Adventists have long been fascinated by two strange symbols which we encounter in the book of Revelation. In chapter 13 we are confronted with the ‘beast from the sea’. An adventism this ‘beast’ has traditionally been linked with Roman Catholicism. Admittedly, in the recent past the Adventist Church has become a bit more careful in its anti-Catholic rhetoric, but this interpretation continues to be defended by many church members.
A bit further on in this chapter another beast enters the scene: ‘the beast from the earth’. It is stated that this beast will at some point in time support the sea-beast, even to the extent that it will force humanity to worship the sea-beast. In traditional Adventist exegesis the land-beast symbolizes the United States of America. Eventually, it is argued, the US will decide to link up with the pope and his cronies. Together they will target the relatively small group of believers who, in the end of time, will remain loyal to God (i.e. the ‘remnant, that keeps all God’s commandments and has the ‘testimony of Jesus’)The traditional prophetic interpretation of the Adventist Church is based on the historicist approach. This ‘school’ of interpretation maintains that the books of Daniel and Revelation predict events from the time of the prophet Daniel until the Second Coming. Another approach suggests that the content of these two Bible books must first of all be applied to the time in which they were written. The most important question is what they meant for their first readers.
Yet, even those who defend a historicist application have, by and large, become more circumspect. Many things did not happen as they were predicted. It has, in particular, become a bit quieter with regard to the ‘land-beast’. Many American Adventists have often found it rather difficult to imagine that ‘God’s own country’, this promised land of unparalleled freedom, would change into a tyranny that will utterly deny its fundamental principles.
I have some problems with the historicist approach to apocalyptic prophecy. But I might be inclined to drop a few of my objections at this point in time, when the American people are in the process of choosing a new president. I have been a keen follower of the primaries, and, together with millions in the US and elsewhere, I wonder how in high heavens it is possible that a man as Donald Trump is firmly on his way to become the presidential candidate of the Republican party. The thought occurred to me that the symbol of the ‘land-beast’ may perhaps be applied to Donald Trump. In any case, in past months he has thrown many horrendous ideas around. America and the rest of the world could be confronted with ‘beastly’ surprises, if Trump would become president. Many freedoms might be at serious risk.
I am rather surprised that so far I have not heard any Adventist voices that see a connection between Revelation 13 and Donald Trump. Also, when dr. Ben Carson decided to enter the race for the GOP candidature, it also remained ominously silent in the camp of prophecy interpreters. When in 1928 the Catholic Al Smith became the Democratic candidate, there was a lot of commotion. Many Adventists argued that this was what prophecy had predicted: a close cooperation between he US and Rome. And when in 1960 the Catholic John F. Kennedy aspired to become the president of the United States of America, many Adventists instantly knew how to interpret this in the light of Revelation 13. However, when in 2016 an immoral windbag, in the person of Donald Trump, is constantly in the news, I find no comments in the official denominational Adventist media. Has the Bible nothing to say about many of Trump’s detestable opinions? Never mind that he insults entire ethnic and religious groups, fosters hate, discriminates against women, criticizes the judiciary powers, wants to be friends with men like Putin and Kim-jong-un, and utters the most bizarre and contradictory statements.
I agree with the principle of my church that church and state should remain separate. However, this does not mean that the church must always remain silent in political matters. In the past the Adventist Church had a definite opinion when a presidential candidate had the ‘wrong’ religion. In the context of past times this may have been somewhat understandable. But does the church in 2016 not have the moral duty to speak up when someone with a totally dysfunctional moral compass wants to have the highest position in the United States? And would criticism of this ‘land-beast’ in the person of Trump (at least at this moment in time) not be much more relevant than just repeating the traditional interpretation of Revelation 13? In any case, this traditional interpretation is not to be fulfilled any time in the immediate future, while in just a few months a decision must be made that has far-reaching consequences for our entire planet!