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The Unholy Trinity

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Sunday, April 3, 2005 - 12:00pm
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"He will be an Assyrian by race. He will live in the Middle East. He has not deserted the Bedouin lifestyle into which he was born. But he has deserted the religion of his ancestors. He is not a Muslim. Instead, he worships a new god unknown to his forefathers. And because he has sold himself to this god, he will receive power to make war. His god will give this to him, along with kingly authority over all humankind."

"His first conquests will take place in Egypt and the Middle East. Next he will become the ruler of the New Roman Empire. After this, he will have the whole world at his feet. No nation will be able to make war with him."

"At a crisis point in his career this king is attacked and receives a mortal wound. He recovers miraculously and after his recovery his personal capacities are greatly increased. He is able to identify himself as a reincarnated Roman emperor of long ago. The world worships him as a man who has reached his full potential and is now the god whom all men and women can hope to be if they follow his path."

"The king makes war with those who oppose him. His ambition leads him into the final war of this age - the battle of Armageddon. His career is the subject of many ancient prophecies and in Revelation 13 he is simply called the beast."

I just read you the prologue of a book called Power to Make War written by Zane Hodges, a former professor of mine. The book pieces together, from both Old and New Testament prophesies, the profile of this coming world ruler known as the beast. And much is said about this monster of a man in the chapter we're going to look at today.

This morning we continue our series called Apocalypse: The Revelation of Jesus Christ with a teaching I've called "The Unholy Trinity." If you have a Bible turn with me to Revelation 13.

Revelation 13 is the chapter that many you of have been waiting for. This is the chapter that introduces us to the beast and the mark of the beast and the number 666. Chapter 13 is where popular books based on Revelation camp out. And as we're going to see this chapter is all about counterfeits, counterfeit gods, counterfeit miracles, counterfeit faith, counterfeit worship because that's all Satan knows how to do. Satan is a counterfeiter. He is not God. He can't create out of nothing like God can. All he can do is counterfeit, which is how he tries to deceive us.

If you were here two weeks ago when we looked at Revelation 12 we saw that Satan is the reason there's evil in this world. Evil is not just a force. Evil has a face. And the face is that of the Evil One. Satan is real. And there is a battle raging between Satan and God. Satan's name means "adversary." But the good news is that God will not be defeated. He will win the battle. And if we know God through his Son Jesus Christ we are on the winning side!

Now Revelation 13 details some of the evil that is yet to come.  So hang on to your Bibles, because it's going to get pretty intense from here on out. Chapter thirteen actually introduces us to two beasts, one that comes out of the sea and one that comes out of the earth. Let's look first at the beast that comes out of the sea.

Look at Revelation 13:1-3, And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.  Remember the dragon has already been identified as Satan.  And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.  3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.

This beast that comes out of the sea is an ugly looking thing. Like the enormous red dragon described in chapter twelve, it has seven heads and ten horns with a crown on each horn. And one of its heads sustains a fatal wound, but it's healed to the astonishment of the whole world. The beast looks like a leopard and a bear and a lion all rolled into one. It's an ugly monster, but instead of running from it, the whole world follows it. Amazing!

So who or what is this beast that comes out of the sea? Well, as you can imagine there have been lots of suggestions down through the years, but three views seem to be most popular.

The first view is that the beast represents the Roman Empire of John's day because Revelation 17:9 adds that, The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.  The city of Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, was built on seven hills. And at the time of John's writing Rome was persecuting and killing Christians all over the place for not worshiping Caesar. The apostle John himself was a victim of Roman persecution, exiled on the island of Patmos when he received this revelation. Certainly the beast could represent Rome. But the problem is that the Roman Empire fell over 1,500 years ago. So what could this beast represent in the future?

The second view is that the beast represents any power that sets itself up against God. And certainly there are characteristics of the beast that would fit anything or anyone that is anti-God.

But to me, the best view is the third view, and that is that the beast described here is a person. He's the final, great ruler of this world that comes to power after the rapture and during the Tribulation.  We know from other Scripture that someone evil is coming who wants to rule the world. The apostle Paul refers to him as the man of lawlessness who must come in the end. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 he writes, Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.  4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

I believe that this beast coming out of the sea is this man of lawlessness, doomed to destruction. He will set himself up over everything that is of God, proclaim himself to be God, and demand to be worshiped in the rebuilt Jewish temple.

He is the same evil character described centuries earlier in Daniel 11:36, The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.

So what's the significance of the seven heads and the ten horns? Of course, there's been lots of speculation over that imagery and we can't be sure. But we do know that horns in the Bible are often a symbol of power and the number ten is the number of completeness, ten fingers, ten toes. So this beast will have complete power over the world. Seven is the number of perfection. So his seven heads could mean that for a season is in perfect control. He is the ultimate epitome of evil, a counterfeit god. For a time he rules the world with an iron fist. "Obey me or else. Follow me or else. Worship me or else." He is the inspiration for the character Nikolai Carpathia in the Left Behind series!

And part of his aura comes from a counterfeit miracle. Look again at verse 3, One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.  At one point in his career he sustains a fatal head wound, we don't know how, but it looks like he's dead. But then in a counterfeit resurrection he comes back to life and astonishes the whole world.

Look at verses 4-10, Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" 5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.  6He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.  7He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.  8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. 9He who has an ear, let him hear. 10If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

For forty-two months, that's 3 years, this beast will rule the world. We saw that time frame mentioned in Revelation 11 with the trampling of the outer court of the rebuilt temple and in the length of time the two witnesses will have to proclaim the gospel. We saw it in chapter twelve, as the length of time God will protect the woman who is a symbol of Israel. And now here it is again mentioned as the time frame that the beast has to rule.

This is most likely the last 3 years of the seven-year tribulation period, a time often called the Great Tribulation. Remember, the church was raptured before the seven years began, but now there's been ample time for others to trust Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, through the witness of the 144,000 and also the ministry of the two witnesses stationed in Jerusalem.

The beast has been around since the beginning of the Tribulation. In fact, at the outset he made a peace treaty to protect Israel. But now he's drunk with power and during these last forty-two months he goes nuts, blaspheming God, demanding to be worshipped, and killing anyone who gets in his way.

"Who is like the beast?" reminds us of "Who is like God?" doesn't it? That's what Satan always wanted to be. He wanted to be God. But he couldn't be. So he sets up a counterfeit god, the beast, and performs a counterfeit resurrection and the whole world falls for it. They believe the act and they bow down and worship this monster of a man.

Everyone, that is, except believers, except those whose names are written in the book of life, those who belong to the Lamb. They won't worship the beast and so he hates them. And he makes war against the saints to conquer them. He wants to get rid of all Christ followers. This is a horrible time, a time God says, that calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. That's the way God's people have always faced intimidation, through patient endurance and steadfast faithfulness. But the Great Tribulation will take those virtues to new heights.

That's one beast. That's the man of lawlessness. But there's another beast. There's the beast out of the sea and now there's the beast out of the earth.

Look at verse 11, Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.  12He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.  13And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.  14Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.  15He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.  16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

The beast out of the sea has a sidekick, the beast out of the earth. Now the word "sea" in the Bible is sometimes used as a symbol for the Gentile nations, the sea of nations. So many believe that the first beast is a Gentile, perhaps of Assyrian descent. But this second beast is out of the earth, or literally from the land. The word "land" is often used in the Bible as a reference to Israel and the holy land. So it's possible that this second beast is actually of Jewish descent although we don't know that for sure.

Notice his description. He looks like a lamb, verse 11 says, but he speaks like a dragon. All throughout the book of Revelation who is the lamb? It's Jesus, right? What does this beast look like? He looks like lamb? This beast is a counterfeit Jesus. He looks like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon. Who is the dragon? It's Satan. This beast is trying to look like Jesus, but he's driven by Satan.

He has as much authority as the first beast and uses it to make people worship the beast out of the sea. He does miracles and even causes fire to fall from heaven in front of an audience. And everybody goes, "Wow! Look at that!"

In Revelation 19:20 he's described as the false prophet and I believe that it is this second beast who is actually the antichrist that John wrote about in 1 John 2:18, Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

Every god must have his prophet. So the beast out of the sea, this counterfeit god, has a counterfeit prophet, a false prophet, an antichrist, who orders that an image, a statue, be built and set up in the temple of Jerusalem, to honor the first beast and then he animates it and makes it talk. And if you don't worship it, you're toast. But worst of all he forces everyone to be identified as a beast follower. To buy groceries, to go out to eat, to get gas, to have your shirts cleaned you need a mark. You need a mark to do anything. And the mark of the beast is 666.

Again, there's lots of speculation about how this mark will be applied. Some think it will come in the form of a tattoo or perhaps in the form of a chip embedded in the right hand or forehead of a beast follower. The technology is certainly in place to do that. We don't know for sure, but we do know that people will have to make a choice to either receive it or refuse it. And beast followers will receive it, but Christ followers will refuse it and die for their choice.

Remember, who has Satan wanted to be like ever since he was created? He wanted to be like God? Well, in Revelation 13 we see his final attempt to be like God. He establishes a counterfeit trinity. Instead, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It's the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth. This is the unholy trinity that Satan sets up. And for a while it works for him. He attracts a worldwide following. But it won't last because his time is short.

In Revelation 20:10 we take a peek at the end of the story and we read that, 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.

That's the end of the story. But not only do we see a counterfeit trinity in Revelation 13, but we've seen a counterfeit resurrection, counterfeit worship, counterfeit rule, counterfeit miracles, and a counterfeit mark. God has already marked and sealed his witnesses in chapter seven, now the beast marks and seals his. Remember Satan never created anything. All he knows how to do is imitate and counterfeit because he's a counterfeit god whose time is short. Don't believe a word he says.

Verse 18, This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

This verse has caused more speculation than any other verse in the entire apocalypse. This is the one where everyone gets out their calculators and starts adding numbers to see whose name corresponds to 666, because in Greek and Hebrew and Latin every letter in a person's name has a numerical equivalent.

So over the years people have thought the beast was Nero or Caligula, two Roman emperors, or Muhammad or Martin Luther or one of the popes or Adolph Hitler or Henry Kissinger or JFK or Mikhail Gorbachev or Ted Turner or Saddam Hussein or Osama Ben Laden or even the late Ronald Regan because his full name was Ronald Wilson Reagan - six letters in each name, 666. It gets nuts.

Someone I read suggested with a smile, Mickey Mouse. They took the name of Walt Disney, which has ten letters, and added Donald Duck, which also has ten, to get twenty, then the 101 Dalmatians to get 121, minus the seven dwarfs to get 114, minus the three stepsisters in Cinderella to get 111, times the six letters in Mickey which equals 666! I don't know, Mickey does have a magic kingdom, doesn't he? Ridiculous!

You can use math magic to prove almost anyone fits the profile of the beast. The point is we don't know who the beast is, at least not now, but when he steps up onto the world's stage there will be no mistaking his identity.

Six is the number that was used in that day to represent man. Seven is the number of perfection. 777 is God's number, a trinity of perfection. 666 is one short. Don't be fooled, the beast is just a man. He's not perfect. He's not God. He's a counterfeit. He may act like God, he may talk like God, he may pretend to be God, but he is just a man.

In Revelation 12 and 13 we've see a lot of evil. Satan is given permission to throw his weight around. And he does. He dishes out all the evil he can think of, but it's still not enough to defeat those who believe in Jesus. And the dragon will end up defeated by Michael the archangel. What a great story. What an ending! And what a reminder for us that although times can get tough, they can never get so tough that we can't have victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. That's good news.

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