Kingdoms of God and of Man
The strength of Mormonism How God governs Following Leviathan

The Beast and Leviathan

Thomas HobbesThomas Hobbes was one of the great political theorists of all time. He lived through the years when the Medieval church lost its supreme power. He saw that the kingdom of God had been lost. He saw that without new prophets it could not be regained. And he saw that the European states were Leviathans - great beasts like the Beast of Revelation.


Anarchy, politics, church, state, utopia, the kingdom of God. It's all here.


Seventeenth century Britain was a unique time and place for understanding the kingdom of God. It was the height of the reformation. It was a time of civil war. All kinds of new ideas were being tried. And it was still a time when the importance of the Bible was unquestioned. Practically every nation in Europe called itself Christian. It was a time when the power of Rome was declining and other churches were taking its place. People were asking "what kind of kingdoms should we have?"

The classic political work of this time was Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan; or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651)". If you want to understand the kingdom of God, the kingdoms of this world, and the need for a living prophet, but you don't trust LDS writers, read Hobbes' Leviathan.

Note that Hobbes' experience was all with the European states. So when we say Leviathan is the state, we mean specifically those states that trace their history through Europe.

Leviathan is the Beast

Leviathan in the Bible

The Bible sometimes refers to false gods such as Baal. Sometimes God refers to them to emphasize his power. Leviathan is one such example.

Leviathan was a primeval sea monster in Ugaritic mythology. It battled against Baal on behalf of the god of the underworld, and was ultimately defeated. Often in the Bible, "leviathan" just means "crocodile", but one passage in particular stands out: Isaiah 27:1

"In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea."

So leviathan is the great beast from the sea. It is associated both with the underworld and with the dragon. It is to be destroyed at Christ's Second Coming. This is a description of the Beast of Revelation! I believe that Thomas Hobbes got it right. Leviathan is the "Christian" nations.

"Leviathan" by Thomas Hobbes

A summary of the book "Leviathan"

The book has four parts.

  1. Part 1 discusses what mankind is capable of.
  2. Part 2 uses this to conclude what a kingdom (a sovereign power) can be.
  3. Part 3 suggests how to apply this in a real kingdom, a Christian Commonwealth.
  4. Part 4 discusses the world's churches, how they are not the kingdom of God.

I only have space to quote or paraphrase small parts of the book on this page. The original complete text is available at various places on the Net. The book can be summarized in one sentence:

In the absence of the kingdom of God, human kings are all we have.

But what about a democracy?

Hobbes deals mainly with kings. But what about a democracy? As Hobbes' successor John Locke pointed out, a democracy is just a kingdom where the people choose the king. The elected representative still acts as a king for the time he is elected. He still makes decisions for other people to follow. Even in a democracy, people disagree with the ruler. Even in a dictatorship, the king can be toppled. So the same issues apply.

Most important, however the king is chosen, he cannot go beyond what he knows. Or if the people collectively rule, their representative he cannot go beyond what the people collectively know and agree to.

"As men that are utterly deprived from their nativity of the light of the bodily eye have no idea at all of any such light; and no man conceives in his imagination any greater light than he hath at some time or other perceived by his outward senses: so also is it of the light of the gospel, and of the light of the understanding, that no man can conceive there is any greater degree of it than that which he hath already attained unto."

The ideal state is of course one where (a) every person has chosen to be ruled by that ruler and can leave if they wish, and (b) the ruler is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful. In other words, the ideal kingdom is the kingdom of God. This is so self-evident that Hobbes spends little time on it.

"Nasty, brutish and short"

Hobbes probably understood more about democracy than we do today.

When describing the "state of nature" (that is, without the institution of the civil state) he coined the well known saying that life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," and that it is "a war of all against all."

The "war of all against all" is familiar in a modern competitive world. Competition is everything. It is the life blood of capitalism. But the readers of this web site may feel the description "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" is not justified. After all, isn't the world economy booming? For all their faults, aren't the leading countries of the world generally pleasant places to live? That may be true. But remember it is a world economy. We are part of an international trading system. This is especially true for the financial world. For much of the world, life is very nasty, very brutish, and very short. Even for those countries that are democracies (like India) or trade with democracies (like the rest of the world).

Have you visited today?

If you have access to the Internet, then you are one of the rich minority. To the rich minority, life has always been physically comfortable. To see proof of Hobbes' description of states teetering between between harsh rule and anarchy, just turn on the TV news. Look at the nations of Africa, or south east Asia, or Asia, or South America, or Eastern Europe, or ... Well, you get the idea.

The nature of leviathan (modern politics in a nutshell)

This rest of this page looks on leviathan as nations in general. But we should not forget that the particular leviathan in question was Roman. Modern leviathans (nations) are also Roman in their nature:

Let's dive into political history a little. Back in ancient times, there was "the divine right of kings" - the king got his authority from claiming a special relationship with God (or gods). Incidentally, Hobbes is often said to support "the divine right of kings". This is not strictly true. He did not say that kings were appointed by God. He said that in the absence of someone appointed by God (e.g. a prophet), it was logical that the king may as well run the church.

Even though they were often despots whose gods were made of stone, they basically based their empire on religion. But the Greeks and Romans were different. Greco-Roman gods had every human frailty going. The real power was with the people, through voting and debates (as long as you were a citizen, and rich, and male, of course). The people created some of the gods (sometimes leaders were deified), and felt no qualms about defying them. The nations felt that they created themselves.

This is pretty much how it is today, which is why John the Revelator sees the modern world as just a continuation of Rome. Religion is seen as a hobby. Spiritual values (love, understanding,etc.) are neither the basis nor the purpose of everyday life. Instead, life is based on human ideas. Its purpose is to provide "bread and circuses" - physical needs and pleasure. That is the modern world all right - humanist, Greco-Roman to the core.


Kingdoms of man, or kingdom of God

The state compared with a man

Some people are confused when the Bible describes the beast or the horn as if they were a single man. Hobbes has no such problem.. he begins his book with three observations:

  1. Art imitates life. Hence man makes machines, with spring and joints and limbs, in imitation of living creatures.
  2. "Art goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of Nature, man. For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH, or STATE (in Latin, CIVITAS), which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength"
  3. [This is the controversial and far-reaching part of his thesis]: "and in [the state] the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body"

Hobbes goes on to make some comparisons between a man and a state. These include:

Man Leviathan (The State)
his work the peoples' safety
his memory counselors (advisors)
his reason (thinking) equity (justice)
his will law
his strength riches
His origin: God (created man) the constitution

Hobbes does not do this, but it is helpful to make a further comparison between the kingdoms of men and the kingdom of God:

Man Leviathan The kingdom of God
his work the peoples' safety the people's eternal life
his memory counselors (advisors) scripture
his reason (thinking) equity (justice) revelation
his will law the spirit
his strength riches righteousness
His origin: God (created man) the constitution God (created his kingdom)

What is the kingdom of God?

In part three of his book, Hobbes accepts that the ideal kingdom is the kingdom of God, but then asks "what is the kingdom of God?"

"I find the kingdom of God to signify in most places of Scripture a kingdom properly so named, constituted by the votes of the people of Israel in peculiar manner, wherein they chose God for their king by covenant made with Him, upon God's promising them the possession of the land of Canaan; and but seldom metaphorically;and then it is taken for dominion over sin (and only in the New Testament), because such a dominion as that every subject shall have in the kingdom of God, and without prejudice to the sovereign."

"From the very creation, God not only reigned over all men naturally by His might, but also had peculiar subjects, whom He commanded by a voice, as one man speaketh to another."

"And though the name of King be not yet given to God; nor of kingdom to Abraham and his seed, yet the thing is the same; namely, an institution by pact of God's peculiar sovereignty over the seed of Abraham, which in the renewing of the same covenant by Moses at Mount Sinai is expressly called a peculiar kingdom of God over the Jews: and it is of Abraham, not of Moses, St. Paul saith that he is the father of the faithful;* that is, of those that are loyal and do not violate their allegiance sworn to God, then by circumcision, and afterwards in the New Covenant by baptism."

Thus the kingdom of God is not metaphorical. It is real obedience to the actual voice of God. it is accepted willingly by each individual through covenant.

"The kingdom therefore of God is a real, not a metaphorical kingdom; and so taken, not only in the Old Testament, but the New. . . . In short, the kingdom of God is a civil kingdom, which consisted first, in the obligation of the people of Israel to those laws which Moses should bring unto them from Mount Sinai; and which afterwards the high priest, for the time being, should deliver to them from before the cherubim in the sanctum sanctorum; and which kingdom having been cast off in the election of Saul, the prophets foretold, should be restored by Christ;

and the restoration whereof we daily pray for when we say in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come"; and the right whereof we acknowledge when we add, "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and glory, for ever and ever, Amen"; and the proclaiming whereof was the preaching of the Apostles;

and to which men are prepared by the teachers of the Gospel; to embrace which Gospel (that is to say, to promise obedience to God's government) is to be in the kingdom of grace, because God hath gratis given to such the power to be the subjects (that is, children) of God hereafter when Christ shall come in majesty to judge the world, and actually to govern his own people, which is called the kingdom of glory."


Hobbes and the Great Apostasy

The people are lost without a living prophet

Hobbes, in his own lifetime, had seen nations try to govern according to the Bible, but fail. Many people of his time (seventeenth century England) dearly wanted to base their society on the Bible, but without living prophets, it was impossible to do so.

I no longer have the reference, but there was a scholarly work published recently (in 1997 I think) reviewing seventeenth century politics in England. The book recorded how, for several generations, every effort was made to govern according to the Bible. But every time a difficult decision came up, nobody could agree on what the Bible meant. The seventeenth century experiment failed. So Hobbes had to resort to his own wisdom.

Hobbes seems well aware of the Apostasy. In part four of his book , he puts mankind's errors down to four causes:

  1. "abusing and putting out the light of the Scriptures: for we err, not knowing the Scriptures."
  2. Mixing the truths about the spirit world with heathen ideas of phantoms and fairies.
  3. "mixing with the Scripture diverse relics of the religion, and much of the vain and erroneous philosophy of the Greeks, especially of Aristotle."
  4. Mixing all this with false traditions.

Needless to say, all these problems could have been solved by a living prophet.

Hobbes contrasts the traditional Christian church with the kingdom of God

"The greatest and main abuse of Scripture, and to which almost all the rest are either consequent or subservient, is the wresting of it to prove that the kingdom of God, mentioned so often in the Scripture, is the present Church, or multitude of Christian men now living, or that, being dead, are to rise again at the last day: whereas the kingdom of God was first instituted by the ministry of Moses, over the Jews only; who were therefore called his peculiar people; and ceased afterward, in the election of Saul, when they refused to be governed by God any more, and demanded a king after the manner of the nations ... After that time, there was no other kingdom of God in the world, by any pact or otherwise..."

Hobbes said that we need a living prophet

"Consequent to this error, that the present Church is Christ's kingdom, there ought to be some one man, or assembly, by whose mouth our Savior, now in heaven, speaketh, giveth law, and which representeth his person to all Christians; or diverse men, or diverse assemblies that do the same to diverse parts of Christendom. This power regal under Christ being challenged universally by the Pope, and in particular Commonwealths by assemblies of the pastors of the place (when the Scripture gives it to none but to civil sovereigns), comes to be so passionately disputed that it putteth out the light of nature, and causeth so great a darkness in men's understanding that they see not who it is to whom they have engaged their obedience."

Hobbes looked forward to the future kingdom of God

"Nevertheless, He promised by His prophets to restore this His government to them again, when the time He hath in His secret counsel appointed for it shall be fully come, and when they shall turn unto Him by repentance and amendment of life. And not only so, but He invited also the Gentiles to come in, and enjoy the happiness of His reign, on the same conditions of conversion and repentance. And He promised also to send His Son into the world, to expiate the sins of them all by his death, and to prepare them by his doctrine to receive him at his second coming: which second coming not yet being, the kingdom of God is not yet come, and we are not now under any other kings by pact but our civil sovereigns;"

Hobbes on church and state

Church and state: traditional Churches in charge

What is the church? The word has two meanings. First, the gathering of believers. Second, the kingdom of God. If the church has any authority to lead its people, it must be in the second sense.

In part four of his book, Hobbes showed that the medieval church tried to act as a state yet it could not be a state.

Since the traditional churches do not have prophets, they cannot be the kingdom of God. They are thus unable to rule effectively. Yet the medieval church claimed to be the kingdom of God. It demanded tithes and offerings to support its paid clergy, using the Levites as a precedent. Instead of using tithing to build up the kingdom of God on earth, it was just used to pay wages for the clergy. And since nobody had any choice in the matter, it was no more than an additional and unjust tax. Hobbes rightly condemns the church controlling the state - for example, the medieval Pope would try to command kings and princes.

Catholics and Protestants in the same boat

Hobbes spends the remainder of part four of his book in showing the sins and errors of the medieval church. It neither agrees with scripture nor with reason.

Hobbes' words are directed against the Catholic church, but according to the reasons he gave (especially the lack of a prophet), the Protestant churches have no more claim to be the kingdom of God. Some (like the Church of England) put the monarch at the head of the church. Others put the local clergy at the head.. But they still keep the same nonsensical doctrine of the kingdom of God having already arrived :

"But in those places where the presbytery took that office [the office of the Pope], though many other doctrines of the Church of Rome were forbidden to be taught; yet this doctrine, that the kingdom of Christ is already come, and that it began at the resurrection of our Savior, was still retained. But cui bono? What profit did they expect from it? The same which the popes expected: to have a sovereign power over the people."

Church and state: the state in charge

If the church is not in charge, the state is. It seems to be inevitable that, when the true church is no longer here, the state eventually takes control of the church. See for example the prophecies of the beast as "the eighth king", rising to speak blasphemies once the apostles have died.

The total subjection of the church to the state is called "Erastianism", after Thomas Erastus (1524-83). Erastus never stated it bluntly, but Hobbes seems to indicate that such control is inevitable.

In modern times, democracies like America make separation of church and state of the highest importance. But even here, the church is restricted by the state, and only exists as long as the state allows. This is not a criticism of the state, but just a reflection of the obvious. No man can serve two masters. The state has to be concerned with laws, justice, defense, trade, etc., and all these things mean telling people to do things that one religion or another may forbid.

The worst form of state is the state as false church, which takes us back to the 1260 years from the political dominance of the medieval church to the political dominance of America.

Leviathan, the beast, the state, is still active now, but it does not dominate the church. However, inasmuch as money has become the false religion, and decisions are still taken by powerful individuals or groups, the principles outlined in Revelation and in Leviathan still apply.

Hobbes' solution: church and state as one

Hobbes' logic is unassailable.

Hence, when the apostles were killed in the first century, the rise of the Beast - Leviathan, the state controlling the church and inevitably becoming corrupt - was only a matter of time.

Conclusion: how to escape leviathan

God's solution: living prophets

God's solution was different. He sent a living prophet in 1830. The kingdom of God was restored as prophesied. But what about when church and state come into conflict? When the true kingdom of God is present, that changes everything.

How the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is different

At this point it may be useful to point out the key differences between the churches of this world (as Hobbes describes) and the restored gospel:

Being in the world but not of the world

We are living in the last days of this world. And God has not left us alone. In the days of Hobbes and Locke, all of the churches were based on dead prophets only, and could not offer a real solution. But that has changed.

Since 1830 there has been a church that is led by living prophets. It has an organization - teachings, support systems, a welfare system, a law of consecration, that offers a real alternative. Not by having its members give up their jobs and move to a commune, but by offering them a value system that is not based on money. It provides a society that really cares, with spiritual and physical safety nets of all kinds. It puts self-sufficient family life at the center of society again. It spreads its self-sufficient message to the rich world and the poor world equally, sharing all the way. It asks that its members live high standards - including giving money regularly to those who are not members of the church.

So much more could be said, but there is a real alternative to the beast. This system works. It is not the kingdom of a man, it is the Kingdom of God. It is not enforced by boundaries and a police force. As Jesus said, it starts inside you.


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