War of Worship
RevealedPastor Jerry Gillis - October 25, 2015
We must remain faithful to the One who is victorious, no matter what it may cost us.
Community Group Study Notes
- How can you show your allegiance to Jesus in your everyday life? Why is it important that you decide where your loyalty lies right now?
- What comfort is brought to your heart through the words of Revelation 12-14? When you know who will be victorious, what reason do we have to worry or be afraid? Why do we need to demonstrate unshakable confidence in God who has everything in his control?
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
Revelation is a letter to God's people that reveals God's perspective on events in the present and the future using symbolic language, and causes Christ's people to obey Him in the present, and trust Him in the future. That's what the book is.
The big idea from these two passages, these two chapters is this - the lion who is the lamb teaches us who God is and how God rules.
You want to grab something, a rich truth here from Revelation 1, here's one for you. The only way we will ever see what God wants us to see, is when we clearly see Jesus. By the way, the same One who walked among the golden lampstands then, walks among us now. Right here, right now. He is walking among us now, and He knows.
The centering vision of Revelation is in chapter 4 and chapter 5, giving us the true face of God in the lion who is the lamb, who sacrificed Himself willingly so that sinners might be reconciled to God. This is a God who put skin on, came and lived among us, and sacrificed Himself even though He was sinless, He bore our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This is the heart of God, don't lose that, because the true face of God is a lion who became a lamb. So even in His judgment, God is demonstrating extraordinary mercy.
The one thing that we can never let go of, is that we have to know and adore the presence of the One who walks among us. The living One. We cannot miss that.
And we see as well that in the midst of all of the hell that may transpire in the world that we live in, and all of the craziness, when it seems to get nuts, and with all of the people making decisions all over the world, it seems like this thing is careening off the tracks, He says, "I'm the hope giver. You need to look at me, because I'm the first and I'm the last. I was dead, and now I'm not, and I hold the keys to death and hades in my hand. You can trust me. Don't be afraid."
In the midst of everything that happens in the world, if all hell is breaking loose around us, God knows who His own are, because He has sealed them with His Spirit. Some of you are just messing around in this life, playing around with the kingdoms of the world and fulfilling all of your lusts, instead of being a faithful witness to Christ. Because God is using your life and desires to use your life to call people to Himself.
Because some of us have read this book all wrong. We've read it as a book, "I'm reading Revelation, I want to find out who the antichrist is." The book of Revelation is so you can find out who the Christ is. That's what it's about. It is a revelation of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God. This is what the book's about.
So, it was appropriate for us to be able to gain some sense of perspective on where we've been studying the book of Revelation, because we're about at about the half way point at this point. We've spent four weeks studying it, so a month studying it. We took a week off last week. We're beginning another month worth of study of the book of Revelation. And so, it was a good reminder to kind of get us centered on the fact that Revelation is actually about Christ. That it's about His Kingdom. It's about ultimately His victory. It's not about fanciful, sensationalized speculations. That this is actually about Christ and His kingdom and His victory, and we need to keep that in mind.
The truth is that, you know, kind of sensationalized speculation is nothing new just to our generation. Even though, it has ramped up and taken steroids in our generation. But it's nothing new. You can go back into the mid 1800's, and people like Charles Spurgeon who are dealing with all kinds of things in the world in England at that time, were dealing with some of the same things. And notice what Spurgeon had to say about all of this in the preaching of Relevation.
He said, “Your guess at the number of the beast, your Napoleonic speculations, or your conjectures concerning a personal Antichrist - forgive me, I count them but mere bones for dogs; while men are dying, and hell is filling, it seems to me the veriest drivel to be muttering about an Armageddon at Sebastopol or Sadowa or Sedan, and peeping between the folded leaves of destiny to discover the fate of Germany. Blessed are they who read and hear the words of the prophecy of the Revelation, but the like blessing has evidently not fallen on those who pretend to expound it, for generation after generation of them have been proved to be in error by the mere lapse of time, and the present race will follow to the same inglorious sepulchre. I would sooner pluck one single brand from the burning than explain all mysteries. To win a soul from going down into the pit is a more glorious achievement than to be crowned in the arena of theological controversy as Doctor Sufficientissimus; to have faithfully unveiled the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will be in the final judgment accounted worthier service than to have solved the problems of the religious Sphinx, or to have cut the Gordian knot of Apocalyptic difficulty. Blessed is that ministry of which CHRIST IS ALL.”
Even Spurgeon was dealing with this type of thing. And I love his perspective. So, I felt like that was a good reminder, that as we embark today in chapter twelve and thirteen and fourteen, that we need to be reminded of these things up front. And the reason being is because now taking center stage is really what has been hinted at earlier in the book as evil, and now is being personified as evil. Really, the personification of evil now takes center stage as we get to the center piece of Revelation in terms of the central part of the book in Revelation twelve, thirteen and fourteen.
So what I want to do is to unpack some of the symbols and signs that we see in chapter twelve, thirteen and fourteen, and then I want to put together for us kind of the big picture as to what this looks like, and what this means for us. So let's begin in chapter twelve verse number one.
The Scripture says, "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who 'will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.' And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days."
Well, are there times where you're reading Revelation where you wish there was a key? Like a legend in the corner, where you could go blank equals blank. Blank equals blank.
Sometimes when we're reading, when you have so much symbolism in the context of just a handful of verses, it becomes challenging because in Revelation, you really have to know the back story. You have to know some history, not only kind of historical narrative from the time of this going on, in the late first century, but also the Old Testament history that leading up to it and what it's referencing. And sometimes these symbols don't have like a particular thing that unlocks the door, you have to figure that out.
But there's other times where in the midst of these symbols that are given, there's an interpretative key. And when you put the key in the door and understand this particular symbol, it unlocks some of the other symbols for you.
Well, in this one, there's actually a couple, but there's one primary one where it talks about the male child who was born who would rule the nations with an iron scepter. That actually is an interpretative key for us, because that's a quotation for us from Psalm chapter two. Psalm chapter two is a psalm about the messiah. So what we know that's being referenced here as the male child in Revelation chapter 12:1-6, we know that the male child that is being referenced is the messiah, who we know as Jesus. And we know that because of Psalm chapter 2. So you've got this interpretative key.
Well, what does that make the woman who is there in this vison, you know, who has kind of the sun adorning her, her feet are on the moon and twelve stars around her head. Who is this woman? Well, if we know the male child is Jesus, we know that Jesus came from this woman, whomever this woman is. And this woman is actually referencing, first in priority, the people of God known as Israel. Now, it also encompasses much more, because when it says that she is clothed with the sun, and it says she has the moon at her feet, and the twelve stars.. That's indicative, by the way, when you understand both Israel and the church... twelve stars above her head. The cosmic signs surrounding this woman are a reminder that actually, this is talking about someone kind of from all time.
So, the idea there is that the people of Israel are the kind of picture of the woman, but it would also include Eve, the mother of all the living, because from Eve would ultimately come the Messiah. And actually prophesied in Genesis chapter three was the idea that the child that would eventually come through her, through her line, would have his heal bruised by the serpent, but that he would crush the head of the enemy.
So, you have Eve kind of involved in this symbol. You've got Mary, who is actually the natural birth mother of Jesus that's involved in this symbol, but generally speaking this is talking about Israel as a first establishment of the symbol. And then we'll find out later in the chapter that it actually expands into the true or the new Israel, encompassing all of the people of God, both Jew and Gentile who believe in Jesus as messiah. Are you still with me? Alright.
So, that's the woman, and that's the child. Well who is the dragon? Well, we find out in just a few verses, that that's exactly who we think it is. That it's Satan, or the Satan, which means the accuser. And it's not trying to give us some particular type of chronology here in this vision. It's just giving us kind of the actors in the drama, so to speak.
But what we see, is we see a dragon who is actually situated in such a way that when the child is born of the woman, that the dragon is positioned to devour the child. If you remember back, this is actually just simply rehashing what actually happened in the life of the Lord Jesus the Messiah. Because when you look back at Matthew chapter 2, you remember the events surrounding what happened with Jesus.
Listen to what it says in Matthew 2. It says, When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So even here, what you see, is you see Satan infiltrating the king of a particular governmental authority so that the child would be killed. Did you catch that? Satan is trying to infiltrate the king of a particular governmental authority so that the child would die. The reason I'm reminding you of that, is because what we're going to see as these chapters unfold, you're going to need to understand that particular picture. Alright?
So that's the picture that we have kind of from the outset, and then it says, that the child is ultimately snatched up to God and His throne. What this is a picture of, is it just encapsulates the whole of Jesus' life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension by simply saying that, alright? It's just one big picture to say, this is the big story of the birth, the life, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus. That's the opening picture that we get.
Then verse number seven, it says this, "Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.'”
So, what we're introduced to after this idea of the dragon waiting, kind of to try and kill the child but is unable to do so, then we see the Scripture talking about war breaking out in heaven. Now that all by itself is sobering enough to think about, isn't it? The idea of war breaking out in heaven.
And we're introduced to one of the warriors in this. Not only is the dragon who is referred to as Satan involved in this, but we're introduced to an angelic warrior named Michael. Michael is an archangel. Now Michael actually fights with the dragon. Now, we were introduced to Michael, not just in this passage, but if we've read the Old Testament in Daniel chapter ten, and Daniel chapter twelve, we come and see Michael the archangel. And then in the New Testament, in Jude chapter nine, as he is fighting with the enemy over the body of Moses. So we've met Michael before in the Scripture, and Michael is engaged in war with the dragon, or Satan, and actually flings Satan to the earth along with so to speak, a third maybe of his angels with him.
Now, this is kind of a sobering thought, because this isn't trying to get us in to chronology necessarily. So when was this, when Satan fell and all of this? That's not the picture that's trying to be shown here. It's just simply trying to show that Satan was cast out in heaven, and there was war in heaven. But let me remind you of something, just right here in terms of application. Satan and God are not equals. If you want a fair fight, Satan and Michael would be the kind of fight. Because both are created angelic beings.
Some of you have in your mind that there's God who the good god, and then there's the devil, who is the bad god, but is like the opposite in power of God. And I wonder who's gonna win this fight? Are you kidding me? God is God alone. Satan, a dragon, is a created being. And if you wanted to structure this in terms of a fair fight, you want a cage match, then it's the dragon and Michael. That's who's going at it. And by the way, Michael throws him out of heaven. So keep that in mind, just as a reminder for you, in terms of how you position your theology, and how you understand God and how you understand the enemy.
Now, Satan is cast out, and then he is furious about being cast out, and he's cast down to the earth, and he knows that his time is short. So he is releasing his fury on the earth.
Then look with me in verse thirteen. "When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring - those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus."
So what happens is, the people of God are beginning to experience kind of the wrath of the enemy who's been cast down to earth. And these people of God actually flee on the wings of eagles to a place in the wilderness for time, times, and half a time. Now, that's a very specific reference to Daniel chapter seven. And what we understand time, times, and half a time to mean, if you were trying to take that kind of symbolic, apocalyptic language and make it literal, what you'd be finding, is you'd be finding time referencing a year, times referencing two years, and half a time referencing half a year. Which would be three and a half years.
Now, remember that when we run into numbers in Revelation, almost without exception, numbers are basically not just what the number means, but also hold symbolic value. And in this case, the same thing could be said to be true. Three and a half years is forty-two months, is 1,260 days, all referring to this period of time, which is a limited period of time, not a full period of time. Not a complete period of time. Seven gives you the idea of completion, half of seven is three and a half. That you gives the idea of a limited window of time.
Now, it's also symbolic in that when Daniel was making his prophesy, in chapter number seven and then ultimately you see it fleshed out in chapter eleven. When Daniel was making his prophesy, he was prophesying about one to come, and that one to come, most scholars and historians would agree was Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus Epiphanes was a Seleucid king in about 167 B.C. And when Antiochus Epiphanes came, he ended up doing really bad things to the people of Israel. He was a great persecutor of the people of God. And he did horrifyingly bad things, and do you know how long that persecution lasted? Right around three and a half years. And so, borrowing from the symbolism of that, John is now writing in terms of this particular revelation, and he's borrowing from Daniel's symbolism, about Antiochus Epiphanes and the time frame that was associated with the persecution.
But do you know what you also have in these verses we just read? You've got an Exodus theme. Right? Because what's said about the people of God is God says, I am gonna take my people on the wings of eagles. Does that sound familiar? It's the very same thing that we find about God doing with the people of Israel in the time of their Egyptian captivity and their fleeing from Pharaoh.
Listen to what it says in Exodus chapter number nineteen. "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself." You see, this is like an Exodus picture that's being painted in Revelation to say this: you are a people of God that are facing the desirous of captivity from the dragon, but I am going to rescue you. What does the dragon end up doing? Spewing water like the Red Sea, by the way. And what ultimately ends up happening, is that the people of God are rescued from the dragon in this particular picture, and you've got this Exodus theme that begins to kind of work itself in to the particular picture.
And then, look what it carries on to say in chapter thirteen verse one. The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. He's not satisfied that the people of God come through his water spewing. He wants to do something else about it. 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. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 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. People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months, or three and half years, or 1,260 days. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 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. 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. Whoever has ears, let them hear. “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
Alright, here's the thing. I already know that in the time that I have allotted to be able to preach this message, that it will be similar to drinking out of a fire hydrant. I got it. So you'll have to go back, and you'll have to check out at thechapel.com and re-listen and all that stuff, because I'm going to move quickly in giving you both symbol and history, so we can get to how this matters to us right now. But I still want you to pay attention. Don't just check out and go, I can listen to it at some other point. We'll need to run through it again.
Now, this imagery that's starting to be built into the text, this imagery around the various way that this particular beast that comes out of the sea looks. This imagery that is borrowed right from Daniel chapter seven. I know I keep coming back to that, but you have to understand it to understand what's going on in Revelation. The imagery of Daniel seven, he has a vision, and he sees a beast that's like a lion, he sees a beast that's a leopard. He sees a beast, that's like a bear. And he sees these three beasts, and then there's this fourth beast that he doesn't say is like anything, but says it's the worst. It's like really bad.
So here's what John is doing, and remember he's saying something very specific to the people of his audience that are literally reading what he's sharing with them. There are real churches, in a real time in the late first century that are reading this, and it means something to them. And here's what he's saying. You know that prophecy about Daniel, you guys remember that? Well this vision that I'm describing mashes all of those particular things together into one, and it is a beast coming out of the sea. It's the big one. It's the bad one. It's what Daniel was talking about was coming, and here it is.
So what is it? It is the Roman Empire. That's what it is. That's what it is to the original audience. That's what they're hearing when they hear this, because each of the beasts, or each of the monsters that Daniel saw were various empires that he was seeing, and then there was a great empire. John is saying what Daniel saw, is what we're now experiencing. This is the empire, it is the Roman Empire.
Now, why I say that is because many of us, and many people, when they begin to read the book of Revelation, read it really upside down and really weirdly. We read it as if the whole thing is talking, not about stuff that could have been real in their day and age, but only stuff that's going to happen at the very end of time, way, way, way, way whenever that is. Here's the problem. The Bible means something to the people that are reading it. This letter, Revelation, that was circling through the churches of Laodicea and Thyatira, all of these churches. It means something to them.
And here's what you need to understand in interpreting the Bible. The Bible can never mean what it never meant. It meant something then. And then, we have to understand what that something was, and then build a bridge of context to understand what that means for us today. The Bible doesn't mean what it never meant.
And so, who he's talking to right here, and who he's speaking about, this beast that's coming out of the sea, is the empire itself. Now there are blasphemous names that are on the heads of this particular beast coming from the sea with all of its heads. Why is that referencing the empire? Because the emperors of the empire were now embracing godlike names and worship as if they are gods.
In fact, do you remember the name Caesar Augustus? Remember the story, the narrative of Jesus' birth and Caesar Augustus right? If not, maybe you've seen Charlie Brown, and they read it there. Caesar Augustus actually referred to himself as Divus, which mean like God. Nero, who came after him, referred to himself as the savior of the world. Domitian, who was the emperor probably at the time that Revelation was being written, in Latin actually referred to himself as Dominus et deus noster. Our Lord and our God. This is what the emperors were claiming. By the way, Antiochus Epiphanes, who was, you know, close to two hundred years before even that, began the process of actually claiming godlike status.
So, ladies and gentlemen, you've got now an empire of which the emperors of that empire and claiming divinity, and are receiving of worship. Thus, the idea, or the picture of blasphemous names on their heads.
But then it also says that one of the heads of the beast seemed to have a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. What is that referring to? Well, historically, here's what we know. We know that Nero killed himself in 68 A.D. And when Nero killed himself, everything thought the Roman Empire.. it's done. Because Nero was the last of the Judeo Claudian dynasty of the empire. Right? Julius Caeser, Claudius. He was the last of the Judeo Claudian dynasty. Everybody thought, the empire is done. Nero killed himself. It's over.
And in fact, over the next eighteen months, it was chaos in the empire. Do you know over the next thirteen months after Nero, there were actually three emperors that ascended and then were assassinated or murdered or whatever? You had, uh what was his name? I don't remember. Some dudes. You can look it up. I'm only kidding. I know them. Just sometimes I have like brain... Right? You'll have to forgive me. Galba, Otho, Vetelius. Bam! There it is, right there. I knew they'd show up. I knew they'd show up. I knew they'd show up. They come, right, in this eighteen month period, and they're all gone.
And then, ultimately Thespasian comes, and he solidifies the empire, and builds the army strong, has an army general named Titus who he sends into Jerusalem. And in 70 A.D. destroys Jerusalem completely, of Jesus prophesied would happen, not leaving one stone on another. Titus actually ends up taking over for Thespasian, and after Titus comes Domitian, who's probably reigning at the time of the writing of this Revelation, and not only, listen to this, not only did the empire look like it was dead with the wound to the head, but now it's healed and looks stronger than ever. Who is going to fight against the empire that looked dead, and now is stronger than ever. This is the idea that's being communicated in these verses. And it's something that is kind of the reminder that these emperors are receiving worship. That the empire would, ultimately even though it claimed kind of a perpetual state, eternal Rome. Have you ever heard that phrase? Rome eternal? It claimed perpetual state, but it wouldn't last, you know.
And then kind of the assumption of that last set of verses is that the people of God are going to face a very, very difficult time. Let him who goes into captivity, go into captivity. Let those who were killed with the sword be killed with the sword. This requires patience, endurance and faithfulness. So it's a sobering reminder.
But then look in verse number eleven. Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. Oh ok, great. So, one beast wasn't enough. We need another one. 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. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 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. 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. 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, 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. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.
So, I can't get to everything here. I'm giving you a big picture. The second beast who comes from the earth actually is, it functionally points people to the beast from the sea to worship it. So if we established the dragon is Satan, the beast from the sea is the empire, then the beast from the earth is the propaganda machine for the empire. Here's what I mean by that. In this particular date time frame of the Roman Empire, Rome had conquered so many places that were now Roman outposts all over the place, not just in the headquarters of Rome, but now all over Asia Minor and kind of over the known world. There were particular people, maybe they were local authorities or maybe they were former pagan kind of temple officiants or whatever, they were standing in line in these outposts to try to be the next one to build a temple for the empire, or to build a statue for the emperor that could be worshiped and could be adored.
And in fact, these types of people were actually the enforcers of empire and emperor worship. They're the ones who actually gave out the libelous, which was a paper that if people did their due diligence and making the proper sacrifices to the emperor that they got a libelous which had a stamp on it that said you are now free to go into the market and to buy and sell into all of those types of things. You see, this is what we have to remember. The dragon is Satan, but the dragon is infiltrating governmental structures and rulers of governments to try and get what he wants. Does that sound familiar? Remember the opening passage that we talked about? And there are propagandists who are like false prophets of a different religion, a religion that says embrace anything other than God even if it is an emperor of a present governmental system or empire. Embrace them as the ones upon whom you depend and upon whom you rely and embrace them as your gods.
So this is what you have here. In fact, the beast from the earth even has miraculous signs associated with it, right? But remember our exodus kind of imagery? Do you remember when Moses was standing in Pharaoh's court and he threw his staff down and it turned into a serpent right? Well do you know there were sorcerers also that were there with Pharaoh that also did miraculous signs? You know why? Satan is always trying to imitate and copy. This is what he does. I'm gonna get to that in just a minute, but this is what he does. And so even in this context, we see that kind of picture.
What's also notable about this is that the beast from the earth makes sure that every person not written in the Lamb's Book of Life it says, get's a mark. Okay well what is that? A mark on their foreheads? A mark on their hands? What is that referring to? Well, it could be referring to the libelous I just told you about a moment ago, this piece of paper that has the imprimatur of the caesar, or his head or whatever on that, that when you carry that in your hand, that you are now shown to be someone who has paid due diligence and homage to the emperor and to the empire. And so you are free to buy and sell and to trade and do all stuff. It could be referring to that. It could be referring to the mark that would appear on the head of a slave, particularly slaves that ran away. They were branded on the forehead FUG, even though the U looked like a V, kind of in Latin, FUG for fugitive. And they were branded on the forehead so that they were marked and people knew that they were owned and that they were someones.
But you know what I think it is probably as well? I think it's probably just a parody of what God has done in his people. If you remember back in Deuteronomy chapter number six, listen to these words. "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."
You see, this was the picture that God had given. He had made a unique people back we look in Deuteronomy at the time of the Exodus, when the people of God are coming into the Promised Land. He's establishing this people as a people that are marked by him. And this people are actually marked, listen, by phylacteries on their heads that contain the parchment of the Word of God, and by those that are attached to their wrists on their forehead and on their hands. That they have the Word of God marking them out as the people of God. So what you have here is your most have a parody of that. You have an imitation of that, where somehow, some way people are marked demonstrating that they are either God's in the person of Christ, or they are the empires in the personhood of the emperor. They're one or the other. Their allegiance is made known based upon this.
And then it says that the mark, or the number, is six hundred and sixty-six. Now this number has been made to mean so much that it's ridiculous, right? I mean, just seeing the number of kind of freaks people out. If that number appears on a call you don't take it, you know. If you got that number at the hotel, you change rooms, you know right? Just the number itself kind of freaks people out.
Here's what we have to understand, because it says we need wisdom to calculate the number, and it's the number of a man. Hmm. That meant something to the people that were reading it by the way, and it was not uncommon for them to see stuff like this, because in ancient both Greek and in Hebrew, Hebrew called it Gematria, and it basically means this. That for every letter in the alphabet, it has a numerical value. Ok? This was normal. The letters had numerical values.
In fact, you can actually look up in history, and there are still some times that you can find like carved out on the wall, probably from some Roman teenager, who said "the number of the girl I love is 513". Well, that's not a phone number. It's not an address. What it is, it's her name. The name of the girl or the number of the name of the girl that I love is blank. And so then the job is, you figure it out. What is the numerical values of the letters associated with that number five hundred and thirteen? And you might figure out who he loves. This is history.
And so now, John uses that because remember, John is on Patmos. And he's there because the empire has persecuted him. And he's writing in code to people that will understand exactly what he's saying without using specific names. So what is the the number equation six hundred and sixty-six? Well, not only symbolically does it reference "fail fail fail" instead of "777". It's 666, right? But it is also, when you write Nero Caesar, that's what it is. Six hundred and sixty-six is the value of the phrase Nero Caesar. Now, why do I pick him out? Here's why? Because there are other variant readings of the New Testament. And forgive me, you'll just have to go back and listen again. But there are other variant readings in the New Testament, you know like when sometimes you're reading, it as an asterisk, and there's a note at the bottom "or blank", right? There's other variant readings of the New Testament that don't give the number as 666. It gives the number as six hundred and sixteen. Six-one-six. There's a reason for that. Because there are two ways of spelling Nero Caesar. One that went to six hundred and sixty six, and one that was six hundred and sixteen.
So, the variant reading actually tells us what John's intent was. John was trying to say to them, anyone who claims to be God, and who sets himself up to be God, wants to mark you to be in love with them, when in fact you need to be marked by God by God's own word, and become a people of God such that you reject that, and you're willing to embrace whatever consequence comes associated with that. See that's what's going on in this text. Now, listen, it means much more than just Nero. It means anyone who sets himself up in a place, or any empire that sets itself up in a place to receive the worship of people other than God alone. That's what it's referring to.
But then, man and I'm running out out of gas. But then chapter chapter gives us some encouragement, and then I want to read this and talk to you about it and then let the plane here shortly. Chapter fourteen verse one says this, "Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless."
So, you've got this picture, right, of this army of people that we already talked about in chapter seven. This one hundred and forty-four thousand, right? A very round number, a very symbolic number, twelve thousand times twelve, right? And it's indicative of the people of God. And herem you've got a picture of the people of God with the lamb on Mount Zion. Mount Zion in the Old Testament is a place of vindication and victory. So it's a reminder that the victorious lamb is there with the 144,000. Now, I don't have time to unpack.. what's the deal with them being virgins? Does that mean it's just men in the people of God and that all women are left out? And no, no. It's not what it's talking about, because it's actually referencing an army. An army before they went into war because they considered it holy and had to go through purification rituals. And so this is kind of a picture of all of those things. But that's another time, another place. I'm not getting into the weeds here, alright?
Here's the great news about this. There are a hundred and forty-four thousand symbolically, just like there were in chapter seven. And do you know what he said in chapter seven? I'm gonna seal them, and even though hell may break loose ,and even though they might die, and even though they might suffer, they're mine. You know what you see in chapter fourteen? They're all accounted for. There with the Lamb. He's not lost any of them. They're there. They may have faced persecution, they may have died, but they've been offered as a first fruits, and there they are with him. This is the encouragement of this.
So, all of that, I just traveled through three chapters. All of that says to us, what? Here's the big idea of these three chapters. You can write this down. Satan hates God and will stop at nothing to steal His worship. Satan hates God and will stop at nothing to steal His worship. Now, I want to give you three quick things to kind of help us unpack that just a little bit further, and even maybe touch on some application as to how that happens, alright?
So what does Satan do to try and steal God's worship? Well, first he's going to parody God's nature. He's just going to parody... You understand what I'm saying when I say parody, right? He's gonna just do the opposite of, its not the reality, it's a parody. He's going to parody God's nature. What do I mean by that? Well, hopefully you saw it. But just as a reminder, you know that in God's nature, God is one God one in essence, but is tri-personal in nature. God as Father, God as Son, God as Holy Spirit. Not three gods, one God, but tri-personal in nature as Father, Son and Spirit, right? I've taught on that here before, you understand what I'm saying.
Satan sets himself up, ladies and gentlemen, in the same way. Where we worship God in the beautiful tri-personal trinitarian nature of who He is, Satan tries to set himself up as an unholy trinity. There is a dragon, there is a beast from the sea, and there is a beast from the earth. This is how he's trying to set everything up. The dragon gives authority to the beast from the sea, just like the Father gives authority to the Son. The beast from the earth does not necessarily call attention to himself, but instead calls attention to worshiping the beast from the sea, just like the Holy Spirit does to the person of Jesus. And the beast from the earth, mimicking the Holy Spirit calls fire down from heaven as a parody of Pentecost, and also as a reminder that he is preparing the way for the messiah empire to be worshiped, just like Jesus said, Elijah had to come first before the Messiah. What did Elijah do? Call fire down from heaven. So you've got a parody of the very nature of God, and Satan sets himself up that way with he being worshiped, when he can infiltrate governmental systems and their leaders, like the empire, and then the propagandists who are pointing attention to them, and doing everything they can to get people to fall into their laps and worship them.
But not only the same parody God's nature, Satan parodies God's kingdom. You know, of all the things that Satan could use, he chooses, listen, he chooses empire. You know why? Because he knows that the kingdom and the power and the glory are God's forever. It's God's. God has an eternal kingdom that cannot be defeated, but Satan because he's been kicked out of heaven in this war, he's releasing his fury on the earth. And you know what he's trying to set up? He wants his own kingdom. He wants to be worshiped. He not only models himself out of God's nature, but he wants what God has, and he sets himself up to infiltrate as much as he possibly can the kingdoms of this world.
Do you realize how important this is for us today, because Satan is still infiltrating the kingdoms of this world, in the world we live in? By the way you don't have to be a historian to walk through history to see how he has infiltrated various different places. I mean does anybody need a refresher course on Nazi Germany? Or look further back, or look even more recently, all around the world empires that oppress by violence, by manipulation, by whatever way shape or form that they want to have been infiltrated by the enemy, so that he can cause people to have to worship them instead of worshiping God alone.
And I'm not gonna give America a pass. I love where I live, and I'm thankful to God for it. But I'm not given it a pass. What you need to understand, is that Satan wants to infiltrate in the United States, and in the systems and structures that we have just as much as he wants to infiltrate it anywhere else in the world. He wants to. And by the way, just in case you're wondering, that's not even a political statement so much because he is glad to ride an elephant or a donkey, or both at the same time. He's not concerned. He just wants to infiltrate and figure out a way to either cause us to come into a conflict of interest of allegiance, or somehow to create a culture that that turns our eyes away from God.
I mean, don't even begin to get me started thinking about some of these things, because he's infiltrated us in such a way, that now we have um.. I've got a bunch of them. I'm right now evaluating how mad I'm willing to make anyone. Okay, I'm good with it. So we have tax funded public education in the United States and higher education that encourages a godless world view. Encourages it. By the way there's no such thing as a godless world view. It's just taking our attention off the God who is God overall, and putting our attention on a different god. That's all it is. Or it's, or it is government-subsidized organizations that are willing to provide as much as possible the convenience of abortion and sell baby parts more for profit than for science. You don't have to clap. I'm not running for office. Some people would say, I can't believe he would say something like that. I'll tell you why I can say it. Because I have the moral courage to say it based on the Word of God, because it is vile. It's vile. Or, a government that even in our past history or maybe recent past history has created a climate of war in other places in the world. I told you I'm not taking sides, here. Or, a government through its economic policies, is oppressing some of its' own people, or oppressing other nations from our economic policy. There's, there's lots of these. I'm just gonna stop there. You understand what I'm trying to say. America doesn't get a pass. Because what Satan is trying to do in all places, all over the place, is infiltrate, and if the hat fits in terms of empire, he's willing to wear and it doesn't matter which political party it is, he's gonna figure out a way to somehow infiltrate, turn people's attention away from God, and turn their attention on to something else.
But there's a last thing I want to note, and then we'll be done, and it's this. Satan is going to call for our loyalty and worship. He will call for our loyalty and our worship. You see, John knew when he was writing this, when he got this vision, this revelation, that when these people in these churches were reading it, he knew that either persecution had already begun for them, right? He knew it had begun for him. He's on Patmos, right? He's been exiled. He's been excommunicated out to an island, a penal colony. So he knew it began for him. And he knew it was coming to these young churches, or it was already there. And what he's trying to remind them of is that there is going to be a cost when you say you were going to follow after Jesus. That's why in chapter number twelve verse number seven, he says, you've got to hold fast to the testimony of Jesus. That's why in chapter thirteen verse number ten, he said, this is going to require patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people. That's why in chapter thirteen verse number eighteen, he said, this is going to call for wisdom. You're gonna need to sermon about this. Because it is going to cost you.
And just as it was then, so it is now. Even though this is going on all over the world, by the way, and America has been somewhat immune to it, it will not remain that way. Just yesterday, one of our partners that was with us last week, who I had lunch with, upon returning to his country of origin, which is in the middle eastern part of the United States, was called in by the government and is starting to be interrogated, starting yesterday. They wanted him to know, we are watching you. It's happening in the world, and we're not immune. You need to expect that if you're going to have an allegiance to Jesus Christ, you're gonna be marked. You're going to be marked, and it may cost you, listen carefully, it's going to cost you socially. It's probably gonna cost you economically. And it may even cost you physically. That may not be true for all of us in our lifetime, but it's coming. And you need to decide where your allegiance lies.
But I want to remind you before we finish that Satan, the dragon, has already been triumphed over. You see, that's why in Revelation 12:11, it says this. That they triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb.
Stop right there for just a second. Because of what Jesus has done, in coming to the earth that was full of sinful people and full of oppression, and where Satan himself has been released, to release his fury in hell, that Jesus came, born of a virgin, was not killed by Satan, even though that's what he wanted to do, made it all the way to a cross, so that he could die sinlessly for sinful people, so that the wrath of God might be satisfied in Him judging Jesus and our sin placed upon the spotless one, so that we can somehow through his blood be forgiven and by His resurrection shown that we can have life and have reconciliation to the Father. That is what we have been promised, that the enemy has been triumphed over, that when Jesus said it is finished, it was finished. It was finished, but like a chicken with its head cut off it still runs around going crazy for a little while, that's exactly what the enemy is doing. His head is gone but he's still running around creating all kinds of fury.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony. Their testimony is, that Jesus is the name above every name, that Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not, and that his name every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Whatever that cost me. Christ is all. He is my life. This is the testimony of Jesus, and how that transformed us. And they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. In other words, they were faithful to the very end of their lives.
What I'm saying to you is at my job before Jesus is to prepare us to be faithful to Christ. My job isn't to give you the power to do that, because that's what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be faithful to him. But my job is to facilitate reminding us that we have to be prepared to be faithful to Jesus whatever it costs us. And it may cost us economically, and it's going to cost a socially, and it may yet cost us physically.
So here it is. There's a war for your worship, and you're gonna have to make a decision. Because Satan will use whatever means necessary to turn your attention away from allowing Jesus to be Lord of all and Lord of you. He will try every allegiance in your life, and even good things man. Even good things, because good things, when they become god things, are bad things. So where's your allegiance gonna lie? That's what this passage of Scripture remind us. Don't let anything come above loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ, because he is God of all.
Would you bow your heads with me? Before we leave, if you're hear and you've never turned from your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus, listen man, I don't know what you're waiting on. I don't know what you're waiting on. You've been deceived. You've been been deceived into thinking that maybe there's a better god. Maybe you're a better god. I can tell you you're not. I say that to you lovingly. You're not. I'm not. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. You don't have life outside of Jesus. You don't have life outside of Jesus. He is life. He doesn't want to be a part of your life, he wants to be your life. He himself is life. Apart from him is only death.
So if you've never embraced Jesus ,come to a place where you've surrendered your life to him, and that that has resulted in your allegiance to him, above all things, then I hope maybe when we dismiss in just a moment, you will come by the Fireside Room in the atrium. It's clearly marked. Speak to one of our pastors, one of our prayer partners in there, about what it means to know Christ.
Father, for those of us that do know you, that claim to know you, I pray that we be reminded by the stark reality that Jesus is on Mount Zion and has lost none. That you are Lord, you always will be. That you are the victor, that your kingdom endures. But that for a time and for a season, Satan will try and infiltrate anything and everything to make us worship anything other than you. May we be wise, may we be patient and enduring and faithful and may we hold to the testimony of Jesus. Because there is only one God, and it is you. It is you. Nothing else. No one else. May our allegiance, and our loyalty and our worship only be for you. Not for anything else, even if it's a good thing that we make a god thing. May we repent of that, and embrace only you. We love you for your goodness, and for your kindness and for your power in the world that we live in, to be able to overcome, because we know the enemy is already vanquished by your work on the cross and through your resurrection. And when you come again, you're going to make wrong things right, and broken things better. We long for your appearing, and we long for your power in this life that we might demonstrate the light of the Gospel in the world that we live in. So empower us by your Spirit to surrender ourselves in allegiance to you, whatever the cost. We pray in Jesus, amen.
Love you folks. Have a great week.