Elroy came to the revival meeting at the insistence of the pastor. Everyone was surprised. He hadn't been in church in thirty-two years. He listened to the sweet music, stayed awake during the long prayer before the offering, and even put a quarter in the plate when it was passed. Something in the preacher's sermon struck a chord, and he raised his hand before the crowd was dismissed he asked if he could testify.
Certainly, brother Elroy, said the preacher. Folks, he began, you all know me. I been a liar and a cheat. I done stole an' run around on my wife all these years. I cussed 'n drank worse'n any of you -- But one thing you gotta know, I ain't never lost my religion!
When we run across the brother Elroys of this world we usually just think they're silly. After all, everyone knows you can't lose what you don't have. Having no faith is bad. False religion, or an empty profession of faith is probably worse. But, history teaches (and Jesus' teaching affirms) that having a zealous religiousness can be worse than the Elroy type.
· Muslims wielding swords had a religious quest in the Middle Ages.
· Most terrorist groups have some kind of religious aim.
· In the name of Christianity, Hitler (who had been baptized) sought to exterminate the Christ-killing Jews.
Religion can be dangerous stuff!
In the first part of this chapter we encountered the beast (Antichrist) who rose from the sea – meaning he came from the great masses of the Gentiles. His authority was in the political arena.
The second beast (False Prophet) rises from the earth – signifying that he is a Jew. His career is religious. The first beast was anything but religious. The second is a religious zealot with political clout. This is another antichrist. He is a religious leader who has the world's attention, Satan's power, and an ambition to have it all. He is a dangerous man.
Let's look at another antichrist's career profile:
He Has a Promising Appearance Revelation 13:11
Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, but he spoke with the voice of a dragon.
Jesus warned that many would come in His name.
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NLT)
Never was there a more appropriate description of this beast. He has…
A LAMB'S LOOK
The beast has two horns, like a lamb. In everything the False Prophet does, there is the imitation of Christ. This religious wolf in sheep's clothing will come on the scene as a very pastoral and kind person. Everyone will imagine him to be the epitome of sweetness. But he also has…
A SERPENT'S STING
The sting is the dragon-speak. Satan is the dragon (chp 12), and his chief method is deceptive speech. The beast will speak the big lie, and people will believe it.
So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 2 Thessalonians 2:11 (NLT)
What is the big lie? It is that worship belongs to the first beast, the political Antichrist. You say, How could anyone get away with that – let alone convince the whole world to worship antichrist? Beloved, if Shirley Maclaine can convince some folks that she has had dozens of reincarnations, and Jim Jones could get almost a thousand people to drink his Cool Aid at Jonestown – and Dionne Warlwick has your interest over the Psychic Friends Network, and the religious Pharisees could persuade the crowds to scream for the release of a criminal so Jesus could be crucified – don't ever wonder how Satan will get the world to believe – just understand -- it will happen!
He has a promising appearance, and…
He Has a Perverted Appeal
To pervert is to mislead with corrupted information. In our day we call it spin. A government official takes a very damaging report and puts spin on it to turn it to his advantage. Antichrist will be the
SPIN-MASTER Revelation 13:12 - 14 (NLT)
He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and its people to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. He did astounding miracles, even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching. And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life.
The Spin-Master will skillfully control and manipulate the media with public relations mastery to sway public opinion towards the beast. He will do it with a new religious approach. One writer put it this way:
The role of the false prophet will be to make the new religion appealing and palatable to men. No doubt it will combine all the features of the religious systems of men, will appeal to man's total personality, and will take full advantage of his carnal appetite. The dynamic appeal of the false prophet will lie in his skill in combining political expediency with religious passion, self-interest with benevolent philanthropy, lofty sentiment with blatant sophistry, moral platitude with unbridled self-indulgence.
His new religious approach will make use of supernatural powers. The false prophet imitates the ministry of Elijah, bringing fire down, as a sign of his power. Radio preacher J. Vernon McGee put it this way, The false prophet plays with fire until he is cast into the lake of fire. Jesus refused to give such signs, and warned against such displays as the kinds of things those do who are against him:
For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. Matthew 24:24 (NLT)
John tells us that this false prophet will set up an image of the first beast, so that everyone will have to worship him. Many scholars believe this will be done within the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem -- something Daniel, and Jesus predicted:
“From the time the daily sacrifice is stopped and the sacrilegious object that causes desecration is set up to be worshiped, there will be 1,290 days. Daniel 12:11 (NLT)
… and then the end will come. 15“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” Matthew 24:14b-15 (NLT)
This abomination of desolation is a desecration of the holy of holies, the place of God in the temple. The odd thing is that the beast is a Jew, and he will set up an idol of Satan in God's place. This, then is the unpardonable sin -- replacing God with anything! The warning is clear -- all who follow the beast will wind up where he is going -- to the place prepared for the devil and his angels. So, look over your life. Is God the only focus and center of your worship? Does your career, family, bank account -- anything get in the way of worship and service to the King? Weed your garden!
The beast has a promising appearance, perverted appeal, and
He Uses a Pressure Approach
There are always basic characteristics that are distinctive about the hand of Satan:
SATAN’S HAND TOOL IS THE LEGAL SYSTEM Revelation 13:15 (NLT)
He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die.
Laws, and the entire legal system are given of God to control evil during this present time. In the Great Tribulation, however, Satan will use the system to exterminate believers.
The False Prophet will set up an idol which is able to communicate and control. It will be a satanic miracle of persecution, aimed at drawing a line in the sand between the worshippers of God and Satan. It is the same old line the Roman Emperors drew for first century Christians.
From church history comes the story of the 40 martyrs of Sebaste in the fourth century. These 40 soldiers were all Christians and members of the famous Twelfth Legion of Rome. They were informed that the Emperor Licinius had issued an edict that required all soldiers to offer sacrifice to pagan gods. And because they were Christians, they refused to pay homage to paganism.
It was mid-winter, A.D. 320. They were marched to a frozen lake, singing, Forty soldiers, faithful for Christ. There they were stripped of their clothing and made to stand naked on the frozen lake. Should they be willing to renounce their faith, they could come ashore and be reinstated.
As night came and the temperatures fell, and the singing could be heard all the way around the lake, Forty soldiers faithful for Christ. One by one they fell to the ice to freeze to death -- fainter and fainter was the song. Finally, only one man was left. Looking at his 39 dead comrades on the ice he stumbled ashore and renounced his faith in Christ. An officer, who was watching the final soldier come ashore, removed his clothing, confessed Christ as his savior, stepped out on to the ice and marched to join the others. As he walked the song was again heard, Forty soldiers, faithful for Christ.
It is said that you cannot control or shape morality with legislation. That is true; neither can you reshape a born-again heart with legal pressure.
Folks, the best defense against the persecution that will come in the Great Tribulation is for you to be certain you have had a regeneration of your soul, and not just a reformation of your habits. The hand-tool of Satan is the legal system, and…
THE LURE OF SATAN IS MATERIALISM Revelation 13:16-17 (NLT)
He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name.
The mark of the beast is, and has been, the object of much speculation.
· Is there a computer with a laser ready in Spokane?
· Is there a number already assigned by the Social Security Administration?
· Is the president, or the pope the beast?
Certain questions are fruitless, because they have no way of being proved.
What is fruitful about our investigation of the mark of the beast, however, is that we understand it is materialistic – because it allows the false prince and his false prophet to control people. You can do that with money – money is a controller. Money has always been a strong motivator. People with money and no conscience have shaped the course of whole civilizations.
Money is either used, or it uses you. A true test of your Christian orientation is a look at your checkbook register. What do you do with the material things God has placed in your hand? The mark (charagma) is the same word one would use of a king's royal seal. This is not just the mark of the beast – it is his royal seal. There is another seal:
...ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
There are two seals -- one Satanic, the other Holy -- no one can have both – no one can serve two masters!
The hand-tool of Satan is the legal system; his lure is materialism, and…
THE WORSHIP OF SATAN IS FATAL Revelation 13:18 (NLT)
Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.
Again speculation rules the day about what 666 means. There are enough theories to fill several warehouses. One thing is certain -- if it is connected with Satan's beast, it is not good!
What about the number? Several facts apply
Anything repeated often is emphasis we ought not ignore.
The number six in Biblical literature stands for man, who
is imperfect. The number for God is a perfect seven.
Three sixes is a code that seems to indicate a severe
warning of missing perfection, which is Satan's track
However you interpret it, the mark of the beast will be necessary to conduct the daily business of getting the necessities of life – food and shelter. Those who name the name of Christ in that day will be at a crossroads. If they refuse to take the mark it will mean they are vulnerable to the beast's fury. But, taking the mark will reveal their allegiance to the false prophet, meaning theirs was a false profession in the true Christ. Either seal, that of Satan or the Spirit, is indelible, and eternal. It shows up under the pressure approach.
In 1933 Hitler was goose-stepping his way across Germany. They were following him en masse as he preached the gospel of hate, of anti-Semitism, of racial pride and arrogance that would usher in a thousand years for the fatherland. And a 27 year old Lutheran preacher named Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood in his pulpit and denounced Hitler. In the next five years, he preached against everything Hitler stood for, along with many other pastors in Germany.
Then came the war.
This young man came to the United States. His mentor, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, with whom he had studied for a year when he was at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, said, Son, come over here – wait until the war is over; you are the enemy of Hitler and he will destroy you. Wait it out and save your life.
He stayed here two weeks, exactly. Then he said to his friend, I cannot stay in the United States – running away. I must go back because I cannot share in the rebuilding and reconstruction of my country and in the rebuilding of the church after the war unless I share with my people through the sufferings of the war. I am going back. And he went back to Germany.
For the next five years he very effectively protested and, at the same time, worked his way into the central intelligence of the German system He was a secret spy in the resistance movement against Hitler. He secretly went to Britain to try to work out a peace. He secretly plotted with others the overthrow and assassination of Hitler.
One day they found him out and he was thrown into prison. For two years in prison he defied Hitler and preached to the inmates in the concentration camp.
And it was on a Sunday, April 9, 1945 – he had just finished his sermon with the other prisoners, and in walked a guard who said, Prisoner Dietrich Bonhoeffer, follow! He knew what it meant – Bonhoeffer’s time had come; the gallows awaited.
As he marched behind the guards he turned to his friends and said, This is the end. Death is the end for all, isn't it? Then, he threw back his head, threw out his arms and with a shout of joy, said, But it is just the beginning of life for me!
Friends, it is not a matter of if the pressure-packed approach of Satan will show up in your life – it is when.
The seal of Satan, or the seal of the Spirit of God – we have a choice. The matter is too important to leave to chance, or to leave to tomorrow. The advice of Scripture is clear: Lose your religion – find your Savior!