Old Testament Reading: Daniel 7:1–14
“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.’” (Daniel 7:1–12, ESV)
New Testament Reading: Revelation 13:1-10
“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:1–10, ESV)
Here we have a transition in the book of Revelation.
Chapter 12 focused upon “the great dragon…who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). He was identified as the primary spiritual opponent of God, the Christ, and the people of God living upon the earth. His objective since the fall of man has been to devour God’s people so as to consume God’s Christ. This he attempted to do, and this he thought he accomplished when Christ was crucified. But Christ rose from the dead, ascended to the Father and was seated upon his heavenly throne. The dragon was then barred from heaven and confined to the earth. John heard a heavenly voice saying, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV). What did the dragon do having be barred from heaven upon Christ’s session? He immediately resumed his pursuit and persecution of God’s people. “He pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (Revelation 12:13, ESV), and he made “war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, ESV). God’s promise to his people is that he will nourish them and preserve them spiritually, though they will indeed experience warfare in this world..
Clearly the focus shifts in chapter 13 away from the dragon to two beasts. John sees a vision of the first beast rising from the sea in 13:1. And in 13:11 he describes a beast rising from the earth who does the bidding of the first beast. The shift in focus is obvious, but I would like to draw your attention to the way in which chapters 12 and 13 are connected.
Remember that chapter 12 concluded with the words, “And he [the dragon] stood on the sand of the sea” (Revelation 12:17, ESV). It is important that you visualize this. Imagine this ferocious and enraged dragon standing upon the seashore. And then immediately we read “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads” (Revelation 13:1, ESV). When we come to 13:11 we will hear John say, “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11, ESV).
The meaning is this: The dragon, who symbolizes Satan himself, is devoted to the pursuit are persecution of God’s people – he is committed to making “war on the… offspring [of the woman], on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, ESV) – but he will wage this war, not always in a direct way, but through these two beasts. And so there he stands on the seashore summoning the beast from the sea (who looks like him) and the beast from the land (who talks like him) so that they might do his bidding in the world, to war against all who belong to God and to Christ.
Today we will consider the first of the two beasts. As we consider Revelation 13:1-10 we will ask five questions. One, when will this beast appear? Two, who or what does this beast symbolize? Three, where does this beast have authority? Four, what does this beast do? And five, why does this beast do what he does? Having answered these questions we will be well prepared to ask, how should this passage of holy scripture affect my life today?
When Will This Beast Appear?
So when will this beast appear? Truthfully, it would be better to put the question this way: “when did this beast appear?” But if I put the question that way from the beginning it would have tipped you off to the answer prematurely. The answer is that this beast was active in the world even when John originally penned this letter to the seven churches in the first century A.D. This same beast is active in the world now, and will be active in the world until the Lord returns.
Again, I must briefly address the futurist view of the beast of Revelation 13, which is most popular today. The futurist, when asked, when will this beast appear?, says “in the future during the last three and a half years of human history before the Lord returns in judgment”. I’m almost tired of having to address the futurist position, but the view is so prominent within evangelicalism today that I must say something about it. I refer you to previous sermons and previous classes offered at Emmaus for a detailed explanation as to why I believe it is wrong to view the book of Revelation as being mainly about the future and not about the state of affairs in the world today. For now I will simply draw your attention to what this text says and also its relationship to the passages that have come before it.
Notice that in verse 5 we are specifically told that “the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Revelation 13:5, ESV).
I’ve already established in previous sermons that this three and a half year period of time is not to to be taken literally, but is symbolic for the time between Christ’s first and second comings. This three and a half year period of time is sometimes called 42 months (3.5 years x 12 months). Sometimes it is referred to as 1,260 days (3.5 years x 360 days per year according to ancient custom of measuring a year). And sometimes it is referred to as a time, times and half a times (1 year + 2 years + 1/2 a year). This three and a half period is symbolic of the period of time where those who belong to Christ will suffer tribulation in the world. And when will the people of God suffer tribulation in the world? It is not in the future only, but in the past, present, and future. It is terrible myth to say that God’s people will not experience tribulation in the world. That contradicts the historical record, and it contradicts the scriptures. Christ himself spoke his disciples saying, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV)? Friends, this is the reality that has been symbolized over and over again in the book of Revelation, but in different ways. On the one hand, God’s people will have tribulation, but on the other hand, we are to take courage in Christ because he has overcome the world. This is the situation – preservation through tribulation – portrayed in each scene designated by the time frame of 42 months, or 1,260 days, or time, times, and half a time.
Look with me (one last time) at the five references to this three and a half year period found in Revelation chapters 11 through 13, and please notice the common theme.
It was in chapter 11 verses 1 through 2 that we were told of a heavenly temple that was measured and protected by God while the courtyard was left unmeasured and vulnerable on earth to the trampling of the nations. The church is the temple, remember. She is simultaneously perfectly secure and yet vulnerable to persecution in the world. How long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? 42 months.
After this we immediately encountered two witnesses. These witness, who were also called “two lamp stands” and two “olive trees” symbolized the church in her witnessing role. After they fulfilled their task thy were killed and the nations rejoiced over them, but they were raised from the dead and caught up to God. How long did these witnesses witness? How long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? They fulfilled their task while suffering persecution for 1,260 days, being ultimately preserved by God.
And then in chapter 12 we were introduced to the woman who gave birth to the male child. She too symbolized God’s people in every age. And after she gave birth we were told that she “fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished…” (Revelation 12:6, ESV). The wilderness would be a place of testing and tribulation, but also a place of preservation. How long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? The texts says1,260 days.
Later in chapter 12 we were reintroduced to this woman being nourished in the wilderness to learn more about what she would endure there. She was pursued by the dragon who attempted to drown her in a flood of lies and deception, but she was preserved by God in that wilderness place. And how long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? She was “nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Revelation 12:14, ESV).
And finally we come to the last reference to this symbolic three and a half year period here in 13:5 where we read, “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority… (Revelation 13:5, ESV). How long will the beast be permitted to do this? We are told that it will be for 42 months, which should take our minds back to the first mention of this three and a half year period where the temple was said to be measured and protected and yet trampled for 42 months.
The time in which the beast is active is the same time in which the women and her offspring will be pursued and preserved which is the same period of time in which the witnesses will witness which is the same time in which temple will be both measured and yet exposed to trampling.
I’ve presented you with reasons for viewing this period of time as symbolic in previous sermons. I’ve explained where these numbers come form (from the OT and also from historical events) and why they serve as effective symbols communicating the idea of a time of tribulation for the people of God and also preservation. I do not wish to repeat those arguments here but to simply draw your attention to fact that book of Revelation recapitulates. In chapters 11 through 13 alone we have looked upon the entire time between Christ’s first and second comings (the church age) from many different points of view.
So, when did this beast from the sea appear? Well, we know that it was present in John day. In the narrative of Revelation it arose from the sea after Satan was barred from heaven and thrown to the earth. This happened when Christ sat down upon his heavenly throne after his death, resurrection, and ascension. There is nothing at all in the text that would suggest that this beast will only be present sometime in our future.
More can be said, but for now let us simply recognize that this beast from the sea has been present and active in the world at least from the time of Christ’s ascension to his heavenly throne.
Who Or What Does This Beast Symbolize?
Secondly, we must answer the question, who or what does this beast symbolize? The answer is this: the sea beast of Revelation 13 symbolizes political powers that persecute.
Notice the description of the beast in verses 1 and 2. John writes,
“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.” (Revelation 13:1–2, ESV)
Those familiar with the Old Testament scriptures will immediately recognize that this beast is a combination of the beasts of Daniel chapter 7 which was read at the beginning of this sermon. Remember that Daniel (who ministered from approximately 600 – 540 B.C.) saw a vision similar to that of John’s where “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another” (Daniel 7:2–3, ESV). He then describes the beasts.
“The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings… a second one, like a bear…. and behold, another, like a leopard… After this [he] saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. [He] considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:4–8, ESV).
Later in Daniel 7 an interpretation is given concerning the symbolism of these creatures, and we are told in a most direct way that each beast represents a kingdom that would rise and fall in the future (from Daniel’s perspective). The fourth kingdom would be far greater and far more fierce than the first three. Though Daniel and his original audience did not know the names of all these kingdoms, we do now that this prophesy has been fulfilled.
The beasts of Daniel 7 symbolize the rise and fall of the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and lastly the Romans. These kingdoms would oppose God and the people of God, but God would have victory over them and judge them. More than that, it would be in the time of the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) that “one like a son of man” would appear. He would come “to the Ancient of Days” and be “presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV). What does this prophesy describe except the resurrection, ascension, and session of Christ at the Fathers right hand.
The meaning of the vision of Daniel 7, therefore, is that though powerful kingdoms will rise and fall, and though these kingdom will indeed war against God and persecute his people, God sits enthroned in heaven. He is Lord of all creation. He will judge these kingdoms in due time. And he will establish his kingdom beginning with the arrival of the Christ and culminating in his second coming.
This is not a sermon on Daniel 7. If it were we would spend much more time on that text. For now simply recognize, first of all, that the beasts of Daniel 7 symbolize political powers that persecute God’s people. Therefore, the beast of Revelation 13 represents something similar to what the beasts of Daniel 7 symbolized, namely kingdoms, or political powers that oppose God and persecute the people of God.
But we should also notice that the beast of Revelation 13 it is not exactly like any of the four beasts of Daniel 7, but is a combination of the four. This tips us off to the fact that this beast does not represent one particular kingdom, but all of the political powers used by Satan to persecute the saints throughout the church age. Remember that this beast will be active, not for a brief time, but for the whole time between Christ’s first and second comings. This beast will be active for 42 months, or, a times, time and half a time, that language also being drawn from Daniel to describe the last days which span from Christ’s first coming on to the consummation.
So when the seven churches who were living Asia Minor in 90A.D. received this letter from John and read of the sea beast of Revelation 13, what came to mind? Did they think, I wonder when this beast will arise sometime in the distant future? No, they thought of Rome! They remembered the persecutions of Nero some 30 years earlier. They thought of the persecutions of Domitian that were currently flaring up around them. They thought of the opposition that they faced even in their home towns from political powers. These persecutions were clearly alluded to in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
And the same can be said for the Christ followers living in every age after Christ’s ascension to the right hand of the Father. Indeed, from the time of the fall of man this has been a tactic of the evil one. He has used political powers to persecute the people of God for eons, and it will continue on to the time of the end.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been studying John Bunyan’s, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Lord willing, we will begin a study of that book in the Emmaus Essentials hour beginning on October the 22nd. I almost feel compelled to beg you to come to that class and to bring your children, especially your teens. The book is an allegory of the Christian life and it is filled with rich spiritual insights. John Bunyan lived in the seventeenth century. He was, to use terminology that is common today, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in a time and place when it was dangerous to be a Reformed Baptist Pastor. He wrote most of the Pilgrims Progress from prison. He spent 12 years in prison because he would not conform to the church of England, but continued to preach without a license as a non-conformist. At that time the church and state were not separate, and the church would often use the power of the state to persecute those who would not conform to their view. The Roman Catholic church did the same thing in the days following the Protestant Reformation.
Very many examples can be given from history where those with political power persecute the people of God. Ironically, sometimes it is even those who claim to be Christian who are guilty of such things. This has been true in the past, it is true of today, and it will be true on to consummation. One of the tactics of the evil one is to use political and worldly powers to put pressure on Christ’s church so that she might compromise in her faith.
Some say that the beast from the sea in Revelation 13 is to be identified with the person whom John calls the “Antichrist” in 1 and 2 John. Some have also made a connection between the sea beast and the person that Paul calls “the man of sin”. And actually, this view is not altogether wrong so long as we remember that John, while a spoke of the Antichrist who would arise at the end of time, also said that many antichrists would come and that they were even present in his day. He wrote, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18, ESV). The same “already, and not yet” principle can be seen in Paul’s teaching concerning the, so-called, “man of sin”. Paul wrote, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:7–8, ESV). So in Paul’s words the lawless man of sin will come at the end of time and will be struck down by Jesus at his second coming, but even in his day the “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work”. So in John’s day many antichrists had already come, but the Antichrist would not come until the end of time. Similarly the “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work” in Paul’s day, the man of lawlessness would not appear util the end of time.
I think it is right that we view the beast of Revelation 13 in the same way. This beast was present in the world even as John wrote the book of Revelation. This beast is present in the world now. And this beast (representing political powers that persecute) will indeed be present until the Lord returns, at which time he will be fully and finally judged.
Revelation 19:17-21 describes this event:
“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army [Christ and his people]. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh” (Revelation 19:17–21, ESV).
The beast of Revelation 13 symbolizes political powers that persecute, past, present and future.
We have a few questions remaining, and I will answer them quickly.
Where Does This Beast Have Authority?
The third question is this: where does this beast have authority? The answer is that this beast has authority over all the earth.
Look at verse 7:
“Also [the beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:7–8, ESV).
What Does This Beast Do?
Fourthly, what does this beast do. We have already indicated that the beast represents political powers that persecute, but more is said than this. The beast also seeks to deceive people and to lead them to false worship as he blasphemes the name of God.
Look at verses 3-6:
“One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13:3–6, ESV)
What does the text mean when it says, “One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.”
I will make three brief observations about this.
One, there seems to an imitation of Christ taking place here. Christ was described in 5:6 as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:6, ESV). Here the beasts seems to have recovered from a mortal wound. Its as if the beast presents itself as an alternative to Christ, saying “trust me and not him!”
Two, it is interesting to note that though the Emperor Nero, who was a most wicked man, committed suicide in 68 A.D. there was even up to the time of the writing of the book of Revelation a wide spread rumor that Nero was really not dead but had fled to Parthia and that he would return leading the Parthian army to reconquer Rome and to reestablish his rule. It is possible that the Nero myth stands behind the image of the mortally wounded head which was healed. The argument for this view will be strengthened next week as we consider the number 666 which is probably symbolic of the Emperor Nero.
Three, I wonder if the reference to the mortally wounded but healed head has something to do with the way in which kings rise and then fall after which another king rises to take his place. The same can be said for kingdoms. Kingdoms rise and fall and then another rises again. There has been a kind of resurrection that happens throughout the history of the world as kingdoms come and go and come again. The Daniel 7 passages also seems to allude to this phenomenon.
It is no wonder that men and women are deceived to trust in these kingdoms and to worship the gods of these kingdoms instead of Christ. These seem to be so powerful and ultimately invincible, especially when compared to the kingdom of God in this world, which is so humble, small, and comparatively weak. Compare, for example, the church of God in America today to the power and might of United States of America. The church seems very weak and vulnerable, and the political power seems so strong. God’s word is here providing us with a different perspective on the matter.
But notice what the beast does. He leads men and woman to worship the dragon and not Christ. Verse 4: “And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4, ESV). Indeed, even many in our day who call themselves Christians have been led astray to put their hope ultimately in political powers instead of in Christ and his kingdom.
And notice that the beast also blasphemes against God and against his dwelling. It is well known that the Roman Emperors by the time of Domitian made a habit of demanding that worship be offered up to them as if they were God’s. This is the hight of blasphemy. Political powers can tend in this direction.
Why Does The Beast Do What He Does?
Lastly we ask, why does the beast do what he does? The answer will be most brief: He does what he does being empowered by the dragon to do it. The beast from the sea and the beast from the earth are instruments and ministers of he dragon, who is “the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”
So how should this affect us?
Actually, the text provides us with the application. Look at verses 9 and 10: “If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:9–10, ESV).
The meaning is this: God is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world. And he has decreed and will providentially permit even the suffering of his people. We are trust God in this world! We are to endure, which means to bear up under difficult circumstances. We are to persevere in the faith even in the face of extreme persecution.
I do believe that one of the reasons Christians today have such a difficult time properly interpreting the book of Revelation is that we have not experienced much in the way of persecution. It is largely foreign to us. We read about it sometimes. But to many Christians in our land it seems like something that belongs to a bygone era. I do believe that if we knew persecution (and also if we knew the Old Testament) the book of Revelation would make more sense to us. This ridiculous and idiotic teaching that God would never allow his saints to suffer tribulation really does make the book of Revelation hard to understand (if the teaching is believed), for that is what the book describes! It describes the bride of Christ under assault, and it calls the Christian to endure and to persevere in faith, trusting always in Christ.
Buy yourself a copy of Foxes Book of Martyrs and read it. Go to persecution.com, which is the website of Voice of the Martyrs and look around. Subscribe to Heart Cry Missionary Societies news letter so that you might be aware of what is going on in the world today, especially as it pertains to world missions. And simply grow in your understanding of church history! If you do these things you will not be so quick to believe that view which says that the beast from the sea will arrive only in the last three and a half years of human history and that the church will be raptured by then, for God would never allow his people to suffer tribulation. What a ridiculous idea that is.
Brothers and sisters, we should pray for the persecuted church around the world today. We should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are threatened by political powers with economic sanctions, imprisonment, and even death, that they would indeed bear up under the sufferings and remain true to Christ, persevering in the faith. And we should do some soul searching of our own, asking, would I bear up under the pressure? Lord help us. Make us faithful servants of yours in this world.
Secondly, I would like to say a word about politics. It seems to me that there is a ditch on both sides of the road into which Christians may fall.
On left side there is the ditch is naïveté. Here the Christian has too high of a view of government and politics and assumes that men are basically good and trusts that when these basically good men gain power they will do what is good for all. Indeed, there are some “good men and women” (I speak in relative terms, of course), but we should forget that governments and rulers have historically tended towards self-service and oppression.
But the ditch on the right side of the road is the ditch of extreme pessimism and disengagement. Here the Christian assumes that every government and every political figure is a manifestation of the beast that arises out of the sea. Here the Christian assumes the worst always. This is an umbilical view. It is also a view that is inconsistent with history. Thanks be to God, not all government persecute God’s people. By the mercy of God some do facilitate peace and freedom to worship. When we find ourselves living in such a society – a society with a government like the one described in Romans 13 – we should rejoice and give thanks to God for it.
Brothers and sisters, we are commanded to pray for those who govern. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, ESV).
And we are to respect those who govern over us. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7, ESV).
But neither should we be naïve. If and when persecution does come “let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19, ESV).
Lastly, let us not live according to the appearance of things but according to the truth revealed for us in God’s word. If we walk according to sight – what we can perceive with our natural eyes – the surely we will abandon Christ and go the way of the world. The world seems so much more powerful, pleasant and even wise. But if we walk by faith, believing instead upon God’s word, then we will certainly forsake the world and follow hard after Christ.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, ESV).
Brothers and sisters, let us walk by faith and not by sight.