Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE COMING EVIL RULER (Revelation Chapter 13)

Revelation 13:5, “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 the life of the Lamb who was slain.”

In his book "Approaching Hoofbeats," Billy Graham imagines and describes the scene in a typical city in the Apostle John’s day, "Imagine a village in the suburbs of Ephesus or Laodicea.  Christian believers are at work tanning leather, dying cloth, harvesting crops, raising families, studying math and history--at worship, at work, at play.  Then, suddenly, hoof beats are heard clattering up the nearby cobbled streets.  The horses are reined in by a Roman centurion and his honor guard.  A leather camp table is unfolded.  An incense burner is placed upon the table.  A flame is lit.  Heralds sound the trumpets.  There is no place to hide, no time to decide.  Believers must join their neighbors in that line.  Just ahead the village mayor tosses his incense into the flames and exclaims proudly, "Caesar is Lord."  Others follow.  The line ahead grows shorter.  The moment of decision draws near.  Will the Christian avoid the conflict and protect his life and security with the simple act of obedience?  Will he mutter "Caesar is Lord" and sneak back home to safety?  Or will he recognize that act as a symbol of a wider disobedience, refuse the incense, proclaim "Jesus is Lord" and pay the price for his disloyalty to the state?  These scenes no doubt happened in all of these cities and chief among the reasons for the writing of this book was to encourage persecuted Christians.”

What was true in that day will be true in the future but to a worldwide extent.  An evil ruler will demand worship and allegiance and will harshly deal with those who refuse to comply.  Human history is littered with examples of men who ruled according to this devilish formula.  They demand under the threat of harm and punishment.  In response to God’s revelation regarding future events, and the pending demise of his kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar constructed a 90 foot tall image of gold (Cf. Daniel 2:36-45, 3:1).  The image was dedicated and the proclamation was made: “You are commanded, 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 had set up.  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:4-6).  Under threat of harm or punishment evil dictators have done such things.  In Medieval times, under papal rule, thousands were martyred for the refusal to acquiesce to the heretical doctrines and demands of the Catholic Church.  The Nazi regime demanded absolute allegiance and dealt harshly with all dissidents.  Evil atheistic dictators like Stalin and Mao Tse-tung worked to cleanse their communist countries of all religious practice.  Churches were burned and all religious materials were destroyed.  Dissenters were threatened, imprisoned, and millions were slaughtered in the cause of communistic atheism.  Even today, in various parts of the world, there are evil dictators who rule in that manner.  North Korea has its prison camps.  ISIS threatens Christians and beheads those who refuse to convert to Islam.

There have been a lot of “prototypical antichrists.”  They’ve ruled according to that spirit.  They’ve threatened and punished and callously abused those who refused to yield.  But no past evil leader can compare to the evil one who is soon coming.  This chapter speaks of two “beasts” that will come to rule, the Antichrist and the false prophet (Cf. Revelation 3:1, 11).  The Antichrist will utter “haughty and blasphemous words” and will be “allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Revelation 13:5).  He will “make war on the saints” and will be given authority “over every tribe and people and nation” (Revelation 13:7).  “All who dwell on earth will worship” him (Cf. Revelation 13:8).  The false prophet will enlist worshipers for the Antichrist through miracles and deceit (Cf. Revelation 12:13-14).  Worship of the beast will be demanded of all: “both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave” (Revelation 13:15).  To refuse to receive his “mark” will be to lose the freedom to “buy and sell” (Cf. Revelation 13:17).  Previous generations might have questioned how any ruler could possibly exercise dictatorship to such a broad (i.e. worldwide) extent.  Remember when Credit Cards and ATMs first came into being?  But technology is catching up to Biblical revelation.  Such a day does not seem far-fetched at all.  There have been plenty of evil dictators.  None can compare to the one who is coming.  There is but One Ruler worthy of man’s love and devotion—the One who died on a cross and rose from the dead to save us from our sins (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  Do you know Him?

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