The beast from the sea – Don’t fear the blasphemy

Actress Megan Fox has 20.6 million Instagram followers. Recently she posted a picture of her in a very scantily dressed pose, receiving communion from her boyfriend, musician Machine Gun Kelly who is dressed as a priest. The caption reads, “On Sundays we take communion.” If this isn’t blasphemy and a mockery of Jesus and our most central Christian message then I’m not sure what is! Where does this blasphemous idea come from?

“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. ‘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.” (Revelation 13 v 5-10)

How do we live in such a non-Christian world with blasphemy all around us?

Don’t fear this blasphemous beast: No one has authority without it being given by God (v5, 7). Remember if God was still in charge when His Son was crucified then it shows that at no time no matter how anti-Christian this world gets is He not holding ultimate authority.

Don’t fear this blasphemous beast: He has an allotted time and a limited season (v5). This is a symbolic time as we have seen for the trampling of the Holy City, the time of the 2 false prophets and the time of protection for the woman from the dragon. It is simply a time of testing. But it is for a time.

Don’t fear this blasphemous beast: Your name is written in the book of Life, you will make it (v8). In order to make it then we must follow the story of the Lamb, it is His book of Life, His way and His power. It is a mystery revealed. There is no other way.

Don’t fear this blasphemous beast: Just respond to God’s call (v9). We must listen to the Spirit. We must live our lives on what He says.

Don’t fear this blasphemous beast: Be patient under suffering (v10). Remember we fight not as the world fights but with patient endurance.

The beast from the sea – imitations of the truth.

Our dreams and visions are in the context of real events and real people but mixed in with lots of strange imagery at times! Just try listening to your friend tell you their dream last night!

John is seeing his vision unfold in the context of being fully aware of a story about an Emperor, Nero..

“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 worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (Revelation 13 v 3-4)

The worst head of the beast from the sea (the Roman Empire in the time of John) has to be Nero. No one was as wicked and as determined to persecute the Christians as Nero. There are many gruesome stories such as to lighten his garden landscape he would burn Christians on poles. He committed suicide in AD68, “a fatal wound”.

But by the time of this vision many believe he remained alive. In fact there had been many claiming to be Nero in return. Immediately after his death someone claimed that he was a resurrected Nero, one during the reign of Titus and then prior to this vision during the reign of Domitian, Nero makes another return.

Even in the Jewish/Christian world the belief that Nero would return was prevalent so that the name became synonymous with the anti-Christ.

Are you feeling you have heard this story somewhere else? Of course! It is a parody of Jesus Christ who will return soon, though there have been many false Messiahs saying he has done so already.

The dragon only imitates or tries to do so.

We have already seen the beast resembles animals and Jesus is the Lion-Lamb.

The beast from the sea is a 10 horned beast and the Lamb has seven horns.

One of the heads seemed to have had a fatal wound and the Lamb looked as if it had been slain.

The world worship with the question ‘who is like the beast?’ and yet God’s people for generations have asked “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

Soon we will read in verse 7, “And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” and John saw around the throne the 4 living creatures and 24 elders singing “and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

What about the second question? Who can wage war against it?” We know the answer and again eventually will get to this verse in 19:16, “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”

We don’t do fake, imitation and any parody of Jesus. We don’t bow our knee to any kind of emperor. We worship the Emperor of all Emperors, Jesus!

So as disciples of Jesus we remain committed to Him and we worship Him alone! This is perhaps what John is hearing also.

The beast from the sea – surviving as a Christian in a non-Christian world.

Soon we will be reading the beast of the land but for now we focus on the beast of the sea. It looks exactly like the dragon, 7 heads and 10 horns with a crown on each horn. The dragon and 2 beasts form a trinity.

The dragon is chasing the offspring of the Women, you and me. This is where we are right now, the world we live in. The dragon is using the empires of the world to put pressure upon the Church. Our nations are becoming even more godless. As it was in John’s day so in ours.

What is John seeing and why?

“The dragonstood 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.” (Revelation 13 v 1-2)

As we have already discovered, John is seeing what Daniel saw in his exile, 600 years before Jesus in chapter 7. Again the connection is very close. Daniel’s beasts are a winged lion, a bear, a leopard and a 4th greater beast than all the previous ones.

So though the first beast of Daniel is most probably the empire that put Daniel and Gods people in exile, namely King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and then moving into subsequent empires of Medes, Persians and the Greeks. The empire that John and God’s people are struggling under is the Roman Empire. Rome was built on 7 hills it was known as the city of 7 hills and the 7 headed beast from the sea is probably a reference to this.

Rome’s Emperors were anti- Christ. Augustus (27 BC- 14 AD) demanded worship to him. Caligula (37-41 AD) demanded to be known as god. It was Nero (54-68 AD) who was the worst, blasphemous to the extreme! By the time of John, the Emperor, Domitian (81-96 AD) wanted the whole world to worship him as God.

These Christians lived in a culture soaked with a system and values far-removed from their lives. “Saviour, lord, god or son of god” were titles banded around for men who wanted to be treated as divine, celebrity cult-like figures. They knew the penalties for not complying. It isn’t hard for Christians in North Korea and other anti-Christ regimes to understand this, they are in it right now. In fact maybe you will agree that even in the West some governments are also rising with their blasphemies.

Behind it all, “The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority”. The dragon or Satan lies behind the scenes of these anti-Christ empires and governments. There is an unseen manipulative agenda by the dragon to move you from your worship of Jesus Christ. We must not be oblivious and simply rollover when we are being silenced or being led into more secularism. We must not get caught up in the hedonistic desire for more.

One final thought. On each head of the beast was a blasphemous name, that’s what John saw. The dragon’s beast comes with blasphemy and this doesn’t mean that he commits blasphemy against Almighty God through Empires and governments. It can also mean he uses blasphemy as a way to attack the followers of Jesus.

It seems more Christians are being killed under blasphemy laws than for any other reason. That is certainly view of the Christian Association of Nigeria (check them out online) who say that blasphemy is even being charged against women who refuse sexual advances from men of another religion!

What are we to make of all this? Revelation 13 is going to be tough reading. But it will open our eyes and call for us to be aware and alert that all is not what it seems. Let’s not be taken in. Let’s pause and ask who is manipulating, who is behind the scenes, who is lurking in the shadows. As time goes on this is going to intensify for us in the West. For much of the rest of our Christian family it already is. They are already facing the beast every day.

Sunday small thought: Who stands on the shore of the sea?

Little interesting variant here. Some translations have John standing on the sea shore at the end of chapter 12 and some have the dragon standing on the shore at the start of chapter 13.

“The dragonstood 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.” (Revelation 13 v 1)

“And he stoodon the sand of the sea. And I saw …” (Revelation 12 v 17 – 18 v 1 ESV)

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea … (Revelation 13 v 1 KJV)

There is no doubt that the sea brought fear and terror to the hearts and minds of the first century Jew. The sea was chaotic, unpredictable and steeped in their culture was the understanding that monsters lived there, something we will see on the next few days in our readings.

But who is standing on the shore of the sea? Is it the dragon or is it John? Should it be ‘he stood’ or ‘I stood’? No one knows but perhaps the truth is it is actually both.

The devil stands poised to attack us at every turn. He is ready to launch fear at you. He is relentless.

However, we also stand ready, alert, not unaware of his schemes, facing our fears and we do so knowing we face a defeated dragon.

There is one who is angry with you.

And it’s not God!

Never come before God with the feeling He will tell you off, slap you on the wrist and make you feel worse than before. Never think that the bad things that happen are your punishment. This is not God.

Every condemning, accusing, debilitating voice is from the dragon who is permanently angry at you because he failed to kill Jesus!

“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.” (Revelation 12 v 17)

The dragon is interested in you because you love God and you love others, everything hangs on these and because you are not ashamed to declare you are a follower of Jesus.

I met a Missionary Pastor this week who is hoping that one day he will be imprisoned for his faith in Jesus. I’m not sure I carry the same desire but I was moved by his longing to be such a dangerous follower of Jesus that the dragon does exactly that!

We are not afraid of the dragon’s anger. We have seen that the blood of the lamb is greater than the blood of the dragon. We are Jesus’ people!

But it is important to live knowing the dragon is angry because every temptation is not him wanting to give you things but because of his anger; every trial is because you are making him angry because you are living right and making good decisions.

Let’s keep the dragon angry!

The dragon lost the war but the battle rages on

So we know the devil was thrown down. He lost the war in Heaven because of the work of Christ. He is finished and he knows he only has a short time left so he will not be silent.

“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 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 serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 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.” (Revelation 12: 13-17)

The war is over but the battle rages on.

In stark contrast to the river of God the dragon spews a torrent of water at the woman to drown her. Ever feel like you are drowning under a flood of accusations, deceitfulness and lies? Ever feel like walking out, giving up, handing in the keys saying you cannot cope anymore? It is the torrent that is coming against you.

You are part of this drama in these verses. Don’t be surprised.

But be encouraged:-

  1. It is only for a short time: 1260 days, a symbol of the time between Christ’s first and second coming; our lives are short here on earth.
  2. God will find a way for you to be rescued or to hold on in the midst of the suffering. The earth is on the side of God (and us) as it swallows up the torrent.

More difficulties will come for the dragon wants to bring as many down with him as possible but help is on its way. Hold on. More are with us than are against us.

This is how we overcome!

So how did the martyrs in heaven that John saw previously (chapter 6) overcome?

Yesterday I held in my hands a hand-written copy of the book of Acts, written by a Chinese Pastor, who once the authorities had discovered it, he was martyred. How did he overcome?

In the worst of your days when facing terrible health problems or people are accusing you with all kinds of deceit and lies, how do you overcome?

Here is the answer!

“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. 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.” (Revelation 12 v 11-12)

  1. By the power of the cross.

This power is the blood of the Lamb. Yes the dragon may be red, the colour of blood and he may look fierce, but the Lamb is blood stained. There is more power in one drop of His blood than anything the dragon can produce. Why is this important? Because the dragon accuses us day and night. Under the blood there is no voice that can reach us because the blood speaks a better word, you are forgiven, you are cleansed, you are made new.

  • Our witness.

This testimony of the work of Christ and the nature of Christ is hugely important. For we do not reduce either to a lesser level. We hold out for the truth of who Jesus is and what He does. There is no watering down. There is no weakening of our belief and our creed. We do not pamper to those who want him as one of the gods. He is the King of Kings and He demands our all.

  • Our self-giving of our lives.

This suffering is not our defeat but the dragons defeat. Some of you will remember the book ‘The Heavenly Man’ by Brother Yun. I listened to him yesterday in a conference describe how when he was in prison and severely beaten up he really wanted to die a martyr and it would have been easy to do so. But his family urged him to live for Christ. Living for Christ was more of a surrender than dying for Christ. Made me think! Either way as we give of ourselves to Christ how is this overcoming the enemy? It is because what can the dragon do to us if we are cloaked with heaven, if we are not of this world then what is the worst he can do? Precisely! So we overcome!

This is how we overcome!

The accuser is thrown down

Can you imagine waking up today having had a restless night with condemning thoughts and then going through the day having doubts about your abilities and who you are?

Of course you can.

Some reading this today will have woken in the night thinking of that accusation they are facing. Some are in the middle of it right now, they are under investigation, fingers are being pointed and stones are being thrown for the accuser is at work.

Can you imagine in all of that trying to be the best you can be for others, yourself and for God?

I’ve got some news!

“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.” (Revelation 12 v 10)

The accuser is defeated, he is hurled down.

When God looks at you, when He investigates you, what does he find? It is not what your accuser wants you to know.

One of the most destructive events in the Bible, the plague on Egypt, was prevented from coming on the people of God because of the blood that was on their houses. But see this:

Exodus 12:13. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

When I see the blood. 12:23. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

When I see the blood, it doesn’t say when you see it. It is what God finds on you. He finds the sacrifice of His Son. He finds His righteousness placed on you. He finds no condemnation. He finds grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Colossians 3:3 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

What people find is immaterial. What your enemies find matters not. Even what you may find in your self-condemnatory life does not count. It is what HE finds that counts.

I do love Chris Tomlins song ‘Indescribable’. It is a song that is trying to describe the indescribable God. It is a bit like John describing his vision. He is high, He is deep, no one can fathom Him, He is uncontainable, all powerful, untameable and we are awestruck. However, it is almost the last line of the song which I particular value: “You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same”. YOU SEE. That is the point. Our faith needs to be on what He sees.

If we lived our life on what He sees and what He finds and not what we know and what the accuser says then maybe we will live better and perhaps the many decisions of life will be easier.

Our Father in heaven sees and finds the blood of Christ, we are hidden in Him!

The accuser is thrown down.

A dethroned devil

Have I got a word this morning?!

Get into your day because the devil is not where he was!

Put a smile on that face because the devil is not where he wants to be!

Let a song come from your heart because the devil is not on the throne of your life, Jesus is!

What we are going to read in these next few verses is going to greatly encourage you if you allow the words to sink deep into your being!

“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 serpent 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.” (Revelation 12 v 7-13)

The devil and his angels lost their place, v8. The devil was hurled down, v9. The devil and his angels were hurled down, v9. The accuser has been hurled down, v10. The devil has gone down, v12. The devil has seen he is hurled down, v 13.

  • He is thrown down. Put down. Lost the battle.

Pause. What does that mean for us today? As we battle with our circumstance and situation, knowing this truth, how do we respond?

There’s more!

  • The devil knows he only has a short time to live. He knows the good news that Jesus is coming soon. “…he knows that his time is short” v12.

Pause. What does that mean for us today?Are we living our lives with that same knowledge that the devil has? How is that seen in our decisions and responses?

  • He is angry. He pursues the woman and (we will see later) her offspring v17.

Pause. What does that mean for us today? In terms of our prayer and fasting life; our spiritual gifts and natural abilities; the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control flowing from our lives, do they reveal the battle we are engaged in?

The only person really anxious is the devil not us. Why?

He knows he is dethroned. He knows it is over. He has read the last page of the book.

War in heaven

If this ever seemed possible at all John says there was. He saw it.

“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 serpent 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.” (Revelation 12 v 7-10)

At the centre piece of Revelation, the birth of the son, Jesus who was snatched to the throne of God is a war.

“She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” (v5)

The birth, life and death narratives are behind this one short but powerful verse.

Was this war in heaven about the dragon’s pride who tried to rise as the Morning star? Maybe. But what is certain is that the story of Jesus sits at the centre of this war.

When the Son of God was conceived a horrible terrible spiritual war was taking place between good and evil.

The war was being fought as he was being born in a manger and sought after by Herod to be killed. The war was being fought as he grew to be a man. The war was being fought as he was tempted in the wilderness, as he delivered the demon-possessed, as he preached and healed and saw the transformation of many on the hills of Judea. The war was bring fought as his enemies were plotting to kill him, as he walked in the garden of gethsemane and sweated drops of blood and as he hung in the darkness on a cross the war as its worst.

But there was Resurrection day, Ascension Day and the Day of the Throne and the war was over! The war was over in heaven. The dragon, the devil or Satan and his angels had been defeated by Michael and his angels.

What had happened on earth had shifted what was happening with the war. We often think the other way round. But in this case I certainly believe that the victory that Jesus won on earth brought the victory to Michael.

And where is that victory seen?

NOW

Today. It is seen today in our lives and what we are facing. We face it with the victory of Jesus and a defeated dragon. More of that later.