Day 356: Two Beasts

Micah 6-7Revelation 13

Two beasts…one affects nations and governments; the other deceives the church. Both beasts are given their authority by the dragon, by Satan himself.

The background for the first beast comes from Daniel 7.

The first beast resembles all four beasts that Daniel saw emerge from the sea before the Son of Man appeared (Dan. 7:1–8, 21). As those beasts symbolized kingdoms (Dan. 7:17, 23), so this beast, a composite of them all, represents every human empire—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and their successors—that demands absolute allegiance and trust, enforcing its demand with coercion (ESV Study Bible, Study notes re: Revelation 13:1-2, Crossway).

I believe the first beast is still active today…in obvious world leaders who brutally kill Christians as well as in the subtle influences of Humanism. The first beast is among us, but even more dangerous is the 2nd beast…

If the first beast lies behind secular powers who strive to overthrow all that is Christian, the second beast comes as a prophet drawing people towards worship.  In other words, this beast targets people within the church itself (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 183).

Both beasts are disturbing parodies of Christ. The first beast’s “mortal wound which was healed” is a twisted echo of Christ’s resurrection (13:3, 12). And the 2nd beast looks like a lamb, but speaks falsehood (13:11, 14).

The beasts are the Satanic influences in our world. In light of such fierce opposition, John exhorts the church to endure (13:10).

We can endure because God has given us hope. Our hope is in the promises of God – that He will gather His children in the last days and usher us into His Kingdom forever. There, we will live in peace and perfect relationship with Him and one another. This is our hope. This is our future!

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old (Micah 7:18-20).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 355: The Victorious Church

Micah 3-5; Revelation 12

The power of God’s word…

The prophetic words of Micah 5 combined with the vivid images of Revelation 12 swirl together to form a dramatic climax!

The Baby defeats the dragon.

Israel bears a Son ( Micah 5:3; Rev. 12:1-2). The dragon stands, waiting for the child to be born, so he can devour it (Rev. 12:4). But the child is more powerful than the dragon because the child is the child of God.

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne (Rev. 12:5).

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4).

And so the battle rages on… The dragon, who was not able to destroy the Child, turns his vengeance on God’s children (Rev 12:12-1317; Eph 6:10-12). But just as God rescued His people from the hands of the Egyptians and protected and provided for His people in the wilderness, so He protects His church in these last days.

For even though the battle still wages, the battle has been won.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (Revelation 12:10-11).

The martyr’s cry is the call of victory against the devil and his schemes. For death is not the final defeat – but the beginning of life born anew to those who love the Lord, their God!

We are living in the last days – in the days when God’s message of salvation is going out to the nations! A time where we enjoy great joy and peace in the presence of our King – a time that is not yet fulfilled. We live in the church age – in the “now and not yet” which is prophesied in Micah and Isaiah!

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations far away;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore (Micah 4:1-4; Isaiah 2:1-4)

…we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever
(Micah 4:5).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 354: The Suffering Church

Micah 1-2Revelation 11

We begin Micah today! Micah was a contemporary of Amos and Isaiah. He probably lived during the Assyrian invasion of Israel and their failed attempt to capture Jerusalem under Hezekiah’s reign. Micah brings God’s legal case against His people – outlining their many sins which justify the judgment that was to come. But there is a cycle of grace within Micah as he ends each judgment oracle with the promise that God would gather and restore. Today’s reading ends with the promise of the Shepherd-King who would come to redeem Israel (Micah 2:12-13)!

Transitioning to Revelation, we are still in the midst of an interlude (between the 6th and 7th trumpets) which shows what happens to the church. This chapter is subject to many different interpretations, but I believe that both the temple and the two witnesses are symbols for the church.

Let me briefly run through the symbolism (summarized from P. Gardner’s commentary, Revelation)…

  • 11:1 – Measuring the temple shows that the church is sealed and protected.
  • 11:2 – Outer courtyard of the temple represents unbelievers.
  • John’s vision of the temple hearkens back to Ezekiel’s 2nd temple vision (Ezekiel 40-48). One of the interpretations of this vision is that the restored temple is the New Testament church – especially since God’s presence returns to the temple. Now that Christ has come and been crucified – New Testament references to God’s temple or household refer to the church.
  • 11:3 –  The church will prophesy for 3.5 years. This time period is symbolic of half of the time of fulfillment (7 years) which shows that the time is limited and sovereignly controlled by God.
  • 11:4 – The two witnesses are called “the two lampstands” which is what the 7 churches were called in Rev. 2-3.
  • 11:4-6 – The “two olive trees” symbolize “two anointed ones (Zech. 4:11-14). Also, the special powers attributed to the two witnesses in 11:6, represent Elijah and Moses – who were also supported by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Then we read in vs. 7-12 of the Beast killing the two witnesses, the world mocking them and then miraculously, after 3.5 days, they are resurrected. According to Gardner, this is probably not the final resurrection, because this is all happening before the 7th trumpet is heralded, in other words, before the final judgment. No, this seems to be only a precursor to the final resurrection.

If the two witnesses are the church – then it is the church which is killed by the beast and the church which is resurrected. We’ve seen this happen throughout history – how the church is persecuted so heavily that it seems to be wiped out, but somehow it grows and multiplies in spite of the persecution. Consider China…Mao tried to rid his country of Christianity, but today, there are millions of Christians in China!

I believe we are living through this part of Revelation, and that the church will suffer until the final judgment comes…

We read of this final judgment at the end of the chapter (11:15-19) when the 7th trumpet sounds. The elders sing of the God who was, and the God who is (11:17), but they do not say the familiar “The God who is to come” because he has come! This is the day when the unbeliever will be judged and the believer will be rewarded. This is the day our Shepherd-King will come again and gather His people and we will enter His rest!

I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I will gather the remnant of Israel; […]

Their king passes on before them,
the Lord at their head (Micah 2:12-13).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.