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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1915: Friday 19th April 2019: Revelation 13: 11-18: ‘All that glitters…’

Revelation 13: 11-18: ‘All that glitters…’

“11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” NIV

There are two beasts described in Revelation 13. It is one of the best known chapters in the book (possibly the best known). Even non-Christians have regularly dipped into it – notably writers of horror material for novels and films.

More generally, this second beast represents, I believe, religious power in the service of the secular state. This is always a formidable, deceptive and dangerous reality. Notice he attempts to appear gentle and harmless, but remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:15. There are nice, kind, loving false teachers around. We must not be duped by their niceness. That may be just a short step away from being devoured by their doctrine.

But specifically, many believe this has ultimate reference to a ‘false prophet’ who will endorse and apparently authenticate the antichrist by the false miracles he performs. As you look at verse 13, you may find it helpful to also have a look at Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Matthew 24:24 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Not everyone who works miracles is a genuine believer. ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ Christians can be so gullible, so easily taken in, with their desire for the spectacular. There are counterfeit miracles. (This looks like a counterfeit of 1 Kings 18:24-39).

So, in the dragon and the two beasts in Revelation 13, we see a false trinity of Satan, secular power and religious compromise (and, ultimately, Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet) joining together against the cause of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

But the dragon can’t win! Never forget it. On Good Friday, we remember how he did his worst, when he had Jesus crucified. But death could not hold our Lord, and three days later He was back.

Whenever it’s ‘Friday’, remember ‘Sunday’s comin’!

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1914: Thursday 18th April 2019: Revelation 13:9, 10: Keep going.  

Revelation 13:9-10: Keep going.

Whoever has ears, let them hear. 10 ‘If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword,with the sword they will be killed.’” NIV

I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have to live out your faith under an anti-Christian regime. Nor can I imagine the terror of living under antiChrist’s regime during the last of the last days. But it strikes me that genuine Christianity, even where there is ‘freedom’, ‘’calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints’’ (10). There are many little deaths we must die, mini martyrdoms we must face in order to follow Christ – even on easier days. Being willing to undergo them may well prepare us for the greater sacrifices, should we have to make them.

PRAYER: Lord, I fear my own cowardly nature, but I believe you will supernaturally empower me to go through anything I have to face for your sake. Thank you Lord.

Daily Bible thoughts 1913: Wednesday 17th April 2019: Revelation 13:5-8: ‘Given’.

Revelation 13:5-8: ‘Given’.

“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling-place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” NIV

You may have noticed the repeated use of the word ‘’given’’ in these verses. I make it three references. When something is hammered in this way we have to take note.

These are terrible verses, and I can’t imagine that anyone wants to live through the reign of the final antichrist. But what we have to understand and hold on to is the great and wonderful mystery of God’s sovereignty. He is in control. He permits certain things, but He is reigning.

Although the ‘’beast’’ exercises authority, it is only for a limited time, and he is always under authority.

God is on the throne.

Daily Bible thoughts 1912: Tuesday 16th April 2019: Revelation 13:1-10: A diabolical trinity.

Revelation 13:1-10: A diabolical trinity.

The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling-place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.Whoever has ears, let them hear.10 ‘If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go.If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.’This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.” NIV

It’s been pointed out that in Revelation 13 we meet a sort of counterfeit ‘trinity’. You have the ‘’dragon’’ who is a kind of counterfeit God the Father, sending the ‘’beast’’, who is a form of counterfeit Son. Then we are going to meet one who, we meet say, is a counterfeit Holy Spirit (11-18), bringing glory and honour to the ‘’beast’’.

 This is an interesting, and, I believe true observation. Satan seeks to counterfeit the work of God. But remember, you can only counterfeit what is genuine. So, in a way, the presence of counterfeit Christianity in the world can encourage us. But it means we will always need discernment to the very end of time, because the spurious will always be with us, this side of the second coming.

I understand that an expert on forgeries said that the way to train yourself to spot a fake is to make sure you are as familiar as possible with the genuine.

PRAYER: Lord, I recognise there is such a thing as truth, and there is such a thing as error. I know you do not want me to be deceived. Please give me eyes to see through everything which is false.

Daily Bible thoughts 1911: Monday 15th April 2019: Revelation 13: 1-5: Counterfeit.

Revelation 13: 1-5: Counterfeit.

“The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.”NIV

‘As often in the world of realpolitik, or underworld dealings, so in the world of spiritual warfare: the ultimate powers prefer not to show themselves, but to act through others.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.115.

There will come a day when there is a final world government, focussed in one last diabolical dictator. He will cause every other tyrant to pale into insignificance. Revelation 13 has been interpreted in this way by many Christian commentators for many years. That doesn’t make it a correct interpretation, but I see no good reason to reject it. Antichrist will come. He is not simply against Christ but, as the word suggests in its original meaning, one who sets himself up in the place of Christ. This is the ultimate blasphemy. The antiChrist will fall for the temptation Jesus had resisted (Matthew 4:8-10). (Consider the counterfeit seeming death and resurrection in verse 3) We know from the previous chapter that Satan has been hurled out of heaven to earth where, for a time, he will be permitted to do his worst, and this includes opposing the church. His last big move will be to have himself worshipped in the person of this seemingly all-powerful figure (4). The third verse shows the great power of the beast. It will be extremely difficult to kill him. But he will be dealt with, as we shall see. Like the dragon – Satan himself – this agent of his will be on borrowed time (5).

The background to this passage is found in Daniel 7, but here the four beasts are telescoped into one figure.  It is important to remember, though, that for John, the ‘’beast’’ would have represented the Roman Empire. For example, in John’s day, Roman emperors gave themselves the names of gods; in fact they considered themselves to be gods. Says Tom Wright: ‘…John sees behind the pomp and the purple to the dark spiritual reality of satanic rule which has enabled the empire to impose itself across so much of the world. Rome is the obvious and only ‘monster’ candidate in the first century. But the phenomenon of heartless, dehumanised pagan empire, sadly, did not end with the decline and demise of Rome. This is why the sharp relevance of all this for John’s own readers remains, in a different guise, for other readers to this day’, p.116.

‘For John, this beast was like the Roman Empire. But we must remember that the real meaning of the beast is broader than that. The beast is a sign of every evil worldly power in every age that opposes Christ and His church.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.981.

But, I believe there will be one final empire representing the devil’s last throw of the dice, before he is totally overthrown. At the end, all the evil of previous empires will be rolled into one nasty human ball. He will strut his petty hour on the stage, but the curtain will fall, and there will be no applause – only cheers that he has gone for good.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1910: Friday 12th April 2019: Revelation 12:13-17: Pursued and protected.

Revelation 12:13-17: Pursued and protected.

“13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the snake’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the snake spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” NIV

Jesus said: ‘’If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name’’ (John 15:18, 20,21). It is important to remember that any persecution the church suffers comes because of the great cosmic battle between Christ and Satan.

As we have seen in recent days, we face an enigma here: the church is both pursued and protected. It’s a paradoxical situation in which we find both a protected and a persecuted church. The protection is real, but believers are here prepared to die for their faith, and, indeed, some of them do so (11b). There is something of a parallel with the Exodus story, in which the people of Israel were pursued and protected. God cared for them, and provided for them in ‘’the desert’’. But that wilderness was a difficult and dangerous place.

The main point to note is the spiritual protection of believers in the face of all that Satan throws at them.

A summarising comment by Tom Hale, regarding chapter 12, is helpful, I think:

‘…the events described can refer both to events which have already taken place and also to events that will take place at the end of the world. First, the vision can be interpreted as a commentary on the past: Christ has already been born, and has defeated Satan on the cross; and Satan, ever since, has been persecuting Christ’s church. Second, the vision can be interpreted as a commentary on the future: at the end of the world, the final struggle between Satan and God will take place, and at that time Satan will again be hurled out of heaven to earth, where he will fiercely persecute Christ’s church for the short time remaining to him before he is finally destroyed forever.’ ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.981.

Satan is a mortally wounded beast. His time is short (12), and he knows it. But a mortally wounded animal can be dangerous. Never forget, though, that the overcoming and casting-out of the devil is a major theme of this Book.

Daily Bible thoughts 1909: Thursday 11th April 2019: Revelation 12:7-12: Teamwork.

Revelation 12:7-12: Teamwork.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

‘Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.’ NIV

 

Tom Wright tells a story about a football match in which the ball was crossed into the penalty box, and two players went for it. It seems they both got a touch, and the ball ended up in the back of the net. Later, in the dressing room, there was playful banter between the two men as to who had really scored. The coach came up to them and said, ‘Well, arguably I was responsible for the victory, because I prepared you – and the rest of the team – for this game!’

Revelation 12 describes a triumph over Satan won in heaven. Yet it is also won on earth by believers:

  • Who overcome ‘’the accuser’’ by trusting in Christ’s blood. (No charge against them can stick because of the atoning work of Jesus);
  • Who testify to Jesus, and
  • Who are willing to pay the ultimate price for their witness.

This victory is ultimately God’s, but Christians get to play a very real part. In a sense we can see that teamwork is involved.

Daily Bible thoughts 1908: Wednesday 10th April 2019: Revelation 12:10: Critic.

Revelation 12:10: Critic.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

‘Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down. NIV

 

No-one likes a critic. Not really. That person who is always fault-finding – you don’t find them easy company, do you?. You sense they have one finger permanently pointed at you, stuck in your face (and, in fact, at most people other than themselves). Whatever you do for them, you know you will never measure up. There will always be grounds for criticism.

Well, the devil is the arch-critic. He’s always on your case: accusing you to God; accusing you to yourself, and accusing you to others. He’s not nice at all. The fact then that Someone greater has grabbed him and hurled him down is cause for ‘’loud’’ rejoicing.

Of course, he may well have a point in much that he says, but because you are trusting in ‘’the blood of the Lamb’’ (11), you overcome him. The record of your sins has been done away with. You are clean in the sight of Heaven.

Daily Bible thoughts 1907: Tuesday 9th April 2019: Revelation 12:6-17: The final score

Revelation 12:6-17: The final score

The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

‘Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.’

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the snake’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the snake spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. NIV

This chapter speaks of:

  • A decisive victory; and
  • An on-going struggle.

As I wrote yesterday, these are truths we have to ‘hold in tension’ because they threaten to pull apart. They are paradoxical truths – seeming contradictions.

We can thank God for the decisive victory. This is reflected in the repeated statement that the devil and his minions were ‘’hurled down’’ (see 9, 10, 13; also Luke 10:18). ‘Hurl’ is a strong word. Satan has not been dealt with gently. This points to a decisive victory.

But look where he has been ‘’hurled’’ to – ‘’the earth’’ (9,13). The paradox is that although the devil is a defeated foe, he is also an active one. In the mystery of the divine purposes, he is still permitted to move ‘’around like a roaring lion’’ here in this world. He has a ravenous appetite for blood; he causes mischief and mayhem. He attacks the church. So there is the further paradoxical truth to wrestle with that, although the church is protected, she is also pursued.

 In it all, we need to remember that the devil is ‘God’s devil’, as Martin Luther put it. He is on a long chain, but he is on a chain, and he can only do as God permits. Such is the mystery. But we have read to the end of the Book. We have seen how it all ends. We have heard the final score. We know the devil is the ultimate loser. He won’t be lifting any trophies. He’s not on the winning team.

PRAYER: May this truth sink deeply into my heart, Lord, that the enemy has been ‘’hurled down’’. Although we still have to live in the middle of the great conflict, I pray we will be clear in our thinking that the victory has been won. All glory be to God.

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