Cosmic Christmas – Revelation 12:1-5

rev 13 b

This is a Cosmic Christmas.

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…       Revelation 12:1-5 ESV

The Woman clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet and the 12 stars represents the people of Israel.  Do you remember Abraham’s call, that he would be a blessing to the nations? (Genesis 12)  That his descendants would be numbered with the stars? (Genesis 15) Well here we see that out of this nation a special child is born.  Of course Mary is the individual who gave birth, but Jesus is the child of the nation of Israel.  Through him the nations of the earth have received a blessing.

But there is a dragon!  Who lets a dragon in where a baby is being born?  But this reminds us that Jesus came to defeat the Liar, the Deceiver.  It was the serpent who deceived the man and his wife in Paradise. And this child is the one who will crush the head of the serpent.

John shows him as a great red dragon.  The dragon does what he can to get rid of Jesus.  Herod is moved to do him in. but they escape to Egypt. Then it is another Herod and Pilate who will have Jesus put to death. But their victory is their defeat. It is by his death that we receive salvation. In seeming defeat, the great victory is won.

Advent is more than a quietly sleeping child in a Manger.  (How did he sleep thorugh the Angel’s loudness?)  It is the birth of a king, it is the seed of God’s ultimate victory in the world.

All the dragons are slain by that child.

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Marks of the Beast – Part 1

666           In Revelation we have hit the jackpot.   In chapter 12, we meet the great Dragon – who is Satan. Then in chapter 13 we discover two Beasts; the first is identified with the Anti-Christ and the second with his High Priest.  To top it off, we have a secret code, the number 666.  Oh what fun we can have with this!

Let me start with a quote.  This is written by a man whose last name is Boring.  He is Eugene Boring.  Yes, that makes this a boring book, by a boring author.  I will leave the rest of the jokes to you.   I do not agree with everything that he says, but this is true.

“…this text about the ‘mark of the beast’ has through the centuries been a happy hunting ground for religious quacks and sensationalizers…[so] it is important to give some clear guidance for preaching and teaching.”  (M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, WJK, 1989, p. 161)

I have heard lots of speculation: the anti-Christ was Michael Gorbachev., because of his birthmark that looked like a wound to his head.  I’ve heard many theories like that. The number 666 could be a tattoo.  Maybe it is three rows of 6 numbers. Maybe it is a microchip inserted beneath the skin.  We actually do have that technology.  People tried to change the name of State Highway 666 in New Mexico, but I think it is good for tourism.  In the Reformation era, Lutherans said the Anti-Christ was the Pope.  The Pope returned to say it was Luther.  So there are many ideas, and little information.

I believe the best way to understand Biblical teaching is that there will be one anti-Christ with a Capitol A.   That term does not come from Revelation, but from I John 2:18

 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

There will be one Anti-Christ with a capital A in the last hour.  However, even in the early church, there were many little a anti-Christs.

Big A will have  all the worst characteristics of the worlds despots and dictators – wrap up Nero, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Il Jung into one  and you get the idea.

But in the meantime, the spirit of anti-Christ is in the world. There have and there will appear again those with the marks of anti-Christ.

Today I do pretend to solve the mystery of the number 666  I want to talk of the things that define all of the anti Christs, the ones with the small a and the one with the big A.  These are the Marks of the beast – marks are plural on purpose.

(Note: there is a prediction that the world will end with a wandering planet tomorrow, September 23. This is based on Revelation 12 and some star charts.  So you better read quick!)

 

The Lion is the Lamb – Revelation 5

Lionlamb-3          There is a TV show called Madame Secretary. It is about a fictitious Secretary of State.  In one of the story lines there is a dangerous religious cult.  This cult believes that it is their calling to bring about the events of the book of Revelation.  They turn out to be terrorists in their own right.

Such groups exist. But they are wrong.  No one can bring about the events of the end but the Lion, who is also the Lamb.  He alone can open the scroll of God’s decree.

Up to the time of Christ, people were looking for a Lion. They wanted a great military leader. They wanted their own Alexander the Great, or their own Caesar to lead in conquest.

When Jesus came, he rode into the city on a donkey, not a war horse.  He was a teacher, not a terrorist.  He started with only 12 men – who had to follow him as a homeless preacher of righteousness.  He came to Jerusalem, not to reign, but to purify the house of worship from money making.

He was not a Lion as the people had hoped for. He was the Lamb, as John had called him.   Like a lamb, he accepted his arrest, his false trials, and his death at the hand  of the Roman governor.  Like a lamb he was a substitute, he gave his life to save his people from wrath.

All of that history of the Gospel is summarized when the Lion of Judah is revealed as the Lamb of God.

He went to the Almighty and took the scroll from his hand.  He alone is worthy.

What we see here is that the path for God’s will to come to the earth, the path to victory is not a military path.

In history the Roman General Constantine had a vision where a cross appeared in the sky, He took that as a sign to become a Christian. He baptized his army by marching them through a river.  That made them Christians (in name only). Later when he became emperor, he made Christianity a legal and even a favored religion.  Now the kingdom of God was tied to the power of Rome.

Through history the Gospel has been entangles with various political causes or parties or leaders. It always ends up as a disappointment.  Why, because we can only be lead by the Lamb of God.  The Lion of Judah is the Lamb who was slain.

Do not think that we can make our nation righteous by the use of Governmental power.  Government can do good and it can certainly do harm. But it is not capable of bringing about the kingdom of God.

Dual Dual Natures

creation_of_man_by_hel999We are reading and I am preaching Genesis, John and later Revelation side by side.  This is an interesting way to see these books from a different perspective. The text’s should not be forced to correlate, but it is interesting how often they do.

In Genesis 2, there is a clear statement of the dual nature of the first human.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”    Genesis 2:7

So this states that humanity is of the dust of the earth – we are made of the matter that surrounds us.  Unlike some views that see the world as a trap or an illusion, the Bible calls the material world (before sin) good. It is doing what it was made to do.  And so human nature ties us to the world.  Adam and Eve are created in the context of a material place – Eden.

While all creatures have the breath of life in them, even the mouse living in your attic has that. Only of “adam” was it said that God directly breathed into him the breath of life.  So this is to say there is a spiritual nature.  The word for “breath” is used here, but it suggests the spiritual nature of humanity.

We have a dual nature – we live and are tasked with working, caring for and enjoying life on the earth – together with others.  Yet we in a unique way have a bond with the creator that is unlike the members of the animal kingdom.

In John 2, there is a wedding.  Jesus and his disciples are in attendance. This is the same Jesus who was described in John 1 with this statement.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14.   In this chapter the Word is the pre-existent, eternal Son of God – present with the father at the creation of the world.  So we see the divine nature of Jesus.  yet the Word became flesh. He did not take up humanity as a disguise, but he became a man.  Jesus has a dual nature that is far beyond ours. He is Divine (“the word”) and Human (“became flesh”)

At the wedding, Jesus took water and with the power of the Creator (“through him all thins were made” John 1:3) turned it into wine.  Compared to Genesis 1, this is a small act.  but compared to how men and women usually make wine, it is a sign of his divine nature. “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:11

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The church councils did a lot of work to hammer out our confession that in Jesus we have one person who is fully God (the Word) and fully man (became flesh).

People sometimes accuse these theologians of splitting hairs, but it seems to me that Genesis and John are written in simple terms (we can all understand words like word, dust, breath and flesh) but are also deeply theological.

Not everything can fit into Twitter.

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