Friday, May 30, 2014
In actuality there are 3 groups of 7 angels described throughout the book of Revelations of Jesus Christ relayed by the disciple John. The first group of seven were angels given messages to the seven churches. The second group is described here with messages for the last days. And the third group will come later carrying the plagues of God’s judgments to be poured out upon the world. It is possible these may be the same angels performing three different and unique missions. It is possible they are each unique, each given a message to convey or work to perform. What is clear, is that the work of the redemption of mankind, is not limited only to actions performed by God alone, or Christ alone. Actions, messages, and missions that work for our redemption are “shared” with those who are willing and long to participate. Those who would volunteer to be tools united in seeing our fallen race reconciled to God are honored by God with a work towards that goal. In the courts of the Father Himself, are seen 24 elders, 4 beasts of unique composition, the Lamb of God or His only Son, and an innumerable host of angels who have been working and fighting for our redemption. His angels have already fought two wars in heaven and one final war is still to come.
This idea of participation is not excluded from you and me either. Jesus Himself gave us His great commission; reminding us we should love one another, and in small teams, carry His gospel of hope and redemption to a world who has never heard this truth. Christ did not require us to be perfect “before” we could share in this work. He has demonstrated His willingness to use “broken tools” in the process of our redemption. He knows despite our imperfections and incomplete understanding of His word, if we will be willing to Love like He Loved, the gospel will find its way into the hearts and minds of those who need it, and will lead to their redemption. It is not the strength of our doctrines, or the purity of our interpretation of scripture that transforms the hearts of men. It is the love of Christ alone that performs this function. When we demonstrate this love we become agents united in His mission. We become tools working for the redemption of mankind. When we pollute our love with our own ideas, and assume it is “us” who saves others instead of “Christ” who saves us all; we detriment the cause of Christ.
Angels understand “who” is in charge. Angels are aware the messages they convey originate with God, not within themselves. The works they perform are the works they volunteer for and have been commissioned or directed to perform. They are more perfect tools to use in our redemption than we are. Too often we would be all too happy to take credit unto ourselves. We assume “our” words are actually “ours”. We believe “our” deeds were originated within us. In this we forget, that His words should be flowing through us. We forget His works come from Him, His motives, His love reflected through us, not beginning within us. Our greatest danger, even within the work of the gospel, is to lose our dependence upon Christ alone, and begin to accept the idea that “we” too are an integral part of the process of salvation, our own, or that of others.
John has only recently set the stage for the work of this second group of seven angels who are to bring messages to us near the end of time. Earlier he described the plans of the enemy, raising up three beasts, allied to see us deny our identity as followers of Jesus Christ alone, and instead submit and carry the mark of this third beast. John went on to identify a special group of 144,000 first fruits, who instead of bearing the mark of the beast, they bear the name of the Father God in their foreheads. They stand before God pure, and without guile. They have been transformed by the power of Christ, and their willing submission to His transformational power and love. While John describes the fury of our enemy in his intentions to make us question our identity, he also describes the hope that not all will succumb to the mark of the enemy and instead there will be those who see the perfection of Christ wrought within them, even while still in this world. This work is all timed near the end, just prior to the return of Christ to this world, to take us home. It is against this timing and the back drop of these events that the second group of angels takes up their messages.
John begins in verse 6 of chapter 14 of his Revelations of Jesus Christ, saying … “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,” The first angel carries with him the message of the eternal gospel, he carries the good news. The message is not intended for only a select group of people, but for literally everyone on planet earth. Language is no barrier to love. Nationality, community, and family all bow to the power of love. It is the love of Christ that underlies the power of the gospel. It is the revelation of His so great love, that comprises the eternal and everlasting gospel that is to be preached to all who dwell on the earth. Notice as well, it is the mission of this angel to see that the gospel is spread. He will work this work through any who are willing to share in His mission. But the ultimate disposition of the gospel reaching the world is carried by this angel commissioned with this work. As always, it is God who insures, everyone has a chance to hear and accept the freedom His gift is made of.
John continues in verse 7 … “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” This angel proclaims to our world that we should “fear God”, or perhaps better understood, we should “respect God”. “We” are NOT the top of the food chain. “We” are not the supreme beings of the universe. There is something greater than us. It is God who made man, not the other way around. In fact this angel identifies God by His most important attribute – He made heaven (and the universe in which it is found), earth (everything that lives), the sea (everything found in water as well as the water itself), and fountains of water (our most basic necessity). The reason we are to give glory to God is because of His identification as our Creator, and more importantly our re-Creator. You will remember from our earlier study of the gospel of John, wherein we learned that to “give glory” is to perform acts of love for others. The request to love others forms the basis of His great commission to us, and is consistent in the message of the eternal gospel, this angel is relaying. The hour of His judgment is come. The time of the end has arrived. Evil will not be allowed to live on in perpetuity. An end to the time where evil will be allowed to exist is coming fast, this is the hour of His judgment, and the angel begins by announcing that time is now upon us.
The revelation of this first angel is very important in both content, and timing. He carries the gospel to the entire world. And he does it in the last days of this world’s history. The methods for communicating on a global scale have arrived. The penetration of Christianity around the world is no longer zero, it is rising. Language barriers have been overcome. The printed and electronic word is carried to parts of the globe that could not have ever been reached only ten years ago. The angel carries his message of the eternal gospel to places we have not dreamed of going. He uses those who are willing to share in his mission of love and redemption. And he breaks down barriers that once stood in the way of his delivery.
John continues in verse 8 … “And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The second angel carries a warning based on a lament. The news of Babylon’s fall is not proclaimed as gloating, or in triumph, or celebration. It is instead sad news. What was once hoped to be a pinnacle of knowledge, of social order, of prosperity – has corrupted itself. Original ideals have been trampled under the foot of self service, greed, and avarice. Instead of being the golden head and jewel of the earth, Babylon has fallen. And as she has fallen, she has taken all the nations down with her. She in fact “made all nations drink” or participate in her fornication and angry deeds. Heaven does NOT rejoice at the rejection of love and freedom from self, when it is chosen. Instead Heaven grieves at the rejection of love. This lament is repeated with tears and great sadness … “Babylon is fallen, is fallen”. This is a sad announcement and proclamation. It is a declaration to the world, that what was once a great hope, has become corrupted, and has led the world into sharing in this corruption.
So the question is posed, who is Babylon? Traditionally the Catholic church of the dark ages was held to be this symbol, because of the corruption of the gospel that occurred in those dark years. The word was withheld from the people. Salvation was for sale through indulgences. Works of art were made to be worshipped. The special day of worship with God established at creation was altered by the power of the church. And worst of all, dissent was not tolerated, punishable by death utilizing the power of the state to achieve these goals throughout the world. What might have been the great hope of Christianity was corrupted by greed and avarice, and became a blight on the history of the delivery of our gospel. Forever stained would be gospel of Christ, as it was advanced at the point of a sword, rather than with an unconditional love that could see evil end. Indeed to understand the sadness that must have occurred as the church bearing the name of our Lord declined during these ages must have been a cause of great lament throughout the heavenly courts. But to adopt this interpretation at the exclusion of others may perhaps be too limiting.
Consider for a moment, the timing of these angel’s messages. They occur AFTER the third beast has been identified and come into prominence. In fact the next angel will discuss the issue-of-the-day with the mark of the third beast in just the next few verses. The proclamation of the downfall of Babylon is a current event. It does not indicate that it reaches back into history to find its fulfillment, but rather in the modern times in which this angel makes his proclamation. He is the second angel. He follows the worldwide proclamation of the gospel. Christianity was NOT worldwide during the dark ages, it was largely centralized in Europe and north Africa. China, the America’s, Russia, were areas largely untouched by the gospel during the dark ages. However, in our age, the gospel has a very real ability to be heard worldwide. While China is not too fond of Christian missions, it has not forbid them altogether. Doors are opening that were once shut to the gospel. So if this message of the fall of Babylon is occurring AFTER the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, and just prior to the mark of the third beast. That would make its proclamation timed to … NOW!!
Another aspect of the message of the lament of Babylon’s fall is its identification as “that great city”. In the time of John, there were very few nations, and nearly all revolved around the prominence of a City State. Babylon in fact was a city, whose armies under Nebuchadnezzar had swept over the then known world. To interpret the fall of Babylon as pertaining only to a church, whether historical, or current seems a bit limiting given the natural association of Babylon as a “great city” rather than as a woman who might better represent a church. Babylon of old influenced a great degree of the lives of those around the world, particularly around the world that contained the history of those who followed the true God. If these messages are to find relevance in the time of the end, then it would be more likely to have Babylon represent a nation whose influence is great upon the world, particularly on nations where there are a great number of those who follow the true God today.
So if not looking backwards to find the fulfilment of Babylon, or at a minimum, not only looking backwards – where do we find its only fulfillment in our age? I submit only one power is global in nature and scope; and would fit the image of hope that has been lost. The United States of America alone fits this description. We were founded on the ideas of religious freedom and tolerance. We were the location in the earth that opened to help the woman fleeing into the wilderness. We had grand ideals of democracy rather than autocracy. We evolved, some would argue too slowly, to finally realize the ideas that ALL men were truly created equal by our Creator, regardless of the color of their skin, or national origins. We brought prosperity to the whole world. We brought Christianity to the whole world, taking the seeds of Protestantism sown in Europe and spreading it worldwide. We stopped the spread of fascism. We won the cold war. We give when others are in need. We were once the golden jewel of social order, of knowledge, or prosperity for all of our citizens. Our middle class was once the envy of the world.
But Babylon is fallen, is fallen. What was once great, has become corrupted by avarice and greed, and the nature of man to serve only himself. Now, our richest one percent dictate the fates of the remainder of the entire world. They have no inclination to share anymore, but only to become even more rich. We pollute now with impunity. We deny the reality of global climate change because we profit from the status quo. We cause the rest of the world to acquiesce to our financial requests and systems, or risk losing the wealth we are responsible for creating. We back up our “requests” with the might of our military. And we have begun to embark on the course of compelling the conscience of others. Whether from the far left, or far right, the compulsion to think like I think, or believe like I believe is ever more entering the landscape of our media, and our reality. We have all but destroyed privacy and the expectation to have freedom from publicity. Everything that is said, whether intended to be private or not, is available for public consumption. And the problems associated with our downfall as Babylon are NOT limited only to issues of our government or corporate structures. They have infected the church as well.
Christianity in our age, in our nation – conjures up its first images as “hate speech” or judgmental-ism. We are not known for our love first, but too often for our love as our last identifying characteristic. Too many pastors who minister through television are concerned first about the “financial support” of their ministry, ahead of the needs of their parishioners. Too many members give tithes and offerings only when it is expedient, or too often not at all. Our hearts are not touched with feelings of empathy for those in desperate need who crowd our streets and overfill the mental hospitals who can care for them no longer. We believe the poor have earned their condition. If they were more motivated to work, they would not be poor. So we harden our hearts, close our doors, and deny love to those who would need it most. The thought of visiting the sick, or those in prison, never so much as enters our minds. We are too busy. We are too busy working to support ourselves, pay our bills, and minister in our local churches where it is safe and comfortable to worship. Our ministry wanes. Our personal testimony becomes corporate testimony, it has lost its uniqueness. We espouse the ideas of salvation, not the personal impact of salvation upon us. In short, Babylon is fallen, is fallen. Our nation and our church are not what they once were. Both our government and our corporate religious institutions are not what they once were. And so the lament rings through the courts of heaven. Babylon is fallen, is fallen.
So what is revealed about Jesus Christ through the messages of the first and second angels? First, that the good news of the gospel is to be preached to ALL the world, for the time for this world is nearing its end. Second, that while it may yet be great, and may have been founded in ideals and hopes with highest expectations – Babylon has fallen. Whether applied to the largest Christian church of the dark ages, or to our nation as it sits today, starting out great does not guarantee that the finish remains that way. Self-interests can corrupt even the finest institutions, whether corporate or individual. Our government, the pillars of our economy, the backbone of our corporate churches, and the man in the mirror are ALL subject to the corrupting effects of self-service. Only Jesus Christ can free us from this condition of slavery we have embraced. The lament of heaven is real. The condition it declares is designed to lift our self-deception. We have fallen. But there remains hope.
And the third angel’s message is about to be delivered …
Friday, May 16, 2014
John has described many visions thus far that contain a sequence of seven things, or events. All of them are relevant in a particular time span, and what follows seems to again continue that pattern. The preceding vision of the three beasts and battle plan of the enemy of souls revealed a three pronged attack upon God and men. The final assault would be waged using finances to control the hearts and minds of men. Those who would not submit to the Beast and receive his mark through a simple acknowledgement of his power, were to be forbidden to buy or sell. Without the ability to conduct commerce in our modern world, starvation and death are soon to follow. The final assault on our conscience was to challenge our identity as followers of Christ. If our words were not to be consistent with our hearts, we might find ourselves bearing the mark of the last beast, and otherwise counted in his kingdom. To avoid this fate, we must remain steadfast in our submission to Jesus Christ, following only His leadership; not the dictates of men in power, or in the church, or in the mirror. Jesus Christ alone is to be our savior. It is He alone who will save us from ourselves and the evil within us. It is this gift He brings, as we allow Him to place our names in His book of life.
As John begins this next vision of seven angels who play a key role in the unfolding of events, and messages to our world, it is with the knowledge of what it means to have been marked by the third and final beast. This indicator places the timeframe of relevance in our day, in the last days, when the United States is reaching its pinnacle of power, its ability to exert control over the finances around the world. In short, as we look around us, we find ourselves in the very midst of the prophecy John is about to reveal. He begins in verse one of chapter 14 of his book of Revelations of Jesus Christ saying … “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.” This passage could be interpreted in 2 ways with respect to the location of this event. First, it could be concluded that the Lamb (Jesus Christ) is standing with the 144,000 especially redeemed first fruits on “the mount Sion” meaning in heaven. If heaven is the location of this revelation then it stands to reason that the 144,000 were a selection of those who had died in the hope of the Messiah, and were raised at his first coming, ascending with Him to heaven as the first fruits of the mission of our redemption. However if this location is the correct interpretation it tends to negate the special mission in the last days of this number of saints that appeared to be indicated earlier in his book.
The second interpretation for the location associated with “the mount Sion” is the symbolic center of the church, where the true followers of Christ assemble. In this context, and you will note, there are no other indicators in the texts that follow of scenes with “heavenly” characteristics regarding location, Christ is seen “standing” with His people. The followers of Christ have never been deserted through all of time and history in this world. No matter what the severity of the attacks of His enemy, Jesus remains standing with those who seek Him out. It is His divine power that thwarts the plans of the enemy and sees good come from all things. It is no different in our day, than it has been when those who followed Christ faced danger in any age. From Adam, to Noah. to Jacob, to Moses, to David, to Daniel, to the Disciples, to the Church fleeing in the wilderness, to us in our modern age; Jesus Christ has always stood with His followers, and His church. As we enter these final days John sees Him yet again affirm His closeness to those who seek to follow Him alone.
Then John contrasts those in the previous chapter who had received the mark of the final beast, with these who Jesus is standing with. As opposed to those who have received the mark of the beast in their hands or foreheads, these group of followers have … “his Father's name written in their foreheads”. It is the very name of God the Father whose mark we bear. Instead of the “666” numerical symbolism of those who would compel the conscience of men to forever be slaves; we have chosen to receive the Name of His Father God into our minds and hearts freely, to forever be made free from the slavery of self-service. This is about as stark a contrast as is possible to make. It compares those who are truly free in Jesus Christ (free from the evil within themselves), with those who are forever marked with the chains of slavery (powerless to follow any course but that of pure self-service). This contrast also supports the time element of this vision. The relevance of the third beast and his forced mark are more aligned with events that occur in the last days. While this could have been a symbolic battle between good and evil in any age, it has more relevance in the days of the third beast, when his power and the conflict he presents to the world are at their highest.
John continues in verse 2 … “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: [verse 3] And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” John’s attention is now drawn from mount Sion, to heaven where he hears a voice that carries the sound of many waters. The heavenly courts begin playing their harps as the 144,000 begin to sing a new song of praise. This song is unique. This song is singular in nature. It is not impossible to learn, or so musically complex that only Andrea Bocelli could pull it off. However the words of this song have a meaning only the 144,000 can truly identify with. The connection between singer and lyric can only be fully appreciated by those who have had this experience. Those who have been “redeemed from the earth” are the only ones who “get it”. During the time of greatest conflict, when man is forced to choose between the bonds of slavery to self, under the pressure of the edicts of men, or the freedom that comes from choosing to follow Christ alone – it is only then when this level of redemption is fully understood. To be made free from the evil within us, by the power and love of the Lamb, is something only few have had happen while still living in this world of sin. Enoch discovered it. And now the 144,000 know what this freedom is like. The redemption they have experienced is so full and so unique, only they can sing about it.
Notice the 4 beasts in front of the throne of God are named specifically, the 24 elders are again named specifically. While other sentient life forms and representatives of our own species have a special place and mission in our redemption, while they serve God in places of honor, and are before Him day and night – they remain unable to make the special connection with this particular song of redemption the 144,000 are able to sing. No one, no man or woman, who has not personally experienced the freedom from evil that Jesus Christ alone can offer will ever be able to sing this song. It has a special poignancy in the age in which it appears. Our worship and gratitude for the gift of freedom from self, begins immediately upon experiencing it. We cannot remain silent when this transformation occurs because it is so life altering. The special experience of being made free from self is unique. It is what drives the meaning of this song, and what makes it so special even when the courts of heaven can only accompany its melody.
John continues in verse 4 … “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. [verse 5] And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” The characteristics of the 144,000 continue to be revealed. John describes them as those who were not defiled with women, or as being virgins. These people did not attempt to find God by pursuing alternate ideas, or paths to God, but instead through Jesus Christ alone. They did not rely upon themselves for salvation. They did not look to eastern philosophies, or new age mantras, cult leaders, or even the head of their local churches. Instead they looked only to Jesus Christ for their redemption and salvation. The followers of Christ were once symbolically represented as a woman in vision, so too, the followers of the dragon are represented by an evil woman akin to Jezebel the mother of harlots. As opposed to Jezebel’s pursuit of any ideas of God mixed with self-service, the virgin church follows only one leader, and one idea. Jesus Christ is at its head, and love for others is its guiding principle.
The 144,000 have experienced redemption from sin and self as first fruits, or ahead of the remainder of humanity. Many fall asleep in Christ having not quite reached the fruition of the freedom from self He began in them. When they awake in the resurrection of the righteous they will be instantly fully transformed from who they were, not just physically, but spiritually, and emotionally as well. As those who slept in Christ arise, they arise as new creatures, or new creations. It is then when their minds finally experience the freedom from sin, the destination their journey was headed towards while they yet walked this earth. Only then do they know what it is like to be completely free from self.
The 144,000 however are the first fruits. They experience this phenomenon prior to death, and if this timeframe holds true, they experience it prior to His second coming. They stand as those proclaimed to be “Holy still”. They do not lie, and are without fault, before the throne of God. It is not a false proclamation they make of serving Christ, but a genuine transformation they have experienced through Him. To be without fault before God, after having been translated to heaven seems like a more “normal” condition. After all, no one with sin, could stand in His presence to begin with. The whole point of our redemption is to rid us of sin, so that we can stand before Him without fault or guile. But to stand before Him ahead of time, while still located in a world of sin, but without participation in that sin, is truly an accomplishment. It can only be conceived of through the transforming power and love of Jesus Christ alone. These first fruits are able to stand before God, not just forgiven, but reformed. They are able to stand in His presence because they have been transformed by the power of His Son. They represent the countless millions who will soon join them in this place and in this condition of freedom from self.
The beauty of the message of this revelation of Jesus Christ, is that we, you and I, can be a part of this number. You and I can find ourselves fully transformed by the love and power of Jesus Christ. We can submit the whole of who we are to Him, and find ourselves part of the perfection of the 144,000 first fruits before God. We need NOT wait until after the grave. We need NOT wait until some magical time in the future. We already live in the last days. We already live under the threat of the third and final beast, and the forced mark he is soon to put upon the world. We have a unique opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit ahead of that day, and find ourselves fully transformed to stand before God and His throne without fault. More than just forgiveness. More than just a desire to be like Christ. Instead the full on transformation of every thought, motive, and action to be in harmony with His will and His law. This is the promise He offers. This is the revelation John was revealing, the offering of perfection wrought by Christ within us and to the entire world. How sad only 144,000 were willing to be fully set free. Will you be one of them? Will I?
And more revelations were quick to follow …
Friday, May 9, 2014
In our study of the three beasts that serve the enemy of souls, we have seen certain commonalities. The dragon sought to kill Christ, and end His mission of our redemption. His temptations to Christ centered around “identity” and whether Christ would use His power for Himself instead of for others. The dragon, Lucifer who has become Satan, longs for acknowledgement that he is in charge. He comes disguised as an angel of light, quoting scripture, but seeking control and subservience. He is uninterested in our freedom and keenly interested in our slavery, a slavery that exists where only death is the relief. Control is his tool to achieve mastery over us. Control under the threat of death is his tool. He uses it, by having men attempt to control other men, often in the name of religion. Dissent is not tolerated. Free thinking is not tolerated. Resistance is not tolerated. He exerts control to force us to break our identity as children of God, and instead become followers of the beast, and of the dragon. All we need do to avoid his penalties is acknowledge he is in charge. But for those who truly follow Jesus Christ, we can only acknowledge it is Jesus Christ who alone is our leader. We cannot bow to anyone, or anything else but our only true God. Thus the war of the dragon continues. A new beast, a new ally, must arise to bring about the last front, the last battlefield of good and of evil.
John continues revealing the battle plan of the enemy in chapter 13 of his book of Revelations in verse 11 saying … “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” To identify who this beast is, we must begin by examining its characteristics. This beast is unlike its predecessor which was composed of many animal parts. This beast instead is singular in nature, therefore constricted to a certain government or kingdom, not one that spans borders. It originates from the earth, as noted earlier the earth had opened to help the woman. A new area of earth emerged where the ideas of religious freedom would find a home. The “horns” or leadership, or government of this new beast has only 2 significant elements, not 7 or 10 as sited before with the previous beasts. A 2 party system would accomplish this metaphor. The horns themselves are akin to those of a lamb, or perhaps a Bison, a symbol of a nation that was founded in innocence without ambitions of conquering all other nations, but instead to expand only its own undrawn borders. But with all of the better characteristics associated with this beast it remains with a single flaw. It was to speak as a dragon.
This beast like its predecessor speaks with control, with authority, and with power such that the results divert worship from God and on to other things. American idealism values self. The American dream states that personal hard work and determination result in financial and personal success. In essence, you “control” your destiny. You need only serve your own needs, and you will find your dreams accomplished in this new land. But these are not new ideas, or new concepts, or new temptations. They are old ones. One nation under God is a mantra to distract that at the end of the day our systems of capitalism and American idealism center focus on self first, only then upon others. America does not teach the absence of helping others, only that this priority is secondary to insuring your own needs are met first. The logic being that we cannot help others before we ourselves are in a position to do so. Once we are “wealthy enough” then we can offer others the help our wealth enables. But these ideas miss the example of the widow, who while she had nearly nothing, gave her only 2 mites in offering to God. She did not have anything of value in wealth or prosperity. She was already poor. But she gave everything back to a God, who had given her everything. Her nature was so transformed that giving all she had was something her love would drive her to do. A system that focuses first on self, will never see this idea of giving everything achieved. It runs counter to these ideas of total sacrifice, or even total dependence on anything other than self.
John continues in verse 12 … “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” The third beast has a power base that continues to grow until it reaches universal dimensions. It would take a super-power to achieve this feat. Only three have really existed in our modern age, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. The Soviet Union has broken apart, collapsing under the weight of a failed system of communism combined with god-less-ness. It carries no weight anymore. The super-power of China does have worldwide economic power, and an incredible labor base, and military potential. However, China has no real interest in the morality or worship the rest of the world engages in. While traditionally Buddhist, officially the Chinese government does not accept the existence of any particular God. Thus only the United States is left which does exert a religious influence on the world. Our “Christian” nation does believe that human rights are the gift of the divine, and we have begun to export our ideas of morality to the rest of the world. We marry financial reward with cooperation with our governmental policies some of which are based in our ideas of Biblical interpretation. We have a particularly close relationship with Israel, even though a closer union with Arab nations would offer us better economic opportunity and oil reserves. We maintain this relationship with Israel in part because our Christian ideas maintain the importance of Israel in apocalyptic prophecies.
To worship the first beast, the predecessor of this one, we would have to find elements in common. The first is control. Alive and well in our age of politics is the desire to legislate morality. Whether to overturn Roe vs Wade, or restrict homosexual marriage, or forbid multiple-party-marriages; all legislation of this nature is founded on “Christian” interpretations of scripture. The central underlying tenet is to compel the conscience of others with the power of the state. The papal system of the dark ages pursued this course before the new beast appears. In following the pattern of the prior beast, the new one offers homage to its originator. The prior beast thought itself equal to God, and thus able to enact alterations to scripture, or the laws of God. The fourth commandment of God which clearly states the special time of union between man and God would occur on the seventh day of the week, was altered to the first in honor of His resurrection. The second commandment of God which forbids the worship of anything man made instead of our invisible God in heaven was altered to allow for obeisance to statues, and works of art, in the likeness of heavenly things. In our nation, we continue the practice of worship on a different day, as well as honoring the works of our hands instead of a full dependence upon Christ for our sustenance and salvation. And we are on a path as a nation to place the penalty of death for those who dissent with our moral stands. While we have not reached this point as yet, we are headed there, and will eventually join with the original corrupt power system that produced the horrors of the inquisition. It is the pursuit of power and control that leads to this result. It is why Satan has evolved into what he is. And it is why both beasts wind up at the same conclusion of their author.
John continues in verse 13 … “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,” The military power of the United States is virtually unchallenged. We have the best technology and most advanced weaponry in the world. We have space based weapons, and missiles or drones, that can cross great distances and hit precision targets anywhere in the world. No one knows the full extent of our classified weapons systems, but no one doubts their power. Our military might, combined with our financial influence, continue to position our nation as the current world’s super-power. John continues in verse 14 … “And deceiveth 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, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” It is clear that our nation does not use its power and influence to attempt to force the rest of the world to adopt Catholicism. However, the ideas of corruption that emerged in the dark ages, are something we pattern ourselves after, thus making an image to the prior beast. We continue traditions established in that time without regard to actual scriptures. And we intend to use our might to enforce these ideas. Control and disregard for the dissent of others in the pursuit of even more power and wealth form a nearly identical image of the prior beast.
John continues in verse 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.” Therein lies the saddest prediction of the road our nation travels. Fundamentalism, and conservatism, are pointing us in the direction that would make us willing to kill those who dissent from our versions of legislated morality. Those who will not worship the way we dictate, those who would not submit to “our” authority, are to be killed for their alternative beliefs and views. This could come in either of two ways. First, it could emerge from atheists or islamists, or from any other competing ideology that gains enough majority to legislate laws against Christianity entirely. Or Second, it could emerge from Christianity itself, as the far right moves farther and farther in that direction, until killing those who dissent seems like the most logical course to pursue in an effort to keep our nation “pure”. The first beast had this same idea. It is why the inquisition was born in the dark ages, to remove the threat of those who would dissent with the “greater good”. The infestation of Protestantism had to be rooted out, for the “benefit” of those less educated believers that might be deceived by new ideas. Our nation has embarked on this same path and will reach this same conclusion. Those who do not obey the legislation of the majority must meet their death in order that the remainder of the nation be spared.
John continues in verse 16 … “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:” First, notice that this passage refers to the third beast we have been discussing, NOT, the Antichrist. Common interpretation would have us believe that the “antichrist” emerging after a “rapture”, which so far has not been mentioned once in this book, is responsible for the Mark of the Beast. But John does not state or relay this. The Third Beast is responsible for causing all mankind to receive this mark. And the timing is not done after the return of Christ but before it occurs. It is an event that is still in our future, but it precedes the second coming. The Mark itself, may not be physical in nature, but decidedly real. It does not require a tattoo to accomplish identifying everyone on planet earth. Computers already do a fairly good job of that. They collect DNA, finger print data from job applications for sensitive positions, medical results, census information, tax returns, financial records, etc.. In today’s age they also collect email, phone call, and communication data and content that can be used to track profiles of anyone for any purpose. Computers control your finances entirely, no one keeps cash under the mattress anymore, neither do your land-lords accept cash as a payment for rent in general. Our entire financial system relies upon computer systems that track and transfer funds wherever you need them whenever you need them.
John continues in verse 17 … “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Control was the idea behind all of this. Compliance with our laws is to be achieved in this final assault on the conscience of men through financial restrictions and controls. All we need do to avoid his penalty is to acknowledge “who” is in control of our lives. The third beast exerts control, the tool of the dragon, to cause us to reject our identity as followers of Christ, and instead accept the authority of the beast in charge, any beast of Lucifer’s will do in that regard. As long as we refuse to rely upon Jesus Christ alone, we can be a part of the empire of the beasts, and of the dragon. We need not worship a particular pope, but merely decline to worship Christ alone. This is not about the worldwide ascendency of Satanism, or Catholicism, or even the worldwide supremacy of the United States – it is about the choice made under threat of death, to deny Jesus Christ in favor of any other alternative. The service of self has long been the most viable alternative the devil has offered to the systems of God that are based on service to others. “Self” is a more than adequate alternative to Christ, even within the Christian faith. Looking to “self” for salvation with accomplish the same failure as looking to Mohammed, or Buddha, or any other competing ideology. Thus the battle plan of the enemy of souls is revealed.
John concludes in verse 18 to help us see more revealing characteristics of this Mark brought upon the world by the Third Beast as he writes … “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” “Vicarius Filii Dei” the banner inscribed on the crown worn by the papal power of the dark ages was the first clue at identifying the Mark of the Beast. It was not intended to be ascribed to a particular pope, but instead was intended to point out characteristics of a corrupt system or power. Any religious system that seeks to use the power of the state to compel the conscience of others takes on the Mark of subservience to the Beast and the Dragon. Any system that denies the supremacy of Christ, or seeks to offer alternatives that are of equal authority with Christ, takes on the Mark of subservience to the Dragon who gave the Beasts their power, their seat, and their great authority. We can as easily offer homage to religious leaders as we do to the man in the mirror, to effectively deny the supremacy of Christ. This is not constricted only to the Catholicism of the dark ages, it is prevalent in the modern world by our refusal to look to Christ alone for our salvation. This is the united goal of the three beasts.
It does not matter whether atheism suggests we deny our God. It does not matter whether Islamism, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or some other “ism” require we recognize some other alternative. It does not matter whether Christianity requires we give honor to its leaders instead of to Christ. It does not matter if ultimately all we serve is self and look to put self into the process of our salvation. ALL that matters to see the Mark of the Beast placed in our hands or in our foreheads is that in so doing, we DENY the singular power of Jesus Christ in our salvation. To avoid this Mark, we must be followers of Jesus Christ alone. His word, His authority, His power are all we do obeisance to. We acknowledge our identity as ONLY followers of Jesus Christ. The edicts of men, to deny or alter His laws, are of no effect to us. We will worship ONLY Jesus Christ. We will give homage ONLY to Jesus Christ. It does not matter what the threats of the enemy are. If we die, we die. Generations of Martyr’s have gone before us into their graves, still clinging to the singular truth of Jesus Christ. The edicts of man could now sway them away from the truth of Jesus Christ. Nor can we allow these edicts to sway us now.
The transforming power of Jesus Christ in our lives is something that will not be denied. Even though the revelations of these three beasts outline the battle plans of our enemy, they also remain revelations of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ who shows us the insight into the plans of His enemy, in order that we might avoid missing the deceptions of His enemy. We are not to be swept away by the flood of the dragon, but instead remain steadfastly clinging to Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation. We are not to do homage to the dragon, or the beasts he raises as allies, in his war with God. We are to maintain our identity as Christians, as followers of Christ. We are to guard our servitude to Christ even from Christianity that might seek to divert it to other ideas within the faith. It is no small thing to give homage to Satan, even though it is only words, those words matter. If we are to allow God to write our names in His book of Life, we must remain followers of Jesus Christ in both word and deed. We must allow Christ to remake us into the image He intends and never publicly or privately state we are anything less than followers of Jesus Christ. The ability to buy and sell is inconsequential against the freedom to love others Christ offers us, to break the slavery of our chains to serving self. We must avoid looking to involve “self” in our salvation, and instead allow Christ to stamp “self” out of us entirely.
The beasts and the dragon seek control. They seek to challenge our identity upon pain of death. It is the hallmark of their battle plans. They seek to compel the conscience of men. God does not. God is not about control, but instead about choice. He offers us His love, but does NOT compel us to accept it. He offers us His gift of freedom, but will NOT break our chains without our consent. For love to be love, it MUST be a choice. God cannot compel us to love Him, as then it could not be considered love. But if we choose to love Him, our love is then real. If we choose to serve Him, our service is then real. While we will need Him to save us from ourselves, it is our choice that begins and allows Him to begin this process. It is only the dragon that would seek to enact moral laws, upon penalty of death, to compel men to do what he says. God does not need to control us, He can change us through our consent of His love. Our choice determines our fate with our Lord. To deny choice, is to adopt the image of the beast, and to receive His mark in our philosophy and our deeds, upon our heads and in our hands.
As the revelation of the three beasts concludes, the enemy has been revealed, but of more value, the singular method of our salvation has been revealed all the more. Jesus Christ alone is our salvation. It is with Jesus Christ alone we will identify ourselves as followers and receivers of the gift of salvation He brings …
Friday, May 2, 2014
In a war between good and evil, there was to be a three pronged attack by the enemy of souls. First there was to be a direct assault on heaven itself. Next would be an attempt to control the conscience of men and kill any that would not comply. Finally the plan would be to control commerce, and simply starve or kill those who would not comply. Control is the name of the enemy’s battle plan. Control has always been his mantra. Death has always been his tool to achieve compliance. To avoid his penalty all one need do is make a gesture of humility to his supremacy. It has always been thus. In the wilderness after Christ had gone without food or water for 40 days, after he was emaciated and nearly dead from His human frailty, it was in His worst condition that the evil one would come to Him with 3 temptations. Turning stones into bread, or throwing Himself from a high point would have been for Him to “prove” His divinity by using His power, but for Himself not others. The first 2 tests were ones of identity. Prove who you are. Scripture was cited as justification for these taunts, as a reason to do what was suggested. The first two temptations would have had the Creator deny who He was, through a misuse of power upon Himself. The third temptation was the last one, and the last one to come upon us all. A simple gesture of humility to the authority of Satan who rules this world; for Christ he promised to transfer ownership without the hard path of choosing to die. For us, he promises to allow us to retain our lives and live any way we wish, once we publicly acknowledge “who” is in charge. Though it begs the question … of what value is the promise of a liar?
A challenge to our identity; a challenge to “who” we acknowledge as our leader publicly, this is the game plan of the enemy of souls at the end of all things. John begins to reveal his battle plans in chapter 12 of his book of Revelations as the first of three beasts is revealed. The first to emerge is the dragon. The dragon is Satan himself. In our previous study we learn the dragon persecutes the woman for a period of 1260 years. The dragon and his angels make an all-out assault on heaven itself, a war that occurs in heaven, where he is defeated by Michael and his angels and cast out, no more to be in heaven accusing the brethren before God both day and night. The sanctuary is cleansed from the stench of his accusations. Our salvation arrives through the strength of the blood of the Lamb. The first assault on heaven itself has failed. The first beast has not been successful. He will need allies. He will need help. He has only one species upon which he can use his corrupting influence, the species of men. So the dragon must raise up allies in his war, and so begins John’s revelations in chapter 13 of his book. He outlines the battle plan of the enemy, the three beasts intended to bring victory to the cause of the enemy of souls.
John begins in verse one … “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. [verse 2] And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” In round one, the dragon has only recently been defeated and cast out of heaven with his entire evil angelic army for a second and final time. Round two now begins. John watches a new beast arise from the sea, from the vast amount of people in the earth. The characteristics of this beast are nearly identical to the characteristic of the dragon himself. The dragon had seven heads, so does this one. The dragon had ten horns, so does this one. The dragon only had seven crowns, but this beast has ten. Then come the other differences, whereas the dragon is the top of the food chain in the animal kingdom, this beast is composed of elements to make him as fierce as possible. However he is unable to be simply another dragon. The dragon himself reserves the right to remain at the top of his kingdom. So this beast is built like a leopard for stealth and speed, with feet of a bear that carry claws that can climb and tear away enemies. He has the mouth of a lion, both to speak and to consume any who defy him.
But the last characteristics of this beast are the most telling of the plans of the enemy. The dragon “gave him his power”. The power of this beast is a gift, not of God, but of the dragon. The dragon also gives him “his seat”, or his throne, or the location from which his kingdom will emerge. Lastly the dragon gives him “great authority”. This beast will not simply be a king of a single kingdom. If he were, he might simply be just a bear, or a leopard, or a lion. Instead this beast has parts of many types of animals all composed into one. His authority will not simply be over one group or type of people, but instead will be great, and will span many groups or types of people. His seat will be recognized by many peoples and kingdoms not just one. His authority will span borders. And all of these characteristics have their origin from the dragon himself. It is the dragon who establishes this beast. This beast is a tool, an ally of the dragon – he is NOT the creation of our God. Of course, when Satan approached Christ with his temptations, he did not reveal himself as who he was – choosing rather to appear as an angel of light. When Satan comes to us, he does so in disguise. If our choice was laid out before us clearly between good and evil, we might just choose good. This is not an outcome he will allow. Therefore he presents us with choices that look nearly the same – the best of two evils, or six to one / half dozen to the other. Many paths to God, all we need do is to choose one. You get the idea. The real choice between good and evil is obfuscated by intent so we are unable to pick the right one.
John continues to detail the plans of the enemy in verse 3 … “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” John chronicles the history of this new beast, keeping in mind it had seven heads, one of them is wounded to death. One head is removed, but six remain. If one was to truly attempt to kill this beast, all of its heads might need to be removed, its entire power structure might need to be taken down. But to only kill one leader when others remain in place, does not achieve the desired effect. The deadly wound was healed, and “ALL the world” wondered after the beast. The power and authority of this beast is again cited as universal, not simply limited to one kingdom or region or empire. The characteristics that identify to us a corrupt system of power and authority begin to emerge.
John continues in verse 4 … “And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” At last, the dragon reaps the rewards of his intentions since he became who he is. Those who follow the beast find themselves worshipping the dragon behind the beast. Through the worship of the new beast, they by default are worshipping the old dragon; for this beast is the creation of the dragon, and this beast was “given” his power by the dragon. His power is so great it causes men to exclaim “Who is like unto the beast?” and again on a similar theme express “Who is able to make war with him!”. This is the gesture of humility the dragon has always sought. This is the acknowledgement of “who” is in charge he has always fought for. It comes from men, as they witness the power of the beast and the authority he has been given. Despite receiving a deadly wound, he is healed. And it is after his healing that there is universal recognition and amazement at his authority across the earth. Indeed it might be easy to wage war against a single kingdom, but how does one wage war with an enemy that is already within your borders, as well as the borders of all your neighbors?
John continues in verse 5 … “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” The identity of this beast is coming into view ever clearer. The element of time is added to this revelation in the form of 42 months, or 3.5 years, or 1260 days, or time – times – and half a time. This beast has its hay-day, it has its primary power during the same period when the dragon pursues the woman into the wilderness. A mouth is given to speak “great things”. Proclamations from this beast emerge, and carry weight across the entire world. What this beast says cannot easily be ignored. Its sayings are carried across borders and affect people in all nations. What any given king may proclaim has effect within their own borders, but outside of them, has little impact. Not so with this beast, the great things he speaks are carried into kingdoms across the earth. But with the proclamations come blasphemies. Blasphemy is when one assumes the authority that only belongs to God. Satan blasphemes when he looks for worship that only belongs to God. He blasphemes when he demands our worship. So this beast acts the same way. This beast looks for our worship to go to him, instead of to God. This beast proclaims himself worthy of worship that only belongs to God. This beast proclaims his authority is equal to that of God, and in so doing proclaims blasphemy to the world. When taken together with the time element of the dark ages, only one power fits the characteristics of this beast.
John continues in verse 6 … “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” The blasphemy or claims of equivalency with God are targeted at His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. To require men to divert their worship from the only God who is heaven, to those who walk this earth blasphemes the name of God. To require men to prostrate themselves in “holy” sites built upon the earth, and pay homage to buildings dedicated to the worship of the beast blasphemes the true tabernacle that is built in heaven alone. To require men to pay homage to likenesses of saints, or angels, or even of Christ is to blaspheme those that dwell in heaven. We are not to worship our fellow saints, or angels, but Christ alone – not in the form of stone, wood or canvas, but in spirit and in truth. To divert worship away from God and on to the beast is the blasphemy this beast undertakes. He could not hope to achieve this feat if it were clearly revealed as to what he was doing. Instead he must use old tricks. He must come in the form of an angel of light, in disguise, quoting scripture and misusing the word of God to affect what he desires. If the choices were made clear, we might choose against his evil, and that outcome is not something he can allow.
John continues in verse 7 … “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” Persecution against the true saints begins. Persecution that is successful. He simply kills those who dissent. They are forced to hide in the wilderness or be killed. The persecution of the saints, the war against the true followers of God, takes place not in just one land, but in all of them. The power of this beast extends over “ALL kindreds, tongues, and nations”. The same time frame in which the dragon pursues the woman or church of God into the wilderness, is the same time frame in which the tool of the dragon makes universal proclamations, blasphemes, and persecutes the true followers of God. The war against the true followers of Christ is waged across the globe, anywhere there is true worship occurring.
John continues in verse 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.” The results are staggering. All that dwell upon the earth worship this beast under threat of death. We are forced to deny our identity as belonging to God and worship this false god. But for the mercy of our Lord, all would be lost. But for the interference of God, we would LOSE this fight. It requires a Savior to be saved. The Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world, who chose to die for us, even before He created us, has a book of Life. Those who would choose to follow Jesus Christ alone, and look to Him for salvation as its only source, find their names written in this book of Life. Our names are not written there without our consent, or our choice, but only as we allow God to place them there. As we choose to follow Jesus Christ alone, as we assent only to His authority, we become followers of Jesus Christ. We become part of His true church. And as such, our names are written in the book of Life. Martyrs in this world we may be, but servants of the Most High we find ourselves as well.
John continues in verse 9 … “If any man have an ear, let him hear. [verse 10] He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” John then offers wisdom regarding the irony of the condition of this beast. He that leads into captivity will go into captivity. Those would attempt to compel the conscience of men, find their own conscience has been compelled. Those would attempt to enslave others into a false system of worship away from the true God, have themselves already been enslaved. Those who would kill with the sword, must in like manner be killed with the sword. War gives birth only to more war. Killing gives birth only to more killing. This is the fallacy of the government of Satan, it is built upon a foundation of death that leads to only more death. Death itself becomes the only relief from the pain this existence carries with it. But the patience and faith of the saints realizes the fallacy of Satan, and will NOT be compelled to join it. Patience in the face of suffering. Faith in the face of unbelief and blasphemy. Those who put their trust in Jesus Christ, find they are saved, not from the pain of this world, or death that is inherent in our current existence. But those who trust in Jesus Christ to save them, find themselves saved from the evil that lies within us. We are given a life that begins here, and has no end in the next reality. The beast can do nothing to alter this course. For our Savior is truly our savior.
When considering the time frame in which the power of this beast is at its pinnacle, and combined with the characteristics John reveals to us in these texts, the only power that meets these descriptions is the Papal power that emerged during the dark ages. It is the power and quest for power of this system that causes it to become the beast. The main goal of the dragon is control. Those who would use religion to exert power over other men have always been firm members of the dragon’s organization. They exist is many more faiths than just that of Catholicism. Islam honors its prophets to the point of killing those who defame them in any way. Cults are generally founded on the charisma of the leaders and require strict devotion from any who offer themselves to it. And there is many a Protestant preacher who looks to enrich himself with the offerings of his parishioners with no concern to their spiritual welfare or his own. When religion is used as a form of control, power is gained, and power is the tool of the dragon.
This is not a condemnation of those who adhered to the Catholic faith during the dark ages. Nor is it a condemnation of those who believe in the Catholicism of today. Instead it is a much broader condemnation of any who would seek to compel the conscience of others away from Jesus Christ and on to any other alternative. Most chilling of all is our tendency to divert worship from God and on to the works of our own hands. We have no time, or make no time, to serve God or others, instead electing to serve only ourselves or our families. When we act to exert pressure upon others, to co-opt their morality and force them to adhere to our own, we act as agents of the dragon in this time and in any other. We blaspheme God by diverting worship away from Him, thinking ourselves as equal in importance to God. We do this when we believe our salvation is achievable through the power of our own will, our own actions, our own ideas and interpretations of scripture. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone.
The Catholic system of the dark ages sought to alter that premise. They enacted a series of proclamations that diverted attention away from Jesus Christ, and sought to uplift the Catholic church as equal in the mission of our salvation. To pay financial remunerations for entrance into paradise, is to make the kingdom of heaven a whore. To change His day of worship and alter His laws no matter what the motive, is to take the authority that only belongs to God to one’s self. To worship and give reverence to great works of art, in lieu of serving only our unseen God is to blaspheme those in heaven and break the commandments of God. To persecute those who do not share our beliefs, and kill those who would dissent, is to take on the character and power of the dragon in his cause. Love is the ally of God, hate and control are not in His arsenal. For us to believe we are equal with God, whether by divine proclamation, or by how our lives are lived always serving the man in the mirror, is to blaspheme against God. We are NOT His equal. We are NOT worthy of worship or honor in any form. There is but one who is worthy of worship. He alone is our Creator. He alone is able to outline His laws, His precepts, and His scriptures. To obey is due only to Him, not our fellow man, or ourselves. We cannot alter His laws, as we cannot alter the definition of what it means to love others. When we seek to supplant His ideas with our own, we become part of the dragon. When we submit to Jesus Christ alone, the dragon has no power over us.
But there was to be one more beast and form of attack to come before the end …