The Book of Revelation Revisited 7: Antichrist

We’re in the middle of John’s vision of the earth at the latter half of the tribulation period. The devil and his rebel angels have been kicked out of heaven. Because of God’s intervention, Satan has been unsuccessful in trying to kill Jesus, or the last remnant of Israel, who call Christ their Messiah. So, he turns his wrath towards the Gentiles who came to faith during the tribulations:

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his head a blasphemous name. Now the beast I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him power, his throne, and great authority. Rv. 13:1, 2. NKJV

With the ten heads and horns, the beast is a mirror image of Satan. His crowns represent ten nations that the devil will assemble, to build a world empire to rival all that came before. The physical description of the beast is a composite of four beasts the prophet Daniel saw in a vision. (Dan. 7:2 – 8.) Daniel also prophesied about the coming of this future empire. (Dan. Ch. 2)

Biblical scholars see Satan’s beast(s) as symbolizing a world empire, an antichrist, and a false prophet. Many see the dragon, the Antichrist, and the false prophet as a perverse imitation of the Godhead.

John continues:

I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast and who is able to wage war with him?” Rv. 13:3, 4. NASB

The beast represents a new world system – one that has suffered death and has been resurrected (insinuating something homologous to the resurrection of Christ). All ‘God-rejecters’ who survived the first half of the tribulations will fall under the sway of this satanic world order.

And the beast was given a mouth (the power of speech), uttering great things and arrogant and blasphemous words, and he was given freedom and authority to act and to do as he pleased for forty-two months (three and a half years). And he opened his mouth to speak blasphemies (abusive speech, slander) against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and those who live in heaven. He was also permitted to wage war against the saints (God’s people) and to overcome them, and authority and power over every tribe and people and language and nation. All the inhabitants of the earth will fall down and worship him, everyone whose name has not been written down since the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who has been slain [as a willing sacrifice]. Rv. 13:5 – 8. AMP

So, the beast gets a ‘mouthpiece’ – the Antichrist. This is also described in another vision of the prophet Daniel (Dan. 9:26, 27.), whereby he describes the Antichrist as a ‘little horn.’ Many interpret the vision of Daniel to mean that the Antichrist will first come as a ‘man of peace’ (after God has destroyed the ‘army of the north,’ that came against Israel), and that he will strike a peace accord with Israel.

However, at the tribulation midpoint, he breaks that accord and wages war against the followers of Christ – even forbidding any worship of God in the new temple in Jerusalem. Moreover, the Antichrist will demand worship for himself, declaring that he is God. Many of the saints are martyred at this time. (Rv. 12:10 – 12.)

However, because of the saints’ steadfast endurance for Christ, their eternal outcome will be one of triumph over Satan and his minions.

Finally, we see that those who do worship the Antichrist, will not find their names in the Lamb’s book of life – meaning that they have no heavenly hope.

John resumes the telling of his vision:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the whole earth and those who dwell on it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs so that he even makes fire come from heaven on earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. Rv. 13:11 – 14. NKJV

Here then is the manifestation of the second beast (the false prophet) – one who appears meek and pious, but his dragon-speech reveals his evil character to those who can discern his true nature. Satan gives power to the false prophet to manifest miracles in the name of the Antichrist, in order to prop up the Antichrist’s claim of divinity. Lastly, the false prophet commands that an idol be made in the image of the Antichrist’s so that the people could worship it. [This was previously foretold by the apostle Paul (2 Thess. 2:9 – 12.), where we learned that God allowed this deception to take place because of the people’s steadfast rejection of His salvation.]

John elaborates further about the false prophet:

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 great and small, 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 the beast, for it is the number of man, and his number is 666. Rv. 13:15 – 18. ESV

Thus, the false prophet animates the statue of the Antichrist. It must be some form of an elaborated illusion, because only God can create life. If one is not convinced by the illusion to worship the idol, that same one will be killed.

We also see the false prophet promote the ‘mark of the beast,’ one required to having indelibly placed upon their person in order to buy or sell anything. Note: no one really knows what ‘666’ means except that it is the number of man. But because ‘sevens’ are the biblical number for ‘completeness,’ it suggests incompleteness.

Ultimately then, what we are seeing is the establishment of the complete satanic world system: the Antichrist is directing the political and economic landscape, and the false prophet is controlling religion; and all of this is being orchestrated by the devil himself. The plot thickens…

Goodnight and God bless.

Advertisements

The Book of Revelation Revisited 4 – Seven Seals

The apostle John has just been spiritually transported to God’s heavenly throne room, where He is able to look upon our Creator. This is a major shifting point in the relationship between God and man, because heretofore, no one was allowed to look upon His face except His Son. (Ex. 33:20; Jn. 6:46.)

However, the glory of God’s countenance is so overwhelmingly magnificent that John cannot describe it other than as a stunning rainbow, emitting from incomparable jewels, with accompanying flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. (Rv. 4:3 & 5.) Surrounding God’s throne was 24 other thrones, occupied by 24 ‘church elders’ – consisting of the 12 apostles of Jesus and representatives for the 12 tribes of Israel. The elders were prostrate before Christ in worship, bringing forth the prayers of the saints. for His consideration. (Rv. 4:10, 11.)

John also sees the ‘seven Spirits of God, representing the Holy Spirit in His complete fullness.

Then, the apostle shifts his gaze to God’s right hand:

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” Rv. 5:1, 2. NKJV

The scroll contains God’s final plan for redemption – the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is written on both sides and sealed, denoting its completeness. There will be no further additions.

To John’s amazement and relief, the ‘one who is worthy’ turns out to be the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David – Jesus Christ who takes the scroll in the presence of the elders and of angels who worship Him:

“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” Rv. 5:9, 10. NKJV

We see then that only the Son of God is worthy to carry out His Father’s plan for salvation. Christ is presented here as a ‘lion’ (especially to those who rejected Him), and as a ‘lamb’ (to those who have invited Him in their hearts. John further describes Jesus as having the appearance of a lamb who has been slain (to represent His death and resurrection); and having 7 horns and 7 eyes – symbolizing His divine power and complete amalgamation with the Holy Spirit.

Next, Jesus calls John to witness an overview of the nature of events which will unfold during the seven-year tribulation period. Jesus begins by opening the first four seals, which reveal the symbolic ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first rider is interpreted by some to be the Antichrist (counterfeit christ), who is loosed upon the earth at the beginning of the tribulation.

The apostle Paul had also prophesied about this event:

…that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God… 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. NKJV

The ‘Day’ is the day of God’s wrath.

The second rider represents war – interpreted by some as a personification of a great ‘army from the north,’ said to be a coalition from countries that comprised the old Soviet Union and those populated by Islamic radicals.

The third rider signifies famine, and the fourth symbolic of death and disease.

When Jesus opens the fifth seal, John sees a vision of all who have been martyred for Christ, pleading for justice; but they are told to be patient a bit longer, so that our merciful God can use a little more time to gather in anyone who may yet choose Him.

The opening of the sixth seal reveals a preview of severe cosmological disturbances that will manifest when Christ returns to the earth.

Before the seventh seal is opened, we are privy to the first of three ‘interludes’ in heaven, where we can see the disposition of the saints during the various phases of John’s visions:

Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice…”Do not harm the earth, the sea or the trees till we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. 7:2 – 4. NKJV

What follows in a list of the 12 Jewish tribes of 12,000 each – all of which have been sealed by the angels. The ‘seal’ is the name of the Lamb and of God – the seal of salvation. (Rv. 14:1) Some interpreters see the 144,000 as a symbolic number of Jews who come to the realization the Christ is the Messiah, after they witness the rapture of the church of Christ, and watch God defeat the enemies of Israel in the final battle. Thus, like the church of Christ, the Jews are sealed as well. (Rm. 11:26)

John’s vision of the ‘interlude’ continues as he sees the appearance of an innumerable multitude of people from all over the world, dressed in white robes and worshiping the Lamb of God. (Rv. 7:9, 10.) One of the ‘elders’ explains who they are:

“These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore or thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rv. 7:14 – 17. NKJV

Some interpret the multitude to be Gentiles from around the world that witness the rapture of the church, the defeat of Israel’s enemies by God, and the salvation of the Jews. In the face of all this, they too decide to embrace Christ. (Zech. 8:23)

This interpretation then, calls for an additional rapture, which occurs at mid-tribulation. It is another loving example of God’s mercy – giving His children a final chance to come to Him.

John’s vision shifts earthward to see how the inhabitants are faring at this time, and then it returns to Jehovah’ s throne room as Jesus opens the last of the seven seals:

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of the saints on the golden alter which was before the throne. Rv. 8:1 – 3. NASB

Then the angel took the censor, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. Rv. 8:5, 6. NKJV

The seventh seal reveals the ‘judgments of the trumpets,’ which herald the coming of the cataclysmic events of the tribulations. From this scripture, we can take comfort in knowing that the prayers of the saints are ever-present before God’s throne.

The censer that the angel threw to the earth contains the prayers of the saints calling for justice to be served upon their persecutors. God is answering them through His imminent judgments on the ungodly.

Next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

The Second Coming of Christ: 1 and 2 Thessalonians

In our last post, Paul Takes Another Trip, we followed the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. At the end of his trip, Paul stayed eighteen months in the church of Corinth. It was at that time, (~ 50 A.D.) that Paul wrote the letters [with a little help from Silas (also called Silvanus) a prophet and elder of the church in Jerusalem) and Timothy – a Christian acolyte whom Paul was mentoring] that would become the Bible books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Paul writes the first letter in response to a report from Timothy; Timothy said that there was confusion in the church of Thessalonica. The congregants were afraid that if they died before Jesus’ return, they would lose their salvation. The church was also concerned about secular persecution that they were experiencing in their region.

Paul begins by commending the church for their exemplary walk in Christ: For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you; in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 1 Thess. 2:19 NASB

He also reminisces fondly of his prior ministry there, and speaks to his own method of preaching – one that sets a good example for all of us:

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 1 Thess. 2:4 NKJV

Paul is telling us that it is only God’s approval of our behavior that ultimately counts; and that approval only comes when we speak the truth (God’s word) and live by it.

He continues by telling the church that he had sent Timothy to them previously, to strengthen them in their faith, so that they may face their trials and tribulations with courage. Then he reminds them of their calling: For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 1 Thess. 3:3 ESV

(Jesus told us that we would be hated for following Him. We are the ‘peculiar people’ in the world who have chosen to walk the narrow path – the only path that leads to an eternity of complete love. It’s the path where we walk in love):

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thess. 3:12, 13. NKJV

Paul then reminds them of when he had previously taught them how to walk on that path:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these things…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man, but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thess. 4:3 – 8. ESV

Now, Paul gives them a few more pointers from God for staying on the love path:

Be at peace among yourselves…admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess. 5:13 – 22. ESV

Paul then addresses the main event – bringing clarity to their confusion over the return of Jesus Christ:

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest who have no hope [beyond the grave].

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death]. 1 Thess. 4:13 – 15. AMP

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

How cool is that? God is letting us know that we don’t need to worry about the followers of Christ who die before He returns – because they will be the first ones that Jesus will rally to Him. Those who are still living when He returns, get to become airborne to join the eternal throng.

Jesus’ ‘second coming,’ the ‘day of the Lord’ will be wondrous for the followers of Christ, but it will be decidedly disastrous for those who have chosen not to:

…the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and Safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains…and they will not escape.

But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith, and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thess. 5:2 – 8. NASB

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should be together with Him. 1 Thess. 5:9, 10. NKJV

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thess. 5:24 NKJV

Paul, again with some help from Silas and Timothy, sends off the second letter to the church, shortly after the first, because there was a false teacher in their midst who was circulating a counterfeit letter, supposedly from Paul, that said the day of the Lord had already come and gone.

He begins by encouraging them to endure in the face of persecution. Then he tells them that when Jesus returns, it will be a day that cannot be mistaken for any other:

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thess. 1:6 – 10. ESV

Paul is taking about the ‘great sifting.’ That’s the time to be on the side of Jesus.

He then instructs the church not to put any faith into this counterfeit letter in circulation, stressing that indeed the day of the Lord has not come:

Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. AMP

What Paul is saying is that there will be unmistakably distinct events that presage the second coming of Christ. One of those will be the revelation of the identity of the lawless one (the Antichrist) – who will be worshiped by most of humanity as he proclaims himself to be God. (This will be revealed in great detail when we visit the last Bible book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.) However, Paul gives us a few teasers now:

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… 2 Thess. 2:7 NKJV (i.e. there is already a force of evil at work in the world.)

And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming. 2 Thess. 2:8 AMP

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they have refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:9 – 12. ESV

Thus, the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself – to be able to work false miracles, bringing him the adulation and worship of a rebellious world. It is then that God will begin the extraction process of those who pandered to themselves – separating them from the children of God. We also see that when Jesus returns, the curtain is coming down for the Antichrist.

Paul then changes focus in his narrative to encourage the church (that would be us) to be steadfast in our faith:

…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught… 2 Thess. 2:13 – 15. NKJV

(God chose you before you took your first breath.)

Finally, the apostle writes his parting remarks:

Yet the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen [you] and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil [one]. 2 Thess. 3:3 AMP

…do not weary of doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess. 3:13 – 15 NKJV

God is always on your side. When you stick with Him, the devil hasn’t got a chance against you.

We see too that God is always about practicing love. Even if a brother or sister in Christ backslides, you are to distance yourself from them – not to punish them, but in a loving way that encourages their return to the arms of God through Jesus Christ. It’s always about the love.

If we remain at the side of God, ‘the day of the Lord’ is something that we can look forward to with rapt expectation…

Goodnight and God bless.