Saturday, December 17, 2016

Revelation Advent -- December 17

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. (Revelation 13:11-12, ESV)

The dragon (Satan) brings up the third creature of the unholy trinity, the earth beast, who is later known as the false prophet. The earth beast counterfeits the work of John the Baptist and the prophets that speak in power through the Holy Spirit. He directs worship to the sea beast through counterfeit miracles.

God's people are marked with a seal. The beast has his own mark, the mark of the beast. It is described in Revelation as the number of a man, 666. Personally I have been curious about this number. For the first audience of Revelation, the seven churches in Asia Minor, whether Revelation was written around 90 AD (the earliest written traditions say so, and it thought so by most scholars), or written before 70 AD (a popular idea among others that study Revelation), it is very possible they thought of Emperor Nero, because of some popular ways of playing with the letters of people's names and adding up the letter values. Nero and other later Roman emperors demanded worship. The cultic emperor worship fit as a prototype for the earth beast described in Revelation. In any case, those who serve the beast take on his mark.

What is the mark like when it is applied to people? Just as the mark of God (his seal) on his people is invisible, so probably is the mark of the beast is invisible. This mark allows people to do commerce and it could take various forms throughout history. For those who crave material comfort, they can become slaves to personal credit debt. The number could be symbolized by their credit score, or credit card account numbers. As in the previous blog entry,

I think people need to think outside of the typical parameters in popular discussions, sermons, and novels on end-times. We need to ask the question, what do I desire, crave? Is it a nice home that I can't afford? New cars? Gadgets? Games? Sports? Do I control my spending, or does my spending control me? Am I tithing? Am I going beyond the tithe? If not, why not? Do I live a lifestyle that prevents me from giving to God and others? These questions can give insights to where your real treasure is.

The earth beast also has a religious tone to it. During the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church oppressed and persecuted Protestant Reformers. Martin Luther and others saw the Church of Rome as the beast. Any religion that draws people away from Christ is a form of the beast. This includes popular "civil" religion which claims that all the religious faiths of the world worship the same God, that there are multiple paths to God and heaven. This thought is the work of the earth beast, the false prophet. Groups and churches that pervert the gospel are used by the beast. Health and wealth churches have sprung up all over. Religious cults are growing, such as Scientology. All of these are forms of the earth beast.

Economics and religion -- used by the earth beast to entrap and enslave those outside of Christ. Am I saying that credit cards, Visa, Master Card are the beast? They have beast-like features that draw people to become slaves to debt. Much of their advertising is deceptive. Using credit does not give freedom, it enslaves many people. Are we to flee all credit? Not necessarily, but you need to see the snares of it. Being debt free grants a freedom that those piled under debt don't realize.

Are we to avoid dealing with false religions? Can we cooperate with common issues? For instance, the Mormon church and Roman Catholicism oppose aborting unborn infants. Can we work in cooperation with them? Yes, but recognize the entanglements and compromises.

Currently within conservative American presidential politics, some conservatives are defining tolerance to mean accepting all faiths as being valid to worshiping God. First, this isn't logically possible because these faiths have major inconsistent beliefs about God. They all cannot be valid ways of worshiping God. Further, accepting the premise that all religions are valid ways to worship God denies the words of Christ, that he is the only way to God.

This brief examination of Revelation 13 shows a major weakness with popular views that the beast is only something that happens immediately prior to Christ's second coming. Such teaching closes our eyes to the activity of the beast now. Does this mean there will be no intensification of the beast just prior to the return of Christ? No, there probably will be an outbreak of intense evil just before Christ's return, with a virulent form of the beast. But we should not close our eyes to the activity of the beast today.

Believers need to be alert today for the activity of Satan and his beasts. We cannot be complacent or side into deceptive teaching. John provides a glimpse into the deep battles going on. Satan has been defeated and soon faces destruction. Satan is furious over his defeat and is taking it out on the people of God. With these insights, believers, being strengthened and kept by God, can persevere through Satan's worst, whether it is a direct onslaught of persecution, or more subtle forms of deceptive teaching or

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