Revelation 13: 11-18
Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 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. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 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. 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. 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, 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.
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.
Yesterday we saw that the first way that Satan attacks the church is from outside forces such as the State. This may take the form of overt persecution or more subtle legislation against God's people.
The other way he attacks the church in chapter 13 is through the second beast, also known as the False Prophet.
Look at verse 11. He looks like a lamb. In other words, he looks like Jesus, he looks innocent and good and like he’s one of us. He looks like a Christian. But when he opens his mouth his words are from the dragon, in other words his teaching comes from Satan.
He’s a deceiver, a fake, a phony. He’s an impersonator who seeks to fool people into thinking he’s Christian and his teachings come from God.
Jesus, in Matthew 7: 15, told us:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
How does he try to convince people he’s from God?
Verse 13: “And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.”
He does great signs and wonders and miracles and everyone thinks, "Wow, he must be from God."
Verse 14: “Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.”
“He deceived...." Not everything that looks Christian and sounds Christian is Christian. Satan is an expert at copying and counterfeiting what Jesus does. I believe absolutely in the supernatural power of God, I believe in miracles, healing, prophecy and tongues. God is able to do anything.
But I also know that one of Satan’s greatest strategies throughout history has been to counterfeit and copy what God does and deceive Christians into following all sorts of weird and unbiblical teaching. Satan never creates anything himself – he copies, perverts, corrupts and destroys what God is doing. When this happens churches are divided, Christians are discouraged and led astray and our focus is taken off knowing and sharing Jesus and it’s put on peripheral, less important things.
In fact, that is the chief aim of these false prophets – to make us take our eyes off Jesus and worship other people and things.
Verses 14 and 15: “He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast....and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.”
Satan hates it when we worship Jesus. Do you remember why he was thrown out of heaven in the first place? Because he wanted to be worshiped and to be above God. So when we worship Jesus it reminds Satan of his past and his future. It declares to the heavenly spiritual realms and to the world around us that Jesus rules over all, that Satan has been defeated by Jesus, that we belong to Jesus, and that one day Satan will be destroyed for good.
Worship is so important. That’s why Satan tries constantly to distract the church with arguments of styles of worship. His goal is to have us so caught up with what form our worship takes that we don’t worship at all.
Jesus doesn’t care what style or form we use – as long as our worship is focused on Him.
WE ARE ON THE WINNING SIDE – THE VICTORY HAS ALREADY BEEN WON
Remember what it said about Satan’s activity here on earth in Rev 12: 12:
The “devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
His time is short. Satan knows that he is defeated. He knows that his days are numbered. He knows that he is no match for Jesus.
It’s not a battle of two equal foes.
God is eternal and all powerful.
Satan is a created being, he has a beginning, and he will have an end. And he is therefore limited in his power.
He only has as much power as God allows him to have. It was Luther who described Satan as: “God’s devil.” In other words, he has no more power than God allows him to have.
Satan’s greatest weapon against humanity was sin and the death which resulted from our sin. But Jesus has taken even that away from him. Jesus’ lived the perfect sinless life, and in his death on the cross he took all our sin and guilt, and when he rose from the grave he defeated death once and for all. So sin and death have both been defeated by Jesus at the cross.
That’s why it says in 12: 11 that we overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony...”
The blood of Jesus, his blood poured out on the cross for you and for me, is what overcomes all that Satan seeks to do in our lives and in his church.
We may face persecution, we may be beaten, burned, rejected, hated, and tortured. But we’re on the winning side. It’s the last outpouring of frustrated anger from a defeated foe whose days are numbered.
Rev 20:10 tells us how it will all finish up for him:
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Much of the church today acts like it’s on the losing team. It lives in survival mode, maintenance mode, hiding behind closed doors, watering down the message of the gospel so as not to offend anyone or cause any upset.
That’s not the church Jesus Christ died for, taking her sin and shame on the cross.
That’s not the church Jesus rose from the grave for, conquering death and destroying the works of the devil.
That’s not the church Jesus wants to return for as his glorious and spotless bride.
We need to realise that the church of Jesus Christ is on the winning side and is therefore called to live as a victorious church, as an overcoming church.
We are to move forward on the offensive, taking ground for Jesus from Satan, pressing into places of darkness and death where Satan holds power and bringing the light and life of Jesus there.
We are called to be bold, to be fearless in declaring the Gospel of who Jesus is and what he had done, and to call men and women to repent from sin and commit their lives to being part of God’s Kingdom.
To persevere, press on, to prevail, to live courageously as soldiers in God’s army who know that Jesus our Captain is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.