Without in any way denying a literal reading of the prophecies in the book of The Revelation, many believers, particularly those living in the United States, have puzzled over just how it would be possible for the events recorded by John to occur. Some may even have harbored a suspicion that the United States was somehow different from the rest of the world, less prone to fall prey to or give in to the dictatorial ambitions of an autocrat. The COVID-19 virus has illuminated a number of areas in that regard. It should be quite apparent how easily many of the events John predicts concerning the seven-year tribulation that follows the church age can come to pass. Consider the following things we have learned or that have been made crystal clear from current events.
A dictatorial spirit pervades America. Some have foolishly believed that a so-called freedom-loving people could never foster those of a dictatorial persuasion or accept dictatorial government. What we have learned now is that there are many bureaucrats at all levels of government who are all too happy to abrogate the United States Constitution and set aside the constitutions of the individual states. Many covet the opportunity to exercise authoritarian rule. What may be surprising is the number of people who harbor such ambitions. But even more shocking is the number of people who are willing to submit to tyrannical rule. Yes, everyone chafes under the heavy-handed rule of a despot, but the proper set of circumstances makes them willing to submit nevertheless. It is much easier today to understand how the promise by the Beast to provide safety and security will be a sufficient inducement to make many willing to be controlled by him.
Men will believe lies. No one wants to believe he is gullible. And Americans think that they are too educated, experienced, and wise to be deceived. We have long wondered how so many of the German people could have been deceived by the propaganda Hitler produced. But we have learned, I believe, that the communist theory of the “Big Lie” works. Say something often enough and loud enough, and people will believe it. Told something by a figure in authority, many will believe it without asking questions. We see that today, even without the additional critical factor that Paul reveals will occur during the Tribulation, namely, that “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (II Thess. 2:11). Men will worship the Beast as god, believing his lies.
Fear will drive men to forfeit their liberty. Much of the fear we see around us today has been fabricated out of whole cloth. Even so, it has driven men to accept dictatorial rule. What will it be like during the Tribulation when reasons to fear abound because of horrendous, destructive natural phenomena, severe shortages of food and water, and the universal violence of unrestrained human depravity? A promise of safety even at the expense of independence will be welcomed.
It will be easy to create circumstances under which citizens find themselves dependent on government to survive. Of course, we know that it will be virtually impossible during the Tribulation to engage in commerce without the name, number, or mark of the Beast. We see now, how easily a government can dictate what businesses are essential and will be permitted to operate, who can engage in business, and under what conditions they may do so. Under much less onerous conditions than will exist during the Tribulation, most of us have found ourselves dependent on the government, in some cases for a handout, in others for the “privilege” of buying or selling essential commodities.
Our existence can change virtually overnight. Some have posited that it would require something of the order of a nuclear war bring about the changes described in The Revelation with any rapidity. We now know that something as ordinary as a virus can be used to effect fundamental societal change almost instantly—governmental usurpation of power, destruction of economies, shortages of foodstuffs, in short, complete transformation of civilization in a very few days.
Has the Tribulation begun? No. The Lord promised: “I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10). The point of these paragraphs is simply to illustrate how credible are the events prophesied by John and to invoke believers to pray John’s closing prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20a).
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