In 2009, I decided to study the book of Revelation, which became a year and a half adventure. This study also included examining the schools of interpretations on how to approach reading this Apocalyptic letter given by way of prophetic vision to the imprisoned Apostle and delivered to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The Revelation is a difficult letter to study because of its prophetic nature and the symbolism used. I avoided reading it for my first 23 years as a Christian. This was probably due to the challenging nature of studying Revelation, sorting out the many views (and views within views), and feeling inadequate. For many years, the church has debated and even divided over the interpretation of Revelation. But after my study, I came away encouraged and hopeful. No matter which view you hold, whether historical, futurist or idealist (or any other), Jesus is victorious at the cross and at the end of time! For this article, I will speak about four topics found in Revelation 13. They are warfare, worship, wisdom and the world.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”
As Christians, we have a target on our back! We have a very real enemy that would like nothing more than to destroy Christ’s church. God has provided our weapons and readiness given by the gospel! Revelation 13 identifies the spiritual forces of evil. They are the counterfeit (unholy) trinity identified as the dragon, the beast and the false prophet (2nd beast). This war first started in heaven (Rev 12), and now exists over the earth. So these evil spiritual forces have already come against God and were defeated. They lost their position and rights in heaven for good. The devil is now limited to roam the earth (1 Pet. 5:9) and wage war on the church. The weapons of choice these evil spiritual forces use are deception (1 Tim. 2:14), seduction (Rev. 14:8, 17:2), and persecution (Rev. 13:15). I specifically put them in that order.
Worship is also a big part of Revelation 13. We see the beast with the full power and endorsement of the dragon, give power to the second beast (false prophet) to demand worship from the inhabitants of the earth to worship an image of the beast. This worship is not voluntary, but demanded, with non-compliance being death. This is the polar opposite of how God approaches worship. The worship of God is voluntary and motivated by his love.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand,”
As in any warfare, this battle calls for wisdom (Rev 13:18). Wisdom is the application of knowledge, judging rightly based on knowledge and understanding. Here wisdom is needed to understand the strategy of the beast. The ‘beast rule’ requires its worshipers to be marked in order to participate in its economy. The right hand refers to having power and authority over someone or something (Eph. 1:20-21), and the forehead can be understood to represent our way of thinking and philosophy (world view). In this case, embracing the authority and power of the image of the beast.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
The world is not only the setting for this spiritual battle but is also a nemesis to the saints. Like the spiritual forces of evil, the world (influenced by these spiritual forces of evil) has something to offer as well. The world first hated Jesus, and because we are his, it hates us.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
So who is the world? The world is comprised of governments, false religion, worldly philosophy and all those who hate God. We see all of these at work persecuting Jesus and ultimately bringing false charges against him. But the Lord, who is abundant in love, mercy, and grace prayed for them while dying on the cross (Luke 23:34). Going back to Ephesians 6:15 which I quoted earlier, we have been given this gospel of peace to proclaim good news to a lost and dying world.
We see things happening in the world both during the first-century church and currently being unsettling and downright crazy. This world was never intended to be our identity. Our identity is found in our union with Christ! Christ is victorious and reigns on the throne now! The final restoration is when evil is forever destroyed, and Christ sets up his eternal kingdom on the earth forever!