Beastlier [8-7-22]



Hucksters and charlatans and scam artists have been plying their fakery for at least as long as recorded history. No one can speak to the dead or predict the future or raise the dead. No one can read minds. No one can melt a rod years after the rod had been inserted into a man's leg following surgery to stabilize a break. And yes, I once heard that claim by someone right here in Lenawee County.

Years ago, The Amazing Randi, magician and debunker of trickery extraordinaire, did a little experiment with a college psychology class. He had each student write down their name and date of birth. He told them he would have a professional astrologist do a personal reading for each one. The next week, he handed out each reading, tailored specifically to each person. He waited as the class of roughly thirty college students read their forecast. He then asked their reaction. The class excitedly shared how the astrologist nailed it. "That's me." "Wow, uncanny how she truly captured 

me." They were buzzing aplenty about how amazing this was.

Then next thing Randi did was have each student pass their forecast to the person behind them, with the last person in the row bringing theirs up to the person in the front. As this process unfolded, laughter began to build. Then a huge shuffle commenced, as personalized horoscopes were more broadly passed around. Every personalized astrological forecast was exactly the same. How foolish we can be.

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

- Revelation 13:11-14

Here's where we left off with the first beast from Revelation 13:1-10. The first beast, out of the water, connected with the sociopolitical situation of the time. The beast out of the sea pushed emperor worship on people throughout the empire. You can imagine what a threat that was to the church.

Look at the point and purpose of the second beast:

Enable Satan's control over secular society, demanding ultimate allegiance by any and every means available to gain the worship of the masses.

Remember that phrase, "By any and every means available."

How many of you think little lambs, like the ones Mary had, are cute? They're soft and fluffy and gentle. They are harmlessly adorable.

We get a sense of trickery in the melding of the horns of a lamb on a beast. Not a lamb at all. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." We will develop that teaching from Jesus throughout this message. The lamb gives the impression of gentle harmlessness. But in reality, he is a deceiver.

We saw that deception two months ago when the Supreme Court sent the abortion issue back to the states. There were pastors and churches and denominations and others claiming to be within the Christian community who either nuanced their abortion position or outright embraced a pro-abortion position. Failure to draw a clear distinction between the abortion death cult and Biblical Christian teaching is wolf in sheep's clothing behavior. The beast is ravenous for the destruction of innocent human life.

The beast will draw people to worship the devil with cleverness and articulate appeals to self-interest and self-centeredness. Even intellectual appeals. For example, Darwinian Evolution was designed specifically to explain life without a creator. Remember the appearance of a fluffy lamb. He will softly draw people into his ungodly worldview. Here's the pivotal point:

"The dragon, sea beast, and land beast are a satanic trinity that infiltrates 

the political world in order to deflect our worship from the one God whom we cannot see to the authorities that we can see, and to deceive us into buying into a religion or belief-system that has visible results in self-gratification."

The second beast is driven to turn worship away from the One, True God toward the first beast. You notice it doesn't say to create in people a desire to worship. The goal isn't to make people want to worship. In the heart of every person is the longing, the desire, to touch something beyond the self, something greater than troubles or circumstances, something that can take us away from what is going on around us. It is in the heart of every person to need to worship.

People do it with celebrities or performers. They do it in concert venues and in sports stadiums. People worship their work. They worship products and lifestyles. People worship their hobbies. We worship partners or desired partners. That's where obsession comes from. {Every Breath You Take, by the Police, a song about a stalker, not about true love!} You get the point. The second beast will use anything and everything to distract us from where our worship truly and only belongs. And people are easily distracted. Verse thirteen spells that out. "Making fire come down from heaven." People like a good show. Luke 9:54-55 reports that after a village rejected Jesus, "And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, 'Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?' But he turned and rebuked them."

People like the big show. Those are the marching orders of the second beast.

Let's now finish chapter thirteen:

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 small and great, 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 its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 

666.

Disruption is everywhere. While politicians and rulers and thought leaders are not the beast, they are doing the work of the beast. Doesn't matter whether they know it or not. The goal is to cause people to worship the beast.

Here's a glimpse of how that worked from Paul's time, in Acts 13:6-8:

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

The second beast has many tools in his arsenal. The goal is to divide the human race. While some will remain true to the faith, even in the face of death, others will turn to worship the Antichrist. This has played out in different ways in different times but with the same goal…for secular religion to lead people away from God.

Here's how this plays out in our time. While the names and circumstances 

are different, the goal is the same:

To serve the cause of and direct worship to the Antichrist.

  • Churches and preachers that embrace the prosperity gospel are abandoning Biblical truth. If someone doesn't understand that the second beast is luring people away from worshiping the One, True, and Holy God through the prosperity gospel, then they either don't or don't want to understand scripture.

  • While liberal denominations are almost beyond repair, more and more in the evangelical world are losing their grip on the essentials of Biblical truth.

  • Pundits and elected officials question funding for organizations that help women who want to have their babies. In the same breath, they champion the termination of innocent life. Why not have the courage to let the unborn be born? Secular religion flexes its rebellious muscle 

in worshiping the first beast.

  • Over two years ago, some people, under the spell of fear, were too enamored with the mantra of government authority and scientific experts. In many cases, these experts were wrong or misleading. Some even used legitimate concern over a public health crisis to flex their authoritarian muscle. As a result, many people drastically altered their lives, routines, and family relationships. Too many people were clouded by fear. In some cases, churches cancelled in-person worship for over a year. Still now, over two years later, people's hunger and thirst for in-person worship has not recovered to pre-pandemic numbers.

Here's something you might want to write down:

VULNERABLE PEOPLE ARE EASY TO CONTROL.

Again, please don't misunderstand. This doesn't mean that people are intentionally worshiping the first beast or consciously doing the bidding of the second beast. It simply means that the second beast is a deceiver. Sometimes his deception is subtle. He plays on people's fears. He plays on people's lack of understanding God's Word. He plays on people's desire to be part of some grand and glorious movement. He plays on the comfort people find in group-think. The second beast has an arsenal full of ways to deceive. He cleverly packages comfort to the burdened and peace for the troubled. He offers a sense of belonging for the lonely and healing for those who have been maimed or wounded or injured from the world of sin in which we live. Again, remember, he is the epitome of the wolf in sheep's clothing described by Jesus in Matthew 7. Be watchful and discerning.

This quote from 16th century theologian and writer Heinrich Bullinger fits perfectly here:

"For the evil prince, seduced by the devil, corrupts the ways of God, and by his own fault and naughtiness he transgresses God's ordinance. He does this so far, that he worthily deserves the name of devilish power, and not divine authority."

I love how Luke eight describes the behavior of the true followers of the Lamb who was slain:

And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, 

desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers 

are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

- Luke 8:20-21

Here's something else you might want to write down:

THE MARK, THE DNA, OF JESUS'S FAMILY IS GLAD SUBMISSION TO HIS WORD.

That…that is how you know you won't fall prey to the work of the second 

beast.

Finally, a last word on the last verse - verse eighteen.

Verse eighteen garners a lot of attention. The number of the beast. Imagine if gas prices had reached a national average of $6.66 per gallon. You know how crazy people can get over the number of the beast. It's one of the most commonly remembered pieces from The Book of Revelation.

Let's find the chase and cut right to it. No one knows to whom or what the number refers. In fact, many, if not most, explanations, while ingenious, are nonetheless unconvincing. So it's best to leave it alone. For me, if pushed to try to understand it, the best explanation is also the simplest… 666 is a cryptogram. In other words, while 7 is the number of perfection, 666 falls short of perfection in each of its digits. This means failure upon failure upon failure. It is symbolic of the beast's continuing failure to accomplish his purpose.

Here's the last thing you might want to write down:

666 is the trinity of imperfection.

To quote Forrest Gump, and that's all I have to say about that.

Let's pray:

We thank you, Father, that we are on the winning side. Not by 

anything we've done, but by Your grace. We rejoice that we are able to withstand every effort of Satan to pull us away from You. Our worship and devotion and praise belongs to You, and You alone. We praise you for the promised return of Jesus Christ. Thank You that You are our sovereign God and that You control history in all its parts. We give You glory in Christ and in Christ alone. Amen. 

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