In the book of Revelation the Church is not called to react to the End or the antichrist by moralistic, militaristic, or political means. The Church is called to return to Messiah Jesus, remembering that those who continue faithful to the End will receive the “crown of life.” The way of resistance of evil, is the way of Christ. That is, loving Christ Jesus, and loving others. Taking up our crosses and following Jesus and loving others, even when it hurts, is a sure sign that we don’t and won’t have the “mark of the beast.”
What if the clearest mark of the beast is the mark of hatred and hostility? Many have thought it stood for Nero (the numerical value of 666), and perhaps it did in a way. He was, as history showed, marked by the beast. He was, as history showed, like his father the devil. He was proud and unloving, destructive and devilish.
Is not the mark of the Messiah, the mark of beatific love?1 Do not His followers, follow Him? If Jesus is love, should not His followers be loving?!2
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (Corinthians 13:4-7).
And would it not make sense that the converse also follows? If the mark of the Messiah is true sacrificial love, is not the mark of the antichrist hatred? And what if the serpent of old, the father of lies, the great deceiver, is adept at what he does? And what if he wants to destroy and divide even what Messiah Jesus died to bring together? And what if he even uses the means of media and the marketplace and various views on certain medical opinions regarding COVID-19? What if?…
And what if the worst thing that can happen to Christians is not that they’d lose earthly freedom(s), but that they’d lose heavenly crowns? not that their earthly country would be divided, but that their heavenly one would be? not that they’d have to wear a mask, but that they’d have a mask put over their eyes? What if Satan’s not primarily trying to destroy a country, but what if he desires to destroy Christians and Christian witness? What if Satan doesn’t want the nation to descend into debauchery, but wants Christians to be desensitized to their hatred and fear?
Revelation also talks a lot about Babylon. Babylon was what a lot of people cared about and had their hopes fixed on. However, Christians, are marked by and are members of a different city. Christians have their hope wrapped up in a city, but it’s a different city, a city that comes down from heaven, a city that couldn’t be built here. It’s beyond and better than here.
Christians live, labor, and love in Babylon, but they’re waiting for something better. They’re waiting for Jerusalem to come down.
Christian brothers and sisters, are you showing the mark of your Savior? The characteristics of Christ? The mark of your true city? Or, are you too wrapped up here? Are you betting on Babylon3 or are you “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”?!
We, as Christians, are sojourners here in Babylon. Our time is short. Let’s be a blessing as Scripture exhorts us (Jeremiah 29:7). But, let’s remember, any castle we build with our hoarded cash, will soon wash away with the tide of time. Let’s not lay up hoards here or place our hope here. But in heaven.
1 Ephesians 1:13 tells us that all who are in Messiah Jesus have been sealed (or marked?!) with the promised Holy Spirit. Notice also that it is the Holy Spirit in Jesus followers who produces the fruits of the Spirit, one of those fruits being love.
2 God alone provides access to the Garden of Eden and the pathway there is through the Golgotha of sacrificial love.
3 If politics has you overly down, perhaps it’s because you placed your hope in a ship that must inevitably sink.
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Satan disguises himself.
That is a rather scary prospect.
The serpent of old (Rev. 20:2), the great dragon (Rev. 12:9), the one who goes around like a lion just waiting to destroy (1 Pet. 5:8), disguises himself. And his disguise is not what we would expect.
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He cloaks himself in radiant dress in order that he may deceive. He once took the form of a serpent (Gen. 3:1). If a snake came up to you and talked and tempted you today you’d probably see right through it. You’d probably run.
“For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The Christian battle is not a battle of the flesh. The Christian’s weapon is not physical and material. But the battle is no less serious. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
As Christians, we are to fight. But our fight is the fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12). Our weapons are not human. We don’t use swords, knives, and guns. Instead, we carry “weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (2 Cor. 6:7). Our sword is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Eph. 6:17).
Our weapons, even though they are not of the flesh are powerful. They’re powerful because they are “through God” (2 Cor. 10:4). We are “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10).
Sin Looks Really Good
It is a graphic scene, depicted in the most vivid way. A recent celebrated movie shows the character smiling in glee as he takes his own life. This depiction is sad yet we see it week-in and week-out. The movie is The Return of the King and the character is Gollom. Gollom, previously known as Sméagol, use to be a regular hobbit but was corrupted, enslaved by the ring. His infatuation with the ring started slow (a weekend here and there) but ended desperately. Gollom loved and hated the ring. He was torn, he wanted to be free from the ring and yet relentlessly pursued it.
At the end of the movie, Gollom finally has, as he says, “my precious.” But in getting the ring he has destroyed himself and everyone, indeed, everything around him. Yet his refrain is, “my precious.” Gollom’s last scene is one of great joy (for him). Gollom fights Frodo over the ring, another character that was nearly wholly-destroyed by the ring. Gollom is fierce. He wants the ring at any price. He bites off Frodo’s finger and rejoices over his plunder. He embraces his cruel master as his beloved friend. He falls, seemingly, blissfully in the lava and as he sinks he rejoices that he has comfort from pain, he has everything, he has his “precious.” Then he sinks and he and his “precious” are gone.
This scene, though portrayed differently, is a scene I have seen too often. This scene is the climax and conclusion of far too many stories of sin. Sin looks good. It is so sad to see people enraptured in love with their cruel master and executioner.
Sin is ingeniuine. It makes big promises but never delivers. Truly the world and sin “promises happiness, and nothing less… It promises to satisfy our desires, but only increases them; it gives poisoned pills, but wraps them in sugar.”[i]
Satan sells us lies and blinds our eyes. He would have us contended with filth and miss the glorious Lord who is worthy of all praise and can satisfy our longing soul. Truly Satan is crafty and subtle in his lies (recall the way he talked to Eve; Gen. 3:1ff cf. Lk. 4:1). He is a lion that is crouched low (1 Pet. 5:8). We don’t always see him but his desire is to destroy.
Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 2:13) and his worship leads to curses and hatred of neighbor. In him is death and he is the futility of man; whoever lives in his influence shall perish and not have life (reverse of Jn. 1:4; 3:16). The world sits on the back of this evil beast of death (cf. Rev. 17:3). The world doesn’t know it but all people follow the course the beast as set, and it’s a funeral procession, that leads to the grave (cf. Eph. 2:1-3).
So Satan, the lord of this age, is rightly called the “deceiver of the whole world,” the “father of lies” (Rev. 12:9; Jn. 8:44 cf. Rev. 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3; 2 Cor. 11:3; 2 Thess. 2:9-11; 1 Tim. 2:14). He is a dragon that smites many hosts yet not by the fire of his mouth but by the damning effects of his lies. And what do you expect his children to say? “They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves” (2 Pet. 2:19 cf. Matt. 24:24; Jn. 8:44; Rom. 16:18; Eph. 4:14). Those that know not Christ are blind and would have us wonder around in darkness too (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-6). Satan and his children boast of good, but it’s all tainted, and leads to death (cf. Prov. 5:1-6; 7).
Thus, sin is not good because although it can look good, it’s not. It damns and destroys the good world God made. The de-creation voice of Satan pulls us toward death and non-being. It may sound good, as it did to Eve, but it is anything but good. It destroys. It curses and creates confusion. It sends us guilty out of Eden, where our good lays, and into Gehenna.
[i] Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm, 44.