How quickly we’ve had our freedoms restricted and how readily the world has accepted these impositions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Laws, which under normal circumstances would be considered draconian, are enforced by governments around the world. Heavy fines and even prison terms have been imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Terms such as “lockdown”, “social distancing”, “hotel quarantine”, “mandatory face masks”, “travel restrictions” and “isolation” have become all too familiar during the past year.
“Lockdown”, defined as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction and access to public spaces”, was chosen by Collins Dictionary as the Word of the Year because it united “billions of people across the world, who have had, collectively, to play their part in combating the spread of Covid-19”.
Despite all the restrictions, the worldwide death toll has passed the two-million mark and is still climbing, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The virus continues to spread as more than 106 million people have been infected.
US President Joe Biden, in his inauguration speech, declared, “A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country has taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.”
Stephanie Zacharek, writing for Time, declares, “Our most debilitating threat” for the year 2020 “was a sense of helplessness, and it ran unchecked.”
The race was on to produce a vaccine in record time. Now that several vaccines have been approved, the challenge is to vaccinate the world.
Christian media executive Dr Brad Kemp calls the pandemic, “A wake-up call.” He writes: “If society can be shut down and be turned around in such a short time and by such a tiny thing like a virus, then it doesn’t take too much of a leap to see how the last things just before Jesus returns could happen rather quickly.”
While the pandemic is a non-religious issue, is it a dress rehearsal for the final show?
In the Bible, the book of Revelation (chapter 13) tells of a worldwide religious crisis just before Christ’s return where restrictions of freedoms will be placed on all those who refuse to conform to a false system of worship. An economic boycott will be imposed—people won’t be able to buy or sell—and a death decree will be instituted for non-conformists. This bible prophecy is talking about serious stuff!
The imagery of Revelation 13 is drawn from Daniel 3, in the Old Testament, where three Hebrew captives in Babylon in the sixth century BC refused to conform to idol worship. King Nebuchadnezzar had a statue of gold made, 27 metres high. He ordered everyone to bow down to the image under threat of death for refusal.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were among the princes Nebuchadnezzar took as captives when he conquered Jerusalem in 605 BC. Out of all the thousands of Jewish captives in Babylon, they were the only ones who refused to bow in worship of the statue.
The apostle John, in Revelation 13, tells us of a similar, but much more subtle form of false worship that will be imposed on the world. The biblical prophecy in Revelation tells us of a movement of mass conformity in which the great majority in the world will be squeezed into one mould of behaviour as they submit to this subtle form of idolatry.
Western civilisation was built on a Christian worldview from the 16th century Protestant Reformation—that there is a God who created the universe and us. This has given life meaning and has provided a framework for democracy, the rule of law and the freedoms and prosperities we enjoy in the West.
This Christian base has been steadily eroded by the rise of secular humanism. The 19th century was a time of optimism as an outgrowth of the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. The main creed was the belief that progress was “automatic and inevitable”. Heaven would be created on earth. Secular humanism’s confession, “Man is the measure of all things”, meant that human beings were put at the centre of the universe, not God.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution did away with the uniqueness of human beings made in the image of God and reduced them to a product of natural selection—an ideology furthered by scientists such as Richard Dawkins in the present day, who claims that religion is the source of many of the problems faced in human life. Christian author CS Lewis criticised Darwin’s book Origin of Species (1859), saying it “has done more to undermine popular belief in God, and thus the meaning of life, than any other book”.
In a Rolling Stone interview some years ago, musician Bruce Springsteen stated: “People . . . are swimming, barely staying afloat, and then trying to catch on to whatever is going to give them a little safe ground.” In “Hungry Heart” he sings, “I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.” Without God people lack direction.
With the collapse of a Christian worldview in the West and the subsequent loss of absolutes and objective values, people have no framework to guide them between what’s right or wrong, true or false. “Watch out that no-one deceives you,” Jesus declared. “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:4,24).
Revelation 14 pictures the world divided into two groups: those who worship God and follow his religion, and those who follow a false system of worship (verses 6–11). If we place anyone or anything other than God at the centre of our religious beliefs or our lives—that is false worship. Those who stand against this mass conformity are described as those who “obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (verse 12).
Katy Perry, in “Roar”, her eighth number one song, sings: “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.” If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.
It’s timely that John in Revelation 14 also announces the good news of the “eternal gospel” (verse 6), which is about the life and death of Jesus. Those who accept Jesus as their Saviour will not be deceived.
Harry Styles, of One Direction fame, in his debut solo single “Sign of the Times”, an instant hit in 2017, sings about being ready for the “final show”. He hopes you’re dressed in your “best clothes” because “you can’t bribe the door on the way to the sky.”
Whether or not this is what Styles had in mind, the second coming of Jesus is the climax of the “final show”. And the only way to not be deceived at the end and be in the right group is by accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour
(1 John 3:1; Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19).
Errol Webster is a retired church pastor who is passionate about understanding society in the West—where it has come from, where it is going and how the changes affect us. He lives in the historic town of Bathurst, NSW.