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!)

 

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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.

A Money Question

round tableI was at a local business group lunch and sat at a table with two men who run a dance club and another who works with a service agency.  When I said what I do, it led to a few interesting questions about Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and money at the end of the world.  The question was, “Doesn’t the Bible say that money will someday be worthless?”

So I looked up what it says in the book of Revelation about what happens to money at the end of the world.  There are two relevant passages

Revelation 13:11-17 11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 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. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. (NIV)

This passage speaks of a time where a political and religious combination of power will result and all use of money will be limited to those who receive “the mark of the beast.”  This has led to lots of speculation about credit cards, tattoos and implanted electronic devices.  Conspiracy theory stuff that is just slightly scary considering what technology is capable of – just watch a police show and see how they can track you by your cell phone, credit, debit card and car gps device.

Revelation 18:11-17 – 

11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’  (NIV)

This passage is about Babylon.  This is a Biblical symbol of rampant materialism and a twisted morality that places money and pleasure over truth.  Just before the end of all things, this system will fall.  The passage is the lament of all those who were rich and successful in that system.

So watch out for the “mark of the beast” (Rev 13) and the “whore of Babylon” (Rev 18).  A less apocalyptic piece of wisdom is from the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

Matthew 6:17-19 – 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (NIV)

Pick a Book – some preaching on Revelation 20

Books of Judgment:

Then some books are opened. First there are the record books.  Every person is then judged by their actions.  God keeps a record of our words and our actions.  It says two times that the dead are judged by what they had done as it is recorded in the books.

Many people are confident that they are good. They think God will measure our lives and say that we are ok.

One teacher said that as the record of our deeds are read out, that our good and our bad are put on a balance. If we measure good, we get heaven. If we measure out bad, we get hell.

But that idea is not in the bible.  The bible only says that we are condemned by our works. We already know what is in this book of records.

Romans 3:23  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The verdict for every person will be:  GUILTY

What do you think God has written down for you?

There is enough sin in every person go convict us.

The Book of Life:

The good news is that there is another book.  The book of the records of our lives only gives bad news.

The other book has good news.   It is called the Book of Life.

It contains Names.  It does not contain our sins or our good deeds. It has names.  It is simple how it works.  If your name is written in the book of life, you will be forgiven of your sins and given life.

If your name is not written in this book, then you have to take the punishment for your sins.  Here is what Revelation says about that:  “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Our sins then would condemn us to the fire with the Dragon and the 2 beasts.

The Book of Life is mentioned through the bible.

Moses offered to remove his name from the book of Life if God would forgive the sins of Israel – God said that he would not do that.  Moses could not trade his life for theirs.  [Exodus 32]

Daniel the prophet spoke of the book of life that would be revealed in the last days.

Jesus spoke of the book of life in Luke 10 – He said to his followers that they should not be proud of what good works they did for the Lord, He said, “…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  [Luke 10:17-20]

Paul speaks of the book of life.  [Philippians 4:3]

And it is mentioned 5 times in the book of Revelation.  [3:5; 13:8; 20:12-15; 21:27]   The last time it says

”Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  Revelation 21:27

So the most important question is this.  Who gets their name written in the Book of Life.

The clue is that it is called the Lamb’s book of life.  This is the book of all those who’s sins were paid by the Lamb of God.  Jesus offered his life in exchange for ours.  Moses tried to do that, but God did not accept Moses offer.  But when Jesus gave is body over to death for us, he became our substitute.

The only way to be in the book of life is to receive Jesus, the lamb of God, by faith.

Have you done that?  Before we go to take communion, I want to pray.  If you know that you belong to him, thank God for the gift of forgiveness.

If you don’t, I invite you to ask for his forgiveness.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you are the Lamb of God.  I confess my sins.  My sins are written in your book. By these sins I deserve death.   Forgive me  in Jesus name.  Erase from your book all of my sins.  Come into my heart.  Include my name in the book of Life.  Amen.

Revelation Challenge: What do we keep?

The “blessing” is in reading, hearing and keeping the words of Revelation. (1:3) In what sense can we keep this book?

We can keep in mind the challenges of the struggle, the call to bear witness, the need to persevere and so forth.  There are a number of direct challenges to the reader. The attached worksheet is for an adult class, the idea is to collect these and see what we find that we can keep.

6.Final Class

Revelation 12 – Variations on a Theme

From a class worksheet on how various viewpoints view Revelation 12.  However, one popular “futurist” made at least 3 contemporary applications of Revelation 12 to believers today.  Go figgure!

How To Read Revelation

1.  “PreteritView (means “past tense”)  holds that all the events of Revelation have to do with the time from about 90 AD to 135 when Jerusalem was destroyed.

 

2.  Historical View – this sees that the 7 churches and the other 7’s (Seals, Trumpets, Bowls, Visions) cover the whole history of the church from the time of John until the end of time.  These “7’s” basically repeat the same time period from a different perspective.  This is usually associated with the Amillennial position, which says that the Millennium (Revelation 20) is a symbol of the Church age.

 

3.  Futurist View – this holds that everything from chapter 4 to 22 has to do with the future.  Specifically it all has to do with the Great Tribulation, which is the 7 year period of the Anti-Christ.  The first half of which (3 ½ years or 42 months or 1260 days) is peaceful, but the second half is the time of persecution and wrath.  This is generally held by the Dispensational Position (e.g. Schofield Bible, Dallas Seminary, Moody Bible Inst., Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, “Left Behind” books.)  This is the most popular Evangelical position.  It sees that the church is not present in these times, but has been raptured to heaven.  Generally the seals, trumpets and bowls as well as the other visions are seen as going in chronological order, end to end from Chapter 4 to 22.

 

4.  Idealist View – This view holds that the visions are mostly symbolic.  They do not have specific historical fulfillments, but express symbolically the themes that all Christians face such as the need to persevere, the victory of Christ, persecution and judgment.

 

5.  Hybrid Positions

  • Historical Premillennial – in this view some of Revelation 4 to 22 pertains to the church age.  Some hold that the church is raptured part way through the 7 years (Mid Tribulation, or Pre Wrath). Others hold that the church is preserved through the tribulation but dues not experience God’s wrath, only the persecution of Men.  Generally the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls are seen as progressing to the last days, but that they overlap.
  • Some of This and some of That;  Some commentators see that there may have been an initial fulfillment in the day of the early church, and during the church age but that there will be a final fulfillment in the last days.  Nero, Domitian and other persecutors act like previews of a later and greater period of trouble.

 

Applied to Revelation 12

 

1. The persecution under Rome in 70 and 135 are described in vivid terms.

2.  The persecution of Israel and the Church is described in symbolic terms.

3.  This is the story of Israel.  Verse 1-5 have to do with the Birth of the Messiah to Israel, and the rest are the events of the Great Tribulation, with Israel, the Dragon and the tribulation believers described in the events.  I.e. v. 6 to 12 is in the future.

4 and 5.    this is the story of Israel (up to v. 5) and the church from the time of John down to the Return of Christ.  Satan first tried to destroy Christ, then his church.