Beastly Imitation (Revelation 13)

Redheads make up less than 2% of the world’s population. There have been rumors that redheads will be extinct within 100 years. Do not believe the lies. In God’s sovereign kindness, he has blessed this congregation with an abnormally high concentration of redheads. Growing up as a redhead, prepares you to have thick skin. We come into to the world already possessing nicknames that we did not earn: Opie, Howdy Doody, Carrot Top, or Red Headed Step Child. I remember one football practice when my coach was trying to fire up the team and he yelled, “Let’s go out there and beat them like a red headed step child…sorry Dave.” This past Thursday, I went to a conference and one of the titles of the workshops was, “Is Evangelism the Red Headed Step Child of Discipleship?”

            A few years ago, I was speaking at a conference and a woman came up to me after the first session and thanked me for the talk and told me that she heard me speak the previous year. I politely told her that she was mistaken because this was my first conference. She called me a liar. I politely replied, “I am not liar. I am redhead, we tend to look alike.” I have often heard throughout my life from new people I met, you remind me of one of my friends in high school or my second cousin on my mother’s side. At my previous church, the senior pastor was also a bearded red head. We easily could impersonate each other, and the untrained eye would not be able to tend the difference. It was easy to tell who an inactive member to the church was, because they could not tell the difference between the two of us. Although in their defense, it would not be uncommon for our children to grab the leg of one of us only to eventually realize that we were not their father.

Redheads have a unique ability for imitation. We look almost alike, but there are subtle and distinct differences. Like redheads, the Anti-Christ has a unique ability for imitation. I am not sure if I am helping the redhead cause as I compare redheads to the Anti-Christ, but maybe it will remind you of Satan’s desire to win your allegiance to the Anti-Christ. Many scholars say that Revelation 12-14 is the heart of the book as it portrays the ultimate struggle between good and evil in the battle between God and Satan. Revelation 12 introduces the Dragon that wars against the saints.

 Satan knows since the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the salvation he offers through repentance and faith, that his time is short, so he makes war against the saints. Revelation 12:17, “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.” The dragon, Satan, stands on the sand of the sea, calling forth his minions to deceive the world by imitating and usurping God’s authority. As Satan makes war against the saints, we are called to respond in faith. There are three calling for the church as we face the Anti-Christ and the antichrists that are in the world.

A Call for Preparation

            The first questions we must address is, “Who is the beast?” and “How can we be prepared for the beast?” Revelation 13:1-7,

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. 2 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. 3 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. 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?”

5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 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.

I believe it is most likely that the beast is the same one referred to as the Anti-Christ in 1 John 2:18 and the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. John refers to this figure as a beast using the language of Daniel 7. Daniel speaks of 4 separate beasts referring to 4 great kingdoms that stand against the Lord. John takes the 4 beasts of Daniel and turns it into one beast as the culmination and representative of all the kingdoms that stand against the Lord. The beast in Revelation 13 is a literal individual representing an earthly kingdom at the end of history, but his role can be seen throughout history.

            1 John 2:18-19, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.” As there have been forerunners and types that foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah, there are also types and forerunners that foreshadow the coming the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ is an individual, but he also represents a ruler of a nation. The reference to Daniel implies that the beast will be a leader of a kingdom or nation. That makes sense not only in the context of Daniel and Revelation, but also in contrast to the Lord who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Anti-Christ sets up himself in the place of God deceiving the nations to worship him over the Lord.

            This imitation can be seen in verse 4 when his followers say, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” A common refrain in the Old Testament is “Who is like the Lord?” Psalm 71:19, “You have done great things, O God, who is like you?” Psalm 77:13, “Your way, O God, is holy. What God is great like our God?” Psalm 113:5, “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks down on the heavens and the earth?” This Beast is an imposter. He is claiming supreme authority and allegiance. For John, the beast is most likely Rome. As Caesar demanded supreme allegiance and to be worshiped by all the people. And Caesar is only a preview of another beast that will demand allegiance and authority for those who dwell on the earth.

            Imitation can also be seen in verse 3 that 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.” Notice the imitation to the Lord Jesus Christ, the true King and Supreme Authority. The Lord Jesus had a mortal wound. He was crucified and buried. And God raised him from the dead. The beast “seemed” to have a mortal wound. Some think it refers to an individual leader while others believe it is referring to the apparent collapse of the Roman empire after the death of Nero that would reemerge in power through his successor. Either way, it is not a true moral wound, but it only seemed like one. It is a false imitation of the true king.

            We must be prepared for the cheap imitation that will arise in every generation demanding authority that only God possessed. Thomas Schreiner makes the point that every generation has the right impulse in seeing the “antichrist” in their generation. Stalin of Russia, Hitler of Germany, Mao Zedong of China, Kim Jun Il of North Korea, Nero of Rome, Hussein of Iraq, etc. They are all types or previews of the evil of the Anti-Christ. We must be prepared to stand against the evil authorities of our day. The beast will utter blasphemies against the Lord and persecute believers who trust in Christ. There will be an accepted war against the saints and they will be put to death.

            John encourages the seven churches of his day to stand against Rome and its emperor worship. He would encourage us to today to stand against bowing to the secular authorities of our day. Do not compromise your faith in the workplace. Do not compromise your beliefs for promotions or prestige. Do not compromise your allegiance to Jesus in anyway. Do not be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon as if something strange is happening but know that blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and insult and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of your standing for the Lord for your reward is great in heaven. God’s people have always been persecuted and you just get to join in that number.

            Be prepared for the rise of the Anti-Christ and his forerunners.

A Call for Perseverance

            There is a calling to endure and persevere the evil of our day. John’s goal in Revelation to encourage the saints to conquer; to hold fast to Christ until the end. We can conquer because we know that God is still in control. Revelation 13:8-10,

And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 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. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

10 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.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. We are called to endure and have faith because God is in control.

            God is wise. God is strong. God is sovereign. Nothing happens in this world outside of his control. The dragon and the two beasts of Revelation 12-13 do not operate outside of the hand of God. There are difficult things to understand in regard to God allowing evil in our world. That is a different conversation for another day, but in Revelation 13 we see 6 times where God gives authority to the beast.

·         “the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words,” (v. 5);

·         “and it was allowed (‘it was given’ literally) to exercise authority for forty-two months;” (v. 5);

·         “it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them;” (v. 7);

·         “And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation;” (v. 7);

·         “by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast;” (v. 14);

·         “and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast;” (v. 15).

The beast was allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them. To conquer them means the beast was allowed to take their lives. Remember, martyrdom in Revelation is not defeat but victory. Everyone on earth will worship the power and the might and strength of the beast….except….those whose name have been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

            John reminds us here that we are followers of the Lamb was slain. The world hated our master and it will hate use. The world killed our Lord and it will desire to kill us. And even if the world takes our lives, we are safe because before the foundation of the world God chose to send his Son to be slain for those who would repent and believe in his death and resurrection on their behalf. John lifts our eyes to the cross and the resurrection as a call to persevere. He who has an ear, let him hear: If God calls you to be jailed for your faith in Christ, be jailed. If God calls you to be killed for your faith in Christ, be killed. Our hope is not in this life, but in the Lamb who was slain.

            If you are here and not a Christian, it may seem odd that a Christian is called to have joy in trials. It may seem odd that a Christian be content in death, but know our hope is goes beyond this world. We do not cling to our lives here, because we know it is only in losing our lives for Christ that we truly find them. We believe that we deserve to be slain for our sins. We know our sins offended God and deserve to be punished. And yet, even though we deserve death, God in his grace gave us his Son. Jesus lived the life we were called to live. And when he died, he did not die for his own sins, but ours. He died for all who would repent and believe in him. And our hope is not only in his death for us, but in his resurrection. God raised Jesus to life proving that God was satisfied with his sacrifice. Jesus’ resurrection is a promise for our resurrection. Friend, can I ask you to consider Jesus? Consider what he has done and the hope that he offers. Consider how Christians can have hope in the face of death.

            Beloved, we endure in faith of the Lamb who was slain to take our sins. Mark Dever shares a story of an Jamaican slave name David and his pastor Moses Hall. He was leading a prayer gathering that was discovered by the Slaveholders. The slaveholders were nervous that slaves gathering would lead to a revolt, so they took David and they killed him. They cut off his head and put it on a pole as warning to other slaves. They took the pastor Moses Hall and brought him to pole. The slave master asked, “And now Moses hall, do you know who this is?” “It’s David,” he replied. “And do you know why he is up there?” “For praying sir.” The slave master warned Moses Hall and the rest of the slaves gathered, “No more prayer meetings. If we catch you praying, we will serve you the same way we served David.” What did Moses Hall do in face of that antichrist spirit? What would you have done? Moses Hall knelt right in front of that pole and said, “Let us pray.” He along with the rest of the slaves pleaded with God for the salvation of the slaveowners.

            Beloved, we have conquered by the blood of the Lamb who was slain. And we will conquer by the word of our testimony when we, as Christians have been demonstrating throughout the centuries, love not our lives even unto death. God is in control. He has promised you life and he will give it. Do not love your lives more than the promised hope of the resurrection.

A Call for Prudence

            The last call is a call to wisdom. We must have wisdom in how we live in our world. Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” We are in the last days when Satan has been given authority to make war against the saints. Romans 13 shows that God has established the state to wield his authority while Revelation 13 shows the wickedness that is often in the state in the exercise of that authority. How are we to live under this evil rule? Revelation 13:11-18,

11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 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. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 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. 15 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. 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, 17 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. 18 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.

The second beast is most likely another individual who promotes a false religion. He has referred to as a false prophet (Revelation 16:13,19:20, 20:10). The Dragon, and the two beasts make an unholy trinity that stand in contrast to the Holy Triune God spoken of together in Revelation 16:13. This second beast is the false prophet that precedes the false Christ. As John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ so here the prophet is the forerunner to the Anti-Christ. His role to make people worship the first beast.

            We have been warned against false prophets by the Lord Jesus who said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” This is the picture of the beast here. He comes appearing like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon, deceitful and cunning. Satan has been using false prophets from the time of Christ to led people astray. It will be no different at the end. This false prophet will help usher in a worldwide worship of the beast. This prophet deceives the nations bringing severe persecution on the saints from economic consequences even to bring death to the saints.

            The chapter ends with a call to 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. There have been numerous interpretations of this number and its implications. Some have even suggested that Ronald Wilson Reagan represented this number because all his names had six letters. I believe the 666 merely represent the kingdom of man. If seven is the perfect number, and three sevens represent perfection and completeness and righteousness than the 666 would represent the kingdom of man that is set against God and worships the Anti-Christ and has its allegiance to the kingdom of the world rather than the kingdom of God.

            John is appealing to his readers to understand the nature of the kingdom of this world and to live in the world but not of the world. For John writes in his first letter, “For all that is in the world –the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” We need to live in light of eternity. This world and the kingdom of man will pass away, but only those who do the will of the Lord will abide forever. So how do we live in wisdom?

            First, hold fast to Christ. Meditate and rejoice in the gospel of Christ. Do not love your life more the Savior. God chose you before the foundation of the world to have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. This means that our primary joy is not in our circumstances or our comfort or our acceptance from the world, but our joy is in Christ and his cross. Our highest joy is that we belong to Christ.

            Secondly, we should be covenanted together in a local body of believers encouraging one another to hold fast to Christ as the day is drawing near. John wants the church to prepared so that we will not be deceived. We should understand how easily it is for us to be deceived if we are in the world. Beloved, God has given you this church for your protection. He has give you brothers and sisters to pray for you and to model godly love to you. He has given leaders to you to teach you sound doctrine so you will not be blown back and forth by every wave of doctrine. Do not forsake the church. We are an outpost of the heavenly kingdom. Our community must proclaim the true King of kings and the Lord of lords in word and deed. Jesus is the only Savior and our community reflects that reality.

            Thirdly, pray for the persecuted church. The church has always faced compromise and pressure from the evil state. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran and Iraq, in Russia and Turkmenistan, in North Korea and China. The Anti-Christ is coming but there are many antichrists in the world. Let us be vigilant to pray.

            Fourth, do not shrink back from speaking of the truth at your jobs and in your families. Speak with wisdom and grace. Speak with the appropriate tone and love but speak. Do not love your jobs, your future promotion or worldly prestige more the blood of Christ. Let your trust in be Christ and hold fast to your testimony. It is a constant danger in a secular age, but this world will pass away so strive to do the will of the Father. Remember Jesus words, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?” Mark 8:36. Let us pray for wisdom so we may always do the will of the Father.

            And lastly, be imitators of God. There will be many false imitations, cheap replicas, and wicked imposters in the last days. We will be able to see false kings when we know the King of kings. We can detect false lords when we know the Lord of lords. So beloved, be imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Oh beloved, hold fast to the Lamb who was slain for us.