Yesterday Tim Challies posted this very interesting infographic about U.S. military bases around the world. (You’ll have to click the graphic to open it in a larger, more readable format.)
It is astounding to me that any nation would have a military empire so widespread (over 900 bases in 130 countries), and that it is considered a patriotic heresy to suggest that this might be a leading cause of our budgetary woes (not to mention blowback from those who may not appreciate foreign troops on their soil). But it is for more than just economic/political reasons that I find these statistics startling.
The 11th chapter of Daniel describes what were then future events. The latter half of that chapter likely refers primarily to Antiochus Epiphanes (“Ephiphanes” means “God Manifest”, which is what Antiochus IV called himself), but is also thought by many scholars to foreshadow the eventual “man of lawlessness” described in 2 Thessalonians 2. Listen to this description of this leader who exalts himself above God:
He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price. (Daniel 11:37-39)
Please understand that I am not saying that any particular individual is “the Antichrist”, or that Daniel’s prophecy is referring to America or any other modern nation. What I am pointing out is that when this “man of lawlessness” comes, it appears that he will be noted for his worship of military power and might, and will spend exorbitant amounts of money to support this strength.
Why is this important? Because whether or not this passage is referring to events that will happen in our lifetime (or that have happened in the past), one thing we can be sure of is that these things are representative of the “spirit of antichrist” which is “now in the world already” (1 John 4:3). Many American Christians view our military expansion and intervention abroad as something which contributes to our security, and enthusiastically support candidates (both Republican and Democrat) whose aim is to maintain and grow our empire at any cost. Remarkably, many of these same Christians believe that they could never be deceived by a leader whose goals are anti-Christ.
Our hunger for the perception of honor which accompanies our many fortresses (and the ability our military power gives us to rule over many) ought to give us pause. The fact that we are willing to go so deeply into debt to fund our empire (dividing the land for a price, anyone?) ought to horrify us.
May we all look forward to the day when the LORD “shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)