Sermon: The Beast Rising From The Earth: Revelation 13:11-18

Old Testament Reading: Daniel 3:1–18

“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.’ Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:1–18, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 13:11-18

“Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” (Revelation 13:11–18, ESV)

Introduction

I think it would be beneficial for us to ask the same questions concerning this beast that John saw rising out of the earth that we asked last week concerning the beast that John saw rising from sea. Do you remember the questions? There were five of them, and they were these: One, when will this beast appear? Two, who 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?

When Will This Beast Appear?

The first question is, when will this beast whom John saw rising out of the earth appear?

We need not devote much time to this question, for a good deal of time was devoted to answering it in the previous sermon concerning the first beast raising from the sea. Remember that that beast – the one that John saw raising from the sea – was active in the world even when John originally penned the book of Revelation. That same beast is active in the world now, and will be active in the world until the Lord returns. In other words the sea beast symbolizes powers and entities that have been, are, and will be present in the world until the end of time, and not just some future figure.

I will not take the time to repeat the arguments that I presented in support of this view, though they would all apply to this second beast as well, for the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth are contemporaries. The beast from the earth works for the beast from the sea. Verse 12 says that the second beast “exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed” (Revelation 13:12, ESV).

The powers symbolized by the first beast from the sea are present in the world during the whole church age (symbolized by the time frame of 42 months, or 1,260 days, or a time, times and half a time), and so too are the powers symbolized by the second beast from the earth. These two – the powers symbolized by the first beast and the powers symbolized by the second – work together in their assault against the people of God living in this world.

So, when will this beast whom John saw rising out of the earth appear? The beast from the earth was present and active in John’s day, has been active in the world, and will be until the end of time.

Who Does This Beast Symbolize?

Secondly, who does this beast from the earth symbolize?

It would be helpful to remember that the first beast – the beast from the sea – symbolizes political powers that persecute. This is clear from the obvious connection that exists between the sea beast of Revelation 13 and the four beasts described in Daniel 7. The sea beast of Revelation 13 is a combination of the four beasts of Daniel 7. Those four beasts symbolized successive kingdoms that would rise and fall and persecute the people of God along the way. The beast of Revelation 13, being a hybrid of all four signifies, therefore, not one particular kingdom, but all kingdoms that persecute through political power. This beast, remember, “was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Revelation 13:7, ESV). The original readers of the book of Revelation would have thought of Rome and the persecutions endured by Christians there. You and I might think of North Korea or the Islamic State and our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer under those oppressive powers. The sea beast of Revelation 13 is as active in the world today as it was in the days of the early church. It symbolizes political powers that persecute the people of God.

And with that in mind it is important to recognize that the second beast – the one that John saw “rising out of the earth” – is closely connected to the first that rose from the sea. Not only are they contemporaries (active in the world at the same time), they are also colleagues (working towards the same goal).

We are told in verse 12 that the beast from the earth, “exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence” (Revelation 13:12, ESV). Some English Bibles say, “on its behalf” instead of “in its presence” – the beast from the earth, “exercises all the authority of the first beast on its behalf” –  it seems to me that this is the better translation. The Greek word refers to a position in front of or before an entity, and so it is understandable that the translators of the ESV have chosen the phrase, “in its presence”. But the the word might also mean to do something “on behalf” of someone – to go in front of them, as it were, to act on their behalf. Notice that the translators of the ESV have rendered the phrase, “in it presence”, but the have also indicated in a footnote the possible translation, “on its behalf”.  The meaning is that the second beast – the beast from the earth – carries out the authority of the first beast from the sea. The second beast works on behalf of the first. The beast from the earth is a kind of minister who serves the beast from the sea, carrying out it wishes.

If the first beast symbolizes political powers that persecute, the second beast symbolizes the political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents who carry out the persecution of the church and the deception of the ungodly.

These two powers should not be hard for us to identify in the world. It really is quite simple to understand the way in which these two powers, though different from one another, do indeed correspond to one another and cooperate.

I want for you to imagine a situation where there is obvious, organized, and systematic persecution of Christ’s people taking place within a given society. Here I am not talking about isolated, random, and sporadic instances of persecution where an individual or small group decides to treat Christians badly for a time. But I am thinking of those instances where persecution is very deliberate being organized by those who have real political power. Think of the kind of persecution experienced by the Jews (and many Christians too) under Nazi Germany. Think of the kind of persecution experienced by Christians under Nero, Domitian and Trajan in Rome. And think of the kind of persecution endured by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego under Nebuchadnezzar. These are examples of obvious, organized, and systematic persecution motivated by those with real political power.

Now think of this, when persecution of this kind flares up within a society it is not Hitler or Nero or Nebuchadnezzar who carry out the acts of persecution, but their ministers go in front of them to do their bidding and to work on their behalf. These are the powers symbolized by the beast from the land. This second beast symbolizes the political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents in the carrying out of the persecution of the church and the deception of the ungodly.

Do you see, then, how the first beast from the sea and the second beast from the land do correspond to one another. They are contemporaries and colleagues. The beast from the sea represents those political powers that persecute, but those powers typically remain at a distance from those they persecute. The beast from the earth represents those who get their hands dirty, if you will, who apply the political, religious, and economic pressure to the people of God who refuse to compromise and, through these pressures, deceive the non-elect, leading them away to false worship.

Where Does This Beast Have Authority?

Thirdly we ask, where does this beast have authority?

I do not wish to linger very long here either, but I think it is important to see that this beast from the land, just like the beast from the sea, exercises his authority in all the earth. Look again at verse 12: “It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed” (Revelation 13:12, ESV). Also in verse 14 we are told that this beast “deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:14, ESV).

The beast from the land does not function as a precise symbol having as its referent one particular persecuting nation or one particular persecuting person, but to persecuting powers more generally and broadly. The authority of this beast can be observed throughout the earth.

What Does This Beast Do?

Fourthly we ask, what does this beast do?

We have already established that, in general, this second beast acts on behalf of the first. But here we ask, what in particular does he do? What are his methods? What is his objective?

First of all, we should recognize that this beast does try at first to deceive men and women to abandon the true worship of God and to commit idolatry.

Notice the appearance of this second beast. In verse 11 we are told that he looks like a lamb. Again, we have here an imitation of Christ. Do you remember how the first beast imitated Christ so as to function as a counterfeit? In 13:3 we were told that on of the heads of the first beast, “seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast” (Revelation 13:3, ESV). The first beast functions as a counterfeit imitating Christ in regards to death and resurrection.  But this second beast also imitates Christ functioning as a counterfeit to him. This one looks like a lamb. Remember that Christ was described in chapter 5 as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:6, ESV). Now, this second beast is described as a lamb. We should take note of this, for something of his method is revealed to us here. When this beast does his work he does not at first appear to be a beast at all, but a harmless lamb, gentle, meek and mild.

This beast has two horns. Once everything is considered I think it is best to see these two horns as corresponding to and countering the two faithful witness of Revelation 11. The two witnesses were faithful to proclaim gospel truth even in the face of intense persecution. This beast, as we will see, uses words, but he speaks lies and uses them as a weapon to deceive.

Notice that this beast “speaks like a dragon”. Remember that the dragon was identified in 12:9 as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). This second beast, who symbolizes political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents who carry out the persecution of the church and the deception of the ungodly on behalf of the first beast, is, like the dragon, deceptive. These political, religious, and economic entities that persecute to after look nice on the surface. They have smooth speech. They seem to care. They claim to love. They offer hope. They appear to do good. But when examined closely they show themselves to be wholeheartedly opposed to God and to his people.

Notice that this second beast from the earth is able to preform “great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of [or “on behalf” of] the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:13–14, ESV).

Here we begin to see clearly that this beast is a false prophet. In fact that is what this beast is called later in the book of Revelation. In 19:20 we read, “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence [or “on its behalf”] 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” (Revelation 19:20, ESV). Here the second beast is called “the false prophet”. The same can be said of 16:13 and 20:10. Clearly, this beast from the land is the false prophet. He is not called by that name here, but his true nature is reviled via symbol.

Notice that this beast is allowed to preform “great signs”. He is a counterfeit of Christ. He is a counterfeit of the prophet Moses. Do you remember how when the prophet Moses preformed signs before Pharaoh, “Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts” (Exodus 7:11, ESV). Moses put down his staff and it became a snake, and then servants of Pharaoh did the same. How they did it, I do not know. I assume it was an allusion. The point is that they functioned as a counterfeit to the prophet Moses. Do you see that Pharaoh was a manifestation of the first beast and his servants a manifestation of the second They were false prophets who deceived the people.

This beast is even allowed to make “fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people” (Revelation 13:13, ESV). This should remind us of the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal that is described for us in 1 Kings 18. Do you remember it? there stood the true prophet Elijah and there stood the 450 false prophets of Baal. An alter was erected by each and a bull was sacrificed upon the alter and the prophets were to call upon their God and the true God would send fire from heaven to consume the offering and the alter. The prophets of Baal danced around the alter for hours, cutting themselves, as was their custom, but nothing happened.

“And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36–39, ESV)

But here the beast is said to be allowed to make “fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people” (Revelation 13:13, ESV). The meaning is that false prophets will have success in the world in the time between Christ’s first and second comings.

What is symbolized here in the book of Revelation is said plainly elsewhere in the New Testament. Jesus himself told his followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15–16, ESV). In Matthew 24, which has been quoted very often in this sermons series because it is there that Jesus speaks of how things will be in the world between his ascension and his return, Jesus says, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matthew 24:11, ESV). In verse 24 he says, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, ESV).

I want for you to recognize that it is those within the church who are threatened by the false prophets. They are active, not only out in the world. They deceive, not only those living in the world. But they threaten the church. They arise within Christ’s church, seeking to deceive even those who profess faith in Christ.

Listen to Peter’s words: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…” (2 Peter 2:1, ESV).

And remember Christ’s rebuke delivered to the church in Thyatita in Revelation 2:18: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20, ESV). This church had already been compromised by this beast from the land.

The same can be said of the church that was in Pergamum. Christ rebuked them, saying, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:14–16, ESV). They too had been compromised by the beast from the land, in this instance, by the false teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Do you see that false prophets and false teachers have always threatened God’s people. They are able to lead people astray into false worship. They are able to deceive men and women to commit idolatry, that is, to false worship

To speak very bluntly, Christians today are very gullible and naive to the threat of false teaching within the church. They assume that if a man is called pastor, then he is to be trusted. If he reads a few words from the Bible in his sermon, then what he says must be “biblical”. If he is funny or eloquent or hip, then he is listened to. So many who claim to be Christ followers today do follow men who teach what is false, following them like dumb sheep going to the slaughter.

And how can we know whether a man be true or false? We have God’s word. He is to be tested by God’s word. Does he say what God has said? Does he teach God’s truth? Does he order the church and his ministry according to God’s directives? Does he himself meet God’s qualifications? Or has he gone his own way, having decided for himself what he ought to do and say?

Consider the task that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel, the true prophet, was to confront the false prophets of his day. God called him, saying,

“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!… ‘They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken? Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God.’” (Ezekiel 13:6–8, ESV).

There are many in our day who say, “thus says the Lord” and then proceed to say what the Lord has not said, or fail to say what he has said. Brothers we must beware of the of this beast from the sea who at first comes to us as a wolf in sheep clothing, “to deceive those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:14, ESV).

Secondly, we should recognize that when the beast is unable to, through deception, pursued men to abandon the true worship of God and commit idolatry, he does then persecute them. There are two forms of persecution mentioned in this text. The first is physical, and the second is economic.

Look at verse 15: “And it [the second beast] was allowed to give breath to the image of the [first] beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.” (Revelation 13:15, ESV)

Clearly it is the story from Daniel 3 of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that stands behind this passage that we are considering to today.

What does the beast from the earth do? It compels the earth dwellers to make an image of the first beast – the beast from the sea who symbolizes political powers that persecute – so that men would bow down to it and worship it. And what did Nebuchadnezzar do? He set up an image of gold so that his subjects would come to bow before it to worship it.

Now please understand that when Daniel 3:1 says,  “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold…” (Daniel 3:1, ESV), it does not mean that King Nebuchadnezzar made the image himself. No, his administrators certainly carried it out. And they also did not build the statue themselves, but compelled the people of that land to build it. Do you see that Nebuchadnezzar was a manifestation of the beast from the sea and his officials – “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces” (Daniel 3:2, ESV) – were a manifestation of the beast that John saw rising from the earth? They were the ones who saw to it that the statue was built! And they would be the one to see to it that it was worshipped by all in Babylon.

Let us consider again the beast form the earth of Revelation 13. What does this beast do after the image is erected? “It was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Revelation 13:15, ESV).

This also echoes the situation in Daniel 3.

“Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace’” (Daniel 3:3–6, ESV).

If the image were alive – if it were truly a god worthy to be worshipped – then it should speak for itself. But this was no god at all. It was merely the creation of man, and therefore it was dependent upon man, its creator, to speak for him. “The herald”, one of Nebuchadnezzar’s most trusted ministers, no doubt, “proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples… when you hear the sound of the… music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” And what was the threat? “Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

The beast from the earth in Revelation 13 symbolizes the kind of power. It symbolizes those political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents who carry out the persecution of the church when the faithful refuse to enter into idolatry and abandon the true worship of God.

Notice that this beast uses, not only physical persecution, but also economic sanctions in its quest to nudge men and women towards idolatry.

Look at verse 16: “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16–18, ESV).

Friends, the mark on the right hand or the forehead is not to be taken literally. It is not a physical mark, but is symbolic. The mark on the right hand or the forehead indicates ownership and allegiance. For one to take the mark of the beast one must pledge allegiance to the beast, bow in worship before it, confessing it as lord.

Remember that those who pledge allegiance to Christ, bow in worship before him, confessing him as Lord, have been marked by him. They are the ones who are “sealed” from every tribe of the sons of Israel (Revelation 7:4). Turn over to 14:1. It is no accident that immediately after the mark of the beast is mentioned in 13:18 we read, “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1, ESV). Certainly this is not to be taken literally either, but it a symbol ownership and allegiance. These who have God’s name written on their foreheads are those who belong to him, and he to them.

All who are of the world, who trust in the world, who bow before Caesar, saying, “Caesar is Lord” taken upon themselves the mark of the beast. All who are of Christ, who trust in Christ, who bow before Christ, saying, “Jesus is Lord!”, are “sealed” by him and have “his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads”.

Notice that it only those who have the mark of the beast who are allowed to buy and sell. The mark of the beast, though it is not a literal physical mark, but symbolic and spiritual, may from time to time manifest itself in physical and tangible ways.

There is evidence that during the reign of Decius (249 A.D.) and Diocletian (303 A.D.) that certificates were issue to those were loyal to the emperor and participated in the required rituals of the imperial religion. To have a certificate would mean that you could buy ad sell and enjoy life within the society. To lack it put you at risk. You would not be free to trade, and you may be in danger of imprisonment or even death. Here the mark of the beast took on a physical form, and so it might in the future too.

I remember a brother from Turkey telling me that the drivers licenses indicated your religion. If you were a Muslim it was easy to get a job. If your license said Christian, it was far more difficult. I’m not sure if this is still true today, but it is an example of a physical mark of the beast.

I do find it almost amusing to watch Christians who hold to the futuristic and literalistic interpretation of the book of Revelation freak out when there is talk of new payment method involving a chip implanted in the skin, or some such thing. Is that the mark of the beast? No! Not unless you are required to denounce Christ, or to bow in worship before Caesar, or to do or say some other thing that would amount to a denial of our Lord to get it! Then it would be a physical manifestation of the mark of the beast.

Verse 18 reveals to us the number of the beast. “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”

Last week I mentioned that this number might refer to the Emperor Nero, who was notorious for his mistreatment of Christians, who died in 68 A.D. This theory is based upon the method of assigning numerical value to the Hebrew letters of Nero’s name. When you add them up they equal 666.

I wish back away from this view a little. If the number 666 does indeed have reference to Nero I think it is probably of secondary significance. A much more straight forward interpretation of this number involves seeing it as then number of sinful and fallen man – a number that communicates total imperfection. The number which communicates completion or perfection in the scriptures is seven.The number of God and of his Christ would be 777. Here we have trinity of seven’s, if you will. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – 777. But the number of the beast is the number of man, or the number of imperfection, repeated three times over. We have here a trinity of sixes – a trinity of imperfection. It should be recognized that three figures have been introduced to us so far who oppose God and his people – the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. These three are a false trinity who seek to deceive men and women to worship them instead of God.

The number 666 is meant to impress upon the reader just how foolish it is to go the way of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. You’ll be sorely disappointed with what you find there. They are incomplete and imperfect. They are creatures of God, and not the Creator, who in six days made all things in heaven and on earth, and on the seventh day did enter into his holy rest.

Do not take this mark, friends, by turning from the worship of the one true to the worship of idols. Worship the Creator only, and not the creation. This calls for wisdom.

Why Does This Beast Do What He Does?

The fifth and last question is this: why does this beast from the earth do what he does? It is because he is Satanic. He is minister of the first beast, who is a minster of the dragon himself. Let us not be deceived.

 

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Sermon: The Beast Rising From The Sea: Revelation 13:1-10

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)

Introduction

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.”

Application

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.

Sermon: The Accuser Barred From Heaven And Cast To Earth: Revelation 12:7-12

Old Testament Reading: Job 1:1-12

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:1–12, ESV)

Sermon Text: Revelation 12:7-17

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 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!’ And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 12:7–17, ESV)

Introduction

Remember that in Revelation 12:1-6 John described for us a sign that he saw in heaven. And we discovered that the sign he saw revealed something to us about the ancient and spiritual battle that rages in the invisible realm beyond our senses. The battle is very old, stretching all the way back to the time of the fall of man. And the battle is very real. Though we do not see it, we do see the effects of it. This spiritual battle manifests itself in the world even today. The evil that we see in the world – the trials and tribulations that God’s people face – are visible manifestations of this ancient cosmic conflict. Continue reading

Sermon: The Dragon, The Woman, And Her Child: Revelation 12:1-6

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 3

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’ To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—‘ therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 12:1-6

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:1–6, ESV).

Introduction

If we were to step back from the book of Revelation for a moment to ponder all that it has revealed to us so far, here is one question we might ask: why is the world as it is?

Why are there two kingdoms in the world today, one that belongs to God, wherein he is worshipped and served by his people as Lord, while those in the other remain diametrically opposed to his rule? Why is the world this way? Continue reading

Sermon: The Kingdom Of This World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ: Revelation 11:15-19

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 2 

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 11:15-19

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’ Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:15–19, ESV).

Introduction

I wrote a little poem to summarize this passage. It goes like this:

The book of Revelation has done it again.
It has taken us to the time of the end.

When the first six trumpets did resound,
they revealed how things would be in the hear and the now.

But when the seventh trumpet by us was heard,
it showed how things will be after Christ’s return.

And what a marvelous sight to behold!
All things belong to Christ, his people are safely home!

While the angels and saints rejoice on that day,
the wicked do wish they could run away.

For it is then the wrath of the Lamb will come.
The nations raged! But now is the time for the dead to be judged.

Then the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of Christ.
No more sin, nor suffering, even death will be silenced!

Oh Christian, take comfort in these God inspired words.
May they move you to have Christ as Lord, today, and until he returns. Continue reading