By Christopher James Blythe
If the worries of most quarantined Christians in the United States center on health and when they might resume their lives, there is a segment that wonders whether this moment has greater biblical significance. These apocalyptic-minded Christians seem to have become increasingly less concerned about the disease itself and more concerned about the government’s response to the disease.
To some, it appears Satan’s emissaries are poised to take advantage of the pandemic. Some Christian pastors believe the start of a Last Days battle for religious freedom began with the social distancing orders that have placed weekly in-person church services under fire. Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle, a Louisiana megachurch, defended his decision to hold a Palm Sunday service: “The church is the last force resisting the Antichrist, let us assemble regardless of what anyone says.” Another Louisiana pastor, Ronnie Hampton, decried the order “because Caesar is mandating how we conduct ourselves using the pretext of this virus to be able to conduct our lives and run our lives for us.”
American apocalypticists tend to be suspicious of government, of course. This is partly due to their conservative bent, but this suspicion is nearly mandated by a literalist reading of the Book of Revelation. John the Revelator’s arch-villains are political powers that institute totalitarian social controls while persecuting the righteous who refuse to profess their allegiance. The second beast of Revelation 13, commonly known as the Anti-Christ, will, according to many Christians, come to power in the chaos of the apocalypse. John described him as a miracle worker who will deceive the nations to worship the image of an earlier beast, a dragon with seven heads and ten horns that is sometimes identified as Satan himself.
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