Big Idea: Those who overcome must look with their ears not their eyes; to see the realities of heaven and not the seduction of the world.
Lately sunrise and sunsets from our deck look spectacular. Photographers call it the golden hour. When the orange, yellow, pink light makes the world look spectacular. Reading Revelation 13-14 casts a different light on our big blue planet. A disturbing light – certainly doesn’t paint a pleasant picture.
Our passage is a warning that something’s wrong. What I see is splendour. What I read is turmoil. There is a disconnect – something doesn’t gel!
What do I need to understand to help me process the difference between what I see and what I hear?
The message today is that in order to see this world, this life correctly, from the location of salvation then I need to look with my ears and not my eyes.
My eyes tell me splendour. My ears tell me – beware, be alert, be on guard, we’re at war.
A note about this war. It’s sneaky. It’s guerrilla warfare.
When we read the letters to the seven churches we noted that only two were facing persecution. And they were the two faithful ones. The big danger of the other 5 churches, the unfaithful churches, was compromise, not understanding their situation; not perceiving the spiritual battle vying for their very souls. The danger of being seduced and mislead.
We will see that there is a spiritual battle raging for your soul. One of the dangers of this battle may be persecution, but the prevailing danger in our situation, in our culture is compromise.
What we see is splendour/wonder. What we need to hear is war.
So my question to you today is this… Are you mainstream or are you resistance?
What we see in chapter 13 is that the language of mainstream, the language of the world is dragon.
Previously… chapter 12 Satan lost the battle in heaven and has been thrown down to earth. Result … Praise in heaven. But woe to the earth because Satan is a sore loser, he is furious (12:17). He is waging war on the witnessing church.
The challenge for the witnessing church is that our world has become Satan’s home-ground. The Blues or the Sharkies playing at Suncorp. Satan has the home ground advantage, he is the prince of the kingdom of the air; the power misleading this world, we are aliens and strangers, refugees in a hostile detention centre.
He has all the supporters cheering for him. It seems that he is the puppeteer pulling the strings on power in this world. He has you, follower of Jesus, firmly in his sights.
J.I. Packer says this, “Like it or not, each of us (as followers of Jesus) is personally at war with the devil, for the devil has personally declared war upon each of us.”
Does that sound a little over the top? Take a look at chapter 13 … The Conflict (13:1-18). In chapter 13 we will meet two beasts. The first beast comes up out of the sea.
This is the first time in 25 years that I have not lived within walking distance of the sea. When I think of the sea I’m thinking whales breeching and dolphins playing, surfing, swimming. Big blue playground.
When John’s audience thought of the sea they were thinking chaos and danger.
And that is exactly what appears out of John’s sea. v1 a beast is summoned from the sea by the dragon. The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. And this beast exhibits a dragon likeness with heads and horns and crowns. This beast is also a collage of beasts from Daniel’s vision in the OT (v2a). The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. In the book of Daniel (chapter7) these beasts came from the sea and they had power to rule on earth for a time (cf Dan 7). And this beast from the sea in chapter 13 is given power to rule (v2b). The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
But notice that it is a counterfeit power. Authority from the defeated dragon. We’ll see this unfold all through chapter 13. But there is a good example in v3. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. It mimics God’s miraculous sign, In the death and resurrection of Jesus, It’s like a surgically placed scar for show but not the cost of victory. But this sign/scar hardens the hearts of those living in rebellion against God. Cf Exodus and Pharaoh’s magicians.
Hardening people’s hearts against the one true God. And the rebellious people fall for this counterfeit power, they are in awe of the beast and worship him (v4).
People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” Those who reject God worship the beast (v8) All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. And so that we are clear this is a state of emergency, Satan, the devil has made the declaration of war (v7). It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. In our context the narrative is that God and his people, the church are against society and out of touch with reality. Toxic. Dangerous. The Bad Guys. But what our passage tells us is that the devil is against the church and his followers are blinded by his counterfeit power.
Of course the world doesn’t want to hear that. The central aspect of this war is the death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s why Satan mimics a fatal wound. It was through the death and resurrection of Jesus that the devil was defeated. It is because of this defeat that he is waging war against God’s people in this age. It is because the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus is the one thing that rescues people from his power and influence. Can you see? This is why we are on about growing followers of Jesus.
At the heart of the war, and the centre of this spiritual battle is the denial of our desperate need for Jesus. The denial that we are sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness found only in Jesus. The denial that we need God to step into our lives and rescue us. The denial that God has our best interests at heart and that to live according to his word brings fulfilment and joy.
Have you noticed that the world will tolerate and stick up for every other religion but not biblical Christianity. Islam False religions are not Satan’s opponents. But Biblical Christianity is, the witnessing church are not welcome visitors here. Possum in the garage, spider in your shoe, fly in your coke. In fact the only time the world embraces the church is when the church is shaped by the world and not the gospel, when the church speaks dragon. Spurgeon says, “The church the world admires is the church that God abhors.”
But John urges us to persevere. This should be an encouragement in our gospel outspokenness.
The power and authority of the beast is limited. Earth bound – he can only slander God (v6), It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. he can’t attack him, he has been defeated in heaven and he will be defeated on earth. His ability to wage war against God’s holy people is delegated, given to him (v5 given a mouth, 7 given power). it’s not his own power. and it is for a fixed time (v5 42 months).
Don’t lose sight of Jesus. We are secure in him (v8 not those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life) Jesus is our hope and our security. We are looking at James next term. In that book we read to “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Faithful endurance is a persevering witness to Jesus. Living according to his Word Pointing the lost to salvation in him.
So, who are you fighting for? Are you mainstream or resistance? There are only two sides – mainstream or resistance. There will only be one winning side … remember we already know the outcome. Sharkies v Bulldogs (replay tonight).
We are called to be resistance fighters … Like the French resistance up against the Nazi’s in WWII. While the first beast came from the sea, the second beast comes up out of the earth. We could describe the first beast as a fake Jesus, a counterfeit saviour. We can think of the second beast, this beast from the earth as a fake Holy Spirit, a counterfeit testifier.
The real Holy Spirit, the one and only Holy Spirit comes from heaven and points us to Jesus; and enables us to follow Jesus.
This faker, the beast from the earth (not heaven) points people not to Jesus, but a counterfeit saviour (v11-12)
Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. Notice the counterfeit nature of the second beast. He looks like a lamb, impersonating the divine, but he talks dragon. He is a dragon in lamb’s clothing (v11b above).
And again, he mimics God’s signs – fire from heaven, just as God had done in Elijah’s time for e.g.; and by his fake signs he deceives the people of the world (v14 … to deceive the inhabitants of the earth).
Holy Spirit in the book of Acts was attesting to the Apostles’ gospel preaching by signs and wonders. Pointing people to salvation through faith in Jesus.
This faker does signs and wonders, not pointing people to life but deceiving them to death. And he is not offering his followers freedom, he is binding them to false worship and idolatry (v15-17).
Again, here is another counterfeit, the mark of the beast (v16-17). This has led a lot of intrigue and conjecture.
Barcode? Tattoo? Chip?
Deut 6:4-9 helps.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
An ancient memory verse – binding the commands of God to their hands and forehead; actions and thoughts given over to God.
But here in chapter 13 is a counterfeit mark – demanding allegiance not to the one true God but to a fake, to the beast.
The number 666 is a symbol – so many people get confused by verse 18. Bankcard!? But it is a symbol. I think the most helpful way to see it is that it represents the unholy trinity. 3 in Revelation signifies wholeness, complete. 7 in Revelation is perfection, good. In 666 there is a complete (3) imperfection (6).
The mark of the beast and the number of the beast sounds so exciting, so mysterious, doesn’t it? A great title for a horror movie; heavy metal band.
But in actual fact it is boring old rejection of God. There is nothing actually exciting about sin or where it leads. Same old story written on the same old keyboard.
The mark of the beast is plain old garden variety rejection of God and his Word. And all it looks like is acceptance of and allegiance to the agenda of the world.
This false testifier says … There is good apart from God’s provision. There is wisdom apart from God’s Word.
That was the Satan’s message in the garden, and it has not changed even after all these thousands of years.
And he hasn’t changed it because it still works. Satan delivers his followers nothing but death; a sugar-coated pill of poison.
The danger for us as a church in the face of this false testifier is to start changing the teaching of the Word of God to reflect the nature of this world. Temptation to massage the message to make it sound more attractive. How can we stay on track? See with our ears, not with our eyes. Be led with our ears and not our eyes.
The prevailing message in this world says if you follow Jesus you have no life. You are a loser. Chapter 14 is… The Cure (14:1-20). Ad campaign to make farms works aware of overhead powerlines. Look up and live. John looks … this time he is not looking down on earth but up to heaven. Here is the cure for compromise. Look up and live.
John looks and sees the army of the Lamb. Symbolised by the number 144 000 They do not wear the mark of the beast because they have the Father’s name written on their foreheads (v1).
And this army is singing a deafening song at the top of their voices. It’s a celebration of biblical proportions. v2a And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. Sounds like thunder, like the roar of a massive waterfall – have you heard that, it moves you. But just as the beast sounds dragon, so God’s people sound Jesus (cf 1:15).
It is their team song and they are rejoicing in the victory that delivered them from the war of earth. And only the victors will sing it. I know the Sharks team song. I don’t even care if other teams have a team song. These singers are described as virgins (v4) – this is in a spiritual sense, they have not compromised with the world, not been unfaithful to God, but stayed spiritually pure; there is no lie in their mouths (their claim to belong to God was seen in the conduct of their lives), they are blameless (v5). No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
I once read that if you really want something you should get a picture of it and stick that picture where you will see it first thing every morning. These days you build yourself a Vision Board.
Here is our picture, vision board. VICTORY
And this victory is perpetual. There is no backing up next season; no handing back the shield. Will never be referred to as last year’s premiers.
This is on offer to any who persevere. These guys are the first-fruits (v4b). The promise of what is to come. Our guarantee. That’s what awaits the faithful, the victorious, those who do not compromise in this world. The Overcomers. There will be a day when all those who overcome will be joining in that victor’s song. Will you be there?
What about the rest of chapter 14? Three Angels – Two Harvests. After due warning, there will be a judgement day. The final trumpet, the full-time whistle.
John sees three angels. ONE Declaring the gospel (v6-8) – salvation. (Luther) ONE Declaring the defeat of God’s opponents (v8) ONE Declaring the dismal fate of all who follow the beast and reject God (v9-12) – the opposite to salvation.
The answer to Satan’s campaign of slander is the truth of the gospel and the warning of defeat and judgement.
Lots of people get offended at the teaching and preaching of hell.
But can you see here such a clear picture of God’s grace. In the face of opposition God is giving people the opportunity to turn back to him. In the face of rebellion he sent his Son to die for us so that we might be saved. He is warning people of the consequence of sustained rebellion; he is holding out the offer of salvation. He is giving us a picture of the future and a call to step out of the mainstream and join the resistance movement.
This is our message to the world. The gospel … It is clear there are only two groups of people: those for God and those against. To one there is death and judgement. To the other the promise of life and rest (v13)
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.” There is a Gospel urgency. The lost and deceived. Their minds are veiled. They don’t need keyboard warriors declaring their judgement. They need followers of Jesus to love them and tell them and show them the way to life. Soldiers who fight with the tactics of their Saviour. Who loved and served and died so that his enemies might be saved and have eternal life.
The end of chapter 14 we read that there are Two Harvests v14-16 God’s people gathered (Wheat). v17-20 God’s wrath enacted (Grapes).
Please understand that God will enact his wrath on the sin of the world. That those who do not find shelter in Jesus will bear the full weight of God’s righteous judgement. There is no other way. That’s why we need QTC. That’s why we need our church to be given to gospel shaped ministry. Three Angels, Two Harvests, One Choice. Jesus says, fight with me and live. Join the resistance movement, live out the gospel and inherit eternal life. As you enjoy sunrise and/or sunset it is a good reminder that the true splendour of this world is revealed by the Son … S O N Life is about Jesus, because apart from him there is only deceit, death and judgement.