In the book of Revelation, there is what might be described by some as a “glorious letdown.” The whole court of Heaven hears that the Lion of Judah has entered the room. Perhaps we might imagine John pushing through the crowd of heavenly beings to catch a glimpse for himself, but when he finally breaks through the crowd, he sees a bloodied and broken lamb hobbling up to the throne. No lion is ever seen, only announced—and this lamb is that lion.
This is the savior. This is Jesus. And John is telling his audience that they too must become like this lamb. Some of them will not survive persecution. The government will imprison them and kill them for having chosen this lamb as their king instead of the emperor. And as these Christians follow Jesus, they too will bleed, break, and hobble into Heaven’s courtroom.
Then John gives us a visual glimpse of the enemy that will persecute them. The first is a dragon whose identity is Satan. The second is found in the Biblical motif of a chaos-creature— a beast that rises out of the chaotic sea, whose identity is the dark power behind nationalism (in John’s case, Rome). The second beast is also a chaos-creature, but this one has risen out of the earth and represents the emperor. They are different, but the same—an unholy trinity if you will. (While some commentaries will take these beasts’ representations in other directions, most symbolism is going to rest on subjects related to a country, politics, power, and the worship of them.) There’s also Lady Babylon, which represents the nation as well. All of these characters are in league with one another, and John traces all their lines back to the dragon. Satan is pulling their strings and empowering them, and that’s all the more reason why those who follow Jesus will be persecuted and martyred.
The second beast (the emperor) is described in a rather intriguing way: “It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11 ESV). Try to imagine that for a second, because it’s a hilarious image to reflect on: A giant beast pulls itself out of the earth, roars like a dragon, but then tries its very best to pretend it’s a little lamb—or in other words, it tries to convince people that it’s Jesus. No one could ever fall for this trick! The image John has painted is absolutely ridiculous.
And yet Christians fall for this all the time. And some did again at a whole new level at the insurrection in D.C.
All of these characters represent a domination cycle of sorts. They appear over and over again throughout history whenever politics and nationalism give their hearts over to Satan for the pursuit of power, wealth, and glory. We know that Lady Babylon is a cycle because Babylon had already collapsed by John’s time, so he was clearly talking about Rome when he mentioned Babylon. The cycle of domination had continued into his time just as it has continued into ours, seeing as how you could match America to John’s description of Lady Babylon as well.
Likewise, the beast in John’s time was likely the emperor. The number of the beast, 666, could have been code for “Nero” in a system called gematria, where Hebrew letters equaled numbers. And even if John wasn’t referring specifically to Nero, he was at least referring to someone everyone knew because John truly believed his audience long ago would understand what 666 meant.
And so just as Lady Babylon is also Rome and America and other nations like it, so the beast is Nero and any other emperor/king/president/politician/person-in-power that decides to image the beast. In my opinion, Trump crossed the line of what it means to act like the beast over and over again throughout the years, but you can make your own decision on that.
Christian nationalism is a religion that wants to tell the bleeding, broken, hobbling lamb to go away and come back when it’s a lion. It’s a religion that has been duped by the beast-dragon trying to pretend it’s a lamb, hissing, “Worssssssship me. I am the way, the truthhhhh, and the lifffffe.” And when we worship that thing, then by John’s standards, we have left Jesus and Heaven behind and joined a kingdom and false god that are doomed to collapse and die.
Satan offered Jesus the same kingdoms and power, and Jesus refused it every single time—not only when Satan tempted him in the desert (Matthew 4:8-9), but also when Peter tempted him not to die (Matthew 16:21-23), when Jesus fled from a crowd before they made him king (John 6:15), and when Jesus faced the temptation in the garden for a different plan than the cross (Matthew 26:39).
But for some reason, we think we’re better than Jesus and can handle such power. We must repent immediately and leave Christian nationalism behind, for nationalism is the worship of the beast, and Christian nationalism is the blasphemous attempt to marry the beast to the lamb.
Should we still try to impact the politics and the kingdoms of this world as Christians? Yes, of course. For we want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, and we are his prophetic voice that speaks out against the injustices of America, just as John spoke out against the injustices of Rome. But Christian nationalism is not the way to do that—it is Satan’s temptation of another way to get power than bleeding and hobbling.
Jesus is our king, not the beast. Heaven is our country, not America. And no leader or country will ever match Jesus or Heaven in full, for no country has the Holy Spirit to empower it to do so. We must not sell our souls for the lesser power of nationalism, for nationalism will reap what it sows and get what it deserves—which from John’s perspective, is death. We must instead give our souls to Jesus and Jesus alone. He is the only one truly worthy of our worship and the only place we will find life abundant.