virus, with a vaccine at the ready in his hand isn’t simplistic. It very well represents his massively growing power through a crisis that is greatly impoverishing many other lives and communities. To see Gates (Bezos, Zuckerberg, etc.) as a fire breathing Leviathan sitting on top of a 5G tower, using the tower to launch an even greater dominion, sums up very well the global situation. It is using appropriate poetic language to describe reality. I don’t see any reason to despise this very descriptive poetry or those who express it. My problem with people who say it is simplistic is that they are not seeing the other side of the story. It is their own faith that is simplistic. They don’t understand the scripture or who it was written to. It may be time to read the Beatitudes. These clearly express who Christ came for. I think it’s better to defend the maligned, not the powerful interests: David, not Goliath.

Poorer nations have repeatedly seen pharmaceutical companies use them as “genuine pigs” for their untested therapies. There have been many cases where these new medicines and vaccines have caused death and suffering to a lot of people, with these companies beyond the reach of the law. Serious questions are asked about why silenced whistle blowers link some disease outbreaks in poorer nations to the American military research complex, carried out outside American borders for safety. Questions are asked about Gates’ family connections to the Family Planning organisation, which stems from earlier eugenics movements. These are genuine historical issues. They ask why does Gates promote abortion so strongly; why is there evidence in some African nations that an existing WHO vaccine for infertility technology has been used? These are important questions if you are among the vulnerable who live in these nations. And they have good reason to be asking them. People without formal education are not stupid. Given the history of abuse in these nations, it is right to ask such questions. And it is right to require genuine answers from people who don’t have financial interests in the matter. This independence currently does not exist, so the biblical themes are a good fit. These questions don’t go away because of censoring, but because of justice.

People can also see a serious problem with the hype around Covid-19, the vaccine and the tracking technology associated with it. When American media receives up to 70% of its commercial revenue from pharmaceutical companies, we have a problem. When hospitals overstate the numbers of people dying from Covid-19; when hospitals have strong financial incentive to diagnose Covid-19 and use ventilators (that killed many people who were not protected from infection); when the majority of those who died (who were not protected from infection) were in the age bracket who would normally have died soon, and so there is no significant increase in mortality on the whole over a few years; when there is evidence of reaching herd immunity, including T-cell immunity; when there is strong evidence associated with the benefit of vitamin D and early treatments for Covod-19 that are not being encouraged in our communities; when 1,000 people die in Nigeria, with a population of 210 million (Gates’ foundation strongly warned the virus would decimate Nigeria); if the original data for the Imperil University model for deaths was known to be greatly in error when the model was created; if the British government delisted Covid-19 back in mid-March as a “serious consequence infectious disease;” when countries lockdown, only to face the virus further down the road; when lockdown causes far more suffering all over the world than the virus itself; when the Covid-19 virus is no more virulent after initial introduction than the flu, then we have to ask, why the scam?

Is it politics? Is it because our populations are now led by only two things: greed and fear, boom and bust on the stock market? Is it because our appetite for extreme fear has been hyped through our health and safety bureaucrats and those shifting capital to new markets in the “climate apocalypse?” (The media is always moving from peddling one extreme fear to another. This has become our diet.) Is it because we think we have a right to live forever, and so must supress a disease whatever the cost? Is it the steady diet of violence and fear pumped out through Hollywood and 24-hour news? Is it a fear driven by guilt when we live in luxury while everyday others in the world go through such displacement and deprivation? An intelligent (even uneducated) person would be asking, why the hype about a vaccine? And, why a vaccine that many physicians claim is likely unnecessary for most people given that it could do more harm than good?

In regard to vaccine tracking, Gates and GAVI have already openly advertised their new technology, that attaches a digital tattoo certificate to the person’s body who has taken the vaccine. Gates has already openly stated that this digital technology could be used in a cashless society, to also store other personal data on the person’s body. The potential profit here is larger than any corporation has made hitherto. An uneducated person can see this. This kind of technology has already been tried in India. It opens the way for more policing with regard to vaccines. Whatever our opinion on vaccines (and there are many issues of accountability in this industry that should be addressed), the “lack of education” here lies with those who don’t see a possible issue for freedom. A person is not a moron for raising these concerns, for not trusting a colonial business enterprise with the answers. With the advent of AI (artificial intelligence), these are very genuine and serious matters. In a world governed by the patents of monopolies, this is our new government. Do we want such a world with no privacy, where the digital and the human are merged into one biotech being, where the normal democratic freedoms we have grown up with are now assumed in the rule of technocracy: the control of the “experts,” experts with financial interests. This is where the left wing becomes fascist.

One conspiracy theory doing the rounds for some years includes a video purporting to show Gates giving a presentation to the CIA about Funvax: a vaccine to “alter the genetic code of fundamentalists, making the world safer for American interests.” You will be able to find the video on the internet easily. It is denied by the usual factcheckers. Factcheckers are not independent. Most are sponsored by or linked to the Gates Foundation or to the CIA. Whether this video is real or not I don’t know. But I do know that America (as many nations) seeks drastic ways (like Agent Orange) of curtailing or eliminating threats, without employing the obvious way, bringing justice to ethnic groups, economic divisions, and geo-political regions around the globe. Responding to the 9/11 crime by embarking on two major wars, from which other wars have come (Libya, Syria), that have killed or displaced multiple millions of people, isn’t the solution. It has increased terrorism (ISIS, Boko Haram, Fulani conflict, criminal bandits) and rioting globally. It is much cheaper to serve and restore these nations. But (and this isn’t a conspiracy) the political infrastructure of America is to a large extent lead by the military industrial complex. To repeat, this is what President Eisenhower warned would happen. So, do we want to fix conspiracy theorists with an injection? Why not instead find out what Jesus taught about the same issues in his generation concerning justice and do that?

Having said this, I don’t believe we should use conspiracy theories to build our carriers or following, whether in the pulpit, or in society. We shouldn’t use such theories to build a support base for a ministry, to lead people astray, to sell our books, to get speaking engagements and pedal nonsense, to take in the gullible, by stirring up their fears. What we are speaking about here is “the baby in the bath water.” Censoring qualified political, medical, and scientific evidence or perspectives is wrong. People should be allowed to investigate and spread news that may be important and possibly should be looked at for accountability and transparency. We can’t use the term “national interests” to keep silencing and hiding everything. Honesty and openness are in the national interests. Whipping up propaganda about other nations as our enemies, as an excuse to censor our freedoms, makes it more difficult for us to know when our leaders are abusing their powers and privileges. This is bad for us all, not to mention our international relations.

We shouldn’t let those who lead us stir up animosity against other nations to dodge their own unaccountability. Take Hong Kong for example. One reason for the recent troubles there is Brexit. China fears a growing link between Britain and America will be a threat to their own interest. We need to reduce this government of fear with accountability and justice, not by growing alliances with other beasts. This is another area where investigative journalism is becoming more restricted, in holding America to account for its international propaganda. After the Berlin wall was broken down, America promised it would not expand NATO interests eastward. Now NATO sits on the Russian border. American hegemony is in pact with monopolies, in an agreement of power and information sharing, to allow each other to exist. But they don’t love each other, bit like the two beasts in Revelation again. When truth tellers like Edward Snowden are called “criminals” we have a problem.

It’s best to see these biblical themes in terms of justice. Then we stick with the facts, not with speculative paranoia. It may not always be an easy path to discern, but it is important that we do. Christians should join with investigative journalists, to bring accountability, to work for justice, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. These themes in scripture aren’t to provide us with speculative material on the end of the world, but with a language for justice. They show a people coming out of an exile of oppression, to build a community of justice that is inclusive, that shares its resources locally and beyond borders, to recover our neighbours and enemies from our joint deplorable human plight. This is what we see in the Book of Acts. There we see the apocalyptic images being played out in history and interpreted for us by Luke. This was their return from exile, from greed to community, from our fallenness to justice. This return from exile is not a geo-political victory for our nation. It is shared community in love. It is in the heart, from where it is shared with all races.

The blessing of the Covid-19 and global response crisis is that it breaks down our former camps. It brings left and right together. It exposes the issue: our governments have allowed monopolies to grow. And the continued expansion of these monopolies, which is clearly set to happen in the “new normal,” is of greater importance to our future safety than the Covid-19 virus. To ignore this is to have one’s head in the sand, a simpleton’s response. Those who see the problem with the Covid-19 response must see the cause of it. Then this raises the question, how did these monopolies come this far? Because of the greedy “liberalisation” introduced by Thatcher and Reagan. We are in this crisis of freedom because we didn’t care for the poorer socio-economic sectors of our societies, because we trusted instead on a military establishment to keep us safe. Creational/ return from exile theology rescues us from this dilemma. We are returning to restore the cosmos, by returning from an exile in individualism, to our neighbour and enemy. This was Israel’s return, not to become greater than the nations, but to become sister and brother with them. I pray we take this opportunity to get out of our former camps and come to our biblical common faith. This common fellowship, rather than our divided positions, is what matters in the end.

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