Fierce speculation surrounds the identity of the antichrist. The Book of Revelation points to an antichrist/s that opposes God’s plan and stands in conflict against Jesus’ people. Much of the morbid fascination comes from a misunderstanding of this book. In our culture we have little experience with apocalyptic literature and many ignore the importance of genre in helping to interpret meaning. For me, the whole book, with all its strange apocalyptic imagery, can be summarized in just two words: “Jesus wins!”
It is, however, curious to watch each generation “guess” the identity of the antichrist. People try to interpret the Book of Revelation through the eyes of the newspaper rather than through the context of the whole Bible storyline. Moreover, the antichrist that appears repeatedly in the Bible is seen as anything, person or a concept, that stands against Jesus. So here is my guess as to one antichrist today. The one that shines bright in our Western society is the god of ‘consumerism’.
Every “ism” has positives and negatives. Capitalism promotes financial growth which raises living standards. However, it also gives birth to an egocentric hedonism called consumerism. The desire for more ‘stuff’ is a seductive mistress. Two examples highlight this: Halloween and Black Friday.
Halloween was once isolated to America and horror movies. However, it has established itself firmly in the Australian calendar. Why? Because we have a deep spiritual desire. No, not for the Roman Catholic All Saints day or the ancestor worship “Day of the dead.” Most people would have no idea or care about these backgrounds of Halloween. It is more a deep spiritual need for a god that brings meaning. In this case, consumerism fills a desire to buy (plastic junk) and build a community around that. As Halloween approaches scrutinize the huge weight of products on show and the social pressure to buy. This is a spiritual act beyond the argument about ghosts and goblins.
Black Friday in Australia was once a day to remember the 1939 Victorian bushfires that claimed 71 lives. However, through a George Orwellian “new-speak” we now have a new meaning for Black Friday: to buy stuff. The day gives you permission to buy more! It might be a new toaster oven or a dress you do not need but consumerism becomes an idol. It is estimated that Australian Black Friday sales of $400 million will surpass Boxing Day sales. As Black Friday approaches note the frenzy to consume.
This amnesia syndrome is a result of consumerism and makes us forget our Creator. It is an old god, or as the Book of Revelation puts it, another antichrist that dulls our senses to our deepest longing: a restored and fulfilling relationship with our Creator. This is, by definition, an antichrist. Consumerism is subtle and appears harmless, not the scary beast we might expect. However, it dulls our memory of God and can, if not checked, distract us from the real meaning of life in its fullness. Like all sales strategies, it convinces us we can find meaning if we just have that product or service.
The challenge is to take the positives of our financial blessings but not slide into the negatives that let it become an antichrist. It is about remembering that real meaning comes from following Christ not consumables.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html