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That Other Shepherd...
Whose life ? His or the Beast's
There is a Gulf between the Difference!
Time, Feb. 3, 1997 opens a topic that has escalated. Dealing with 'The Boris Yeltsin Blues' post-operative, it mentions the issue of power-play and international power blocs, saying -"Yeltsin's more liberal aids had hoped to move Russia further into the mainstream of international relations. Instead, Moscow is bogged down in an ill-tempered exchange with the West over NATO's expansion plans."
This past week, in mid-February, there has been some analysis in the news concerning this point. The possibility of nuclear retaliation if marauders (such as NATO) should come too near Russia's Western borders was raised; a presidential aide quashed this. Was it not merely a point of extreme concern? In any case, Russia would not start a display of force. We were left with the thought that atomic means might serve stability's ends if force were deemed used. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia might be too much for the possible transfers to NATO areas.
Obviously, there are layers within layers, views within views; but there is also tension. It is one thing to be dismantled as an Empire (even Britain suffered that with a typically stiff British upper lip); it is one thing to be financially pressed (not uncommon, though the scale of the disaster is more uncommon amongst the 'great'). It is however another to see Europe with Clinton's desire, an increasingly democratic totality gnawing at the remnant of the monolith of absolutism to her East; or so it might appear.
The issue was raised: IS NATO still the answer, the power bloc desideratum, the way things should be handled in the post-war tensions? Tensions? Would one not expect them, when one mass murderer was invoked in his country seat to help remove another, when Russia was utilised, approached, given expensive collaboration in the desire to exterminate Hitler: an error vastly expanded by masses of religiously illiterate - you could say the learned illiterati - teachers who seemed fascinated by the post-Zhukov era, and still looked for Russian style absolutism, insidiously called 'democracy', as an answer for man, by man.
Is NATO still the answer? What of the UN? What of the Western European Union? What of the military arm of the EU? The desire lingers; to some the need seems imperative. WILL man find a solution to his balance of power, deterrent, containment, freedom, discipline questions that furrow much of the collective brow? Not except in Christ (see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Ch.7, Item 12, on what the Bible has to say here).
However it may be timely to see the future forecast - God's forecasts are without exception accurate, and have been abundantly tested for many centuries from the Bible. This leads us to the book of Revelation, Ch. 13. Here we see an enormous international development from the heady, and head-chopping days of both Hitler and Stalin. Whilst many escaped from 19th century Europe to the U.S.A., and the Statue of Liberty beckons with a perhaps slightly dated call (in view of quotas): from the unruly impact of religious persecution, when the world force has its tie on, there will be no place to go - except to God. The test will then be pure and holy; and the time to return to, and till the return of, Christ will be short. (We see it in Revelation Ch. 19.) He Himself dealt in Matthew 24 with such matters, and with the removal of delay when the time came, for Him to re-invest the earth with His unique and everlasting presence as God made manifest in the flesh by His living Word.
It will however be the SAME Christ, who (Hebrews 13:8) does not change; and it was to this identical one that the angels noted in Acts 1, refer! Another effort, that of man, a last synthesis as the philosophers might say, is however to made as the world rushes to unanswerable disasters, in the terminal political cancers of sin. Let us then consider this from Revelation 13.
Beasts in the Daniel-Revelation compound ...
mean political-social-psychological unspirituality vested in some being of great worldly power, normally national in complexion but capable of divesting itself of such site. Power in and over the earth is critical to the concept; and ungodly ways of manifesting it are of the essence.
Having spoken of the generic beast, the main theme for the rottenness of the End Times, when man grows nearer to interview with his Creator, as a race, Revelation 13 proceeds to tell us of another beast (v.11) - that the other beast, the one duplicitous in its appearance as a lamb, but having two horns, showing something grosser, as also exhibited by his talking as a dragon.
This one is the communications specialist, the one which makes inter-relationships an art form, and people domination a matter of method. Accordingly, it (he?) makes procedures such as the mark on the forehead and on the right hand as a test of loyalty to become likewise a means of marketing, even of such simple ingredients of life as buying and selling; and making this a monopoly, this powerful force, this devilish dynamic then uses it to exterminate non-conformists. England could be very hard on non-conformists at one time, seeking deliverance from foreign powers intruding into its civil structure, though using this more broadly in time. Here however the second beast will be an INTERNATIONAL phenomenon, with no escape to America, because this is merely part of the world which literally is now his stage.
Amongst his performances are these: he makes an image of the beast, and (v.15)
"had power to give breath to the image of the beast"
SO THAT it can do two things:
1) speak and
2) set about killing those who do not WORSHIP the image of the beast.
It is not hard to realise what is happening. This is spiritual mimicry at a decoy, deceitful level. GOD sent CHRIST to be HIS EXPRESSION on earth, equal in honour to Himself (John 5:19-23, Colossians 1:19-23, Philippians 2); and so the devil sends this IMAGE to be a kind of centre and resource and test of fidelity, expression of his 'life' and base for ... yes, worship. The devil is an awful mimic, and when lies and fraud are of his nature, mimicry is likely to be quite an outstanding, not to say an exceptional performance! If the antichrist is the devil's messiah, then this image is his face for the public: they are a tartan, a lively tartar that, so to speak, hits you in the face.
Now our point in this reflection is one: what is it that the beast imparts to the image? In the Bible, the word for 'breath' is used, rather like that used of the people, Jews, brought back in Ezekiel 37, to their land, a biological unit; and to this is SEPARATELY given spirit, and it lives. That is of course parable; but it signifies the coming into being of what makes the return of the Jews to their land more than a physical presence.
What then is this breath given to the beast? In a book admittedly and intensively symbolical, what might it be intended to signify? We find the answer in several Biblical quarters, comparing scripture with scripture, things spiritual with the same.
The considerations most obvious appear these:
i) what the thing, the image to which breath is given, is.
ii) what it comes from, and
iii) what it does.
i) What the thing is...
The thing is a manifestation of evil, of devilish lust for conquest, control and inordinate power, centred in the person of the devil and his instruments as expressive, designed to deceive, to mislead and to obtain and display false glory which can neither last nor make the grade to the splendour of goodness, reliability, loyalty, kindness, mercy and power which makes glory so glorious as to be something to be desired. It proceeds to kill non-conformists, and has a ruthless desire to amplify its sphere of influence to both small and great (v.16), not excluding the poor.
Its ambit is not economic but personal; though its means are certainly emphatically inclusive of the economic. It is an excellent bait ... as baits go ... for collecting human rubbish in the sense of denatured persons whose life is lived for what they can purchase, sell, gain in this world. What they become in the process is decidedly secondary. Such people are primary public for the image of the beast.
ii) What the thing comes from...
The thing comes from a beast: that, as already explained, definitely involves the personal in the normal human sense, but seeks to transcend this by invoking pretentious means on a broad scale in the world. Taking the reality without the artificiality, then, there is a human base for it. Thus it is not GOD who makes this creation (His creations in life form being called 'creatures'); so that it is not in that specific sense a creature. Rather it is a result of the exercise of human CREATIVITY. However many people may be involved, it is a human production.
Now man is a DERIVATIVE from God, because he is derived from God's actions and creativity, called creation. This thing however is a derivative of man, because it is derived from man's actions and creativity, called invention. The point about the terminology is that we know what we are talking about, which is often quite useful, though not perhaps always in philosophy, which we accordingly avoid, preferring the word of God as determinant to thought; though it is assuredly true that thought attests it as it does nothing else, in the end (see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Chs.1,3,10).
What then is this thing? it is this. It is the derivative of a derivative. It derives from man who derives from God; and more strictly, it derives from man whose being is created by God. It is therefore a DOUBLE DERIVATIVE (a term doubtless precious or at least peculiar to the minds of exponents of that form of mathematics known as calculus).
We have therefore a double derivative, derived from man and his creativity, just as man in turn was created by God. The distance from God is increasing. This is in the mind of man which was made, with his soul and spirit, in the image of God: that is, in such a form and style as to be able in LIFE to COMMUNE or even COMMUNICATE meaningfully and ... consciously, intelligibly and personally, indeed inter-personally, with God.
What however may be said of this double-derivative image? Firstly, it is useful to consider what it is NOT.
It is NOT equipped with what is special and specific to God: Spirit, Person, with moral, spiritual and personal dimensions to consciousness. THAT is specific to the God who is ALONE, as we are told, without like, except in that He created man in His image, and made such other beings as He chose, equipped to commune with Him as derivatives.
a) there is no moral dimension to any consciousness with which it may be equipped. It does not know what is good and evil per se; it may be programmed or instilled with this or that, like Hitler youth which still could deceive the deceiver by their SPIRITS, and know what they were doing and WHY.
b) there is no personal dimension. It may be programmed super-exquisitely to be able to relate to multiply imagined scenarios, and to do so indeed in ways so sophisticated as to elicit praise from some executive-trainers, for its fidelity to the very image of 'success' and 'prosperity in this world'; but it does not possess that uniqueness called person, which is God's, and which has been derivatively represented in man.
Incorporated in this aspect or feature is this implication: God's unique creation of PERSON, such as is fit to have communion or communication with Himself, has a refreshing and altogether (potentially) delightful function and image: it is the power to transcend, to a significant extent, barriers of program, perception and performance. It can do this in thought, in action, in imagination, in invention by which normal barriers are in measure overthrown, in conception, and that either at times in greater penetration into reality in creation, and at other times in greater awareness of itself.
This is always limited, sometimes with a sort of awful hilariousness, by the megalomaniac pretensions which forget that one little thing: who MADE this power, and on whom it depends, both logically and personally, for very existence; as well as meaning, measure and power. Its readily penetrated paradox is this: WHEN the source and spirit back of this person-power is recognised, and indeed KNOWN, then the use of this function can be a dream of wonder; but when it is not, it evokes the coarseness and the evil which betrays truth and rejects justice. Man or some other madness, becomes the zenith; and as zenith, it is uniformly mad in the end, by sight, as at the first, by implication.
It is THIS power which the beast, try as he will, cannot impart. The smoothness of a salesman, yes; the sophisticated program-consciousness and manipulative tendresse of a diplomat, very possibly; on-line knowledge banks, of course; but what matters TO persons, FROM a person, no. That is a matter of the FIRST DERIVATIVE. THIS is the second!
c) there is no spiritual dimension. That of course is the crucial and critical element. God IS a spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, because this is the kind of worshipper, or better the nature of the worship which God desires. He wants genuineness, and this is unprogrammable, because the program is not the work of the being itself; and in this lies the sheer magnitude, like that of mighty cliffs stretching 100 metres above the coastline at the Nullabor Plain in the Great Australian Bight ... of what?
Of this: freedom!
Abused and misused, this feature of man is a source of wonder and a path to pollution for himself and his world. It depends how it is exercised. Its availability is a thing of splendour, yet of a quiet kind, like diamonds set in rubies: magnificent? Yes, but not so that it commands your attention: it elicits it.
The thing, then, this image of the beast, is impersonal, amoral and unspiritual. That of course is precisely the direction and trend of man in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Many of the race may think that man is going nicely onto the final hour that will extend indefinitely, for the enjoyment of his genius. However in this he is forgetful: of two things in particular. Neither is man himself unchanging (though his form remains), nor is God inactive.
Man is making himself such a prodigy of deformation that his like on the earth is a bane that soon neither he nor the earth will be able to bear, as Christ makes plain in Matthew 24, with Paul in I Timothy 4, II Timothy 3 and elsewhere. This proceeds in company with the divine judgments which, though patiently distanced (II Peter 3:9), in the end are assured, as Revelation makes so plain, as man 'eats the fruit of his own doings'.
Those? they are the worst fruits of all in such a case, and entirely legitimate, because they are so possessed of the qualities of their maker, man: and this brings near the ... end.
The end, terminus, conclusion, finale: yes it comes. In this man has the beast and the second beast and the image of the beast to contend with; he is an artful fellow, man; and when without God, the art is appalling.
This then is the nature of the image and of the double derivative vitality it possesses. Christ in Luke 9:55: You do not know what manner of spirit you are of! That is, you do not realise the nature of the Spirit of God. This brings up the point that there is a DIFFERENT spirit which can come. It is that in morally mangled, spiritually polluted, glory-deficient man, apart from God. It is derived but now depraved also. THIS is the base for the programming of the image of the beast!
Programs built on such a base are like sky-scrapers built on drains and sewers and the bodies of rats in loose clay, in a cavernous area by the coast. The quasi-spirit, the double derivative declension and divorce of the image of the beast from God is a sight as appalling as that of the Niagara Falls is inspiring. It bespeaks its origin, and that? It is not attractive.
iii) What the thing does...
The image of the beast CAUSES THOSE NOT ELECTING TO WORSHIP IT TO BE KILLED.
It is possible it is not entirely successful, but this is its function, and there is no doubt it will at least have outstanding 'success', just as the pre-run of a somewhat more specialised kind did with Hitler, when only one race rather than as here, the whole human race, was involved.
It is, then, monopolistic, implacable, remorseless, egotistic, megalomaniac, heartless. That is the nature of its program.
What sort of consciousness may it have, if any? What does it do at that level? Certainly it is not human consciousness, since it lacks those elements as noted in ii), which constitute the human specialty and specificity as a creation, in the moral, the personal and the spiritual.
These, as God-derivatives, are not available at that level; these as God-image-bearers are excluded. This however is not to say that some kind of reflexive self-awareness is not possible, according to the mind, the mangled and immoral mind of its maker, polluted man. Call it what you will, it is not life in its unique height and vestment, form and magnitude. It is - if there be any consciousness at all - a mere trifle, an attestation to a derivative and reflexive form of concept conditioning made in the image of the desecrated.
May one add just one word of caution. Playing with man's form and need and nature is as deadly a procedure as there is available, outside the direct impudence of seeking to play with the glory of God. Both of these actions are endemic to the sin of man; but the point here is this: both of them reach a crescendo, like the symphonic power of some master musician, towards the end of his creation in music. The zenith of desired harmony will however, being squalid in spirit and unrealistic in mind, be the ultimate in cacophony, a fitting terminus to an age rife with such ... compositions.
At that crescendo is a building; it has taken centuries for its components to be researched and invested with synthesis. It will take very little time to declare its nature; and for this declaration to be followed by one other declaration: that of God (Revelation 19:19-20:15). It may sound a hard word, but it is entirely scriptural, and fitting. What is the end of rubbish, that is, utterly and irreversibly transformed creation which has finished ingloriously its course? It is the dustbin, the rubbish heap, or in Biblical words, Gehenna, the place of rubbish, slowly burning.
What burns? Conscience, for unlike the image of the beast, man being not double but merely a single derivative, indeed in the image of God, this is inherent in him, however misused. Conscience burns. Truth can hurt. It can harass because IT IS SO. Nothing will alter it. HENCE THE HEART HURTS, AND THE SPIRIT QUAILS, EVEN IN ITS BOASTS.
There is only one proper course: it is this. To repent of sin and seek the remission of sins form the blood of the Lamb: NOT from the dragon that looks like a lamb, of which Revelation 13 has spoken. No: but from the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, but whose time came and who was crucified at Calvary. There is the GOOD shepherd, there the only name worth anything for redemption, for it is the name God gives to His only begotten Son; and that is the price of redemption, the place of redemption and the value of it.
It is infinite. No program can produce
it. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, says I John 1; but
if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then you are restored to being
a true first derivative; a created creature at peace with his Creator;
but far better than this ( I John 1:1-4, 3:1-3), a child of God. Perfection?
It is His. It is inherited in eternity.
The Provision of God
A doctor once said to me, You have
done well, for you have the parents with the right genes! Being very amusing.
However, here the case lies deeper: to come to the Saviour who brings you
to the Father, so that you become a child of God, THIS is a matter of more
than human genes. HIS seed, says I John 3:9, stays in you. Be therefore
reconciled to God and read as you move - II Corinthians 5:19-21. There
is only one God: more is neither available nor desirable. There is only
one way and there is only one life which has fellowship with Him; and this?
It is eternal (John 3:16-17). Christ we there read did not come to condemn
but to save. If condemnation comes, then He came first. Then come first
to Him, now.