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September 27th, 2021
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

After pausing to acknowledge Thanksgiving, we again take up the study of the Book of Revelation. The topic found in Chapter 13 is a troublesome one, as we see the evil one orchestrating the whole earth’s submission to a world dictator. The result is a depraved culture, and an unholy trinity consisting of Satan, the antichrist (the beast from the sea), and the false prophet (the beast from the earth) which bring the Great Tribulation. 

The concept of tribulation is not unique to Revelation. Other New Testament references include Jesus’ Olivet Sermon (Matthew 24:1-51) and Paul’s discussion of end times in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17. Yet we’re promised, “‘These things I have spoken to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33). In the Old Testament, Daniel chapter 9 and Jeremiah chapter 29 suggest a limited timeframe, and Christ’s return will bring an end to persecution and martyrdom. 

John’s account begins with the dragon (devil) receiving help from two sources. “‘And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads were blasphemous names’” (Revelation 13:1-2). This powerful antichrist is sacrilegious in his claim of divinity, yet is just a person. His characteristics would have reminded John’s fellow Christians of their Roman rulers. Today it could depict the power of secular humanism – the fierce beast performs miracles that inspire a cult of those who worship success. It has suffered what seems a fatal wound but is resurrected, and John reminds readers to hold on to “‘…the perseverance and the faith of the saints’” (verse 10). 

Next, John writes, “‘Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon’” (verse 11). From sea (chaos) and land (established authority), the devil draws these two instruments for his struggle and deception. The angel that announces the end (Revelation 10:2) had his right foot on the sea and his left on land. This second beast, a false prophet, threatens to kill all who do not worship the antichrist, and orders a mark by which the wearer can buy and sell. The prophet appears to do supernatural things, but is not a superhuman character. The mark, 666, is the number of humanity, which serves as a grim counterpart to the protective seal of God (Revelation 7:3). Though the person has awesome power, to be in Satan's control does not make the false prophet more than a human. 

Together Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet wage war against the world, bringing, according to W.T. Purkiser, “…an intense period of trouble immediately prior to the Second Coming… a period of suffering, satanic deception, political uprisings, diverse judgments, and desperate and final sporadic conflicts on a global scale.” The result is that the false prophet causes many to worship the first beast, who performs great signs that deceive many. He gives breath (life) to the image of the beast (possible now with virtual reality), and causes all who worship to be given a mark. 

Trends which point to such an intensification are found in the areas of our economy, with business mergers and global dealings; technology including bitcoin, block chain and computer-based payments; telecommunications that allow worldwide tracking; political consolidations such as the UN, EU, the World Court, World Heritage Sites and others; and religion that faces a decline in ethics, with feelings replacing biblical fact, and a vast falling away of believers (apostasy). 

Finally, culture that rejects the notions of absolute truth - right and wrong, God as creator, sacredness of life, a nuclear family with sex within marriage, and dignity and respect for all - is ripe for the Tribulation which will bring worldwide economic exclusion, political harassment, and religious idolatry. 

Much current Christian teaching envisions a pre-tribulation Rapture, meaning that believers in Christ will not be present during this time. From the time of the early church until the 19th century, this view was not common. The subject of Rapture will be further addressed next week. If the Rapture does not occur first, it would be prudent to prepare for a time of anarchy, a total collapse of culture amid chaos and deception, all orchestrated by the evil one. Regardless, those who worship only God can be confident that he will guard and watch over all who serve him, even in the midst of great tribulation. 

Jesus told his followers, “‘…do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’” (Matthew 10:28). We take courage and look forward with hope, as Jesus also said, “‘When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near’” (Luke 21:28). 

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