AUTHORS » Joe Anady

Sermon: Here Is A Call For The Endurance Of The Saints: Revelation 14:6-13

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 75

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. ‘At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn; do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.’ For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.” (Psalm 75:1–10, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 14:6-13

“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ Another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.’ And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.’ Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:6–13, ESV)

Introduction

Brothers and sisters, I hope that you see that the Christian life should be lived seriously. A serious person is one who is solemn and thoughtful in character and manner. A serious thought is one that is careful and profound. A serious discussion is one that demands careful consideration and application. And I am saying that Christ followers should be serious people. The thoughts, words, and actions of the Christian should be carefully considered, deep, and profound. Our worship should be serious, and so too should our way of life.

I do not want to be misunderstood. By no means am I suggesting that a Christian should never have fun or be playful and joyous. Indeed, the Christian should know how to have fun. The deep joy that we have in our hearts will undoubtably manifest itself in laughter and singing and play. The opposite of serious is not fun or playful. The opposite of serious is superficial. It is not a fun or playful disposition that I am calling you to avoid, but superficiality.

A Christian should know how to have fun. You should know how to laugh and play. You should know how to celebrate life. A Christian should know how to party, not by way of drunkenness which leads to debauchery, but soberly, sincerely and from the heart. It is the godless man who must drink to the point of drunkenness in order to celebrate. And why is this? It is because his sin sick soul will not allow him to celebrate naturally. His mind and heart must first be sedated and inebriated if he is to sing. But the Christian sings. The Christian should know how to celebrate in this life sincerely and from the heart. It almost seems contradictory, and it’s rather hard to put into words, but I think you can see how a serious person, if they are serious with the word of God and the Spirit of God in their heart, will also be very joyous. I’m calling you to be joyous, not superficially, but substantially and seriously so. I’m calling you to cultivate a seriousness in your life and in your faith, if you don’t already have it.

There are a number of things that God uses to develop seriousness in his people.

Some might be more predisposed to it than others, their personalities being naturally more serious and contemplative from birth.

But God also uses life experiences to deepen the seriousness of our faith. I think it is true that Christians tend to grow more serious over time. They grow more thoughtful, more careful, more solemn, and mature, as they experience the seriousness of life.

Children tend to be carefree. They are allowed to play. They are typically sheltered from many of the difficulties of life that we experience as adults. And indeed this is how it should be for a time. Being protected in this way they are able to develop in body and soul so that they might bear up under the pressures of life when they do come. But our children, progressively and over time, will have to experience for themselves the difficulties associated with living in this world. They will have to experience the seriousness of life. And we as Christians should not tremble at the thought of this, but we should rejoice in it knowing that these difficulties are used by God to deepen the seriousness and sincerity of our faith.

James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4, ESV). The way to maturity, says James, is by way of suffering. So we are to rejoice in the suffering, not because we enjoy the suffering itself, but because of what it produces in us as children of God. It is through the trials and tribulations of this life that our steadfastness and maturity is developed.

The past year or so has been quite difficult for us as a congregation. I wanted to simply acknowledge that fact today. In this past year or so we have had to deal with serious sin, sickness and death and the sorrows that accompany these things with much more intensity than in the first five years of our existence. Please understand that I’m speaking of our life together as a congregation. Indeed, there were real sorrows present in our first five years, but this past year or so did at times feel like a wave of sorrow had washed over us. I won’t mention any of the particulars, but will leave it to you to think about.

What are we to do about this?

First, we ought to acknowledge the suffering for what it is – it is suffering. This world is filled with difficulties. Those who maintain the appearance of happiness in this world by pretending that the world is other than what it is are not serious and substantial Christ followers, but fools who live according to a lie. And there are many who do live this way. They deceive themselves. They avoid suffering at all costs, and pretend it is not there. It is far better to face the fact of suffering.

And having faced the fact of suffering we must learn to live with one another well in the midst of it.  Quoting from Romans 12:9-16: We must “love one another with brotherly affection.” We must “outdo one another in showing honor.” We must “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation… [and] constant in prayer.” We must “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” We are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.” We are to “live in harmony with one another.” Never should we “be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” Never should we “be wise in [our] own sight.” (Romans 12:9–16, ESV). In the body of Christ when one members suffers, all suffer. And this is only right. We must learn to live with one another well in the midst of suffering. The human body function this way, doesn’t it? When you smash your finger with a hammer, it is not just the finger that hurts, you hurt! That pain radiates throughout the body, and the rest of the body goes to work to help alleviate the pain. We must learn to live with one another well in the midst of suffering.

Thirdly, we should learn to rejoice in the trials, just as God has commanded. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4, ESV). We are to “count [or consider] it all joy” not because we enjoy the suffering itself, but because of what we know it will produce within us – maturity and seriousness.

I’m not sure about you, but these sufferings that we have experienced as a body over that past year or so have produced a greater seriousness in me. Truth be told, I’ve always been rather serious. My wife calls me “briefcase boy”. I don’t know where she gets it. I’ve never owned a brief case in my life, but she says I’ve carried one since high school. This is her playful way of poking fun at me for being too serious or intense at times. So I guess I’ve always been on the serious side (I can be very playful too, though most of you haven’t witnessed that). But I do feel like the trials and tribulations that have washed over our congregation in the past year or so have made me much more serious.

The phrase that comes to mind is, the Christian life is no joke. Never did I think it was a joke, but I feel as if I know it now more deeply than before. The trials of this life are no joke. Sin is no joke. It’s terribly dangerous and deviating. Sickness and death are no joke. They are for real, and they do bring real sorrow to the people of God. Life is serious. How important it is, therefore, that the seriousness of our faith matches the seriousness of the world in which we live and all that threatens us therein.

I do fear for those who, though they might profess faith in Christ, they live with, what seems to be, such superficial doctrine and superficial faith. At some point they will have to face the seriousness of sin, sickness and death, and I do wonder if they will stand. If they truly belong to Christ God will make them stand – this I know! But they seem to be in such a precarious position as they live superficially.

These are the ones who Christ compares in the parable of sower to those seed which fell on rocky ground. Christ said,  “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:5–6, ESV). How important it is for us to cultivate depth and seriousness in our faith before the scorching sun does appear.

I do not pretend to enjoy the trials and tribulations of this life. I do not actively pray for them to come. But I am learning to “count it all joy… when [we] meet trials of various kinds…” The older I get the more I see with greater clarity how it is that God does use the trials to produce steadfastness and maturity within his people.

The Spirit of God uses experiences – trials and tribulations – to mature our faith and to make us more serious. But he also uses his word. His word is serious. It speaks to serious things. And it is to be taken seriously. How important it is, therefore, that we give attention to God’s word and to the serious things contained within. How important it is that we prepare our hearts to receive it, and having received it, that we believe it and seek to live accordingly.

You’ve heard the expression that some people just have to learn the hard way. You can picture a child who’s been instructed well by his father concerning wise living, but he does not listen to his fathers words. He goes off to live like a fool in the world instead. Will he learn the lesson that his father tried to teach him long ago? He will learn it. But he will learn it the hard way.

Christians, let us give careful attention to the serious things that God has said to us in his word. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1–2, ESV)

Some passages of scripture are more serious than others. The one that is before us this morning is as serious as they come.

In Revelation 14:6-11 we encounter three warnings concerning the imminence and certainty of the final judgment. This is a serious subject that demands serious consideration.Three angels deliver these three warnings, and they deliver the warnings to all who dwell upon the earth. Included with the warnings is a call for the ungodly to repent and for the Saints on the earth to endure.

Let’s take passage one section at a time.

Verse 6: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” (Revelation 14:6, ESV)

We must remember where we are. We are in the book of Revelation which communicates truth via symbol. This passage does not mean that there will come a day when the gospel will literally be proclaimed by an angel who flies overhead. Instead, the truth being symbolized is that God will always have witnesses in the world even to the time of the end. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, ESV).

Verse 7: “And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’” (Revelation 14:7, ESV)

What do we have here except a warning and a call to repentance? The good news of Jesus Christ is not explicitly stated here, but it was implied verse 6 in the words, “eternal gospel”. What is the eternal gospel? It is the good news that God has been merciful to sinners and has provided a Savior for them so that their sins would be forgiven, should they trust in him. The gospel is the good news that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).

All of that is not said here, but it was implied in the words “eternal gospel” in verse 6. What we have in verse 7 is a declaration of the bad new without which no one can truly understand the good news, along with a call to repentance. “The hour of [God’s] judgment has come”, the angel says. Clearly our minds are to go to the time of the end. “The hour of [God’s] judgment has come.” Repent, therefore. Turn from your sins and to God, coming to him through faith in Jesus Christ alone. “Fear God and give him glory… worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The trouble with the non-believer is that they live as if this world is all there is. In the narrative of the book of Revelation they serve the beast the raises from the sea and the beast which rises from the earth, which symbolize earth political powers that persecute the people of God. They have taken the mark of the beast, which is the number of man. They love the world. They are the earth-dwellers who worship the creation, but not the Creator. Here they are called to “worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Verse 8: “Another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality’” (Revelation 14:8, ESV).

This is interesting because this is the first time Babylon has been mentioned in the book of Revelation, and yet it is announced that she is already fallen. Babylon will take a prominent place in the book of Revelation in chapters 16 through 18. What we have here is a foreshadowing. Here we have been told that Babylon is fallen, but we will learn more about Babylon later in the book and more will be said about her fall.

If you know your Old Testament you know that Judah was conquered by King Nebuchadnezar of Babylon and was taken away to live in captivity there for 70 years. The city of Babylon, therefore, symbolizes pagan powers that oppress God’s people and tempt them to turn from the worship of the one true God to idols. Babylon symbolizes worldliness and the seductiveness of the world. Later we will learn that, to the original recipients of the book of Revelation, Babylon was symbolic of Rome, but the symbolism was not exhausted with Rome. There are still “Babylons” in the world today, and there will be “Babylons” in the world when Christ returns.

“The reason for Babylon’s fall”, to quote Denise Johnson, “is her seduction of the nations, intoxicating them with her mixed brew of rage and sexual license.”

Verse 9: “And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” (Revelation 14:9–11, ESV).

Notice how the warnings pronounced by these angels give an answer to what was said in chapters 12 and 13 about the dragon and the two beasts. The dragon and the two beasts seek to devour the people of God. The Christian will be tempted to abandon the true worship of God when pressured by them. Here, the pronouncement of the angels makes it clear that it would not be worth it.

All who “[worship] the beast and its image and [receive]” the mark of the beast (13:16-18), all who “drink the wine of the passion of [Babylon’s] sexual immorality” will also, “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger…” And notice that their punishment will be eternal. They “will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

This is serious. This is a weighty subject, and one that cannot be taken lightly. God’s word is calling us to contemplate the end of the dragon, the beasts, and all who do follow after them. God is urging us to stop and reflect deeply upon the end of seductive Babylon and all who drink the wine of her passion and sexual immorality. Why would anyone neglect to give attention to God’s word on this subject?

For the one not in Christ this eternal gospel and the warnings pronounced within this text should bring about faith and repentance.

Do you see that there will be a judgment day? All who are not found in Christ will be judged for their sins, and none will stand, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV). “All… are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Romans 3:9–12, ESV). Certainly man judges himself differently than God judges him. Man thinks of himself as being basically good and deserving of God’s commendation. But God’s perspective is that all are indeed under sin.

It was interesting to listen to people on the radio talk about this killer who did so much harm a week ago in Las Vegas. It was interesting to hear even non-Christians comfort themselves with the thought that God will judge the wicked. There is something comforting about that, isn’t there, especially in situations like this. The act was so horrendous. In the end the man took his own life, which made it impossible for any justice to be served in this life. And so men comfort themselves with the thought that God will make it right. God will see to it that justice is served.

But in the same breath these people also comfort themselves with the thought that they will not face God’s wrath when they stand before him. And if you were to ask them, “why?” they would answer, “because I am good. I’m not like that monster who killed 58 and injured over 500.” Do you see how we, when we speak of someone who has done something particularly evil, a prone to speak of the person as if they were not human. They were “an animal”, we say They were, “a monster”. No, intact that man was a human. He was one of us, from upon among our species. And while I am glad that, by the grace of God, not all are as evil as that man, and that not all do such evil things, God’s opinion of us is not nearly as high as our option of ourselves. We think of ourselves as good when compared to others. God says, no you are sinners who walk “in the passions of [your] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [are] by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV), if you are not in Christ, being justified by him, regenerated, and clothed in his righteousness.

Our catechism gets it just right. After considering the ten commandments our catechism asks in question 87, “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?” The answer: “No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but daily break them in thought, word, or deed.” Question 88: “Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?” Answer: “Some sins in themselves and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” Question 89: “What doth every sin deserve?” Answer: “Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come.” Question 90: “What doth God require of us, that we may escape His wrath and curse, due to us for sin?” Answer: “To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.”

Friends, do not be puffed up with pride. Do “not to think of [yourself] more highly than [you] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…” (Romans 12:3, ESV). Recognize your sin and see what it is that your sin deserves – God’s judgment. It is a serious matter, one that should not be taken lightly. Turn from it and believe upon Christ.

And that is the thing that matters. Will you be found in Christ? Can’t you see that that is the point of the text we are considering today? The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet have been introduced to us. Many belong to them. They have taken his mark and his name upon them. But we have also seen Christ. He stands upon the heavenly “Mount Zion” in victory, “and with him [the]144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1, ESV).

Do you want to escape God’s wrath? Do you want to avoid his judgment? Then your only hope is to be found in Christ. You must be found with him, believing upon him, having his name and his fathers name written upon you. There is no other way, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23–26, ESV).

This judgment scene that we have conceded today should be seriously considered by the non-Christ. Our prayer is that the Spirit of God would use it to bring them the to faith and repentance. But it should also be seriously considered by the Christ follower, the end result being that we would walk carefully in this would being “all the more diligent to confirm [our] calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10, ESV).

Indeed, that is the stated purpose of this text. Verse 12: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:12, ESV). This serious scene is given to make the Christ follower more serious in his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Application

Brothers and sisters, I feel compelled to say to you, stop playing around. Stop with the superficial living. Stop neglecting the means of grace that God has ordained. Stop with the prayerlessness. Stop neglecting the fellowship. Stop with your superficial approach to the word of God. Stop coming to the Table carelessly and without thought. Stop playing around with sinful thoughts, words and deeds. Brothers and sisters, let us pray that the Lord would mature us and deepen our faith. Let us pray that we would take him at his word so that we need not learn the hard way.

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Sermon: 144,000 Sealed in Heaven: Revelation 14:1-5

Pre-introduction

It has been my custom in this sermon series to, when we come to a new section in the book of Revelation, consider that section broadly before considering its individual parts. This I did, for example, with the letters to the seven churches. We first considered the entire section, and then we returned to consider each of the letters one at a time. The same can be said for the seal cycle, and also the trumpet cycle. And that is what I would like to do this morning. I will read Revelation chapters 14-15, for that all goes together. This section does bridge the gap between what we have just learned concerning the activity of the dragon and the two beasts of Revelation 12 and 13, and the pouring out of the seven bowls of God’s wrath, which is a description of the final judgment, which will encounter in chapter 16. After reading chapters 14-15, and after a few remarks are made about that section in general, we will return to verses 1-5 of chapter 14 to give special attention to them. The New Testament reading is Revelation 14 and 15. The sermon text is Revelation 14:1-5.

Hear now the reading of God’s inspired, inerrant, clear and authoritative word.

New Testament Reading: Revelation 14-15

“Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ Another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.’ And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.’ Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’ Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, ‘Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia. Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’ After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” (Revelation 14–15, ESV)

Introduction

Notice a few things about chapters 14 and 15 in general.

One, notice that it does eventually take us to the time of the end when the wrath of God will be poured out upon the wicked. We certainly have a description of that in 14:17-19. Chapter 15 does also set the stage for the outpouring of the seven bowls of God’s wrath. These are the called “seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. (Revelation 15:1, ESV)”.

Two, notice that we are taken to the end, not abruptly, but progressively. By that I mean that in chapter 14 we have a description of some historical progress. Three angels appear and fly overhead. The first preaches the gospel to those dwelling on earth. Also he says, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Revelation 14:7, ESV). The second angel announces the fall of Babylon. The third angel warns of the doom that will come upon all who worship “the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand” (Revelation 14:9, ESV). Indeed, the end will come suddenly from mans perspective, but this passage does make clear that even in the time of the end the gospel will be preached and warnings will be given to the ungodly. From the heavenly perspective there will be a process.

Three (and here is the most important observation for our text this morning), recognize that these two chapters are again set in heaven.

I say “again” because in chapters 12 and 13 the setting was earthly. It is true that we were, at the beginning of chapter 12, given a glimpse of the heavenly and spiritual battle that was won by Christ upon his resurrection and ascension. But Satan was quickly cast to the earth where he pursued the woman and her offspring to devour them. We then encountered a beast that rose from the sea and a beast that came up from the earth. These beasts, we discovered, work for the dragon. They do battle against the people of God. The scene, for some time now, has been earthly. The focus has been upon that which threatens the church as she sojourns upon the earth.

But in chapters 14 and 15 the scene is heavenly. The Lamb is seen standing on the heavenly Mount Zion. The 144,000 are there with him singing a new song to God as he is seated upon his heavenly throne. Angels fly overhead with heavenly messages to proclaim. In verse 13 a voice is heard from heaven, saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13, ESV). Verse 14: “Then… behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand” (Revelation 14:14, ESV). Verse 17: “Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle” (Revelation 14:17, ESV). 15:1: “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished” (Revelation 15:1, ESV). 15:5: “After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests” (Revelation 15:5–6, ESV).

The setting has obviously shifted from earth to heaven as we have moved from chapters 12 and 13 to chapters 14 and 15. And here inlays the central purpose of the book of Revelation, to provide the Christ follower with God’s eternal, unlimited, and perfectly true perspective on how things have been, are, and will be in heaven and on earth so that the child of God might live according to truth.

You and I can see with our natural eyes how things are on earth. We have the ability to observe the natural world. We can know something of history, and of the state of affairs in the world today. But we should remember that things are not always as they might appear to us. There are two reasons for this that come to mind. One, we are very limited in our ability to rightly perceive. You and I do see the world but from a very limited vantage point. Our experience is really very small. You are but one individual looking at the world from one vantage point. You have lived on this planet for such a short time, this being true, not only of the young amongst us, but also the old. Our time on this earth is really very short, and our knowledge of the world is really very small. This we might call the problem of finitude. We are limited creatures, and not the Creator. And we have been created as finite beings. We are confined to live in one place at one time, our knowledge of the world being very limited indeed. And when we add to the problem of our creaturely limitations the problem of sin we do begin to understand just how needful we are of God’s revelation, even as it pertains to the right understanding of this world in which we live. We are very limited when it comes to knowledge and experience, but we should not forget that the world is also deceptive, and so too are our hearts. We are prone to misinterpret even those things that we do perceive with our natural senses. We are limited and sinful creatures living in a deceptive world.

If you are beginning to feel a sense of hopeless in regard to your ability to know what is true, then I have accomplished my objective. Indeed man, in his natural and sinful state, is very limited in regard to his ability to interpret the world aright. And this is why we so need God’s revelation. I am here speaking, not only of the book of Revelation, but of all of God’s special revelation, of which the book of Revelation is a part. We, given our creatureliness and given our sinfulness, do need God to reveal truth to us. This is so, not only as it pertains to the knowledge of God, and not only as it pertains to the future, but even as it pertains to a right understanding of the world in which we live now.

And if it is true that we need God’s revelation to rightly interpret the world in which we live – the world that we can experience with our natural senses – how much more do we need God’s revelation to understand the world that lies beyond our sense perception. The heavenly realm is truly veiled to us. We could know nothing of it unless the God who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth determined to reveal it to us.

Do you see, brothers and sisters, that God has provided both for us here in the book of Revelation? The book does constantly shift between heaven and earth. It is as if God is saying, “children, here is how you are to understand all that you experience in the world.” And then, “children, here is the reality of how things are in heaven.” And why has he revealed these things? It is so that we might order our lives according to how things really are in heaven and upon the earth. He has revealed it so that we might “know the truth, and the truth will set [us] free” (John 8:32, ESV).

Let us turn our attention now to verses 1-5 of Revelation 14, and as we give attention to this text three things will become clear. One, we must see know that the Lamb of God does stand upon the heavenly Mount Zion. Two, with him stand the 144,000 who have been sealed by God. And three, these do give glory to God who is seated upon his throne.

The Lamb of God Does Stand Upon The Heavenly Mount Zion

First of all, let us consider the Lamb whom John saw in verse 1 standing upon the heavenly Mount Zion.

There is no need for me to explain to you who this Lamb represents, for you know him well. Here we have a representation of Jesus the Christ, the one who, after being introduced as, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, [who] has conquered…” in Revelation 5:5, was then see by John as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Revelation 5:6, ESV). Here John again sees the Lamb, and he is standing upon Mount Zion in victory.

This is significant especially when we consider what has dominated the visions shown to John as of late. In chapter 12 John saw “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems” (Revelation 12:3, ESV). This dragon was cast to the earth where he is said to pursue God’s people with “great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV).” After that John “saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads” (Revelation 13:1, ESV), and then he “saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11, ESV). These also war against the people of God, acting on behalf of the dragon. The visions have been earthly and have emphasized the church under attack.

I do grow concerned for the church when we linger in those sections of the book of Revelation that look at things from the earthly perspective, emphasizing all that threatens us in this world. How important it is that we hear these truths! How important it is for us to know our adversary so that we might be walk in a soberly and with vigilance in this world, being wise to the schemes of the evil one. But if we linger in these sections for too long we run the risk of loosing sight of the message of the book, which is that, though our adversary be great, our Lord is greater still. He has conquered, and he does stand in victory now! He will indeed bring his people safely home. This book, when rightly understood, should not lead the people of God to despair, but to confidence ad courage in Christ. How refreshing it is to turn from chapter 13 to chapter 14, and from a focus upon our detestable enemies to gaze upon our victorious Savior standing upon Mount Zion. Indeed, at just the right time the book of Revelation does direct our eyes heavenward, lest we be overrun with despair.

It is possible that this is a reference to the earthly Mount Zion, for that is the name of a mountain within the boarders of the city of Jerusalem. It is a very significant place, being mentioned often in the pages of Holy Scripture. Many important things did happen on that mountain. And indeed, there will come a day when the Lord will stand upon that earthy mountain with his redeemed in the new heavens and the new earth. The question is, does this passage describe that day?

In fact, everything in this passage does suggest that this is a reference to the heavenly Mount Zion. The entire scene is heavenly, as we will soon see. Indeed, this interpretation is perfectly in step with the rest of the book of Revelation where we have been shown visions of God’s throne in heaven, the heavenly temple, the heavenly alter, and those who worship there. The book does constantly shift from earth to heaven and then back again showing that heaven and earth do correspond to another.

This would also be in keeping with the rest of scripture which does make a distinction between the earthy Mount Zion and the heavenly one. Do you remember what the writer to the Hebrews said when he was developing the argument that the New Covenant and its forms of worship are better than the Old? He said to the New Covenant Christian,

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22–24, ESV).

The writer to the Hebrews is insistent that the New Covenant people of God have been brought, not to the earthly mount, nor to the earthly city, but to the heavenly one through the blood of Christ. We are seated there with him in the heavenly places where he has ascended.

Earthly Mount Zion does in the scriptures signify God’s presence with his people and the place from which deliverance comes and protection is given. It is the place where the remnant of Israel is preserved by God.

Now think of this imagery in light of all we have been considering in the book of Revelation as of late. We have observed the dragon and the two beasts as they war and rage against the people of God. The first beast, for example,

“…was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:5–10, ESV).

But then we are comforted at the sight of the Lamb standing upon the heavenly Mount Zion, the place from which our salvation does come, the place where we are kept by God, being preserved by him until we arrive safely home.

Psalm 121 does come to mind:

“A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121, ESV)

Our Lord, the Lamb of God, does stand upon the heavenly mount Zion.

With Him Stand The 144,000 Sealed By God

Secondly, notice that with him stand the 144,000 sealed by God.

This is the second time in the book of Revelation that the 144,000 have been mentioned. We heard of them for the first time in Revelation chapter 7 in the interlude between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. John “heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Revelation 7:4, ESV). After this John heard the numbering and the listing of each of the tribes, “12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad” (Revelation 7:5, ESV), and so on. The list made it clear that this is not a reference to ethnic and Old Covenant Israel, but to the multi-ethnic New Covenant Israel with Christ at the head.

In that text the 144,000 represent the totality of God’s people on earth who live in the midst of tribulation. They are numbered by God, signifying that he knows them personally. More than that they are sealed by him, signifying that they belong to him and that he will keep them. These are God’s people numbered for war, for that is what they will experience in this world, a holy war fought, not with sword and shield, but with the weapons of faith.

How wonderful it is to see the 144,000 again, but this time from the heavenly perspective. Notice a few things about them.

One, they are seen here standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion.

Again, there is some debate as to what this scene signifies. Do we have here a picture of all of God’s people standing with him after the consummation in the new heavens and new earth? I do not think so, for the scene is a heavenly one, and not earthly. Or is this a reference to those who have died in Christ, their souls being present with the Lord. In this case the vision would be similar to the one in 6:9-10, where, when the fifth seal was opened John “saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne “(Revelation 6:9–10, ESV). The difference here would be that the slain are portrayed as victorious in Christ, standing with him on Zion, and not as sacrificial victims under an alter. This is a possible interpretation – the 144,000 symbolize those who have died in Christ having gone to glory.

But it seems to me that the best interpretation is to see the 144,000 here in 14:1 as referring to the same group of people as in chapter 7, but from the heavenly perspective instead of the earthly one. The 144,000 represent all of God’s people living upon the earth. They are numbered for war and sealed by him so that they might be kept in the midst of tribulation. But the truth that must not be overlooked is that these, though they be engaged in holy war upon the earth, are truly present with Christ in the heavenly places.

Listen to what Paul said to the Christians living in Ephesus in Ephesians 2:4-7:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4–7, ESV).

These Christians, indeed all who have faith in Christ, are made alive in Christ, are raised with him, and are seated with him in the heavenly places. I do believe that this is the thing symbolized here in Revelation 14:1-5. Though we do live upon the earth, and though we do experience many difficulties in this place, being assaulted continuously by the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, our Savior does stand on Mount Zion, and do stand with him even now.

Two, notice that these are sealed having the Christ’s “name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1, ESV). In chapter 7 we were simply told that the 144,000 were sealed. Here it is revealed to us that they are sealed with the name of God and the name of Christ. These belong to God and Christ and they serve him day and night.

Clearly this is meant to stand in contrast with what we have just heard about the beast and his followers. All who belong to him are “marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (Revelation 13:16–18, ESV).

Here we are shown that all of humanity is divided into two camps. There are those who belong to the beast, and there are those who belong to God and his Christ. There is no third camp, but only theses two. Those who belong to the beast are marked on the forehead (their minds and souls do belong to him) or right hand (they use their strength to serve him). But those who belong to God and Christ have the name of God and Christ written upon them – they are God’s possession, and God will preserve and protect those who are his. Notice where those who have the mark of the beast dwell. They are earth dwellers. But where do those who have taken the name of God and of Christ dwell? Though they live upon the earth, they are standing with Christ on heavenly Mount Zion.

Three, notice how the 144,000 are described. In verse 4 we read, “It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless” (Revelation 14:4–5, ESV).

If taken literally then the 144,000 refer only to Christian men who have lived a celibate life, who have never lied, and are blameless in every way. But it is better to see verses 4 through 5 as a symbolic description of all who are faithful to Christ, who have not defiled themselves with the world by bowing to idols, but have remained true to their profession, Jesus is Lord!

One should remember that frequently in the Old Testament Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness is called adultery, the people being accused of whoredom. Later in the book of Revelation we will be introduced to another enemy of God’s people, the harlot. She will be seen riding upon the first beast to tempt the saints to abandon the faith through immorality, which is unfaithfulness to God. And remember that in Revelation 19:7 and 21:2 the church us described the bride of Christ, faithful and true. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready…” (Revelation 19:7, ESV). “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2, ESV).

The 144,000 are described in this way, not to indicate that they are celibate males only, to symbolize the churches unwavering devotion to Christ the Lord. The phrase, “it is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins”, indicates their spiritual faithfulness. These are the ones who, “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”  “These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.” And “in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.” These are the ones who have been true to their profession of faith. They are ceremonially pure, having been made pure by the blood of the Lamb.

The message is clear. It far better to stand with Christ and to take his mark than to go the way of the world, taking the mark of the beast.

These Give Glory To God Who Is Seated Upon The Throne

Lastly, recognize that these give glory to God who is seated upon the throne.

In verse 2 John,

“Heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:2–3, ESV).

You should notice that worship is a central theme of the book of Revelation. God alone is to be worship. The angels worship him day and night. And the redeemed are to worship him.

Notice that the redeemed are here found singing a new song. This should remind us of Psalm 144:9-10 which says, “I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, who gives victory to kings, who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword” (Psalm 144:9–10, ESV).

And it is a song that only the 144,000 can sing. Not even the angels can sing it. Why would this be? Well, remember, the angels are not redeemed creatures. Some rebelled and were then eternally condemned. Others remained upright and were then confirmed in their righteousness. There is no redemption needed for the elect angels, never fell, there is none offered to the fallen ones. There is no angelic savior. But we humans have a redeemer, who is Christ the Lord. And so we may sing to him like no other in God’s creation. The angels might give glory to God concerning the salvation that he has provided, but we give him praise for having saved us, for having covered all of our sins, and for having clothed us with Christ’s righteousness.

Truly, all things are to the glory of God. We have been redeemed so that we might worship and serve our blessed Savior and the Father who, having loved us, did send him to accomplish our redemption.

Conclusion 

Brothers and sisters, though I do pray that our study of Revelation chapters 12 and 13 did help to make you sober concerning our advisory the devil and the powers that he uses to war against us, I do also pray that the opening scene of Revelation 14 brings comfort to you as you fix your eyes upon our risen Lord. He stands upon the heavenly Mount Zion, and we stand with him, sealed with his name and his Fathers name written upon our foreheads, to follow him wherever he does lead.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 14:1-5, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: 144,000 Sealed in Heaven: Revelation 14:1-5

Sermon: The Beast Rising From The Earth: Revelation 13:11-18

Old Testament Reading: Daniel 3:1–18

“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.’ Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:1–18, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 13:11-18

“Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” (Revelation 13:11–18, ESV)

Introduction

I think it would be beneficial for us to ask the same questions concerning this beast that John saw rising out of the earth that we asked last week concerning the beast that John saw rising from sea. Do you remember the questions? There were five of them, and they were these: One, when will this beast appear? Two, who does this beast symbolize? Three, where does this beast have authority? Four, what does this beast do? And five, why does this beast do what he does?

When Will This Beast Appear?

The first question is, when will this beast whom John saw rising out of the earth appear?

We need not devote much time to this question, for a good deal of time was devoted to answering it in the previous sermon concerning the first beast raising from the sea. Remember that that beast – the one that John saw raising from the sea – was active in the world even when John originally penned the book of Revelation. That same beast is active in the world now, and will be active in the world until the Lord returns. In other words the sea beast symbolizes powers and entities that have been, are, and will be present in the world until the end of time, and not just some future figure.

I will not take the time to repeat the arguments that I presented in support of this view, though they would all apply to this second beast as well, for the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth are contemporaries. The beast from the earth works for the beast from the sea. Verse 12 says that the second beast “exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed” (Revelation 13:12, ESV).

The powers symbolized by the first beast from the sea are present in the world during the whole church age (symbolized by the time frame of 42 months, or 1,260 days, or a time, times and half a time), and so too are the powers symbolized by the second beast from the earth. These two – the powers symbolized by the first beast and the powers symbolized by the second – work together in their assault against the people of God living in this world.

So, when will this beast whom John saw rising out of the earth appear? The beast from the earth was present and active in John’s day, has been active in the world, and will be until the end of time.

Who Does This Beast Symbolize?

Secondly, who does this beast from the earth symbolize?

It would be helpful to remember that the first beast – the beast from the sea – symbolizes political powers that persecute. This is clear from the obvious connection that exists between the sea beast of Revelation 13 and the four beasts described in Daniel 7. The sea beast of Revelation 13 is a combination of the four beasts of Daniel 7. Those four beasts symbolized successive kingdoms that would rise and fall and persecute the people of God along the way. The beast of Revelation 13, being a hybrid of all four signifies, therefore, not one particular kingdom, but all kingdoms that persecute through political power. This beast, remember, “was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Revelation 13:7, ESV). The original readers of the book of Revelation would have thought of Rome and the persecutions endured by Christians there. You and I might think of North Korea or the Islamic State and our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer under those oppressive powers. The sea beast of Revelation 13 is as active in the world today as it was in the days of the early church. It symbolizes political powers that persecute the people of God.

And with that in mind it is important to recognize that the second beast – the one that John saw “rising out of the earth” – is closely connected to the first that rose from the sea. Not only are they contemporaries (active in the world at the same time), they are also colleagues (working towards the same goal).

We are told in verse 12 that the beast from the earth, “exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence” (Revelation 13:12, ESV). Some English Bibles say, “on its behalf” instead of “in its presence” – the beast from the earth, “exercises all the authority of the first beast on its behalf” –  it seems to me that this is the better translation. The Greek word refers to a position in front of or before an entity, and so it is understandable that the translators of the ESV have chosen the phrase, “in its presence”. But the the word might also mean to do something “on behalf” of someone – to go in front of them, as it were, to act on their behalf. Notice that the translators of the ESV have rendered the phrase, “in it presence”, but the have also indicated in a footnote the possible translation, “on its behalf”.  The meaning is that the second beast – the beast from the earth – carries out the authority of the first beast from the sea. The second beast works on behalf of the first. The beast from the earth is a kind of minister who serves the beast from the sea, carrying out it wishes.

If the first beast symbolizes political powers that persecute, the second beast symbolizes the political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents who carry out the persecution of the church and the deception of the ungodly.

These two powers should not be hard for us to identify in the world. It really is quite simple to understand the way in which these two powers, though different from one another, do indeed correspond to one another and cooperate.

I want for you to imagine a situation where there is obvious, organized, and systematic persecution of Christ’s people taking place within a given society. Here I am not talking about isolated, random, and sporadic instances of persecution where an individual or small group decides to treat Christians badly for a time. But I am thinking of those instances where persecution is very deliberate being organized by those who have real political power. Think of the kind of persecution experienced by the Jews (and many Christians too) under Nazi Germany. Think of the kind of persecution experienced by Christians under Nero, Domitian and Trajan in Rome. And think of the kind of persecution endured by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego under Nebuchadnezzar. These are examples of obvious, organized, and systematic persecution motivated by those with real political power.

Now think of this, when persecution of this kind flares up within a society it is not Hitler or Nero or Nebuchadnezzar who carry out the acts of persecution, but their ministers go in front of them to do their bidding and to work on their behalf. These are the powers symbolized by the beast from the land. This second beast symbolizes the political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents in the carrying out of the persecution of the church and the deception of the ungodly.

Do you see, then, how the first beast from the sea and the second beast from the land do correspond to one another. They are contemporaries and colleagues. The beast from the sea represents those political powers that persecute, but those powers typically remain at a distance from those they persecute. The beast from the earth represents those who get their hands dirty, if you will, who apply the political, religious, and economic pressure to the people of God who refuse to compromise and, through these pressures, deceive the non-elect, leading them away to false worship.

Where Does This Beast Have Authority?

Thirdly we ask, where does this beast have authority?

I do not wish to linger very long here either, but I think it is important to see that this beast from the land, just like the beast from the sea, exercises his authority in all the earth. Look again at verse 12: “It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed” (Revelation 13:12, ESV). Also in verse 14 we are told that this beast “deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:14, ESV).

The beast from the land does not function as a precise symbol having as its referent one particular persecuting nation or one particular persecuting person, but to persecuting powers more generally and broadly. The authority of this beast can be observed throughout the earth.

What Does This Beast Do?

Fourthly we ask, what does this beast do?

We have already established that, in general, this second beast acts on behalf of the first. But here we ask, what in particular does he do? What are his methods? What is his objective?

First of all, we should recognize that this beast does try at first to deceive men and women to abandon the true worship of God and to commit idolatry.

Notice the appearance of this second beast. In verse 11 we are told that he looks like a lamb. Again, we have here an imitation of Christ. Do you remember how the first beast imitated Christ so as to function as a counterfeit? In 13:3 we were told that on of the heads of the first beast, “seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast” (Revelation 13:3, ESV). The first beast functions as a counterfeit imitating Christ in regards to death and resurrection.  But this second beast also imitates Christ functioning as a counterfeit to him. This one looks like a lamb. Remember that Christ was described in chapter 5 as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:6, ESV). Now, this second beast is described as a lamb. We should take note of this, for something of his method is revealed to us here. When this beast does his work he does not at first appear to be a beast at all, but a harmless lamb, gentle, meek and mild.

This beast has two horns. Once everything is considered I think it is best to see these two horns as corresponding to and countering the two faithful witness of Revelation 11. The two witnesses were faithful to proclaim gospel truth even in the face of intense persecution. This beast, as we will see, uses words, but he speaks lies and uses them as a weapon to deceive.

Notice that this beast “speaks like a dragon”. Remember that the dragon was identified in 12:9 as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). This second beast, who symbolizes political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents who carry out the persecution of the church and the deception of the ungodly on behalf of the first beast, is, like the dragon, deceptive. These political, religious, and economic entities that persecute to after look nice on the surface. They have smooth speech. They seem to care. They claim to love. They offer hope. They appear to do good. But when examined closely they show themselves to be wholeheartedly opposed to God and to his people.

Notice that this second beast from the earth is able to preform “great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of [or “on behalf” of] the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:13–14, ESV).

Here we begin to see clearly that this beast is a false prophet. In fact that is what this beast is called later in the book of Revelation. In 19:20 we read, “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence [or “on its behalf”] had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20, ESV). Here the second beast is called “the false prophet”. The same can be said of 16:13 and 20:10. Clearly, this beast from the land is the false prophet. He is not called by that name here, but his true nature is reviled via symbol.

Notice that this beast is allowed to preform “great signs”. He is a counterfeit of Christ. He is a counterfeit of the prophet Moses. Do you remember how when the prophet Moses preformed signs before Pharaoh, “Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts” (Exodus 7:11, ESV). Moses put down his staff and it became a snake, and then servants of Pharaoh did the same. How they did it, I do not know. I assume it was an allusion. The point is that they functioned as a counterfeit to the prophet Moses. Do you see that Pharaoh was a manifestation of the first beast and his servants a manifestation of the second They were false prophets who deceived the people.

This beast is even allowed to make “fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people” (Revelation 13:13, ESV). This should remind us of the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal that is described for us in 1 Kings 18. Do you remember it? there stood the true prophet Elijah and there stood the 450 false prophets of Baal. An alter was erected by each and a bull was sacrificed upon the alter and the prophets were to call upon their God and the true God would send fire from heaven to consume the offering and the alter. The prophets of Baal danced around the alter for hours, cutting themselves, as was their custom, but nothing happened.

“And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36–39, ESV)

But here the beast is said to be allowed to make “fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people” (Revelation 13:13, ESV). The meaning is that false prophets will have success in the world in the time between Christ’s first and second comings.

What is symbolized here in the book of Revelation is said plainly elsewhere in the New Testament. Jesus himself told his followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15–16, ESV). In Matthew 24, which has been quoted very often in this sermons series because it is there that Jesus speaks of how things will be in the world between his ascension and his return, Jesus says, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matthew 24:11, ESV). In verse 24 he says, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, ESV).

I want for you to recognize that it is those within the church who are threatened by the false prophets. They are active, not only out in the world. They deceive, not only those living in the world. But they threaten the church. They arise within Christ’s church, seeking to deceive even those who profess faith in Christ.

Listen to Peter’s words: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…” (2 Peter 2:1, ESV).

And remember Christ’s rebuke delivered to the church in Thyatita in Revelation 2:18: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20, ESV). This church had already been compromised by this beast from the land.

The same can be said of the church that was in Pergamum. Christ rebuked them, saying, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:14–16, ESV). They too had been compromised by the beast from the land, in this instance, by the false teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Do you see that false prophets and false teachers have always threatened God’s people. They are able to lead people astray into false worship. They are able to deceive men and women to commit idolatry, that is, to false worship

To speak very bluntly, Christians today are very gullible and naive to the threat of false teaching within the church. They assume that if a man is called pastor, then he is to be trusted. If he reads a few words from the Bible in his sermon, then what he says must be “biblical”. If he is funny or eloquent or hip, then he is listened to. So many who claim to be Christ followers today do follow men who teach what is false, following them like dumb sheep going to the slaughter.

And how can we know whether a man be true or false? We have God’s word. He is to be tested by God’s word. Does he say what God has said? Does he teach God’s truth? Does he order the church and his ministry according to God’s directives? Does he himself meet God’s qualifications? Or has he gone his own way, having decided for himself what he ought to do and say?

Consider the task that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel, the true prophet, was to confront the false prophets of his day. God called him, saying,

“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!… ‘They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken? Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God.’” (Ezekiel 13:6–8, ESV).

There are many in our day who say, “thus says the Lord” and then proceed to say what the Lord has not said, or fail to say what he has said. Brothers we must beware of the of this beast from the sea who at first comes to us as a wolf in sheep clothing, “to deceive those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:14, ESV).

Secondly, we should recognize that when the beast is unable to, through deception, pursued men to abandon the true worship of God and commit idolatry, he does then persecute them. There are two forms of persecution mentioned in this text. The first is physical, and the second is economic.

Look at verse 15: “And it [the second beast] was allowed to give breath to the image of the [first] beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.” (Revelation 13:15, ESV)

Clearly it is the story from Daniel 3 of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that stands behind this passage that we are considering to today.

What does the beast from the earth do? It compels the earth dwellers to make an image of the first beast – the beast from the sea who symbolizes political powers that persecute – so that men would bow down to it and worship it. And what did Nebuchadnezzar do? He set up an image of gold so that his subjects would come to bow before it to worship it.

Now please understand that when Daniel 3:1 says,  “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold…” (Daniel 3:1, ESV), it does not mean that King Nebuchadnezzar made the image himself. No, his administrators certainly carried it out. And they also did not build the statue themselves, but compelled the people of that land to build it. Do you see that Nebuchadnezzar was a manifestation of the beast from the sea and his officials – “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces” (Daniel 3:2, ESV) – were a manifestation of the beast that John saw rising from the earth? They were the ones who saw to it that the statue was built! And they would be the one to see to it that it was worshipped by all in Babylon.

Let us consider again the beast form the earth of Revelation 13. What does this beast do after the image is erected? “It was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Revelation 13:15, ESV).

This also echoes the situation in Daniel 3.

“Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace’” (Daniel 3:3–6, ESV).

If the image were alive – if it were truly a god worthy to be worshipped – then it should speak for itself. But this was no god at all. It was merely the creation of man, and therefore it was dependent upon man, its creator, to speak for him. “The herald”, one of Nebuchadnezzar’s most trusted ministers, no doubt, “proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples… when you hear the sound of the… music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” And what was the threat? “Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

The beast from the earth in Revelation 13 symbolizes the kind of power. It symbolizes those political, religious, and economic entities that serve as agents who carry out the persecution of the church when the faithful refuse to enter into idolatry and abandon the true worship of God.

Notice that this beast uses, not only physical persecution, but also economic sanctions in its quest to nudge men and women towards idolatry.

Look at verse 16: “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16–18, ESV).

Friends, the mark on the right hand or the forehead is not to be taken literally. It is not a physical mark, but is symbolic. The mark on the right hand or the forehead indicates ownership and allegiance. For one to take the mark of the beast one must pledge allegiance to the beast, bow in worship before it, confessing it as lord.

Remember that those who pledge allegiance to Christ, bow in worship before him, confessing him as Lord, have been marked by him. They are the ones who are “sealed” from every tribe of the sons of Israel (Revelation 7:4). Turn over to 14:1. It is no accident that immediately after the mark of the beast is mentioned in 13:18 we read, “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1, ESV). Certainly this is not to be taken literally either, but it a symbol ownership and allegiance. These who have God’s name written on their foreheads are those who belong to him, and he to them.

All who are of the world, who trust in the world, who bow before Caesar, saying, “Caesar is Lord” taken upon themselves the mark of the beast. All who are of Christ, who trust in Christ, who bow before Christ, saying, “Jesus is Lord!”, are “sealed” by him and have “his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads”.

Notice that it only those who have the mark of the beast who are allowed to buy and sell. The mark of the beast, though it is not a literal physical mark, but symbolic and spiritual, may from time to time manifest itself in physical and tangible ways.

There is evidence that during the reign of Decius (249 A.D.) and Diocletian (303 A.D.) that certificates were issue to those were loyal to the emperor and participated in the required rituals of the imperial religion. To have a certificate would mean that you could buy ad sell and enjoy life within the society. To lack it put you at risk. You would not be free to trade, and you may be in danger of imprisonment or even death. Here the mark of the beast took on a physical form, and so it might in the future too.

I remember a brother from Turkey telling me that the drivers licenses indicated your religion. If you were a Muslim it was easy to get a job. If your license said Christian, it was far more difficult. I’m not sure if this is still true today, but it is an example of a physical mark of the beast.

I do find it almost amusing to watch Christians who hold to the futuristic and literalistic interpretation of the book of Revelation freak out when there is talk of new payment method involving a chip implanted in the skin, or some such thing. Is that the mark of the beast? No! Not unless you are required to denounce Christ, or to bow in worship before Caesar, or to do or say some other thing that would amount to a denial of our Lord to get it! Then it would be a physical manifestation of the mark of the beast.

Verse 18 reveals to us the number of the beast. “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”

Last week I mentioned that this number might refer to the Emperor Nero, who was notorious for his mistreatment of Christians, who died in 68 A.D. This theory is based upon the method of assigning numerical value to the Hebrew letters of Nero’s name. When you add them up they equal 666.

I wish back away from this view a little. If the number 666 does indeed have reference to Nero I think it is probably of secondary significance. A much more straight forward interpretation of this number involves seeing it as then number of sinful and fallen man – a number that communicates total imperfection. The number which communicates completion or perfection in the scriptures is seven.The number of God and of his Christ would be 777. Here we have trinity of seven’s, if you will. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – 777. But the number of the beast is the number of man, or the number of imperfection, repeated three times over. We have here a trinity of sixes – a trinity of imperfection. It should be recognized that three figures have been introduced to us so far who oppose God and his people – the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. These three are a false trinity who seek to deceive men and women to worship them instead of God.

The number 666 is meant to impress upon the reader just how foolish it is to go the way of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. You’ll be sorely disappointed with what you find there. They are incomplete and imperfect. They are creatures of God, and not the Creator, who in six days made all things in heaven and on earth, and on the seventh day did enter into his holy rest.

Do not take this mark, friends, by turning from the worship of the one true to the worship of idols. Worship the Creator only, and not the creation. This calls for wisdom.

Why Does This Beast Do What He Does?

The fifth and last question is this: why does this beast from the earth do what he does? It is because he is Satanic. He is minister of the first beast, who is a minster of the dragon himself. Let us not be deceived.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 13:11-18, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Beast Rising From The Earth: Revelation 13:11-18

Sermon: The Beast Rising From The Sea: Revelation 13:1-10

Old Testament Reading: Daniel 7:1–14

“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.’” (Daniel 7:1–12, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 13:1-10

“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:1–10, ESV)

Introduction

Here we have a transition in the book of Revelation.

Chapter 12 focused upon “the great dragon…who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). He was identified as the primary spiritual opponent of God, the Christ, and the people of God living upon the earth. His objective since the fall of man has been to devour God’s people so as to consume God’s Christ. This he attempted to do, and this he thought he accomplished when Christ was crucified. But Christ rose from the dead, ascended to the Father and was seated upon his heavenly throne. The dragon was then barred from heaven and confined to the earth. John heard a heavenly voice saying, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV). What did the dragon do having be barred from heaven upon Christ’s session? He immediately resumed his pursuit and persecution of God’s people. “He pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (Revelation 12:13, ESV), and he made “war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, ESV). God’s promise to his people is that he will nourish them and preserve them spiritually, though they will indeed experience warfare in this world..

Clearly the focus shifts in chapter 13 away from the dragon to two beasts. John sees a vision of the first beast rising from the sea in 13:1. And in 13:11 he describes a beast rising from the earth who does the bidding of the first beast. The shift in focus is obvious, but I would like to draw your attention to the way in which chapters 12 and 13 are connected.

Remember that chapter 12 concluded with the words, “And he [the dragon] stood on the sand of the sea” (Revelation 12:17, ESV).  It is important that you visualize this. Imagine this ferocious and enraged dragon standing upon the seashore. And then immediately we read “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads” (Revelation 13:1, ESV). When we come to 13:11 we will hear John say, “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11, ESV).

The meaning is this: The dragon, who symbolizes Satan himself, is devoted to the pursuit are persecution of God’s people – he is committed to making “war on the… offspring [of the woman], on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, ESV) – but he will wage this war, not always in a direct way, but through these two beasts. And so there he stands on the seashore summoning the beast from the sea (who looks like him) and the beast from the land (who talks like him) so that they might do his bidding in the world, to war against all who belong to God and to Christ.

Today we will consider the first of the two beasts. As we consider Revelation 13:1-10 we will ask five questions. One, when will this beast appear? Two, who or what does this beast symbolize? Three, where does this beast have authority? Four, what does this beast do? And five, why does this beast do what he does? Having answered these questions we will be well prepared to ask, how should this passage of holy scripture affect my life today?

When Will This Beast Appear?

So when will this beast appear? Truthfully, it would be better to put the question this way: “when did this beast appear?” But if I put the question that way from the beginning it would have tipped you off to the answer prematurely. The answer is that this beast was active in the world even when John originally penned this letter to the seven churches in the first century A.D. This same beast is active in the world now, and will be active in the world until the Lord returns.

Again, I must briefly address the futurist view of the beast of Revelation 13, which is most popular today. The futurist, when asked, when will this beast appear?, says “in the future during the last three and a half years of human history before the Lord returns in judgment”. I’m almost tired of having to address the futurist position, but the view is so prominent within evangelicalism today that I must say something about it. I refer you to previous sermons and previous classes offered at Emmaus for a detailed explanation as to why I believe it is wrong to view the book of Revelation as being mainly about the future and not about the state of affairs in the world today. For now I will simply draw your attention to what this text says and also its relationship to the passages that have come before it.

Notice that in verse 5 we are specifically told that “the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Revelation 13:5, ESV).

I’ve already established in previous sermons that this three and a half year period of time is not to to be taken literally, but is symbolic for the time between Christ’s first and second comings. This three and a half year period of time is sometimes called 42 months (3.5 years x 12 months). Sometimes it is referred to as 1,260 days (3.5 years x 360 days per year according to ancient custom of measuring a year). And sometimes it is referred to as a time, times and half a times (1 year + 2 years + 1/2 a year). This three and a half period is symbolic of the period of time where those who belong to Christ will suffer tribulation in the world.  And when will the people of God suffer tribulation in the world? It is not in the future only, but in the past, present, and future. It is terrible myth to say that God’s people will not experience tribulation in the world. That contradicts the historical record, and it contradicts the scriptures. Christ himself spoke his disciples saying, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV)? Friends, this is the reality that has been symbolized over and over again in the book of Revelation, but in different ways. On the one hand, God’s people will have tribulation, but on the other hand, we are to take courage in Christ because he has overcome the world. This is the situation – preservation through tribulation – portrayed in each scene designated by the time frame of 42 months, or 1,260 days, or time, times, and half a time.

Look with me (one last time) at the five references to this three and a half year period found in Revelation chapters 11 through 13, and please notice the common theme.

It was in chapter 11 verses 1 through 2 that we were told of a heavenly temple that was measured and protected by God while the courtyard was left unmeasured and vulnerable on earth to the trampling of the nations.  The church is the temple, remember. She is simultaneously perfectly secure and yet vulnerable to persecution in the world.  How long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? 42 months.

After this we immediately encountered two witnesses. These witness, who were also called “two lamp stands” and two “olive trees” symbolized the church in her witnessing role. After they fulfilled their task thy were killed and the nations rejoiced over them, but they were raised from the dead and caught up to God. How long did these witnesses witness? How long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? They fulfilled their task while suffering persecution for 1,260 days, being ultimately preserved by God.

And then in chapter 12 we were introduced to the woman who gave birth to the male child. She too symbolized God’s people in every age. And after she gave birth we were told that she “fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished…” (Revelation 12:6, ESV). The wilderness would be a place of testing and tribulation, but also a place of preservation. How long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? The texts says1,260 days.

Later in chapter 12 we were reintroduced to this woman being nourished in the wilderness to learn more about what she would endure there. She was pursued by the dragon who attempted to drown her in a flood of lies and deception, but she was preserved by God in that wilderness place. And how long will this situation of preservation through tribulation last? She was “nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Revelation 12:14, ESV).

And finally we come to the last reference to this symbolic three and a half year period here in 13:5 where we read, “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority… (Revelation 13:5, ESV). How long will the beast be permitted to do this? We are told that it will be for 42 months, which should take our minds back to the first mention of this three and a half year period where the temple was said to be measured and protected and yet trampled for 42 months.

The time in which the beast is active is the same time in which the women and her offspring will be pursued and preserved which is the same period of time in which the witnesses will witness which is the same time in which temple will be both measured and yet exposed to trampling.

I’ve presented you with reasons for viewing this period of time as symbolic in previous sermons. I’ve explained where these numbers come form (from the OT and also from historical events) and why they serve as effective symbols communicating the idea of a time of tribulation for the people of God and also preservation. I do not wish to repeat those arguments here but to simply draw your attention to fact that book of Revelation recapitulates. In chapters 11 through 13 alone we have looked upon the entire time between Christ’s first and second comings (the church age) from many different points of view.

So, when did this beast from the sea appear? Well, we know that it was present in John day. In the narrative of Revelation it arose from the sea after Satan was barred from heaven and thrown to the earth. This happened when Christ sat down upon his heavenly throne after his death, resurrection, and ascension. There is nothing at all in the text that would suggest that this beast will only be present sometime in our future.

More can be said, but for now let us simply recognize that this beast from the sea has been present and active in the world at least from the time of Christ’s ascension to his heavenly throne.

Who Or What Does This Beast Symbolize?

Secondly, we must answer the question, who or what does this beast symbolize? The answer is this: the sea beast of Revelation 13 symbolizes political powers that persecute.

Notice the description of the beast in verses 1 and 2. John writes,

“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.” (Revelation 13:1–2, ESV)

Those familiar with the Old Testament scriptures will immediately recognize that this beast is a combination of the beasts of Daniel chapter 7 which was read at the beginning of this sermon. Remember that Daniel (who ministered from approximately 600 – 540 B.C.) saw a vision similar to that of John’s where “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another” (Daniel 7:2–3, ESV). He then describes the beasts.

“The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings… a second one, like a bear…. and behold, another, like a leopard… After this [he] saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. [He] considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:4–8, ESV).

Later in Daniel 7 an interpretation is given concerning the symbolism of these creatures, and we are told in a most direct way that each beast represents a kingdom that would rise and fall in the future (from Daniel’s perspective). The fourth kingdom would be far greater and far more fierce than the first three. Though Daniel and his original audience did not know the names of all these kingdoms, we do now that this prophesy has been fulfilled.

The beasts of Daniel 7 symbolize the rise and fall of the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and lastly the Romans. These kingdoms would oppose God and the people of God, but God would have victory over them and judge them. More than that, it would be in the time of the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) that “one like a son of man” would appear.  He would come “to the Ancient of Days” and be “presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV). What does this prophesy describe except the resurrection, ascension, and session of Christ at the Fathers right hand.

The meaning of the vision of Daniel 7, therefore, is that though powerful kingdoms will rise and fall, and though these kingdom will indeed war against God and persecute his people, God sits enthroned in heaven. He is Lord of all creation. He will judge these kingdoms in due time. And he will establish his kingdom beginning with the arrival of the Christ and culminating in his second coming.

This is not a sermon on Daniel 7. If it were we would spend much more time on that text. For now simply recognize, first of all, that the beasts of Daniel 7 symbolize political powers that persecute God’s people. Therefore, the beast of Revelation 13 represents something similar to what the beasts of Daniel 7 symbolized, namely kingdoms, or political powers that oppose God and persecute the people of God.

But we should also notice that the beast of Revelation 13 it is not exactly like any of the four beasts of Daniel 7, but is a combination of the four. This tips us off to the fact that this beast does not represent one particular kingdom, but all of the political powers used by Satan to persecute the saints throughout the church age. Remember that this beast will be active, not for a brief time, but for the whole time between Christ’s first and second comings. This beast will be active for 42 months, or, a times, time and half a time, that language also being drawn from Daniel to describe the last days which span from Christ’s first coming on to the consummation.

So when the seven churches who were living Asia Minor in 90A.D. received this letter from John and read of the sea beast of Revelation 13, what came to mind?  Did they think, I wonder when this beast will arise sometime in the distant future? No, they thought of Rome! They remembered the persecutions of Nero some 30 years earlier. They thought of the persecutions of Domitian that were currently flaring up around them. They thought of the opposition that they faced even in their home towns from political powers. These persecutions were clearly alluded to in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

And the same can be said for the Christ followers living in every age after Christ’s ascension to the right hand of the Father. Indeed, from the time of the fall of man this has been a tactic of the evil one. He has used political powers to persecute the people of God for eons, and it will continue on to the time of the end.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been studying John Bunyan’s, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Lord willing, we will begin a study of that book in the Emmaus Essentials hour beginning on October the 22nd. I almost feel compelled to beg you to come to that class and to bring your children, especially your teens. The book is an allegory of the Christian life and it is filled with rich spiritual insights. John Bunyan lived in the seventeenth century. He was, to use terminology that is common today, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in a time and place when it was dangerous to be a Reformed Baptist Pastor. He wrote most of the Pilgrims Progress from prison. He spent 12 years in prison because he would not conform to the church of England, but continued to preach without a license as a non-conformist. At that time the church and state were not separate, and the church would often use the power of the state to persecute those who would not conform to their view. The Roman Catholic church did the same thing in the days following the Protestant Reformation.

Very many examples can be given from history where those with political power persecute the people of God. Ironically, sometimes it is even those who claim to be Christian who are guilty of such things. This has been true in the past, it is true of today, and it will be true on to consummation. One of the tactics of the evil one is to use political and worldly powers to put pressure on Christ’s church so that she might compromise in her faith.

Some say that the beast from the sea in Revelation 13 is to be identified with the person whom John calls the “Antichrist” in 1 and 2 John. Some have also made a connection between the sea beast and the person that Paul calls “the man of sin”. And actually, this view is not altogether wrong so long as we remember that John, while a spoke of the Antichrist who would arise at the end of time, also said that many antichrists would come and that they were even present in his day. He wrote, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18, ESV). The same “already, and not yet” principle can be seen in Paul’s teaching concerning the, so-called, “man of sin”. Paul wrote, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:7–8, ESV). So in Paul’s words the lawless man of sin will come at the end of time and will be struck down by Jesus at his second coming, but even in his day the “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work”. So in John’s day many antichrists had already come, but the Antichrist would not come until the end of time. Similarly the “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work” in Paul’s day, the man of lawlessness would not appear util the end of time.

I think it is right that we view the beast of Revelation 13 in the same way. This beast was present in the world even as John wrote the book of Revelation. This beast is present in the world now. And this beast (representing political powers that persecute) will indeed be present until the Lord returns, at which time he will be fully and finally judged.

Revelation 19:17-21 describes this event:

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army [Christ and his people]. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh” (Revelation 19:17–21, ESV).

The beast of Revelation 13 symbolizes political powers that persecute, past, present and future.

We have a few questions remaining, and I will answer them quickly.

Where Does This Beast Have Authority?

The third question is this: where does this beast have authority? The answer is that this beast has authority over all the earth.

Look at verse 7:

“Also [the beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:7–8, ESV).

What Does This Beast Do? 

Fourthly, what does this beast do. We have already indicated that the beast represents political powers that persecute, but more is said than this. The beast also seeks to deceive people and to lead them to false worship as he blasphemes the name of God.

Look at verses 3-6:

“One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13:3–6, ESV)

What does the text mean when it says, “One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.”

I will make three brief observations about this.

One, there seems to an imitation of Christ taking place here. Christ was described in 5:6 as  “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:6, ESV). Here the beasts seems to have recovered from a mortal wound. Its as if the beast presents itself as an alternative to Christ, saying “trust me and not him!”

Two, it is interesting to note that though the Emperor Nero, who was a most wicked man, committed suicide in 68 A.D. there was even up to the time of the writing of the book of Revelation a wide spread rumor that Nero was really not dead but had fled to Parthia and that he would return leading the Parthian army to reconquer Rome and to reestablish his rule. It is possible that the Nero myth stands behind the image of the mortally wounded head which was healed. The argument for this view will be strengthened next week as we consider the number 666 which is probably symbolic of the Emperor Nero.

Three, I wonder if the reference to the mortally wounded but healed head has something to do with the way in which kings rise and then fall after which another king rises to take his place. The same can be said for kingdoms. Kingdoms rise and fall and then another rises again. There has been a kind of resurrection that happens throughout the history of the world as kingdoms come and go and come again. The Daniel 7 passages also seems to allude to this phenomenon.

It is no wonder that men and women are deceived to trust in these kingdoms and to worship the gods of these kingdoms instead of Christ. These seem to be so powerful and ultimately invincible, especially when compared to the kingdom of God in this world, which is so humble, small, and comparatively weak. Compare, for example, the church of God in America today to the power and might of United States of America. The church seems very weak and vulnerable, and the political power seems so strong. God’s word is here providing us with a different perspective on the matter.

But notice what the beast does. He leads men and woman to worship the dragon and not Christ. Verse 4: “And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4, ESV). Indeed, even many in our day who call themselves Christians have been led astray to put their hope ultimately in political powers instead of in Christ and his kingdom.

And notice that the beast also blasphemes against God and against his dwelling. It is well known that the Roman Emperors by the time of Domitian made a habit of demanding that worship be offered up to them as if they were God’s. This is the hight of blasphemy. Political powers can tend in this direction.

Why Does The Beast Do What He Does?

Lastly we ask, why does the beast do what he does? The answer will be most brief: He does what he does being empowered by the dragon to do it. The beast from the sea and the beast from the earth are instruments and ministers of he dragon, who is “the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”

Application

So how should this affect us?

Actually, the text provides us with the application. Look at verses 9 and 10: “If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:9–10, ESV).

The meaning is this: God is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world. And he has decreed and will providentially permit even the suffering of his people. We are trust God in this world! We are to endure, which means to bear up under difficult circumstances. We are to persevere in the faith even in the face of extreme persecution.

I do believe that one of the reasons Christians today have such a difficult time properly interpreting the book of Revelation is that we have not experienced much in the way of persecution. It is largely foreign to us. We read about it sometimes. But to many Christians in our land it seems like something that belongs to a bygone era. I do believe that if we knew persecution (and also if we knew the Old Testament) the book of Revelation would make more sense to us. This ridiculous and idiotic teaching that God would never allow his saints to suffer tribulation really does make the book of Revelation hard to understand (if the teaching is believed), for that is what the book describes! It describes the bride of Christ under assault, and it calls the Christian to endure and to persevere in faith, trusting always in Christ.

Buy yourself a copy of Foxes Book of Martyrs and read it. Go to persecution.com, which is the website of Voice of the Martyrs and look around. Subscribe to Heart Cry Missionary Societies news letter so that you might be aware of what is going on in the world today, especially as it pertains to world missions. And simply grow in your understanding of church history! If you do these things you will not be so quick to believe that view which says that the beast from the sea will arrive only in the last three and a half years of human history and that the church will be raptured by then, for God would never allow his people to suffer tribulation. What a ridiculous idea that is.

Brothers and sisters, we should pray for the persecuted church around the world today. We should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are threatened by political powers with economic sanctions, imprisonment, and even death, that they would indeed bear up under the sufferings and remain true to Christ, persevering in the faith. And we should do some soul searching of our own, asking, would I bear up under the pressure? Lord help us. Make us faithful servants of yours in this world.

Secondly, I would like to say a word about politics. It seems to me that there is a ditch on both sides of the road into which Christians may fall.

On left side there is the ditch is naïveté. Here the Christian has too high of a view of government and politics and assumes that men are basically good and trusts that when these basically good men gain power they will do what is good for all. Indeed, there are some “good men and women” (I speak in relative terms, of course), but we should forget that governments and rulers have historically tended towards self-service and oppression.

But the ditch on the right side of the road is the ditch of extreme pessimism and disengagement. Here the Christian assumes that every government and every political figure is a manifestation of the beast that arises out of the sea. Here the Christian assumes the worst always. This is an umbilical view. It is also a view that is inconsistent with history. Thanks be to God, not all government persecute God’s people. By the mercy of God some do facilitate peace and freedom to worship. When we find ourselves living in such a society – a society with a government like the one described in Romans 13 – we should rejoice and give thanks to God for it.

Brothers and sisters, we are commanded to pray for those who govern. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, ESV).

And we are to respect those who govern over us. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7, ESV).

But neither should we be naïve. If and when persecution does come “let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19, ESV).

Lastly, let us not live according to the appearance of things but according to the truth revealed for us in God’s word. If we walk according to sight – what we can perceive with our natural eyes – the surely we will abandon Christ and go the way of the world. The world seems so much more powerful, pleasant and even wise. But if we walk by faith, believing instead upon God’s word, then we will certainly forsake the world and follow hard after Christ.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, let us walk by faith and not by sight.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 13:1-10, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Beast Rising From The Sea: Revelation 13:1-10

Sermon: The Woman And Her Offspring, Pursued But Protected: Revelation 12:13-17

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 40:1–5; 28–31

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken… [Verse 28] Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:1–5; 28–31, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 12

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 12, ESV)

Introduction

I have been greatly blessed by this twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation. I know that many of you have been blessed by it as well given the feedback I’ve received from you. Really, it should come as no surprise that this chapter is particularly illuminating. It’s purpose, remember, is to pull back the curtain a bit more for us so that we might know something of the spiritual battle that rages in the heavenly realm. This ancient and invisible conflict between God and Satan, the elect angels and the fallen angels, has motivated the earthly conflicts that have transpired throughout the history of redemption, both small and great. This cosmic conflict motivates the trials and tribulations that we encounter in the world today, and will encounter, on to the consummation.

This chapter is particularly illuminating, not only because of what it reveals, but also because of how it reveals it. It reveals what it reveals by way of symbol. And I have come to love very much the symbolism of the book of Revelation.

The weakness of symbolism as a mode of communication is that it can be easily misunderstood and badly misconstrued (certainly, many have misunderstood and misconstrued the book of Revelation). But the answer to this potential problem within the book of Revelation (the problem of clarity) is, what theologians have called, the anologia fidie, or the analogy of faith. Put simply, the analogy of faith principle asserts that less clear portions of scripture are to be interpreted with the help of those passages that are more clear. The underlying assumption, of course, is that all of scripture hangs together, has one divine author who has inspired its contents from beginning to end, and tells one story. Nowhere is this more evident than in the book of Revelation. The book concludes the canon of scripture and you can hardly find a verse in it that does not, in one way or another, reach back into the Old Testament to pick its symbolism up from there. The potential problem of clarity is solved in the book of Revelation because its symbols are pulled, not out thin air, nor are their meanings hidden away in the mind of the original human author (inaccessible to us), nor are they rooted entirely and ultimately in the culture in which the original author and audience lived (a culture largely foreign to us), but instead the symbols are drawn mainly from the Old Testament scriptures and from passages that are clear indeed. The meaning of the symbolism of the book of Revelation is, therefore, understandable. The book is clear despite its genre. It is made clear by its divine author and its relationship to the rest of inspired scripture.

The strength of symbolism as a mode of communication is its vividness. You’ve herd the expression that “a picture is worth thousand words”? Well, though the book of Revelation is a book and not a picture, its words do paint pictures for us in the mind. And the pictures are vivid, are they not? They are detailed, colorful, and very memorable. Therefore, this wonderful book is able say so very much in a very small space.

I’ve come to love the symbolism of the book of Revelation, though I will admit it has frustrated me as a preacher.  It has frustrated me, not because it is unclear, but because it is so wonderfully complex, and I only have a short time with you. I do feel as if I am only able to scratch the surface with each sermon, saying just enough to set your mind off in the right direction.

What have we learned so far from chapter 12?

In verses 1-6 were were introduced to our advisory. He is the dragon, who is “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9, ESV). He is introduced to us as the primary opponent of God, his people, and his Messiah. Though the dragon has frantically opposed God, has sought to devour the people of God, so that he might devour the Christ of God, God has prevailed. Though the dragon tried with all of his might to devour the Christ from the time of his birth to the time of his crucifixion, in the end he “was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5, ESV).

In verses 7-12 we learned that this victory won by Christ on earth by virtue of his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, has produced a victory within the heavenly realm. Satan, though he was permitted by God to accuse the elect prior to Christ resurrection, was barred from heaven and was confined to the earth when Christ rose and ascended. This prompted heaven to celebrate, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10, ESV). But what else did the voice of heaven say? Verse 12: “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV).

In verses 13-17 the focus returns again to the earthly side of the cosmic conflict. This passage picks up verses 6 and 12 to elaborate upon them further. In verse 6 we were told that the after  the ascension of Christ to his heavenly throne, “the woman [who gave birth to the Christ] fled [from the dragon] into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6, ESV). Verse 12 says, “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV). Verses 13-17 pick up where those verses left of in order to provide more detail concerning the dragons pursuit of the woman and his wrathful activities upon the earth to which he has been confined.

Let us begin with this simple observation: though Christ has won the decisive victory over Satan by his death, resurrection, ascension, and session, the battle with him is not over completely. It is true that Satan has been barred from heaven so that he can no longer accuse God’s elect (Romans 8:33). This happened at Christ’s resurrection and ascension. This happened just as Christ said it would. Remember the words that he spoke to his disciples just before his crucifixion: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:31–32, ESV). This casting out of the ruler of this world, is what Revelation 12:7-12 has revealed to us.  And though it is right for us to rejoice that Satan has been barred from heaven, his ability to accuse having been taken away by the accomplishment of our redemption, we should be sober concerning the fact that he is now confined to the earth and that he has great wrath, “because he knows that his time is short!”

Verses 13-17 sets our attention back upon the earth and describes in greater detail Satan’s wrathful pursuit of the woman who gave birth to the Christ and her many offspring.

Satan, Being Barred From Heaven Is Now Preoccupied With The Persecution Of God’s People.

Christ, Being Seated At God’s Right Hand, Is Now Committed To The Preservation Of His People.

Two basic principles are communicated in this text.

The first is this: Satan, being barred from heaven as the accuser of God’s elect and confined to the earth, is now preoccupied with the persecution of God’s people.

The second truth corresponds to the first, and it is this: Christ, being raised from the dead, ascended, and seated at God’s right hand with all authority being given to him, is now committed to the preservation of his people.

These two truths – Satan’s resolve to persecute God’s people and God’s commitment to preserve his people – are so intertwined in this passage that it would feel awkward to consider them one at a time. And so I have given you the two principles from the start so that we might move through this passage verse by verse and notice these principles as they naturally emerge.

Notice that in verse 13 Satan is preoccupied with persecution: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (Revelation 12:13, ESV).

You can picture it can’t you? There Satan stood before the throne of God accusing the elect of God just as he always had from the fall of Adam onward. And there he stood, particularly pleased, now that Christ was in the grave. But on the third day Christ rose, and Satan’s countenance fell. Michael and the elect angels, seeing that the victory had been won by Christ, seeing that the redemption of God’s elect had been earned, the legal demands that were then against us having been nail to the cross and thus removed, initiated war against the accuser of God’s elect, and cast them to the earth. Of course Satan is not a physical being, but a spiritual one. But if imagine him to be a physical being you can picture him falling from heaven like a meteor, hitting the earth with great speed, and a plume of dust rising about him. I like to imagine that he left a crater and then to picture him crawling out with his anger boiling as he turns to the left and right with great rage. He looks about for someone to attack, and who does he set his eyes upon except the woman who had given birth to the Christ child. She becomes the target of his fury for she was the one through whom the Champion came, and so he pursues her to do her harm.

We must remember who this woman represents.

She represents Mary the Mother of Jesus, for she was the one who, in fact, gave birth to the Christ. But clearly this woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes something more than Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Remember that she was described in 12:1 as being “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1, ESV). This language is used elsewhere in scripture to symbolize the people of Israel collectively (see Genesis 37). And certainly you can understand why it is proper to speak of Israel prior to the coming of Christ as being “pregnant” with the Christ and “crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth” (Revelation 12:2, ESV). This was true of Mary in a most literal way. She was literally pregnant with the Christ and experience the “pains and the agony of giving birth” to him. But it was also true of the people Israel, metaphorically speaking. God promised that from them them the Christ would come. And they did indeed suffer many “birth pains” and much “agony of giving birth”  throughout their history as they awaited his arrival. Remember God’s promise to Abraham when he said, “for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:15, ESV). And remember that Paul, when considering that promise, and others like it, remarked “now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16, ESV). What is Paul’s point in that text? His point is that although Abraham would have many offspring (the singular “offspring” can function as a a collective noun, referring to many) yet the promise to Abraham was really focused upon an offspring in the singular since – a particular offspring. The promise to Abraham was that in the process of time, and after many thousands were born to him, some of them being kings, one of his decedents would arrive, who is the Christ. He would inherit the land forever and ever. The New Testament makes it clear that the land he would inherit would not be a sliver of land on the earth, but the whole earth – the new heavens and the new earth. Even Abraham knew this in his day, for by faith he “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, ESV). Indeed the people Israel, from the time of Abraham onward, were collectively “pregnant” with the Christ., the promise having been made to them that from their loins  the Messiah would emerge.  This is why the first verse of the New Testament says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, ESV).

The woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes, not just Mary, but Old Covenant Israel. That people “gave birth” to Jesus. I suppose we could could say that theirs was the longest “pregnancy” in the history of the world, lasting some 2,000 years, from the time of Abraham onward.

And it is also right for us to push this back further than Abraham all the way to Adam and Eve. Was it not they who first encountered the attacks of the dragon? And, having fallen from their state of innocency, was it not they who heard the first promise of the gospel when God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)? Indeed, the women of Revelation 12 symbolizes Eve, who is the mother of all living, who carried within her the seed of the promised Messiah.

As you can see, the symbolism of the woman of Revelation 12 is complex, having as its referent Mary the mother of Jesus, the first woman, Eve, and Israel collectively. But we must also recognize that the church is also included in her. This becomes exceedingly clear when we remember how the New Testament scriptures answer the question, who is the true Israel? Or, who are the true children of Abraham? Without a doubt, the woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes Israel (this has already been established). But who is true Israel? Who are the true offspring of Abraham?

The answer that is given in the New Testament it that true Israel and the true children of Abraham are those who have faith in Christ, both from amongst the ethnic Jews and also the Gentiles. How the dispensationalists miss this point, I do not know.

Listen to Paul in Galatians 3:6-9, for example:

“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ’In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7–9, ESV).

Later in Galatians 3:26-29 we read,

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26–29, ESV).

How can it be that Gentiles, who do not have Abraham as their father according to the flesh, are called Abraham’s offspring? It is because they are united by faith to Christ Jesus, who is Abraham’s offspring, in the singular. We are heirs, therefore, not according to the flesh, but of promise. We are children of Abraham, not because we defend from him physically, but because we are united to him in a much more profound and lasting way – we have his faith. He believed in the promise of the Christ, as do we.

It is important to recognize that this principle – the principle that true Israel and the true children of Abraham are those who share in the faith of Abraham – was as true under the Old Covenant as it is under the New. Even under the Old Covenant a distinction was made between Israel according the flesh only and true spiritual Israel – the Israel of faith, sometimes referred to as the remnant.

Listen to Paul in Romans 9:6-8:

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but [quoting from Genesis 21:12] ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6–8, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, do you see that under the Old Covenant and the New it is those who have faith in Christ – either in the promise of his coming, under the Old, or the good new that he has come under the New – who are the true children of Abraham and the true Israel of God.

This is why at the end of his letter to the Galatian churches Paul pronounced blessing upon those churches (who were predominantly Gentile), saying, “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16, ESV). Paul refers to the the church as the Israel of God.

So when we consider the woman of Revelation 12 it is right for us to see in her Mary the mother of Jesus, also, the first woman, Eve, and Israel. But we should not fail to recognize that this woman symbolizes the true Israel of God and not Israel according to the flesh. Satan has always been preoccupied with the defeat of true Israel (read the scriptures). Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that Satan does not also do harm to those who are in unbelief from amongst the Jews and Gentiles – he is a murderer and lier from the beginning and he torments even those who belong to him. But the thing revealed in Revelation 12 is that Satan wages a special kind of war against the true people of God. His objective under the Old Covenat and the New has been to snuff out God’s elect remnant so that none remain.  Though Satan does indeed torment even those who belong to him (this is the kind of master he is) he does not seek to devour them in the same way that he seeks to devour God’s elect. Why would Satan pursue and seek to devour Israel according to the flesh? If they are Israel according to the flesh only then they already belong to the evil one, and not to Christ, just as the rest of the unbelieving world does. What did Jesus say to unbelieving Israel – that is, Israel according to the flesh only?

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” (John 8:44–45, ESV)

You and I, brothers and sisters, if we have faith in Christ, are the offspring of Abraham. We are heirs, not according to the flesh, but according to promise. The woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes the true Israel of God. She gave birth to the Christ and she remains in the world to this present day. She is identified, not by her DNA, but by her profession of faith in Jesus the Messiah.

This situation is almost the complete opposite of how things were under the Old Covenant. At that time Israel enjoyed very little diversity ethnically speaking, but she was far too diverse as it pertained to her faith – there were many who did not believe within Old Covenant Israel.  But under the New Covenant Israel enjoys a great deal of ethnic diversity, the Gentiles having now been grafted in. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). And New Covenant Israel also enjoyed total uniformity as it pertains to faith. Israel is ethnically diverse now – the gospel is to be preached to all nations, and then the end will come – and yet she is pure as it pertains to faith. There are no non-believers within the New Covenant.

The Old Testament itself spoke of this radical change ahead of time. Hear God’s word to Jeremiah:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, this is the Covenant under which you and I live if we have Christ as Lord. This is the Covenant that Christ ratified in his blood. The partakers of this Covenant are ethnically diverse. Jew and Gentile are rightly called the offspring of Abraham and the Israel of God if they have believed upon Christ. But the partakers of this Covenant are pure in faith. The Old Covenant was made with Israel according to the flesh, but in her were found elect and non-elect, belief and unbelief. The New Covenant is made only with those who believe. They have the law within them written on their hearts (regeneration). The know the Lord, having had their sins forgiven.

So the woman of Revelation 12 also symbolizes the church, that is to say, all who have faith in Jesus the Christ, the promised seed of Abraham.

Though is true that Satan is preoccupied with the persecution of God’s people, notice that in verse 14 God is preoccupied with the preservation of his people. There we read, “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Revelation 12:14, ESV).

The symbolism here is also rich and complex. And, as usual, the meaning of the symbolism is found within the pages of the Old Testament. I will not linger very long here for the sake of time. Instead I will say only a few  things, and I will say them quickly.

First of all, notice the most obvious thing. God is here promising to care for his people in the midst of trouble. The woman, who symbolizes God’s elect, is said to be nourished by God.

Secondly, notice the time frame. She will be nourished for a “time, and times, and half a time”. This three and a half year period of time has appeared again and again in the book of Revelation, sometimes stated as 1,260 days, sometimes as 42 months, and here as a “time, and times, and half a time”. Notice that in each instance this period of time is used to describe the time in which the church will suffer tribulation in the world while being spiritually preserved by God. In 11:2 we were told that the courtyard of the temple (which symbolizes the church) would be left vulnerable to the trampling of the nations for 42 months while the temple, the alter and those who worship there were measured and protected. In 11:3 were told that the two witnesses would witness for 1,260 days. They would be killed but raised up, just as Christ was. In 12:6 the woman was said to be nourished for 1,260 days in the wilderness. And here the woman is nourished for a “time, and times, and half a time” while being pursued by the dragon. In 13:5 we will meet the  “the beast [who] was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Revelation 13:5, ESV). The symbolism is drawn mainly from Daniel 7 but also from the series of 42 encampments experienced by Israel as she wandered in the wilderness after the Exodus and prior to the conquest of Canaan. Those encampments are listed in Numbers 33:5-49. This three and a half year time of tribulation, and this time of wilderness wandering spanning 42 encampments is taken up in the book of Revelation and is used to symbolize the church age wherein God’s people are described as pilgrims and sojourners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

Thirdly, notice that verse 14 portrays God’s preservation of his church in language reminiscent of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. Notice that the woman of Revelation 12 is described as one fleeing from the dragon. In the Old Testament Pharaoh, king of Egypt is described as a dragon who pursued Israel (see Ezekiel 29:3 and 32:2).  Notice also that the woman of Revelation 12 is given “the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent”. This is too is exodus language. For example, when God reminds Israel of his having rescued them from Egypt he says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4, ESV). And notice lastly where the woman of Revelation 12 flees to. She flies “from the serpent into the wilderness.” At the exodus Israel was brought into the wilderness. It was both a place of testing and a place of protection. Listen to Deuteronomy 1:30-33:

“The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place”(Deuteronomy 1:30–32, ESV).

What, therefore, is the meaning of Revelation 12:14? It is that though the dragon pursue the church, God will provide for her and protect her as she sojourns in this world just as he provided for and protected Israel in that wilderness place. He will fight for us, and carry us, just as a man carries his son, bringing us safely to the eternal promised land.

In verse 15 Satan’s preoccupation with persecution is highlighted again, but with more detail: “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood” (Revelation 12:15, ESV).

Can you visualize the scene? The woman is running for her life. The dragon is on her heals, and then he crouches down deliver his fatal blow when out of his mouth issues forth a torrent of water like a river. His objective is to sweep the woman away in a flood.

I wish that I had the time to remind you of all of the places in the Old Testament where the people of God found themselves threatened by water. For now we should remember the waters of the Red Sea which blocked Israel in to make them vulnerable to the attack of that dragon Pharaoh and his armies. Also, we should remember the flood waters of the Jordan which blocked Israel from crossing over into the land of promise. Certainly these two waters should come to mind given that the exodus is already in view.

Also, we should recognize that the water of Revelation 12 issues forth from the mouth of the dragon. This is not the first time that some something unnatural has issued forth from someones mouth in the book of Revelation. Remember that Christ is described as having “a sharp two-edged sword” coming from his mouth, symbolizing his power to judge with his word.

The flood waters that pour from the mouth of the dragon symbolize the flood of lies that proceed from him. Remember that he had just been as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). Remember the assault that he brought against Eve. How did he defeat her? He lied to her. And remember Christ’s description of Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, ESV). Satan assaults the church by seeking to drown her in a flood of lies.

In verse 16 we are again reminded of God’s commitment to preserve his people: “But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth” (Revelation 12:16, ESV).

What did God for Israel when she was hindered by the flood waters of the Jordan from crossing into the promised land? He cut off the water far upstream so that “the people passed over [and]…the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan” (Joshua 3:16–17, ESV).

What did God do for Israel when that dragon Pharaoh pursued her into the wilderness blocking her in against the waters of the Red Sea?

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21–22, ESV).

In Moses’ song concerning this great act of deliverance he reflects upon the salvation of Israel and the destruction of the armies of dragon Pharaoh, he says, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them” (Exodus 15:11–12, ESV). The language is the same as in Revelation 12:16. The earth swallowed up the flood that issued from the dragons mouth, and thus the woman was delivered.

And then in verse 17 we return once more to focus upon Satan’s preoccupation with the persecution of God’s people: “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea” (Revelation 12:17, ESV).

I think what we have here is some distinction between the early church and the church born from her so that within Revelation 12 we have some progression. The woman symbolizes progressively Eve, then Old Covenant Israel, the Mary, and then the true New Covenant Israel, in particular, those early disciples of Jesus. They were the ones initially pursued in by the evil one after the ascension of Christ and in a most vicious way. God persevered them, the church was established, and it began to spread to the ends of the earth. The evil one, seeing that he could not defeat the apostles of Christ and the church they founded, turned with great frustration also to her offspring. They are identified as “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus”(Revelation 12:17, ESV).

After that we are simply told that the dragon, “stood on the sand of the sea.” With these words the stage is sufficiently set for the two beasts of Revelation 13. The one will rise from the sea, the other from the land. And they will continue the assault against the church.

Application 

Let is take a moment to apply this passage before we conclude so that we “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” (James 1:22, ESV).

Three points of application come to mind:

First of all, we must be sober concerning our enemy who seeks our destruction and in particular we must be careful of his lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, ESV). He wars against the people of God by trying to sweep them away in a flood of lies.

False teachings are a continual thereat to the church. How many have compromised the gospel of Jesus Christ! How many have turned the gospel into no gospel at all!

The evil one may even be speaking lies to your own mind and heart. He may be seeking to undermine your faith. He may be seeking to plant a seed of doubt concerning God’s love for you. He may be seeking to sow discord within the body of Christ by planting a seed of doubt concerning the love of the brethren for you.

Remember how sly the serpent was when tempting Eve. He is doing the same thing throughout the world today attempting to sweep away the church in a flood of lies.

Secondly, take comfort in the doctrine of preservation. While it is true that you must persevere, bing sober and vigilant in this life, it is also true that God has promised to preserve his people. He will fight for you.

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13–14, ESV).

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

Thirdly, let us learn to walk in this world with a kind of humble and sober confidence. 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31–37, ESV).

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 12:13-17, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Woman And Her Offspring, Pursued But Protected: Revelation 12:13-17

Sermon: The Accuser Barred From Heaven And Cast To Earth: Revelation 12:7-12

Old Testament Reading: Job 1:1-12

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:1–12, ESV)

Sermon Text: Revelation 12:7-17

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’ And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 12:7–17, ESV)

Introduction

Remember that in Revelation 12:1-6 John described for us a sign that he saw in heaven. And we discovered that the sign he saw revealed something to us about the ancient and spiritual battle that rages in the invisible realm beyond our senses. The battle is very old, stretching all the way back to the time of the fall of man. And the battle is very real. Though we do not see it, we do see the effects of it. This spiritual battle manifests itself in the world even today. The evil that we see in the world – the trials and tribulations that God’s people face – are visible manifestations of this ancient cosmic conflict.

In particular Revelation 12:1-6 revealed that it is the dragon, “that ancient serpent… called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”, who is the primary opponent of God, his people, and of his Christ.

The dragon is there portrayed as a viscous opponent of God who, before the birth of Christ, pursued the people of God, in an attempt to swallow up the Christ of God.  Indeed, the history of redemption is filled with examples of this invisible battle manifesting itself in the world. Cain rose up and killed Able, but God provided Seth. The world was filled with wickedness before the flood, but God showed grace to Noah and to his family. Abraham and his seed were threatened continuously, particularly by the bareness of Sarah, but God fulfilled his promise by bringing forth Isaac his son. Jacob’s offspring were swallowed up by Egypt and were enslaved there, but God sent Moses to redeem them. And when the people left Egypt only to find themselves stuck between the sea and the army of Pharaoh, God divided the waters for them, so that they might walk through on dry land. When Israel was threatened by hunger and thirst in the wilderness, God provided water from the rock and bread from heaven. God gave Israel victory over all her enemies and brought her safely into the land promised to her. When false prophets and wicked people multiplied in Israel, God kept a remnant for himself. When taken to captivity by the Babylonians, God was faithful to bring some back. And so things were until, when the fullness of time had come, the Christ was born.

And he too was pursued by the dragon. When Jesus was born Herod sought to kill him. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to abandon his mission. He was despised and rejected by men. In the end he was crucified. Surely Satan thought that he had finally succeeded when the Christ was crucified, but he new that he was defeated when Christ rose again and “was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5, ESV). When the Christ was caught up to the right hand of the Father the dragon then turned his attention to the woman again (remember, the woman symbolizes God’s covenant people) his objective being to devour her. But God had a place prepared for her in the wilderness where she would be nourished by him for 1,260 days (a period of time that throughout the book of Revelation symbolizes the time of tribulation for the church stretching from Christ’s first coming to his second coming).

So what we have in Revelation 12:1-6 is the whole of the history of redemption compressed into six verses with special attention given to the battle that rages in the heavenly places between Satan and God, his people, and his Christ. Though this battle is first spiritual, it manifests itself on earth.

The rest of Revelation 12, which we will consider today, is focused upon the same cosmic conflict, but considered from different vantage points. In verses 7-11 we learn that Christ’s victory on earth produced a victory in heaven. In verse 12 we learn that Christ’s victory in heaven produced trouble for those living upon the earth. And in verses 13-17 we will learn that God will keep those servants of his who live upon the earth.

Let us consider verses 7-12 this morning and save 13-17 for next week.

Christ’s Victory On Earth Produced A Victory In Heaven

First of all, notice that Christ’s victory on earth produced a victory in heaven.

When I speak of Christ’s victory on earth I am, of course, speaking of his life and death followed by his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to his heavenly throne. We should recognize that this victory won on earth – Christ’s death and burial followed by his resurrection and ascension – produced a victory in the heavenly places.

We are accustom to thinking of all that Christ accomplished for us in his death and resurrection, but our minds typically go to those aspects of our salvation that are intensely personal.

For example, we speak often of how Christ took our sins upon himself when he died on the cross. He payed the penalty for your sins and mine, and for the sins of all who ever have or ever will believe in him. And we speak often of how Christ took upon himself God’s wrath in our place. He shielded us from it. The justice of God demands that sin be judged, but Christ took the judgement upon himself, standing in the place of all who ever have or ever will believe upon him.

Indeed it was this work – Christ’s atoning work, and his work as a substitute for sinners – that makes our salvation possible. We are justified by God through faith in Christ because Christ has paid the penalty of our sins. We are adopted as sons because Christ has removed the enmity that once existed between us and God because of our sin – you were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3), but now you are adopted as sons (Ephesians 1:5).

This is all true1 The victory that Christ has won in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension has brought us benefits that are intensely personal. We are personally justified, adopted, and sanctified if we have faith in Christ. And there are many other personal “benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from then”, such as the “assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end” (Baptist Catechism 39). But his victory accomplished more than this.  When he was raised up from the grave (see Matthew 28), and when he ascended to his heavenly throne (see Acts 1:9-11) a victory was won in the heavenly realm with cosmic consequences.

Notice that Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension were very quickly but clearly summarized in 12:5 where we read, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne….” (Revelation 12:5, ESV). Who is the woman? She symbolizes the people of God in general, but Mary the Mother of Jesus in particular. Who is the male child? Clearly he is Jesus the Christ, for he is the “one to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” And what does it mean that the “child was caught up to God and to his throne”? In this one little phrase we have summarized the whole process of Christ’s exultation – his resurrection and his his ascension. His humiliation is summarized in the words, “she gave birth to a male child” – The eternal Son of God took on flesh, suffered and died. But his exultation is summarized with the words, the “child was caught up to God and to his throne.” Christ died, but he rose from the grave and 40 days later he ascended and was seated at the Fathers right hand. That process of exultation is what the phrase, the “child was caught up to God and to his throne” refers to.

With that victorious event in mind we are then prepared to read on. Verse 7 picks up there and shows us the effect that Christ’s earthly victory – his humiliation followed by his exultation – had within the heavenly realm. We read,

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God’” (Revelation 12:7–10, ESV).

The heavenly battle described here is between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. In other words, the battle is between the elect angels with Michael leading, and the fallen angels with Satan leading.

Surely you have heard of Satan. But perhaps you have not heard of Michael. He is referred to in Daniel 10 as “one of the chief princes” of God’s angels. He is mentioned again in Daniel 12 as “the great prince who has charge of [God’s] people”. In Jude 9 he is referred to as “the archangel”. Friends, notice this. The scriptures are clear that there exists a spiritual world that corresponds to the physical one in which you and I live.

Notice that “the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Revelation 12:7–8, ESV). Satan was then “thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). The end result was that Satan and his angels were barred from heaven.

When did this battle and the barring of Satan from heaven take place?

Some might assume that what we have here is a description of the fall of Satan and his demons which took place sometime before the fall of man. And I can understand why your mind would go in that direction. A quick read of the passage might conjure up thoughts of the original fall of Satan, but this cannot be the case, as we will see.

Others think that this battle has not happened yet, but will happen in the future immediately before the so called great tribulation. But it is an unbiblical system of doctrine and faulty methods of interpretation that produce this view, and not a careful consideration of this text.

The correct answer is that this battle and the barring of Satan from heaven took place when Christ rose from the dead, ascended to his heavenly throne, and was seated there. Christ’s victory on earth produced a victory in heaven.

Notice three things that prove that this is the proper interpretation:

First of all notice that verses 1-6 and 7-12 are tightly linked to each another. The first section concludes with the words, “her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days”, and verse 7 begins with the words “now war arose in heaven”. It is clear that the victorious event described in 12:5 – namely the “ascension of Christ to his throne” – is the event which prompted the victory over Satan in the heavenly realm, which is described in 12:7-9.

Secondly, notice that the heavenly voice of verses 10-11 specifically says that the victory won in heaven is owed to Christ’s victory on earth.  In verse 10 John says,

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10–11, ESV).

When was salvation earned? It was earned at Christ’s first coming, through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

And when did the kingdom of God arrive in power? It came in power at Christ’s first coming, through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. This is why John the Baptist prepared the way for the Christ by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, ESV). And Jesus himself also said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15, ESV).  In Matthew 12:28 Jesus explicitly said that his ability to cast out demons by the Spirit was proof that “the kingdom of God [had] come upon [them]” (Matthew 12:28, ESV).

And when was Christ given all authority? He was given all authority at his first coming through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. You remember the great commission, don’t you? Christ commissioned his disciples, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18–19a, ESV).

The voice that John heard in heaven connected the salvation earned by Christ, the arrival of God’s kingdom in power, and the authority given to Christ with, “the accuser” being throne down.

Thirdly, we should also pay attention to what the rest of scripture has to say about this subject.

You would do well to notice that prior to the resurrection of Christ Satan did indeed have the ability to stand before God and to accuse the people of God.

I read from Job 1 at the beginning of the sermon to demonstrate this. Job 1:6: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6, ESV). Where did he come from? He came “from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (Job 1:7, ESV). And what did Satan do once he stood before God? He accused Job, saying, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:9–11, ESV). Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

The same can be seen in Zechariah 3 where we read, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (Zechariah 3:1, ESV).

And remember how Jesus revealed to Peter that Satan was actively accusing him in the heavenly realm. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32, ESV).

So prior to Christ’s resurrection and ascension this was indeed the case. Satan did come before the Lord to accuse the people of God. He would stand before the Lord and say, “this one is unworthy. This one is unclean. This one deserves your condemnation.”

Why would Satan be able to do such a thing? It is because salvation had not yet been accomplished. From Satan’s limited perspective the people of God were being accepted as righteous before God but for no good reason. From Satan’s limited perspective these men and women were filthy and deserving of condemnation and nothing had been done to make them righteous before God.

But from God’s perspective these were clean and righteous and holy by virtue of the finished work of Christ on the cross working retroactively. It is true, the Christ had not been born, nor had lived in obedience to the law, nor had he died, nor had he risen and ascended in the days of Job and Joshua and even Peter (prior to the crucifixion). But these men, and many others, were made righteous by the blood of Christ working ahead of time as they believed upon God and promises concerning his provision of a redeemer.

From God’s perspective Joshua the high priest was clean, not because of his own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of the Christ (who would come at just the right time) imputed to him by faith. But did Satan know about the cross of Christ beforehand? Could he see into the future and know that Christ would die and rise again for the sins of his people? Could Satan understand the accomplishment of salvation before it was finished? No. He, like the elect angels, is a finite creature. He knew what God had promised to bring salvation. He could see the gospel portrayed through the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. But he could not see the work as finished as God did. 1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us that the prophets and the elect angels herd the gospel under the Old Covenant, but the exact plan for the accomplishment of our redemption remained mysterious to them, and they longed to see it. The same was true for the fallen angels. The accomplishment of redemption was a mystery to them before it was finished.

And so there Satan stood before God, accusing the people of God day and night, not understanding how it could be that a righteous and holy God could receive sinners like Job, Joshua, and Peter as holy in his sight. But then the Christ came. He lived, he died for the sins of his people, he rose, and he ascended. Now it is clear even to that finite creature, Satan, and to his fallen angels that salvation has been accomplished by Jesus the Christ, who is the eternal Son of God come in the flesh, through the sufferings of the cross, his death and resurrection. And now that he is ascended and is seated in the heavenly places with all authority in heaven and on earth being given to him, there is no longer room for Satan to accuse, for our salvation has been accomplished.

Please listen to Paul’s words in Romans 8:31-34. They are pertinent to the subject at hand. Paul asks,  “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” The implied answer is, no one, ultimately.  He continues by asking, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The implied answer is, yes, if God has loved us to the point of sending his Son to die for us, certainly he will graciously give us all things. And then he asks, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The world “charge” means to bring accusations against someone. “Who will dare to accuse the elect of God”.  The implied answer is, no one can bring an accusation against God’s elect.  And why is that, Paul? He says, “For is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” And then Paul presents the basis for it all, saying, “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:31–34, ESV).

So why is it, brothers and sisters, that we are able to speak in such a bold way as Christians, asking, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And “who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?”  And “who is to condemn?” It is because, “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:31–34, ESV).

His victory accomplished on earth has produced in heaven so that we might say with confidence, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, when Christ died, rose, ascended, and was seated in power he did more than pay for your sins. He also won a cosmic victory in the spiritual realm so that Satan and his angels were “defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.”

Christ’s Victory In Heaven Produced Trouble For Those Living UpOn The Earth

Secondly, and very briefly, notice that Christ’s victory in heaven produced trouble for those living upon the earth.

Satan was barred from heaven. Over this fact the angels in heaven rejoiced. But being banished from heaven where is now confined to roam? Verse 9 says, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). In verse 12 the heavenly voice says, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV).

In the days of Job Satan roamed the earth but also had access to God so that he might accuse. No that the Christ has accomplished salvation Satan is confined to roam the earth and it barred from heaven.

And now he is particularly furious. Why? “Because he knows that his time is short”. His days are numbered. The victory has been won by Christ. Satan has been mortally wounded. He has taken that great and decisive blow to the head of which God spoke shorty after the fall. So what can he do except continue to bite at the heal of the women on to the very end.

It is true, the Bible teaches that because of the victory won by Christ Satan has been barred from heaven. No longer does he have access to God to accuse the elect before him. And it is true, the Bible teaches that because of the victory won by Christ Satan is now bound. He is bound so that he can no longer deceive the nations (Revelation 20). He is bound so that he his house (the world) might be plundered by Christ. (Matthew 12:29). He is, in other words, bound so that the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20 will be accomplished. But it would be foolish to live as if Satan is no more. No, having been barred from heaven, he is now confined to the earth where he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV). And how does he devour? The rest of Revelation will make it clear that he devours through the threat of persecution, false teaching, and the seductiveness of the world.

“Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”” (Revelation 12:12, ESV)

Application 

Let us take a moment to apply this text before we conclude so that we “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” (James 1:22, ESV).

Of course this text can be applied in many ways, but I have three suggestions for application.

One, I do wish to encourage us to cultivate thankful hearts concerning all of the benefits that we have in Christ Jesus. We are very rich in Christ Jesus, friends.

Our Savior has won for us the cosmic battle. He has triumphed over all his and all our enemies. God has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ] (Colossians 2:15, ESV).

And our Savior has taken our sin away.  He has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV).

And our Savior has given us new life. “[We], who were dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh, God made alive together with [Christ]” (Colossians 2:13, ESV).

We are rich in Christ. We have been justified by him. We have been adopted as Sons. We are being sanctified day by day.  We ought to be very thankful, friends. And our thankfulness should be constant, for these things do not fade.

I could add to this the mention of all the temporal blessings we enjoy in this world. We have food to eat, water to drink, cloths to wear, and shelter. Indeed, by the grace of God, we have these things regularly and in abundance.  And indeed, by the grace of God, we have much more than this. We have friends and family. We have one another in Christ Jesus. We should be very thankful in this life.   Indeed, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6, ESV). And yet so often we are found moping around like ungrateful children. How wrong we are to sin against God in this way. How right it is to wake in the morning with thankful hearts, to eat and drink with thankful hearts, and go to sleep with thankfulness in our hearts.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7, ESV).

We should think more deeply about all that we have in Christ Jesus and we should give God thanks always for things big and small.

Two, I must warn you again to “be sober-minded” and “watchful”concerning “your adversary the devil” who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:7–8, ESV). This point will be made again and again as we progress through the pages of Revelation but with ever greater detail and precision. We will be reminded that Satan has been thrown down to the earth and that he has come down “in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” But will also be reminded that he is cunning in his ways. He is indeed fierce like a lion, but he also deceptive like a serpent.

I was in the backyard with David a few weeks ago doing some yard work when out of the corner of my eye I see a large rattle snake slithering along. As I walked towards it moved up into our large and overgrown tomato plant and I quickly lost sight of it. I’m sure he moved on but I didn’t pick tomatoes for a few days. Serpents are very sly. They come and go quietly. They hide. The catch their pray by taking them by surprise.

Our spiritual foe fights against us in this way. He strikes when we least expect it. He hides behind the powers of this world, false teachings that at first tickle the ears, and seductiveness of this world.  Be sober-minded and watchful concerning him.

Lastly, I cannot close without urging you to trust in Jesus. Indeed, he is our champion. He is our king who has defeated all that threatens us. He has paid for our sins, he has defeated all of his and our enemies, and he has done so in such decisive manner that there no longer remains a place for Satan in heaven to accuse us. Believe upon Christ. And once you have believed upon him, cling to him, for he is our rock and our salvation.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 12:7-12, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Accuser Barred From Heaven And Cast To Earth: Revelation 12:7-12

Sermon: The Dragon, The Woman, And Her Child: Revelation 12:1-6

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 3

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’ To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—‘ therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 12:1-6

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:1–6, ESV).

Introduction

If we were to step back from the book of Revelation for a moment to ponder all that it has revealed to us so far, here is one question we might ask: why is the world as it is?

Why are there two kingdoms in the world today, one that belongs to God, wherein he is worshipped and served by his people as Lord, while those in the other remain diametrically opposed to his rule? Why is the world this way?

And why does there exist such hostility between these two kingdoms? The church of God, as we have seen, is under continual assault as she sojourns in this world. The assault that comes against her is far from monotone. No, the church is besieged in a diversity of ways. Her members are often tempted by the world. False teaching is also a threat. And persecution threatens the church too.

But why is the world this way? Why the conflict? Why the suffering? Why the persecution? Why the evil, and thus the judgments of God poured out? Indeed, this is the picture that the book of Revelation has painted for us so far. We can see it with our eyes as we observe the world today, and Revelation has revealed it authoritatively – the world is not well. The world is not right with God. Indeed, God has his people in the world. They are known by him. They are spiritually protected and preserved. But they will be trampled by the nations, being given over to trials, tribulations, suffering and even death for a time. Why is the world this way?

We have come now to the heart of the book of Revelation. In chapter twelve verse one we find the major transition. The book up to this point has mainly described to us how things will be in heaven and on earth in the time between Christ’s first and second comings. God and his Christ are enthroned in heaven, but on earth God’s people will live in the midst of crocked and rebellious people where they will have tribulation. But God is not blind to it. He knows who belongs to him. They are numbered for battle and sealed as his possession. And he also knows the wicked and their deeds. He is able to judge the wicked even now, pouring out partial and perpetual judgments with precision, and he will judge fully and finally in the end.

Friends, in this age there will trials and tribulations, “wars and rumors of wars… nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:9–14, ESV). This is what the book of Revelation has portrayed for us so far.

But now the book will provide a more piercing answer to the question, why? Why is the world as it is? The book of Revelation will now answer that question by revealing that behind it all – behind all that has been revealed so far, and behind all that we perceive with our natural senses – rages an ancient spiritual battle that is invisible to your eyes and mine. We see the effects of it in this world! But the battle is first of all spiritual and invisible to us. Revelation is going to reveal something of this ancient cosmic conflict so that we might see it with eye of faith.

At this point I think it would be beneficial for you to know something of the basic structure of Revelation chapters twelve through twenty. Four figures will be introduced to us in these chapters. These four represent powers that oppose God and his people. And then these same four will be defeated by God and his Christ and judged in the reverse order that they were introduced. These chapters, therefore, reveal to us something of the spiritual battle that rages beyond our sense perception.

Notice that here in chapter twelve Satan himself is introduced. In 12:3 he is described as a “great red dragon”. In 12:9 he is identified by name: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, ESV).

Notice that in chapter thirteen two of the powers that Satan uses to wage war against God and his people are introduced. First there is the beast that rises out of the sea (13:1). This beast, we will see, represents persecuting powers. Secondly, the beast that rises out of the earth is introduced (13:11). This beast will later be called the false prophet (16:3; 19:20). And then in chapter seventeen the great prostitute or harlot is introduced (17:1). She will represent the seductiveness of the world.

So by the time we come to the end of chapter 17 four key players in this ancient and cosmic battle will have been introduced to us. Satan is the person behind all of the opposition towards the kingdom of God and of Christ, but he uses these three powers primarily in his fight, the persecuting beast, the false prophet, and the harlot. These wage war against all that belongs to God and to his Christ.

But notice that beginning with chapter 18 each of these are defeated by God and judged in the reverse order that they were introduced. In chapter 18 the harlot is judged. In 19:19-20 the false prophet and the persecuting beast are judged. And in 20:7-10 we find a description of the defeat and judgment of Satan.

So chapters 12 through 20 have a chiastic structure. If you were to diagram this section of the book of Revelation is would form an “X”. Satan, the persecuting beast, the false prophet, and the harlot are introduced – 1, 2, 3, 4 – and then they are in reverse order quickly removed, being defeated by Christ at his second coming – 4, 3, 2, 1.

What is the point of it all? Revelation chapters 12 through 20 peal back the curtain a bit more to reveal something of the ancient and spiritual battle that rages beyond our sense perception which produces the hostility to God’s rule that we observe in the world today.

Friends, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:12–13, ESV).

All of chapter 12 goes together. It is divided nicely into there parts – verses 1-6, 7-12, and 13-17. We will consider only verses 1-6 today given our time constraints. And as we consider verses 1-6 three things need to be recognized concerning this ancient and invisible battle. One, notice that in this cosmic conflict Satan is identified as the primary opponent of God. Two, notice that Satan is also identified as the primary opponent of God’s people. And three, notice that Satan is identified as the primary opponent of God’s Messiah.

Satan Is The Primary Opponent of God

Let us first consider that in this cosmic conflict Satan is the primary opponent of God.

He is explicitly mentioned for the time in Revelation 12:3 where we read, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems” (Revelation 12:3, ESV).

We are not left to wonder who this image represents for in 12:9 we are told that this great dragon is “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…” (Revelation 12:9, ESV).

Notice that “his tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth” (Revelation 12:4, ESV). Here is symbolize the fall, not only of Satan, but of other angels too. It is likely that included in this reference to the fall of angels is also a reference to the effect that these fallen angels have had upon the people of the earth (heaven and earth correspond to one another in Revelation. The churches have angelic representation, remember. So too, fallen angels correspond to fallen sinful world powers.)

In 12:3 the dragon is described as having “seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems”. Quoting from Dennis Johnson’s commentary on Revelation, “The dragon… is shown in symbols signaling his cunning wisdom (seven heads), great power (ten horns), and authority to influence others (seven diadems)” (Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 181).

All of the symbolism is, of course, drawn from the Old Testament. What I have come to love about the symbolism of the book of Revelation is that the symbols are complex. They are a composite of variety of symbols found within the Old Testament. It is not as if we can point to one passage, or to one image in the Old Testament and say, look! John has taken this straight from there! Instead, it’s as if the Lord has passed through through the entire Old Testament, picking up this symbol and that along the way, and then having joined them together into one image, has shown them to John, who has in turn given them to us. G.K. Beale refers to this sign of the dragon as a “mosaic of OT imagery”.

When the dragon is described to us here in 12:3 if should remind us of the serpent of Genesis 3. It should also cause us to remember the Old Testaments repeated reference to God’s defeat of an evil sea monster which symbolized the evil kingdoms who oppressed Old Covenant Israel (see Psalm 74:13-14, Job 26:12-13, Psalm 89:10, and Ezekiel 29:3, for example). The imagery of ten horns is drawn from the description of the fourth beast of Daniel 7.

What we have, then, is a symbolic description of Satan. He does not really look like this. You do understand that, I hope. We are studying a book that communicates truth via symbol. Satan is, in fact, a fallen angel. He is a spiritual being. But he is described to us in this symbolic way so that we might know something of his character. He is that ancient serpent who opposed God in the beginning (Genesis 3). He is ferocious. He is bloodthirsty (think of the color red especially in connection with Revelation 17:3-6 where the harlot is described as riding upon “a scarlet beast”, “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6, ESV). He is cunning, having seven heads. He is powerful, having ten horns, and has authority upon the earth, wearing ten diadems, or crowns.

The simple truth to observe is that Satan is here set forth as the primary opponent of God in this cosmic battle.

You would also do well to notice that when the other three characters are introduced in chapters 13 and 17 – the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot – they are described in such a way so as to make it clear that they are motived and empowered by this dragon and that they serve him. Notice that the beast that raises from the sea in 13:1, also has “ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns” (Revelation 13:1, ESV). He shares this in common with the dragon. And notice that the beast (who is later called the false prophet) that rises from the earth in 13:11 is said to “speak like a dragon”. And as for the harlot of chapter 17, she serves the dragon through her connection with beast the beast of 13:1, with “ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns”, that has already been mentioned.

The point is this: Satan is the primary opponent of God in this cosmic battle. He wages war against God’s kingdom using the powers of persecution, false teaching, and seduction, but he is the source of all opposition.

As I was considering these things an image came to mind of allied soldiers fighting a battle somewhere in Europe during WWII. What did they see with their eyes except German soldiers with machine guns and tanks and such. But what did they imagine in their minds except Hitler and his officers hidden away somewhere in Germany. Those allied soldiers were well aware of the fact that there was more to the battle that they were currently fighting than what they could see with their eyes. There was a person and a power that stood behind it all, motivating the conflict. Though they could not see him, they knew he was there, for they could see the effects of his power before their very eyes.

Revelation reveals even more to us. It reveals that standing behind the earthy powers and the earthly conflicts, there are spiritual powers there is a spiritual battle that rages. Satan is the primary opponent of God in this cosmic conflict.

Before we move on I would like to read for you the description of Satan’s demise from Revelation 20:10. And I would like for you to notice the brevity, terseness, and simplicity of the description. In Revelation 20:10 the final judgment of Satan is described and here is what we read: “and the devil who had deceived them [the wicked] was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, ESV).

Notice how brief the description of Satan’s destruction is especially when compared to the extensive, vivid, and, quite frankly, terrifying description of the dragon and his servants found in Revelation chapters 12 through 17. It’s almost as if the book of Revelation builds things up leading the reader to expect that God will have a great and difficult battle to win at the end of time if this mighty dragon will ever be overcome, but then when we come to the end we find that God snaps his fingers, if you will, and it is over. Christ speaks a word, and it is finished.

In this cosmic conflict Satan is the primary opponent of God, but before God Almighty he is nothing. He will be destroyed in an instant.

Satan Is The Primary Opponent Of God’s People

Secondly, notice that in this cosmic conflict Satan is the primary opponent of God’s people. If Satan is opposed to God, then it is no wonder that he is also opposed to all who have God as Lord and King.

In verse 1 we read, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth” (Revelation 12:1–2, ESV). Look now at the second part of verse 4 where we read, “And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:4–6, ESV).

Who does this woman symbolize?

The Roman Catholics tend to say that this woman symbolizes Mary the mother of Jesus only. The Dispensationalists will usually say that the woman symbolizes ethnic Israel who will be particularly persecuted for three and a half years during a great tribulation yet in our future. Both of these interpretations are too narrow. The second, I would argue, is just plain wrong, being based upon faulty presuppositions and a flawed method of interpretation.

It is far better to see that this woman symbolizes God’s people – the elect of God under both the Old Covenant and the New. The Roman Catholics are actually not wrong to say that Mary the mother of Jesus is symbolized here. But they are wrong to think that the symbolism points only to her. Something more profound is being communicated here – something broader Mary as an individual, though clearly she is in view.

I read from Genesis 3 at the introduction to this sermon mainly to orient your minds to the promise delivered to Adam and Eve shortly after the fall by way of the curse pronounced upon the serpent who deceived them.

God spoke to the serpent saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV). And do not forget the curse announced to the woman: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16, ESV).

It is here in Genesis 3:15 that the gospel is first announced. Man had fallen. Man was now alienated from God, being now at enmity with him. But God, in his grace, would provide a Savior who would stomp the head of the deceiver and thus bring salvation to man. Who is this Savior? Who is this Redeemer? Who is the one who has defeated the serpent and will destroy him fully and finally in the end? It is Jesus the Christ! And would he come to save us according to Genesis 3:15? Through the woman, Eve. He would be one of her offspring.

Remember, the dragon heard this, for the gospel was announced to him and in the hearing of Adam and Eve! And what do the scriptures describe to us from that point forward except the story of the hostility between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent.

It becomes exceeding clear, by the way, that this story was not about the hostility that exists between human beings and snakes. Instead, the story is about the hostility that exists between God and Satan, the people who belong to God and the people who belong to the Devil, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom go the World. The whole of the bible describes this conflict that exists, first of all, in the spiritual realm, but manifests itself, secondarily, in the physical and earthy realm.

The dragon, from the beginning, has been opposed to God’s people. That fact is illustrated in Genesis 4, when wicked Cain raises up and kills righteous Able. Both were the offspring of Eve according to the flesh. But spiritually, Able was of Eve and of God, and Cain was the offspring of the serpent. So do you see that from the beginning the dragon has been opposed to the people of God? His objective from the beginning has been snuff them out. He is opposed is to God primarily, but he is also against all who belong to God. Think of the lives Noah and Abraham, Moses and David, the prophets and all of the elect remnant within ethnic Israel. Think of the opposition they faced in the world!

The woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes more than just Mary the mother of Jesus. She also symbolizes mother Israel – the elect of God under the Old Covenant. She is described as being “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1, ESV).

You should read Genesis 37 sometime. There you will find a description of Joseph’s dream where his father Jacob is symbolized by the sun, his mother Rachael by the moon, and his eleven brothers as eleven stars, Joseph himself being implied as the twelfth. The sun, moon and twelve stars symbolizes Israel. Also, you should read Isaiah 54 sometime. There Israel is described as a barren women but God promises her that she will have children.

This woman in Revelation 12 clearly symbolizes Mary the mother of Jesus for she would be the highly favored individual who would have the privilege of giving birth to the Savior promised to Adam and Eve long ago, but the people of God prior to the birth of Christ are also symbolized here. Indeed, their whole history can rightly be described as a time of “crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth”, as they awaited the arrival of the Messiah who was to come from them.

Notice also that the New Covenant people of God are also represented by this woman. In 12:17 her offspring are said to be, “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, ESV).

The woman symbolizes the people of God in every age. The dragon is opposed to her and seeks to devour her. This true, not only before she gives birth to her child, but also afterwards. After she gives birth the dragon pursues her into the wilderness “where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6, ESV). In 12:14 we read, “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Revelation 12:14, ESV). What does this period of three and a half years represent? It stand for the time in-between the first and second coming of Christ; an aged marked by tribulation for the people of God, in fulfillment to the prophesy of Daniel 7.

In this cosmic conflict Satan is the primary opponent of God’s people. But do you see that the emphasis of the text is, and will continue to be, upon God’s provision and protection. The woman “has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days”. The text reveals something of the cosmic conflict, but it is also reveals that is able to keep his people. This is the truth that must not be overlooked.

Satan Is The Primary Opponent Of God’s Messiah

Lastly, and very briefly, notice that in this cosmic conflict Satan is the primary opponent of God’s Messiah.

Who is the dragon most concerned with in this passage? His objective is to devour the child of the woman.

Who is this child? Cleary he is Jesus the Christ. He is the one born to the virgin Mary. Go back and read Matthew 1 and be reminded of his birth. He was of the seed of Abraham and David. And then read Matthew 2 and be reminded of how the dragon sought to destroy the Christ child from the moment of his birth, through that beast named Herod. Then read Matthew 4 and be reminded of how the dragon sough to derail the Christ from his mission as he tempted him, where? In the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that God sustained him, for “it is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’”(Matthew 4:4, ESV). And then continue on reading of all the hostility endured by the Christ in his life by those whom he at on point called, children of the devil (John 8:44). Soon you will come to the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Surly the dragon thought that had finally succeeded. The Christ was born from Israel in general, and from Mary in particular, and he had finally gobbled him up. He breathed his last and he was put into the grave. Certainly Satan rejoiced! But then he rose again and ascended to God’s right hand.

To use the language of Revelation 12:5, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5, ESV).

Now the serpent knows he has been defeated. He could not stop God’s Messiah from delivering that fatal blow to his head. And now, having been mortally wounded, the Christ child having been caught up to heaven where he rules and reigns in victory, what is left for the dragon to do except to pursue the woman and her offspring in the wilderness for these “three and a half years” of tribulation. But just as God was able to keep the Christ child, so too will he keep his people. They will be nourished for these 1,260 days.

Application

I have one point of application that I would like to emphasize with you before we close.

If as you read Revelation and the description of the dragon, the two beasts and the harlot you come away thinking, the world is such a scary and dangerous place, I must run and hide, then I’m afraid you have missed the point of the book entirely.

The book is honest. It tells how things really are. Indeed, the battle is real. The opponents of God and his people are powerful and fierce. But the book is given to produce confidence and boldness in the people of God. Confidence, not in ourselves, but in Christ who has won the victory, and in our God who is willing and able to nourish us as we wonder in this wildness place.

If you are arrogant, thinking yourself to be self-sufficient in this wold, my prayer is that you would sober up and come to realize that “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV). May you sober up concerning the treat and run to Christ, the shepherd of the sheep, for shelter.

But if you are a timid Christian I would urge you to remember who you are in Christ Jesus.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39, ESV).

Bothers and sisters, let us not live timid, isolated, and fearful lives in this world. Let us not be like the those timid and faithless spies of Israel who returned back from spying out the land that God had promised to them, saying, the people there are too large and too strong. Let us not go up (Numbers 13:25ff.) But let us have the boldness and the faith of Caleb and Joshua instead who said, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 14:7–8, ESV). Let us sojourn in this wilderness with the faith and the boldness of Caleb and Joshua. Let us run to engage in the battle, and not flee from it in fear.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore [do not run in fear, but] take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10–13, ESV).

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 12:1-6, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Dragon, The Woman, And Her Child: Revelation 12:1-6

Sermon: The Kingdom Of This World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ: Revelation 11:15-19

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 2 

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 11:15-19

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’ Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:15–19, ESV).

Introduction

I wrote a little poem to summarize this passage. It goes like this:

The book of Revelation has done it again.
It has taken us to the time of the end.

When the first six trumpets did resound,
they revealed how things would be in the hear and the now.

But when the seventh trumpet by us was heard,
it showed how things will be after Christ’s return.

And what a marvelous sight to behold!
All things belong to Christ, his people are safely home!

While the angels and saints rejoice on that day,
the wicked do wish they could run away.

For it is then the wrath of the Lamb will come.
The nations raged! But now is the time for the dead to be judged.

Then the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of Christ.
No more sin, nor suffering, even death will be silenced!

Oh Christian, take comfort in these God inspired words.
May they move you to have Christ as Lord, today, and until he returns.

As I began to prepare for this sermon it dawned on me that you might have forgotten that we were still in the trumpet cycle.

Thumb back to Revelation 8:6. It is here that the trumpet cycle begins. We read, “Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them” (Revelation 8:6, ESV). The first trumpet was blown in 8:7; the second in 8:8; the third in 8:10; an the fourth in 8:12. And then in 8:13 we read these words: “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” (Revelation 8:13, ESV). Here we were warned that the remaining three trumpets – trumpets five, six, and seven, would be particularly significant and filled with “woe”, or sorrow, for the earth dweller, which is one of the ways that the book of Revelation refers to those not in Christ. It was in 9:1 that the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and it was in 9:13 that the sixth angel blew his. With each of these trumpet blasts something was revealed to us concerning the judgments of God that would be poured out upon the ungodly throughout the church age.

Then we came to the interlude of chapters 10 and 11. Five sermons were devoted to these two chapters. Also, there were three other sermons delivered by other preachers in that time. So about two months have passed since you have heard anything about the trumpet cycle.

Remember that the interlude, particularly chapter 11, gave attention to the question, how will it be for the people of God as they live upon the earth in the midst of a wicked world upon which the judgments of God are being poured out? And the answer given was that though the people of God be trampled under foot, God will ultimately protect, preserve, and vindicate his faithful witnesses.

And remember that near to the end of chapter 11 we were given a glimpse of the beginning of the end when Christ returns to rescue his intensely persecuted bride and to judge the wicked. 11:12:  “Then they [the two witnesses] heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:12–13, ESV). Here we have a description of something that will happen when the Lord returns: his bride will be rescued through rapture, and those found assaulting his bride will take it in the teeth.

Friends, notice that with the sounding of the seventh trumpet here in verse 15 the scene shifts geographically from earth to heaven, and also temporally from the moment of Christ’s returns to a description of the state of affairs brought about by his return.

The relationship between 11:12-13 and 11:15-19 can be compared to the relationship between the story of the allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy and the account of their taking Normandy. Really it is one event accomplished in two stages. So it will be with the return of Christ. It will be one event with many stages. 11:12-13 describes Christ’s return to rescue his severely persecuted church on earth. 11:15-19 describes the occupation of the kingdom of Christ.

The important thing to notice is that the seventh trumpet takes us to other side of Christ’s return and to a time beyond the age in which we now live. Notice five things that will happen on that day the day.

The Kingdom Of The World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ

One, notice that it is on that day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of Christ.

Look at verse 15. When the seventh angel blew his trumpet “there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15, ESV).

Something very significant will happen on that day. The kingdom of this world  – those kingdoms which oppose the rule of Christ and seek to establish their own rule independent of him – will be no more. Only the kingdom of our Lord and of Christ will remain. Everything will belong to him. Everyone will worship and serve him. On that day he will begin to rule without challenge or rival.

Now it is true that our Lord reigns supreme even now. He is sovereign over all things. He is Lord Most High. No one and no thing is able to thwart his purposes. But according to his infinite wisdom he has decreed that for a time there exist a kingdom that is rival to his – a kingdom of darkness – a kingdom, not of heaven, but of the earth. This he has permitted according to his wisdom in order to bring about his ultimate purposes.

Also, it is also true that the kingdom of heaven has already broken in upon us. It arrived with Spirit wrought power at the first coming of Christ. “Behold the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”, was the proclamation of John the Baptist and of Christ himself. Indeed, when Christ rose from the dead he rose in power and ascended to the right hand of the Father where he rules and reigns over his kingdom even now with all authority having been given unto him.

And so the current situation is this: The kingdom of Christ has begun. It has broken in upon us. It has intruded into human history. We feel power of it. Indeed, we are in it, if we are in Christ by the Spirit, confessing him as Lord. But we know that the kingdom is not here in its full and consummate glory. Why? Because there still exists a rival kingdom in the world today! Many stubbornly refuse to bow the knee to Christ. Many do not confess him as Lord. Many are the citizens of the kingdom of this world who oppose Christ’s rule, submitting instead to the rule of another king. So as you can see there are two kingdoms present in the world today. There is the kingdom of the world, which is the kingdom of darkness, who has the evil one for a king. And there is the kingdom of heaven, also called the kingdom of God and of his Christ. These two are opposed to one another. All who live upon the earth are in fact in one kingdom or another. Either Christ is your king, or the evil one is. Christ said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30, ESV). And listen to the way that Paul describes our salvation in Colossians 1:13. He describes it as having been “delivered… from the domain of darkness and transferred… to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13, ESV). This is, in part, what it means to be saved. It is to be delivered from one domain, or kingdom, to another – from the domain of darkness to the domain of Christ. Those who do not have Jesus as Lord believe themselves to be free – independent from any outside rule. They are badly mistaken. For the scriptures teach that you are either a bondservant of Christ or that you are in bondage to another. Satan is cruel taskmaster, my friends. He is liar and a deceiver. His end is death and destruction. He is bent on taking as many with him as possible.

But here is the thing to recognize. There are two kingdoms present in the world today. The kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of darkness. Christ’s kingdom is here. It is present wherever the church is. It is present wherever men and woman are found who have Christ as Lord. But it is not here in its full and final form. This is why as citizens of this inaugurated kingdom we are taught to pray for its consummation, saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9–10, ESV).

Hebrews 10:12-13 sums it up: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12–13, ESV). This one verse says it all. Christ began to reign over his kingdom upon his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God. But while he rules there he is also waiting there. Waiting until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

This is the thing that Revelation 11:15 describes. It is describes the day when the enemies of Christ will be made a footstool for his feet. On that day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. All will be Christ’s kingdom. No rival power will remain. This is why

Notice that this is not the half-baked earthly, and sin prone millennial kingdom of the dispensational pre-millennialists, but it is the full and final kingdom of our Lord. Our God and his Christ are Lord over all in this kingdom, and the text says that “he shall reign [in this kingdom] forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, ESV).  It is a myth that Christ will in the future establish some new, earthly, and sin prone kingdom that will come to end after 1,000 years being brought to and end by a great rebellion (second fall, I guess). That view is unbiblical and it come from a misreading of the scriptures. In particular it arises when men assume that the book of Revelation is mainly about our future, that it is to be interpreted literally whenever possible (whenever the want), and that the order of the book of Revelation corresponds to the order of events in human history. I’ve shown that all three of these assumptions are false in past sermons. Know that it is this flawed method of interpretation that produces pre-millennialism.

The coming of the Christ was promised in the Old Covenant. He was born when the fullness of time had come. He lived, died, and was buried, and on the third day he rose from the grave, the New Covenant being ratified in his blood. He ascended to the right hand of God where he rules and reigns, all authority having been given unto him in heaven and on earth. We his people in this world, members of the New Covenant, citizens of his kingdom, enduring difficulty, and awaiting his return. When he returns everything will be his kingdom forever and ever. It is the final state.

Revelation 11:15 describes the beginning of Christ’s eternal kingdom. This is a description of the new heavens and the new earth where all is placed fully under the authority of Christ, with no rival, for on that day his enemies will be fully and finally judged .

The praise that is heard from the lips of the angels confirms it. Verse 16: “And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign” (Revelation 11:16–17, ESV). On that day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

The Dead Will Be Judged

Two, notice that it is on that day that the dead will be judged.

Look at verse 18: “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged…” (Revelation 11:18a, ESV).

Surely the phrase “the nations raged” is meant to remind us of Psalm 2. The prophesies of Psalm 2 will be filled most fully when on the day when Christ returns.

Indeed in this present evil age “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:2–3, ESV). And even now “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4, ESV). And indeed the Lord has already “set [his] King on Zion, [his] holy hill” (Psalm 2:6, ESV). This has happened in the heavenly places (read Revelation and Hebrews). But Revelation 11:15ff. is showing us something of the day on which “the nations [will become the]… heritage [of the Christ], and the ends of the earth [his] possession. [He] shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7–9, ESV). Therefore, the peoples of the earth are appropriately warned concerning that day. The Psalm says,  “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:10–12, ESV).

Psalm 2 warns of the final judgment and urges men and women to live accordingly, taking refuge in Christ. When John in Revelation 11:18, says, “the nations raged”, he is summoning Psalm 2, as if to say, these two texts are talking about the same event, they are both about the final judgment.

In Revelation 11 the final judgment is mentioned only briefly. In Revelation 20:11-13 we find a more detailed description of the final judgment. John writes,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:11–13, ESV).

What Revelation 20:11-13 describes in some detail, Revelation 11:18 mentions only in passing.

For now simply notice that the beginning of Christ’s consummate reign and the day of judgment coincide. It will be on that day, when the Lord returns and begins to reign, that the dead will be judged according to what they had done.

Those Who Belong To Christ Will Be Rewarded

Three, notice it is on that day that those who belong to Christ will be rewarded.

Verse 18:“The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great…” (Revelation 11:18, ESV).

Did you know that Christians will be judged too?

They will not be judged in the same way that those not in Christ are judged. They will not stand before the great white throne of Revelation 20 to be judged according to what they had done. That judgment can only lead to damnation, for who could possibly stand though that judgment. No, the one trusting in Christ has their sins covered by Christ’s blood. He paid for their sins, and he has given them his righteousness. You, if you are trusting in Christ, will not be amongst the dead who are raised to stand before the great white throne to be judged there for you will already be alive in Christ. Your name is in the book of life!

Indeed, we should be comforted by the fact that we will not have to stand before the great white throne to judged unto damnation. Indeed we should rejoice that we will not be judged concerning whether we will go to eternal life or eternal death based upon what we have done in this life – none will stand! But I do believe that we should talk more about the judgment of Christians unto rewards. For it is a kind of judgment, isn’t it? For how can you possibly reward someone without making a judgment concerning their work?

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that we will in any way contribute to our salvation. I am not saying that our obedience in this life will have anything to do with our eternal destiny. All of that comes down to the question, are you trusting in yourself or in Christ, in his righteousness, or your own?

But I am desiring to make this point: Christians will give an account. We will stand before God our Father and give an account for the deeds done in the flesh. This will be a Fatherly judgment, not unto condemnation (for there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but a judgment unto rewards, or the lack therefore.

This seems to be what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to Corinthians:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15, ESV).

Friends, do not be one of these. Do not be the Christian who, though his faith be sincere and saving faith, his life be devoted to kings of little eternal value. Brothers and sisters, “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19–20, ESV).

The Destroyers Of The Earth Will Be Destroyed

Four, notice that it is on that day that destroyers of the earth will be destroyed.

Look at the last line part of verse 18: “…and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:18, ESV).

Who are the “destroyers of the earth”? When we take into consideration the way that this phrase is used in the prophets, especially in Jeremiah and Daniel, and when we take into consideration what is depicted in the rest of the book of Revelation, we must come to the conclusion that the “destroyers of the earth” are the dragon, the beast, the false prophet and the harlot along with all of the men and women who follow them and do their bidding, but particularly the wicked kingdoms of this world. On that day God will destroy the destroyers. God’s wrath we be poured out upon those who lead astray the people and now are destroyed themselves.

The People Of God Will Enjoy The Fulness Of His Presence Forevermore 

Five, notice that it is on that day that the people of God will enjoy the fulness of his presence forevermore.

Look at verse 19: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:19, ESV).

The temple symbolizes God’s presence with his people. The ark of the covenant also symbolizes God’s presence with his people, particularly his covenantal faithfulness. This vision concludes with John seeing the temple opened before him and the ark of the covenant revealed. The meaning is clear. God is with his people now, and his presence will be enjoyed in a most immediate way on that last day.

Notice that John also saw “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:19, ESV). This scene appears repeatedly in the book of Revelation whenever the final judgment is in view. God will be comfort his people with his presence on that day, but he will judge his enemies.

Remember the Jericho story that stands behind the image of the seven trumpets? For seven days the people of Israel were to march around Jericho and seven priests were to blow seven trumpets and the walls of the city would fall flat and the city conquered. Here I simply wish to remind you of the central place the ark of the covenant played in that event. It was forever in the midst of God’s people – a comfort to them as a symbol of his presence and covenantal faithfulness, and a threat to the enemies of God.

Application

Let us take some time to apply these truths before we conclude.

The first point application is theological. I wonder if your eschatology is biblically sound. Does your view of the end square with what this passage teaches? I’m afraid that many in our day hold to a view that cannot square with it. Theirs are the infinitely complex charts that insert gaps of time in between the many things that are to happen on that last day. The scriptures teach that the last day will be a full day. On that day the Lord will return to raise the dead in Christ and to rescue through rapture those who are alive on earth enduring persecution. On that day the Lord will pour out his wrath upon the persecutors living upon the earth. On that day the dead will be raised and judged, and those in Christ will be rewarded. On that day the destroyers of the earth will be destroyed, On that day the kingdom of the earth will become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. On tat day all will be come temple. The last day will be a full day. The pre-tribulational pre-millennialists are wrong to take these individual events and to spread them out over 1,007 years. Theirs is an umbilical system thrust upon the text of scripture, and often found crammed into the gaps. I’m urging you to abandon it if you have not already and to adopt instead the Amillennial position which I am in the process of the describing to you.

Secondly, in light of the final judgment I ask, have you taken refuge in Christ? On that last day you will stand clothed either in your own garb, or in the garb of Christ. Your garb and mine is filthy and sin stained. Christ’s garb is radiant white. Be clothed in his righteousness, friends. Repent and believe upon him. Confess him as Lord. Be washed by his blood.

Thirdly, I wonder if all of this teaching concerning the time of the end is having an effect upon the kind of person you are. The Apostle Peter had some things to say about the time of the end, and Peter also expected his teaching to have an effect upon his audience. He said, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11, ESV).

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 11:15-19, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Kingdom Of This World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ: Revelation 11:15-19


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that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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