Saturday, 18 August 2018 06:19

94. The beast that comes out of the earth: worship and the image of the beast * Revelation 13:13-15 - PART 2

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13 And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

14 And deceives them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, that had the wound by a sword, and did live.

15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

 

PART 2

 

*** Great wonders ***: The activities of the earth beast ministry are described as “great wonders”. He performes incredible miracles designed to deceive those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 13:14). The activities pertinent to the end times are described as being the earth beast’s ability to make fire come down from heaven. Note how the verse says these miracles were performed in front of everyone (Revelation 13:13). The word translated as “man” in Revelation 13:13 is the word ánthrōpos, which means mankind. It refers to both men an and women. There is no distinction describing who these people serve - if God or the dragon. The beast miracles target all people without any barriers.

*** Making fire come down from heaven ***: Among the activities the beast is involved in during the end times, there is one which is possibly the most incredible of all the wonders he has done up to that point. He makes fire come down from heaven. We can understand that this specific activity will reach its peak strength during the time of the end because Jesus said this about what would happen at that time: “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24). The earth beast’s most powerful act of deceit will be making fire come down from heaven. This action seems to be a turning point in the course of the events leading up to people’s final decision about their spiritual allegiance. But what does this mean? Will we see actual fire come down from the sky? As we’ve mentioned in study #93, Revelation 13 is full of symbolism, and so, there is a very deep meaning behind the words chosen to describe the events during the final days. First, we must understand the symbol chosen here: “fire coming down from heaven”.

Typically, in the Bible, whenever fire comes down from Heaven, it is an act of God indicating His acceptance of a sacrifice (1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1), His presence (Exodus 19:18), or His justice (Revelation 20:9; Genesis 19:24; 2 Kings 1:10, 12).There are two stories in particular that seem to bear some significance in this case and can help us understand how serious this beast action is. The first one is the story of Pentecost and the second is the episode when Elijah faced the false prophets at mount Carmel.

- Pentecost (Acts 2): The Pentecost marked the pouring of the Holy Spirit over the first Christians, gathered in one accord at a house, as they were meeting in prayer after Christ’s ascension to Heaven. The Bible describes the way they were filled by the Holy Spirit: “And there appeared unto them separated tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:3). This event marked the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit on Earth following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the throne of God. Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit after His return to Heaven. Jesus would start His work in Heaven, and the Holy Spirit would start His work on Earth, by directing people to the truth and leading them to accept Christ’s offer of salvation (John 14:26). In a counterfeit way, the earth beast starts His final work during the time of the end by bringing down fire in front of everyone, commanding people to follow the false Christ in the form of the sea beast (Revelation 13:12). It is evident here how the earth beast stands for Christian-like values. Let’s think about this His for a moment. The counterfeit always looks like the real thing but with minor alterations. That is what is so convincing about the beast message - it sounds right. As the fire during the Pentecost propelled the early Christians to spread the Gospel to the nations around them, to everyone’s amazement (Acts 2:7), we can expect that the fire in Revelation 13:13 will also amaze the people of the earth and motivate them to spread the beast message globally. In this sense, the coming down of fire represents a growth in “spirituality”. Given the source of the fire, the spiritual values being promoted are not pure and are instead based on the dragon’s principles.

- Elijah at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19-40): During Elijah’s time, God’s people were divided. They were not following either God or Baal completely. The Bible teaches that salvation comes only when a person gives their entire heart to God, and so prophet Elijah was worried about the state of indecision God’s people were in. If they remained like that, they would be as good as lost. By making fire come down from Heaven, God showed His people the truth - the truth about the Lord of Heaven. His fire is also a sign of His justice, and consequently, the destruction of the false prophets was the next step.

The counterfeit fire from Revelation 13 is not intended to bring up the truth about God but on the contrary. It is intended to deceive people and make them break God’s Law. The Ten Commandments are very clear about how we should not make or worship images (Exodus 20:4-5). Yet, during Satan’s big power display, the people are called to not only make an image of the sea beast (the one who received the mortal wound and lived) but also to worship this image (Revelation 13:14-15). Unlike Elijah’s episode at Mount Carmel, where the false prophets were killed, the ones who wish to worship God and not the image of the beast will be the ones threatened with destruction instead.

Let’s compare these three moments when we see fire come down from heaven:

 Pentecost - Acts 2 Elijah at Mount Carmel - 1 Kings 18:19-40
God’s people are gathered, in one accord (Acts 2:1) God’s people are gathered but are divided, wavering between God and Baal. False prophets were also present. (1 Kings 18:19-21) Mankind is gathered. No distinction is made at this point between God’s people and beast followers. (Revelation 13:13)
Fire comes down from Heaven over God’s people and God’s truth is made known as the Holy Spirit works through the apostles. (Acts 2:3-4) Fire comes down from Heaven over the sacrifice, and God is made known as the true God of Heaven. (1 Kings 18:38-39) Fire comes down from heaven on the earth and the earth dwellers are deceived. (Revelation 13:13-14)
As a result, people are led to follow Christ and 3000 people are baptized. (Acts 2:41) As a result, people recognized that the Lord is God, and all the false prophets were killed. (1 Kings 18:39-40) As a result, the earth dwellers were called to break God’s commandments. They were to worship the beast and those who refused to do so were to be killed. (Revelation 13:14-15)

 

*** The image of the beast ***: When we read Revelation 13:14-5, we see clearly that the earth beast commanded the people of the earth to make an image of the sea beast. The earth beast has such political influence that he can actually push this order forward, as if breathing life into this recreated sea beast (Revelation 13:15). Breathing in life into an image is first seen during creation (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:7), and it is solely a power that belongs only to God. Like the first beast, the second beast also claims to have divine powers.

We learned in studies #90 and 92 how the sea beast had lost its political strength when it received the mortal wound. At the peak of his power, the sea beast preached his altered values and persecuted to death anyone who refused to obey them. Building an image of the sea beast means recreating this same scenario. Note that it is the people themselves who are to create this image (Revelation 13:14). This way, the people will have a sense of ownership in the project. They are to recreate the sea beast system and give it their full devotion and allegiance, in the form of worship. This is a reference to what we see described in Daniel 3.

King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that a gold statue be built (Daniel 3:1). The statue was very similar to the one he had seen in the dream he received from God (Daniel 2:31-33). There was, however, a big difference in this statue. It was completely golden. In his dream, only the head of the image was made of gold. The head of gold represented the Babylonian kingdom, and how God had told him his kingdom would one day have an end and other kingdoms would follow (Daniel 2:38-43). By building an entirely golden statue, Nebuchadnezzar was making a strong statement. He was publicly denying what God had told him, and was replacing God’s truth with his own altered version. He wanted the Babylonian kingdom to last forever and never be conquered by any other kingdom. As the supreme leader, Nebuchadnezzar had the power to order his people to not only build him this statue but also to worship it at his command. Those who refused to worship the image would be sent to death (Daniel 3:5-6). Now we can understand even better the meaning behind the image of the beast. It ultimately represents the altered spiritual values and religious system supported by the end time government. Just as it happened during the Medieval times - the time of the sea beast - those who refuse to follow the doctrines preached by the image of the beast will pay with their own lives.

*** How about freedom of worship? ***: Not having the freedom to worship whoever you want sounds very strange for us living in the current western culture. How can a society built on religious freedom change so much to the point of killing those who do not conform? Is it possible for such a change to happen so fast? The cultural change could happen gradually, or it could be the result of a major event. The speed at which this will happen is not the focus of the prophecy. We’ve witnessed in our recent history how peaceful neighborhoods turn savage during a crisis. People openly looting after a major disaster such as hurricane, flood or war. We’ve seen this on the news more often than we care to admit. A change in behavior like that is not as far fetched as we would like to think. But the main reason why persecution of those refusing to worship the image of the beast will happen is because God said it would. And that has nothing to do with human timing. This warning is, however, not meant to scare us or to discourage us from remaining faithful. That’s what the enemy would like, right? God’s purpose is to prepare us for the final events. Jesus already said difficult times like never seen before would come (Matthew 24:21). Let’s not forget He is also the one who tells us no to fear: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). The awareness of such end-time trials should only serve to reminds us that God is the one in control and that He already holds the victory.

*** Deception ***: When the earth beast displays signs and wonders in front of the whole world, he is actually revealing Satan’s wish to deceive and distract people from God’s truth. It is clear here that the earth beast exercises the counterfeit work of the Holy Spirit. The earth beast calls attention to the false christ and teaches false doctrines, while the Holy Spirit points to Jesus Christ and teaches us the truth. Deception is the basis for satanic work. Jesus called Satan the father of lies (John 8:44). It seems that his tactics will become even more intense during the end times. The dragon’s speech, reflected in the activities of his two beasts, aims to move people away from the true God and His commandments.

*** Overview ***: People who are undecided about who or how they should worship become an easy target to Satan’s poisonous darts. The dragon wishes to receive worship and, at the same time, to make people stop worshiping the true God. By using the sea beast as the focus of worship, Satan is able to achieve his goal in a subtle and easy to accept way. Remember, the sea beast is a symbol for a spiritual leadership, representing seemingly good and wholesome values. It will seem like following him will be the right thing to do. In turn, this can easily create the global sentiment that those who refuse to follow the beast are actually troublemakers. That is why we must understand the difference between the actions of God and any counterfeit work coming from Satan. When God sends fire from Heaven, it is a sign of His justice and love - an act that calls people to repentance and true worship. It brings people back to Scripture. We must understand that any other teaching calling us to do something contrary to what is directed by God, written in the Bible, is an enemy trap intended to deceive us. Traditions established by humans should never take the place of Biblical teachings. As we’ve studied before, Satan’s agents, described as beasts, are actually religious and political leadership powers - in other words, groups of influential humans. The only way to not let Satan’s lies deceive us is to be willing to receive the Holy Spirit, like the apostles on the day of Pentecost, and to choose to only worship the God of Heaven, like Elijah at Mount Carmel. While fasting for 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus Himself turned to Scripture and the Truth established by God as a defensive response to Satan’s deceptive request for worship: “Get you behind me, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” (Luke 4:8).

 

   
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