Thursday, November 17, 2016

Revelation 13:11-18

Revelation 13:11-18
And I saw another beast while going up out of the earth.  And he was having two horns similar to a lamb and he was calling out as a dragon.  And he does all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and he makes the earth and the ones who live in it in order that they will bow down to worship the first beast whose affliction of his death was healed.  And he does great signs in order that he should even make fire out of heaven to come down into the earth in the presence of mankind.  And he leads the ones who live upon the earth astray for the sake of the signs which were given to him to make in the presence of the beast while saying to the ones who live upon the earth to make an image for the beast who has the affliction of the sword and lived.  And it was given to him to give a spirit to the image of the beast in order that the image of the beast should also call out and he should do this in order that as many who should not bow down to worship the image of the beast they should be killed.  And he does this to all people – the small ones, the great ones, the rich ones, the poor ones, the free ones, and the slaves – in order that they should give to them a mark upon their right hand or upon their forehead and in order that should anyone not be powerful enough to buy or sell unless the ones who have the mark of the name of the beast or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom: the ones who have understanding, calculate the number of the beast.  For it is man’s number, and his number is six hundred sixty-six.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

In John’s day, the Emperor Cult was growing in strength.  I’ve mentioned before that the emperors considered themselves divine.  One of the ways that the Christians in the Roman Empire were being persecuted was by the oath that Romans had to take.  At the time of giving the tax to Rome, the tax giver would have to take a pinch of incense, burn it, and confess that the “emperor is lord.”  Naturally, Christians have a problem with this.  When Christians would not take this oath, it brought persecution, arrest, public scorn, and even death upon them. It is this social context that I believe John is speaking.  John doesn’t want the followers of God to take the mark of the beast.  He doesn’t want them collapsing to the social pressure and professing something blasphemous just to avoid persecution.  John knows that the eternal hope of life with God is worth any small amount of persecution we can endure in this world.

When have you been forced to choose between God and the world?  When have you made the right choice?  When have you made the wrong choice?  How do you recover from the wrong choices?

Second Thought:

If we take this perspective, we can see that John is speaking to his context.  John does want to speak to the people about the emperor cult.  It could very well be that this second beast represents the priests and political officials who are drawing attention to the worship of the emperors.  This makes even more sense when we see that the beast makes a law that whoever does not worship the first beast will be killed.  This brings us to another historical note.  Do you remember the story of a man named Daniel?  We know that John often quoted Daniel and he was very familiar with this story.  I can only imagine that as John is watching the world around him that he can’t help but think of the time that Daniel was told that he had to worship one way or be killed.  Daniel went into the Lion’s Den and survived!  John has good reason – both in his personal context as well as in his spiritual past – to encourage the people to stand firm in their faith.

Where are you firm in your faith?  Where do you need help being firm?  Who is there to encourage you to be firm in your faith?

Third Thought:

Within the social context above, there is a very interesting debate regarding the meaning of the mark, 666.  One of the most basic explanations is that God’s number is 777 (Triune God, with 7 being the number of completion).  Satan is the great imitator and deceiver of God, so it makes sense that his number would be one less.  Furthermore, remember that in this chapter we’ve seen a dragon and two beasts, which makes three.  A second common interpretation of the number 666 is that it represents the name of Nero in Roman numerals.  Nero was the emperor who truly started persecuting the church under the emphasis of the emperor cult.  However, in order to accomplish this, you have to use a derivative of Nero, that is, Neron.  This is because N = 50, E = 6, R = 500, and O = 60.  In any case, the mark of the beast emphasizes one very large point: Who is lord?  Who is Lord in my life?  Who is lord in your life?  What do we worship?

What do you worship?  What are your gods?  What about the world around you? What is the world around you worshipping with all of its heart?

Passage for Tomorrow: Revelation 14:1-5
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