Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Revelation 11 -- 12

Revelation 11 – “A New Hope”
                1.            The holy city is trampled for 42 months (3.5 years).
                2.            There is war against God’s witnesses (implication against the truth).
                3.            Death and destruction continue.
                4.            Perspective: earth.
I.             The Sanctuary stands undefiled.
                A.            “Temple” à Greek = “sanctuary.”
                                1.            It is a sacred place.
                                                a.            Set apart by God.            
                                                b.            Represents God’s presence (and “name”).
                                2.            It is a place of refuge.
Psalm 91:1 – 2: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
                                                a.            Shelter means safety, calm, and peace.
                                                b.            Shelter implies need… (such as a storm or threat)
                                3.            It is the place God appointed as a meeting place.
                                                a.            God is everywhere present… we can meet with God anywhere.
                                                b.            However, the precedent for a special place for special occasions.
                B.            The “holy city” is trampled.
                                1.            There is a LIMITED time God has set.
                                2.            Defilement everywhere EXCEPT for the temple.
* Regardless how bad it gets (or seems to get) God has an “open door.”
II.            God’s work continues undeterred (two witnesses).
                A.            Identity?
                                1.            Ability of Moses and Elijah.         
                                2.            Enoch and Elijah did not die.
                                3.            Symbolic of the Old Testament and New Testament.
                                4.            Symbolic of Jesus and the church (or John the Baptist = “Elijah”).
                                5.            Reality: we do not know.
* In the midst of darkness God still speaks.
                B.            Yet people still reject God’s love.
                                1.            The witnesses dress in sackcloth (display of grief).
                                2.            The enemy (Satan) wages war (only successful when God allows it).
* Regardless of how bad it gets (or seems to get) God does not give up control. God does not give up on us.  God does not give up.
III.           The enemy’s “victory” is an illusion.
                A.            The war:
                                1.            Why are we surprised when the enemy attacks?
                                2.            Not one attacks comes that:
                                                a.            God does not already know about. (God is not surprised; we should not                                                                               be surprised).
                                                b.            God does not allow. (Job = Satan has to get permission).
                B.            The reality:
                                1.            [Verse 7] Satan can “ascend” to the earth.
                                2.            [Verse 12] God’s servants can “ascend” to heaven.
* Regardless of how bad it gets (or seems to get) God still wins!
IV.          The power of God is undeniable!
                A.            Point of discussion:
                                a.            Wesley – “Preach to bring change or preach to make them mad.”
                                b.            Where God is at work, humans will be confronted with a choice.
                                c.             What will it take to bring us to the point of decision?
                B.            “Come to their senses?”
                                a.            The “Prodigal Son” à fed pigs, hungry, “came to his senses.”
                                b.            [Verse 13] “gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revival?).
* Regardless of our circumstances, God brings us to a point of decision.
V.            The praise of God is unstoppable.
                A.            The Ark of the Covenant is revealed.
                                1.            Within the temple à the presence of God.
                                2.            Atonement for sin à acceptance from God.
                B.            The victory!
                                1.            God owns the nations, He reigns (whether they like it or not).
                                2.            Judgment for “sinners.”
                                3.            Reward for “saints.”
* Regardless how bad it gets (or seems to get), there is NEVER a doubt about the outcome.

Our response:
                1.            Need to be in the presence of God. (The “chief duty” à bring glory to God/worship).
                2.            Need to respond to God in a positive way when He brings us to those points of decision.

Revelation 12 – The Woman and the Dragon
Revelation 12 – 13 introduce what some have referred to as “the unholy Trinity.” The action begins with two signs that appeared in heaven. The first is a woman described as clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, a crown of 12 stars on her head, and being in labor. The second sign is a great fiery red Dragon. The Dragon is described as having seven heads, 10 horns, and seven world crowns on his head.
The Dragon is clearly identified in verse nine as Satan. In verse four his tail sweeps down a third of heaven’s stars and throws them to the earth. This is generally thought to be Satan deceiving a third of the heavenly angels. Knowing the time of delivery, the Dragon is intense to devour the woman’s child.
She gives birth to a son, who is ruler of all the nations, with an iron rod. Before the Dragon is able to devour the child, he is snatched up to God and his throne. The woman flees into the desert where God is preparing a place for her. She is taken care of for 1,260 days.
This is the first “sign” in the book of Revelation. It is also the first appearance of a female.
One way to understand this vision is that the woman is the church. The image of the sun, the moon, and the stars shows the universal power of the church. Another suggestion of the woman’s identity is Israel. The thought here is that Israel gave birth to the Messiah. The problem is that the book of Revelation does not distinguish between Israel and the Church. Some have also understood this scene to be the drama surrounding the birth of Jesus. They identify the woman as Mary; and the great fiery red Dragon represents Herod, who is a type of Satan. The problem with this interpretation is that in verse 17 the Dragon goes to war with the rest of her children. These children are defined as those who keep God’s commandments and hold firmly to the witness of Jesus.
The word Dragon is found only in the book of Revelation. Early Greek writers speak of dragons. The Babylonians feared a seven-headed hydra. The Egyptians had stories of a dragon torturing one of their gods. Chinese as well as other cultures had some versions of dragons. In the Old Testament, a monster named Rahab is the enemy of God (Isaiah 51:9, Job 26:12 – 13). Psalm 74 mentions sea monsters, better translated dragons. In Daniel 7 is a great beast with seven heads, while in Daniel 8:10 another type of Satan casts stars down to earth.
The Dragon is often seen as Rome because of its seven heads. Rome was built on seven hills. The thought is that Rome would break up into 10 nations. For a long time people were excited when the European Union reached 10 nations. Many believed that this was the resurrection of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the events unfolding in the book of Revelation. However, this could also refer to the first century B.C. when Augustus divided the Roman Empire into 10 administrative units.
The two main explanations of the third of the stars feature angels or Christian ministers. Throughout history child has been identified as Jesus, the church, or even Emperor Constantine. The theater of heaven has sometimes been identified as the church, since the church is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Chapter 12 features one of the most spectacular images of Satan’s defeat. In verses 7 -8 the Angel Michael wages war on the Dragon. In verse 9 the Dragon loses and is thrown down to earth. Verses 10 - 12 feature an anthem of victory. Four things are now clearly registered in verse 10. They are salvation, power, the kingdom of God, and the authority of Christ. Each of these are made clear by the defeat of Satan. We see another aspect of Satan in verse 10 as the “accuser.” These accusations are brought before God against believers day and night.
God’s faithful gain victory, in court against the accused, in verse 11 with three things. The first is the blood of the Lamb. This blood was shed to redeem us from the slavery of sin. This blood also made atonement (covering) for our sin. Jesus took our place and satisfied God’s justice (see Romans 3). It is important to understand that the blood of the Lamb is not the foundation for victory but the means of our victory. The second weapon of victory is the word of their testimony. This is literally the verbal account and witness to the shed blood of Jesus. The third weapon turns out to be courage. The faithful deny their own lives so much as to not fear death. They are willing to die and many do die for the name of Jesus.
In verse 13 Satan, unable to reach God, turns on the woman. In verse 14 she is given wings to flee into the desert where she will be taken care of for “a time and times and half a time” (three and half years). In verse 15 Satan uses a River of water to try to sweep her away. In verse 16 she is saved by the earth that opens its mouth and swallows the river. Unable to reach the woman, verse 17 tells us that Satan now turns to make war on the rest of her children. These are those who keep God’s commandments and hold firmly to the witness of Jesus.
This will be done through two agents in chapter 13, the beast from the sea, typically identified as the antichrist, and the beast from the earth, typically identified as his prophet.

Revelation 12 – The enemy
                Appearance: silly (red suit, horns, tail, pitch fork), ugly (Milton pictured Satan as a toad).
                Ability: “all powerful” (has his way).
                Scope: cannot attack or touch believers.

                Appearance: “angel of light,” most beautiful of God’s creations.
                Ability: limited.
                Scope: does attack and affect believers.

I.             Our enemy is a personal one (verse 9).
                A.            The reality:
                                1.            The devil is not a “feeling” or a “force.”
                                2.            The devil is described as a distinct individual (with plans, will, and purpose).

                B.            The name “devil” = literally “to throw through.”
                                1.            Slanders/accuses God to men.
                                2.            Slanders/accuses men to God.

                C.            His purpose:
                                1.            (Verse 9) “leads the whole world astray.”
                                2.            Introduces rebellion (sin) against God.
                                3.            Steal, kill, and destroy.

II.            Our enemy does not always succeed.
                A.            Loses his prey (the child, the woman).
                B.            Loses his place in heaven (hurled from heaven).
                C.            Loses his power (knows his time is short).
III.           Our enemy is an angry one (verse 12) à “filled with fury.”
                A.            Don’t underestimate what he’s capable of doing (the devil has “no rules”).
                B.            This is his desperate “last stand.” Unable to win, so he’s out to create pain and misery.
IV.          Our enemy is a malicious one (verse 13).
                A.            Relentless
                                1.            Defeated in getting the child.
                                2.            Attacks heaven: defeated.
                                3.            Pursues the woman: fails.
                                4.            Makes war on the saints: conquered.

                B.            Symbolic:
                                1.            Child – every time God is about to do something BIG, Satan goes after children.
                                                a.            Moses & Jesus.
                                                b.            Abortion, lost childhood.

                                2.            Heaven – authority.
                                                a.            “Social leveling.”
                                                b.            Political abuse of power.

                                3.            Woman – war on women.
                                                a.            Breakdown of marriage.
                                                b.            Social acceptability of hostility and abuse against women.
                                                c.             Slavery.

                                4.            Offspring – believers/church.
                                                a.            Direct spiritual attacks.
                                                b.            Culture attacks.
                                                c.             Insinuation (bigoted characterization).

V.            Our enemy is an intelligent one (verses 4, 13, and 15).
                A.            Myth: we think of Satan as being stupid.
                                1.            Matter of perspective.
                                                a.            Don’t mistake “intelligence” as “wisdom.”
                                                b.            “Intelligence” tends to be relative (knowledge and experience).

                                2.            “Foolish” in the sense he opposes God.
                B.            Demonstration of intelligence:
                                1.            (Verse 4) deceives a third of the angels (what would this take?).
                                2.            (Verse 4) waits (patience and planning) for the right moment (timing).
                                3.            (Verse 13) understands his position (hurled to earth, time is short).
                                4.            (Verse 13) pursues (hunts, direct attack against the weak and helpless).
                                5.            (Verse14) influence (“out of the serpent’s reach”).
VI.          Our enemy is a limited one.
                A.            Three limitations:
                                1.            Space.
                                                a.            Can only be in one place at a time.
                                                b.            Cannot dislodge God (or even beat a fellow angel or the saints).

                                2.            Time.
                                                a.            Has only a limited time (“short”).
                                                b.            Becomes part of his rage.

                                3.            Force
                                                a.            Beaten in heaven.
                                                b.            Overcome (literally “conquered”) on earth.
                                                c.             Even nature foils his attack.

                B.            He is dangerous.
                                1.            He has followers (fallen angels, the world).
                                2.            He is capable of waging war.
                                3.            But he cannot have his own way.
VII.         We will face the enemy (verse 17).
                A.            Cautions:
                                1.            Don’t deny or ignore his existence.
                                2.            Don’t cower in fear.  (We are well armed but still in battle).
                                3.            Don’t give him an inch.
Ephesians 4:27 CEB: “Don’t provide an opportunity (foothold) for the devil.”
                                4.            Don’t become overconfident or careless.
1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
                                                a.            Carelessness exposes us to sin.
                                                b.            Overconfidence is the pride that goes before “utter destruction.”
                                                c.             “Armor of God” is given because of the reality of Satanic attack.

                B.            Comforts:
                                1.            The enemy faces ultimate, total, and humiliating defeat.
                                2.            Jesus has already won the victory: the blood of the lamb, word of their                                                                                 testimony.
                                3.            Battle matures and makes us… crushed or transformed?

Revelation 13 – The Rule and Religion of the Antichrist
One survey shows that this chapter is the least preached from chapter in the Bible. It presents some very difficult questions and problems for both the preacher and the hearer. Essentially the chapter breaks down into two characters. One seems to be the ruler, while the other creates a religious atmosphere.
The rule of the antichrist is described in verses 1 and 2 as being varied. The description is that this beast is “from the sea.” The physical description appears to be a monster that is very much divided. There are 10 horns, seven heads, and 10 crowns. Some of have suggested that these represent government and authorities. In the book of Daniel in chapter 7 are four beasts that apparently were present world empires. There is a thought that the lion, the bear, and the leopard represent three kingdoms that appear before a fourth monster. However we are to understand the political situation, the impression that one gets of the beast from the sea is that it is illegitimate.
The beast from the sea’s strength is Satanic. Its authority comes from Satan. In Matthew 4:8-9 Satan offers Jesus all the world’s kingdoms. This offer is illegitimate, because Jesus already owns the world’s nations. In Revelation Satan collects world powers to oppose God. The government’s interest will be to promote Satan. Is important to remember that this government is a servant of Satan and not independent. It will deceive and be deceived. This government will be enraged against the followers of Jesus.
The beast from the sea is described in verse 3 as a master of deception. The NIV uses the word “seemed.” Is what happens genuine or fake? It does not matter, as the effect is the same. There is what appears to be a fatal wound to the head. This event will get people’s attention. The NIV describes them as “astonished.” The emphasis is that “all” or the whole world will see this event.
The beast from the sea’s rule will be popular (verses 3-4). It is closely followed with a certain amount of amazement and influence over people’s minds. People will worship the Dragon (Satan), because it has given authority to this beast. Its influence and might are unquestioned.
Verses 5 and 6 describes the beast from the sea as having been given a mouth that speaks boastful and blasphemous things. What is blasphemy? Blasphemy means to defame, abuse, or speak evil of. It is making a mockery out of the holy. Pride is involved. Pride seems to be the main character flaw of Satan. The devil is not shy about questioning or slandering God. In the Garden of Eden Satan put a “spin” on both the word and the character of God. In a sense the enemy is a master of giving a false statement that sounds plausible.
The beast from the sea is temporarily victorious (verses 5 – 10). In verse 7 he wages war on” the Saints” and gains victory in this war. It is a sobering thought that a government can or will do what the devil cannot. Yet, this beast has power to conquer. Verse 8 says that all who live on earth worship this beast, at least all whose names are not written in “the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Those who do not worship this beast belong to the Lamb of God. They know that where the physical life may end the eternal life begins.
Verse 9 is an admonition to the readers should they read this before or during this time. There is almost a fatalistic view of being captured or killed. However, put this into perspective of the hope the believer has and the confidence that can be had in Christ Jesus. The call is for endurance and faithfulness. The reality is this saint cannot lose if they endure and stick to their faithfulness.
The second beast is described as having come up from the earth. This beast appears to be in charge of the antichrist’s religion. Its trademark appears in verse 14 in that it deceives by the signs it is allowed to do in the presence of the beast from the sea. The earth will see great and miraculous signs, such as the healing of the beast from the sea. These are “lying wonders.” C.S. Lewis noted that a miracle is not necessarily authentic. There are variety of factors that go into understanding a miracle. The prime qualification is belief. In other words, how the individual chooses to interpret what happens is more important than the actual experience. In verse 11 the appearance of this beast seems quite innocent as a lamb that in essence imitates Christ. However, it distinguishes itself from Christ by the way it speaks its words. Notice that it speaks like a Dragon (like Satan). This false prophet speaks words that are plausible, popular, and prevalent.
Yet this beast is false to the very core. It makes an alliance with the first beast.  In verses 12 and 14 it causes people to worship the first beast and creates an image of that beast for people to worship. We see religion serving government. In verse 16 we see this beast transforming people. One thing that happens here is that everyone becomes more or less the same. It forces everyone to take a mark on the hand or the forehead. Is this a little mark? This is not likely. In the Jewish worldview the hand was symbolic of action, and the forehead was symbolic of thought. This is where the Orthodox Jews will tie the phylacteries.
In verse 18 the beast from the land focuses on humanity. If we are willing to understand this as a Ghematria (letters equal numbers), then the possibilities for 666 translating into a human name are just about endless. For instance Mohamed, Luther, Roman emperors Titus and Vespasian, Pope Benedict IX, Napoleon, King Louis XV, the Latin title for “Pope,” Hitler, Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, John F. Kennedy, Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Holy Bible, and Catholics have all been names that someone has figured adds up to 666.
One problem that faces us in dealing with this number is that there is no article in the Greek before the word “man.” It may legitimately be read as being the number of man rather than “a man” (a specific individual). All this may seem frustrating to us but maybe should push us to a deeper commitment to faith that God understands things that we can only guess at.

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