Sunday, 26 November 2017 09:54

91. The beast that comes out of the sea: waging war against people and breaking God’s Law * Revelation 13:7-10 - PART 6

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7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all tribes, and tongues, and nations.

8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

9 If any man has an ear, let him hear.

10 He that leads into captivity shall go into captivity: he that kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

 

PART 6

 

*** War against the saints ***: Last time, we learned that the blasphemous activities of the beast are extensive. The beast that comes out of the sea wishes to have the authority of God on Earth. It claims to have the power to change God’s law, to change how God is perceived by people, to prevent people from connecting to God directly, and to decide people’s fate. That power over the saints is highlighted in Revelation 13:6 as the beast’s blasphemies against God’s people, “those who dwell in Heaven”. That phrase is a nice bridge to verse 7. The dragon himself was preparing to make war with the remnant of the faithful people (Revelation 12:17), and now the sea beast joined the dragon in this endeavor, further demonstrating their alliance. Their goal: to overcome the people (Revelation 13:7). And so, during the prophetic forty two months (1260 literal years, which happened during the Middle Ages), God’s people were oppressed and suffered tremendously at the hands of the polítical-religious powers of the time (see studies #16, #20, #68, #71, #72, #80, and #85).

*** Power over all tribes, tongues, and nations ***: We already know that the dragon had given power to the sea beast (Revelation 13:2) but now we read how far this power extends. The sea beast received power “over all tribes, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:7). The dragon wants the sea beast to compete for the same territory claimed by Christ. When we studied the enthronement of Christ, in Revelation 5, we saw how the heavenly beings were praising Jesus because He had redeemed humanity through His death on the cross and made salvation available to “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9). That message of salvation is to be preached “unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). When we see this comparison, we can understand the true nature of the sea beast’s mission: to conquer Jesus’ territory with a different message - a competing message. We must understand that given this wide area, the beast may use different means of influencing people to move away from the truth. Even though a lot of what is said regarding the beast’s work involves those who profess to be Christian, the beast has received dominion over those who do not belong to the Christian faith. Not all nations in the world are Christian, and the verse says the beast received power over every nation. There are many ways to deceive people, and the beast along with the dragon are working to keep as many people as possible from knowing the truth about God.

*** And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him ***: Revelation 13:3-4 tells us that when the mortal wound heals completely, the people of the earth will worship the sea beast and the dragon. Here, in Revelation 13:8, however, we see some hope that counteracts the frightening size of the beast’s field of operation. Even though the beast is working to deceive everyone on the planet, only those whose names aren’t in Jesus’ book of life will fall for the beast’s trickery and worship him and the dragon. Those who believe in Jesus and accept God’s unaltered truth will be included in Jesus’ book of life. According to Psalm 69:28, that’s where the names of the righteous people are written down. It’s up to each one of us to choose whether or not we wish to be removed from that book. The Bible says that “if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19). In other words, if anyone is preaching a message that is contrary to what is contained in the Bible, God will remove their names from the book of life. That is how serious God takes our free will. We are free to choose whether or not we want to be included in God’s book. If we want to worship God, love Him truly, then we are choosing to be in His book. On the other hand, if we choose to worship and follow the beast, then we are in fact requesting that our names be removed from the book of life.

Note that there is something special about the book of life. It belongs to the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8). This is important because it makes it clear that we depend on Jesus in order to be saved. No one else has the power to grant salvation to people. Only Jesus’ sacrifice has the power to save us, and He gave His life at no charge to us. There is nothing we can do or add to Jesus’ sacrifice that could increase our chances of salvation. All that had to be done was already done. He is offering His work, His life, His death, and His resurrection in exchange for our accepting His sacrifice. There are no extra works that we could possibly do that would help complete His saving grace. His grace is already perfect and complete. All we have to do is say yes and follow Him. Any good works we may do after our encounter with Christ will be a consequence of His transforming powers in our lives. There is no need for us to offer Him our penitences in exchange for forgiveness, or salvation. The Bible says that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). God had a plan of salvation in place from the foundation of the earth. Humans had done no works, good or bad when Jesus decided He would offer His own life for us. That’s how deep His love is.

*** Are you paying attention? ***: Here is a call very similar to the one we saw in the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3: “If any man has an ear, let him hear.” (Revelation 13:9). Jesus is calling us to pay close attention to the message He is giving to His people. The message is not about how we should be afraid of the beast, the dragon, or their power. The main point is not about what the beast can do to us, but what God will do to the beast and the dragon in the end. The oppression and persecution of God’s faithful people are temporary, but the destruction of Satan and his allies is certain and permanent. Revelation 13:9 is a call to pay attention to the message in verse 10, as it relates to the suffering mentioned in the previous verses: “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10, NASB)

- “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he goes”: This statement is about God’s faithful people. It reminds us of what Jesus said: “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Mark 13:10-13, NASB). We are also reminded of Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (NASB). We should not be surprised if we are faced with suffering, persecution or even death because of our unwillingness to follow anything different from what God has commanded us in the Bible. If in order to remain faithful we are to face captivity, then imprisonment would be preferable to abandoning God’s principles.

- “If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed”: This statement is directed toward the persecutors and highlights their certain end: death. This translation is found in Bible versions such as King James, New American Standard Bible, based on the 4th century codex Sinaiticus. Some other Bible translations have included this second statement in the same pattern as the first one, as if directed to God’s people: “If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” (NIV). Those translations are based on other manuscripts like the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus, and are included in versions such as the New International Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version, International Standard Bible, among others. The translation based on the Codex Sinaiticus seem to more closely match the words of Jesus in Matthew 26:52: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again your sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.Jeremiah 15:1-2 and Jeremiah 43:11 have a similar warning directed to the apostate people and oppressors of God’s people. Based on these other Bible verses, we can understand that the second statement in Revelation 13:10 is more likely directed towards those who are persecuting God’s faithful people; to the ones taking them into captivity and death. Their end is certain and has been determined by God. God will bring an end to injustice and evil.

- “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”: God’s people are not called to pick up the sword and fight back. They are called to endure their trials and tribulations. They are called to have faith and trust that God is in control. Even if they find themselves on the other side of the beast’s sword, God’s children are called to trust in God’s sword, the sword that comes out of Jesus’ mouth (Revelation 1:16). His sword is His Truth, contained in the Bible. The Truth comes out of His mouth, not out of the mouth of men who seek to change the message in order to suit their own agenda. Christ is calling us to endure to the end: “but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Mark 13:13). We are able to endure not because there is any strength in ourselves, but because there is strength in God’s Word, and because those who endure have faith: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12).

*** Breaking God’s Law ***: The sea beast received tremendous power. Power to deceive the entire world. Not just those who profess to be Christian and may become contaminated by altered messages. The beast aims to deceive the entire world by any means necessary, inside and outside the church. The sea beast is seeking worship and a position equivalent to God. This behavior goes directly against God’s 1st and 2nd commandments (Exodus 20:1-6), which sate we should not have any other gods besides the God in Heaven, and that we should not create or serve any other gods. As the beast preaches false doctrines to the world, misrepresenting God, the beast is also breaking the 3rd commandment (Exodus 20:7), which says we should not take God’s name in vain. The Bible says that the end time religious-political power would seek to “change times and laws” (Daniel 7:25), and the 4th commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) is the only one of the ten that has to do with time. It talks about the special time that God Himself has chosen as His holy day and as a memorial to the connection He established with His people. The 4th commandment begins by saying “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God […]” (Exodus 20:8-10). The Bible teaches us to keep the seventh day. Jesus Himself kept the seventh day (Luke 4:16; Matthew 12:8). As followers of Christ, shouldn’t we do the same? The first century Christians kept it (Luke 23:52-56; Acts 13:42,44; Acts 15:21; Acts 16:13; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 18:4). Paul warns us against this sort of disobedience and calls us to enter God’s rest: “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11, NASB).

By going directly against the Father’s instructions, Satan and his agents are breaking the 5th commandment (Exodus 20:12), which calls for obedience to parents. Revelation 13:7 tells us that the beast and the dragon are waging a war against God’s people. They wish to keep the people from receiving eternal life. Through persecution, imprisonment and even death, the dragon and the beast will do everything they can to keep people from the Life Giver. By doing so, they break the 6th commandment (Exodus 20:13), which says: “You shall not murder”. Jesus said that Satan was a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). The dragon wishes to turn the Church away from her groom, Jesus Christ, and make her betray Him by believing in the dragon’s own false teachings. This association between Satan and the Church is intended to break the 7th commandment (Exodus 20:14), which warns against adultery. The dragon wishes to steal God’s bride and keep her to himself. Not because he loves the bride, but because he hates God. Satan is seeking revenge against God by attempting to steal the Church from God’s hands. In the process, the dragon breaks the 8th commandment (20:15), which says “You shall not steal”.

Furthermore, the dragon, and now the beast, have been spreading lies about the character of God from the beginning! Jesus called Satan the father of lies (John 8:44). The false teachings that come out of their mouth are their strongest weapon in this spiritual war. The 9th commandment (Exodus 20:16) warns us against this behavior. We must seek to become like the Father in Heaven, not like the father of lies. This entire rebellion against God started because Satan wished to ascend above the stars of God and be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:13-14). Satan coveted God’s house, His bride, His servants and His belongings. Satan made himself the center of his life and ended up forgetting his purpose as an angel and created being. By doing so, he ended up breaking the 10th commandment (Exodus 20:17), which warns us against coveting that which does not belong to us. As the dragon and his agents go about breaking every single one of God’s commandments, they work to trick people into following their example. This is because breaking the Law sends a clear message. A message about not loving God. Remember what Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

*** Overview ***: The sea beast power is calling us not to keep God’s commandments but Jesus is calling us to follow God instead. Jesus warned us: following Him would cause us to be hated, rejected and persecuted, just as He was. People will hate us and reject us when we preach the unaltered message of the Bible. The sea beast is the one tricking people into thinking God’s commandments are a thing of the past or encouraging them to believe that it has been changed. It is true, we are not saved by the law, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). But the commandments are important because they are like the engine light in a car, that lights up when there is a problem and informs the driver that he or she needs to take the car to the mechanic. Our spiritual engine light tells us that we need to go to the only one who can fix us, who can forgive us. Would you ever consider fixing your engine problem by removing the light from the car panel? No, never. If we choose to ignore our engine light, we won’t know we need our Savior, Jesus Christ. Just as that light in the panel cannot fix the problem in the car or prevent the engine from being lost, the Ten Commandments have no power to cleanse the sinner from sin. Only Jesus can do that. The beast and the dragon would like nothing more than to have people reject and ignore the light God has given to His children. The dragon's goal is to keep the entire world from seeking God’s forgiveness from sin. And that is the war that the sea beast and the dragon are waging against all the nations. As they break God’s commandments, they trick people into breaking them as well. Let’s not forget how the Bible describes the end-time faithful people: they are the ones “who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). In the New Testament, Paul described the law of God as holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). Here is what Jesus said about God’s Law: “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “I have kept My Father’s commandment and abide in His love” (John 15:10). “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18).

   
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