Many of my friends (and I) believe the Rapture (departure) of the true church of Jesus Christ will be the next “outside” intervention of God in human affairs. If 10% of 8 billion people on the earth know Jesus, then that would be about 800 million men, women and children. Essentially God will suddenly remove everyone who knows Jesus Christ personally—men, women, children. They will all be taken to a safe place (New Jerusalem) for seven earth years.
The harpazo (catching away) of the true church will leave a false church behind. Not wishing that any should perish, Almighty God will then commence a radical new rescue program for the ~7 billion people who have been left behind.
This article is a working paper sketching what the Bible says about the returning of Jesus Christ to our beleaguered planet. Phase I is the rapture. Phase II is the Second Coming in glory. Read the Bible and see for yourself. The Bible does not teach truth or doctrine in sections that are all in one place. Please read the links for important details:
The False Church | What is Revelation from God? | Two Aspects of the Return of Jesus | The Rapture
Who am I -- Really? | Are These the Last Days? (1980)
If the Rapture Happened Today | The Left Behind | On Everlasting Destruction
Much speculation and many books on this subject have understated the significance of the departure of the true church at the end of the present age, and the events that will follow. Human beings are fragile. We’ll surely freak out if our creature comforts, friends, pets, associates were suddenly snatched from us. We followers of Jesus usually have relatives and friends we care about and love. If we leave them behind are they without hope?
Yet what Jesus in bringing with Him during Phase 1 of His return will be more than compensatory.
“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ...” (Philippians 1:2-6)
It’s important to consider events at the Rapture and what follows in two threads:
1. What happens to those raptured and
2. What happens to the left behind?
In Group One will be some Bible scholars, seminary pastors and theologians. Some, but not all, churchgoers will be also included. About 5% or so will be White Anglo Saxon Protestants and Catholics and Baptists and...
Millions of small children will join us. Little Children—and all manner of people speaking “foreign” languages, most coming from Third World countries and in droves.
Because we live in a time of terrible Bible illiteracy, the experience of the Rapture will surprise many and shake up the majority, until denial overtakes them and they believe aliens have abducted the missing Jesus people. At anytime, anywhere, anyone who calls out for mercy will find God listening and responsive. [See Zephaniah 3:9 regarding one new language on earth after Jesus returns.]
Trouble is, God is terribly sovereign and does whatever He pleases just as He has always done from the beginning.
Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:6-8)
At the time of the Rapture “the dead in Christ will be raised first”—all who knew Jesus when they died from Pentecost (c.AD 32) till now. That is probably another 770 million or approximately 2 billion people total. This is profound when one stops to think about. Jesus Himself is the “first born out from among the dead” and everyone who ever followed Him will be raised first. This is called the first resurrection.
If you believe yourself indispensable to God, that He can’t get along without your help, you are in for a big Reality Check at the time of the Rapture.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Christian Universalists believe everyone will be saved and none lost. The Bible says otherwise (e.g, Luke 16). Also God never forces anyone to know Jesus. It’s very sad to consider the possibility that the majority of people who have ever lived will eventually be lost forever. God never violates our freedom of will unless it’s too late.
One recent commentator on the Rapture says he believes 30% of Americans will be caught up at that time. 30% of Americans today do identify loosely as “Christians” by religious preference. But our nation is young among the nations and the total number of Americans in heaven could number ~300 million. But ~100 million from the United States is surely more reasonable? Americans in heaven would then number 100 million out of perhaps 2000 million, or 5% max.
All believers who are in Christ from 32 AD up to the rapture event all arrive in heaven (New Jerusalem) at same “time.” This is not intuitively obvious, because we grew up “trapped in time.” The article "Time Warps" has more recent speculation on the numbers and “The Great Transition.” But more important is gaining a better understanding of the many dimensions of time God created when He brought our entire universe into existence from His work station in eternity:
For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
For I will not contend forever,
Nor will I always be angry;
For the spirit would fail before Me,
And the souls which I have made... (Isaiah 57:15-16)
“Time and time again” I have revisited all the teachings in the Bible I could find about the nature and flow of time. I have studied many scientific and philosophical articles of time as well. The subject is vast. Suffice it to say that our experience of time will be very different in our new bodies. I now believe time is multidimensional and therefore not everyone will live in the same space-time frame after leaving this life.
We will be fitted with new bodies in transit from earth to heaven. Before entering New Jerusalem each “time traveler” will be, I believe, be evaluated at an event known as The Judgment Seat of Christ.
This will not be about sin since that was dealt with thoroughly by Jesus on his first visit to our beleaguered planet. Think of the Bema as a performance review with Jesus.
According to heaven’s clocks all who are “in Christ” will then prepare up in New Jerusalem for the grand “Marriage of the Lamb.” (The Church as the Second Eve was symbolically born out of the wounded side of Jesus when He died on the Cross).Seven years will elapse in history while Jesus and His Bride discover one another more intimately than ever, learning and growing in community what it means together as the Bride of Christ and as the Body of Christ. Surely Biblical illiteracy will be remedied as well as Body Life,
Lining in community with Jesus raises many questions about living together with so much diversity, serving another as “members of the Body of Christ,” and living real life as “members of one another.” The atmosphere of life in New Jerusalem will be one of great joy, worship, wonder and awe.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:3-7)
The transition from life on earth as a follower of Jesus on earth over a 2000+ year interval will require major adjustment by us all! But we will see Jesus face-to-face, in person, and we can have as much personal one-on-one time with Jesus as we need. Our new bodies and a completely safe environment will help us adjust. Obviously anyone who is unwilling to know Jesus won’t get in the door.
Meantime, down below on earth the “salt” and “light” of the the true church penetrating the world—will he gone after the Rapture.
The Holy Spirit who indwells every Christian, presently restraining evil on earth will also be gone.
Jesus Himself, and perhaps some of us, working alongside the Commander if the Lord of Hosts (Joshua 5:13-15) will orchestrate all the horrific disasters described in Revelation. God will be turning up the heat everywhere in the world because He wants none to perish. “Tough love” is only way of getting our attention ofttimes.
Two great leaders will suddenly appear on the world stage. One common appellation given them is “The Beast and the False Prophet.” Symbolically they are denoted by the Apostle Paul in Revelation 13:
The Beast from the Sea
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The Beast from the Earth
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Ray Stedman has excellent insights for us from 1990:
The thirteenth chapter of Revelation brings before us the most famous number in the world -- 666. If you get that number on your license plate or on your credit card it sends shivers of fear down your spine! I learned this morning that a couple from this congregation had that as their house number. They were so disturbed they asked the city to change the number, which they did. Six hundred sixty six has become a sinister number in the eyes of many. Several movies have been based upon the powerful mystery connected with it. In this passage we will learn the secret of that strange number and of the beasts that are identified with it.
In Chapter 12, the Apostle John saw a great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns, which was clearly identified as a manifestation of Satan. Now, in Chapter 13, John sees a further manifestation of that same beast.
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. 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. The 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. 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. 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?" (Revelation 13:1-4 NIV)
John saw this beast rising out of the sea, which, as we have seen several times in Revelation, is a symbol of the Gentile nations of the ancient world. This appearance is another manifestation of Satan as a worldwide evil power on the earth. In Chapter 12 the beast represented the Roman Empire of the First Century and was the instrument of the devil to try to destroy the man-child that was born to the woman who symbolized Israel, i.e., Jesus himself. Here we see the same beast arising at a different time of history.
If you will read the seventh chapter of the prophet Daniel, you will find it ties closely to this chapter in Revelation. In that chapter, Daniel, too, saw beasts rising out of the sea, four of them. One was like a lion, another like a bear, and a third was like a leopard, the same symbols we find employed here by John. Along with those three beasts, Daniel saw a fourth beast, powerful but different looking than the other beasts, and with ten horns. In many ways, therefore, it was identical with the beast that John saw here. We learn in Daniel that the beasts he saw represented the four great world empires of his day and following: First was Babylon, like a lion; then Medo-Persia, like a bear; and then Greece, like a leopard with four heads. John picks up these same concepts and sees them incorporated in this beast from the sea that appears as his vision unfolds. The strange fourth beast is identifiable in history as the Roman Empire, with its capital in Rome. All of this is found combined into one beast which has, as it were, the lion-like ferocity of Babylon, the crushing bear-like power of Medo-Persia, and the swiftness of the Grecian leopard, but now appearing in the last days as a restored form of the Roman Empire, as we shall see.
I promised you that in Chapter 13 I would interpret the meaning of the horns, the heads and the crowns of this beast. A great deal more information is given to us about this beast in the 17th chapter of this book. Though I shall not attempt to expound that chapter at this point, yet I do want to turn to it and bring out some of the things that John identifies for us. In Chapter 17 John sees a woman sitting upon the red beast. I shall not deal with the woman now, but the red beast on which she sits has seven heads and ten horns, and an angel explains to him what these symbols mean. In 17:7, John writes:
Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. [That ties in with much we have seen already in Revelation.] The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Revelation 17:7-8 NIV)
That plainly identifies it with the beast we are looking at in Chapter 13, where, also, the whole world is said to be astonished by what has happened to this beast. The phrase in Chapter 17, "the beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come," seems to tie in with what we have read in Chapter 13, Verse 3, "One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed." If, as we have suggested, this beast represents the same Roman Empire that John saw before, this is telling us there will come a revived form of the empire in the world during this last seven-year period of the history of civilization. Many scholars have pointed out that the Bible predicts a restoration, what might well be called a Revised Roman Empire, to emerge in Western Europe in those days. Again in Chapter 17, the angel goes on in Verse 9 to explain further.
"This calls for a mind with wisdom [Each of you has that, of course!]. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." (Revelation 17:9 NIV)
A little later in this chapter the woman is identified as a great city. What city sits upon seven hills? Everyone in the ancient world (and everyone in the modern world) knows the answer! It is Rome. Once again we have a clear indication that the city of Rome will come prominently into the picture of these last days. Now the angel adds:
"They are also seven kings [or kingdoms]. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction." (Revelation 17:10-11 NIV)
That is clear, is it not? Clear as mud! But there are some things we can identify out of this revelation. We are told concerning these seven kings, "five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come." The Roman historian, Livy, wrote that there had been five forms of Roman government up to his time. Rome originally began as a loosely-connected series of regional city-states, each one governed by a king. This soon fell apart and instead of kings they elected consuls. As the consuls fell upon difficult times they were succeeded by dictators, leaders from the people who would rise up and take over the government. These in turn were overthrown and replaced by what the Romans called decemvirs, a term that means a council of ten rulers. Eventually that form, too, failed and tribunes were elected by the people to rule the land. Those were the five forms of government that had fallen.
But John is told "one is." That would be the imperial form, the emperors of Rome, beginning with Julius Caesar, before Christ, and continuing in a long series that history records as stretching well into the Fourth Century. Now, says the angel, a seventh is yet to come, and "he must remain for a little while." Then the beast will appear. He will be one of the seven, revived, and thus constitute an eighth. Something strange happens to it. It is called back into existence. "Its deadly wound is healed" and, thus, it makes its reappearance in history. No wonder the whole world is astonished at this revival. When we come to expound the 17th chapter in due course we shall learn some very startling things about the imperial form of Roman government. I shall read but one more verse from Chapter 17 at the moment. In Verse 12, the angel says:
"The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. (Revelation 17:12 NIV)
Bible scholars sometimes talk about a revived Roman Empire to be made up of 10 nations who will give their authority to a single individual. This satanically controlled man will rule in the geographic area of the old Roman Empire. That is why many people have been watching what is happening in Europe today, not only the ferment and upheavals of Eastern Europe, but also the changes in Western Europe, the site of the old Roman Empire. There, nations are softening their nationalistic passions and seeking to unite together in a United States of Europe. Some commentators have sought to identify this ten-kingdomed coalition with the European Common Market, or the European Economic Community (EEC). For awhile that organization did have ten members, but it has now increased to twelve or thirteen, so it is evident that it is not the actual revived empire, but it may be a predecessor. What is clear is that the direction of movement is toward the very thing we read of here. There will come a coalition of nations in Western Europe. Let us now go back to Chapter 13, and look at the activities of this strange beast.
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months [We have seen that time-frame before]. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven [literally "those who tabernacle in heaven"]. (Revelation 13:5-6 NIV)
Blasphemy is not cursing. When you hear someone rip off a round oath that is not blasphemy. It is cursing. Blasphemy is to claim godlike powers, to claim to be God, or to identify God with lesser persons or objects. Idolatry, for instance, is blasphemy. That is what this individual becomes guilty of. He blasphemes God by claiming to have the powers of God, as we have seen. It would also involve an attack upon those who do not accept his claims. He ridicules and slanders those who do believe in God and in heaven (the unseen spiritual realm that exists), and whose thinking is centered upon and guided by the teaching of the Word of God. Those who thus "tabernacle in heaven" are not people who have died and gone to heaven. They are saints who live on the earth but whose lives are governed by heavenly realities. It is exactly what the apostle says about the church today. "Our citizenship," he says in Philippians, "is in heaven," (Philippians 3:20 NIV). We are strangers and sojourners on earth, but our true citizenship is in heaven. Let us read on.
He 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. All inhabitants of the earth [literally "all the earth dwellers"] 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. (Revelation 13:7-8 NIV)
The revived Roman leader is given great power. He is allowed to do fearful things, and thousands will die at his hand because of their faith. This agrees exactly with what we saw in Chapter 7, where the great multitude which no man could number come out of the tribulation from all nations and languages and tribes and people -- a group that "washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white" Revelation 7:14) and became martyrs for the cause of Jesus Christ. This is the group that is mentioned here. This leader's influence extends throughout the whole earth. It does not mean he actually rules over the whole earth but rather that his influence extends throughout it. It is very much like the Super Powers of our day. The influence of the United States and of Russia affects every nation on earth today because of the power and might these two nations represent. It will also be the case then.
There will be one class of people who will follow this leader blindly. They are called "those who dwell on the earth." We have seen this term before. It is a moral class, those who live for this world, who think only of the earth and its advantages, who are materialists and humanists, and who have no use for the things of God or the life beyond. There is one group that resists this leader, and that is those "who tabernacle in heaven," whose names are written, we are told here, "in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world." That is an amazing statement. We will say more about the book of life later on where it is mentioned again. I would like now to focus on the phrase, "the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." That confirms again how time is not a factor in eternity. The death of the Lamb actually took place in time, on earth, at a specific date on the calendar, but here it is reckoned as an eternal event which has meaning for peoples from the very beginning of time, the creation of the world itself. The Lamb was slain, and the cross has impact upon all creation. Thus the Old Testament saints could be born again by faith because they were saved by the cross even though it had not yet occurred in history. John now picks up on the phrase that Jesus used frequently and gives a word of encouragement to the saints of that day.
He who has an ear, let him hear. (Revelation 13:9 NIV)
Jesus said this many times in his ministry. And, in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, in the seven letters to the churches the phrase occurs in each. By this exhortation Jesus is saying, "Listen carefully. Something important is about to be uttered." So John tell us what it is:
If 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. (Revelation 13:10a NIV)
I am sorry to have to do this, but every now and then I must correct the translation of the New International Version. It is excellent in the Old Testament, but not as accurate in the New. But, since everybody uses it, I must too. If you have an NIV, cross out the words "to go." "If anyone is to go into captivity"; and in the next line, "If anyone is to be killed with the sword," read it, "If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." The verse means that if anyone takes others captive, he will himself become a captive (hostage). If anyone kills with the sword, he must himself be killed with the sword. It is a word of encouragement to the saints of that day. All over the earth people are being taken captive and are being killed. God is simply saying to the others, "Don't be discouraged, hang in there. Don't let this slaughter throw you." Notice how John puts it.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness [or faith] on the part of the saints. (Revelation 13:10b NIV)
The law of consequences cannot be endlessly evaded. God has not forgotten. It may look like evil has triumphed, everything has gone wrong, but hang in there. "God cannot be mocked," (Galatians 6:7b NIV). The law of consequences cannot be canceled. Sooner or later he who kills with the sword must himself be killed. He who takes hostages must himself be taken hostage. Wait for it! I have often quoted the splendid words of James Russell Lowell:
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone that's strong.
Truth, forever on the scaffold,
Wrong, forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above His own!
Now John sees another beast coming. We read of him in Verses 11-12:
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He 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. (Revelation 13:11-12 NIV)
This beast arises from the earth, used throughout the book as a symbol of Israel. That is why most biblical scholars say this man is probably a Jew. He comes from Israel and has "two horns like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon." He looks like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon. He is, therefore, a fake lamb, to put it bluntly. This is the Antichrist, the one who comes instead of Christ, who offers himself as though he were Christ. It is for this reason I believe the term Antichrist is properly applied to this second beast, although both beasts are anti-Christian in character. Horns speak of power, and this man has two lamb-like powers. Jesus also had these powers: the powers of a priest and of a prophet. This man acts as both. Jesus is a priest who leads men and women all over the world to worship the Father; and this individual is a priest, leading the world to worship the first beast.
Many have pointed out that we have here a kind of Satanic trinity -- the first beast corresponding to the Father, the false prophet corresponding to the Son, and the dragon himself, Satan, playing the role of the invisible Holy Spirit. It is Satan's imitation of the true God. The false priest accomplishes his aim in getting the world to worship the beast in a very remarkable way, described in 13 through 15.
He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth[those who dwell on the earth]. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He 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. (Revelation 13:13-15 NIV)
Here he acts as a prophet. The prophets of old did miracles to establish their credentials, their God-given authority. Moses and Elijah each did great miracles, and, as the two witnesses of Chapter 11, they call fire down from heaven. So this man must call fire from heaven. Paul tells us that the devil has the power to do miracles too. Thus we must not trust every miracle as though it were done by God. It may be the work of the enemy, the Evil One. This false prophet calls down fire out of heaven, and deceives the world by such means.
Many biblical scholars feel that, because he is a Jew, he has his headquarters in Jerusalem. I think that is highly likely. He is the one whom the prophet Daniel identifies as making a covenant with the Jews for one week (7 years), and thus solving the centuries-old problem of the Middle East, the enmity between the Arabs and Israelis. During the first half of that week, the temple will be rebuilt on Mount Moriah. We saw that briefly in Chapter 11. For a seven-year period the Jews believe they are allowed to re-establish their worship in the temple. But, Daniel says, this "prince who will come" (Daniel 9:26 KJV) shall break that covenant in the middle of the week, i.e. after three and a half years, and entering the temple himself, begin to exalt himself as God, as Paul describes in his letter to the Thessalonians.
Since the political leader of the western coalition is in Rome, this religious leader in Jerusalem seems to feel it necessary to create an image of the Roman leader and put it in the temple for the worship of the world. He is able, we are told, to give breath to that image to make it seem alive. In one of the exhibits in Disneyland you can find Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair! He looks very real and while you are standing there he will get up out of the chair and walk over and talk to you! I shall never forget how impressive it was to see and hear Abraham Lincoln when I visited that exhibit! The technology to make an image of a man that seems to live and speak and walk, is already here. The whole world will doubtless run tour buses to worship it. It is not necessary that they really think it is a living person, but they will worship it because it represents a living person, and they will honor that impressive symbol in that day. By means of that image this false prophet will claim godlike powers for himself and the first beast, and will command the loyalty and obedience of all on the earth. In Verse 16 we learn this man also rebuilds the world's economic system.
He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so 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.
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. (Revelation 13:16-18 NIV)
Evidently during these days worldwide commerce will be rigidly controlled from a central headquarters. Again we know that the technology to do this is already in place. If you have a credit card you know that your entire credit information can be imprinted on that little metallic strip on the back so that whenever you present that card everyone will instantly know whether you are a cheapskate or that you pay your bills. You cannot hide. Furthermore, we are told that it can all be actually implanted in a tiny disk in the skin on the back of the hand or on the forehead or wherever desired, so that information about you can be read by passing your hand under a beam of light just as they do now in the supermarkets with the bar codes. The technology is already available. It is remarkable how we are apparently drawing close to these days.
The mark, of course, is Satan's imitation of God's seal on his own people. In Chapter 7 we learned that 144,000 from the tribes of Israel were sealed on their foreheads by God. That indicates they are owned by God, they belong to him. The Apostle Paul says that Christians are sealed today. Every believer in Christ is sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and he will never leave. It is the sign that we belong to God. "You are not your own ... you are bought with a price," (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a). You cannot live your life for yourself anymore. You belong to God. Christians in the First Century often had to make a public choice once a year between declaring "Caesar is Lord," or "Jesus is Lord." Many of them died because they would not say "Caesar is Lord." So there comes again a scheme devised by these two leaders to force people to declare whether they belong to the beast or to the Lord. Which will it be, "the Beast is Lord" or "Jesus is Lord?"
The mark that is mentioned is said to be either the name of the beast or the number of his name. It is referring to the first beast, not the second. The second is called later "the false prophet," (Revelation 16:3, 19:20, 20:10). Also the first beast is simply called "the beast." The mark is the name of that beast or its number. His name is unknown. It is never referred to, but the number is given -- 666.
Surely the most foolish thing you can do is to try to identify this person today by using number 666. You know, of course, that the ancient languages used letters for numbers. If you use Roman numerals today you use letters in place of numbers. The Greek language was similar. The letters have numerical value and many feel that when you add up the numerical value of certain names if it comes out to 666 that person must be the Antichrist. The problem is they try this with English letters. That is simply stupid, because you are working with the wrong language to start with. Also there is another excellent reason to view such a practice as foolish which I will show you in just a moment.
First let me give you a brief list of names that have been identified as the Antichrist by this means: Nero, of course, was one of the first. One of his predecessors as emperor was Caligula, the mad emperor, and his name supposedly adds up to 666. Then the successor to Nero was Domitian, and his name, with a little manipulation, can be added up in this way. So also was Mohammed, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, Martin Luther, various popes, and, of course, Adolf Hitler. Even poor Henry Kissinger had to bear this stigma, and now, of course, it is Gorbachev. It is really ridiculous to use this method because the clue given here is the important thing. Look what it says, "This calls for wisdom." No Tom, Dick, or Harry with a calculator can figure this out. This calls for wisdom! "If any one has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast."
Now here is the clue: "it is man's number." Not a man's number. It is man's number. It is the number associated with man. It is not an individual in view here at all. It reveals the character of the one who is talking and acting and living. If you see someone acting like God, claiming unusual powers, and teaching people that man is in charge of all things, that he can do anything, you are listening to a man, and his thinking reflects the number of man, 666. It is man's number. Eugene Peterson says something very helpful on this:
Expose these religious pretensions. This religion has nothing to do with God. Get its number: it is a human number. This is not divine mystery, but a confidence man's patter; it is religion that makes a show, religion that vaunts itself, religion that takes our eyes off of the poor and suffering and holy Christ. In the language of numbers, 666 is a triple failure to be a 777, the three-times perfect, whole, divine number.
So we see that John is showing us how the devil works. He attempts to organize behavior and from that always comes violence. When any government turns totalitarian and seeks to control every deed, every act, of its citizens, it produces a violent reaction. Turn on your television sets and you will see it in every news broadcast today. The Antichrist tries to organize belief as well as behavior, and when belief is organized it always produces deceit. There is nothing more deceitful than false religion. These are the weapons of Satan: He either intimidates or deceives. He has only two weapons, force and fantasy, lying and brutality, one or the other, or a mixture of both.
What this text is saying is that when he is violent, then wait, endure, be patient! God will work this all out. His rules will never be set aside. Sooner or later Satan's instrument will hang himself, as Judas did; he will be caught up in his own web. And when he lies, "Think," God says, "be critical, evaluate!" When anyone acts godlike, makes pretentious claims, claims supernatural gifts and demands obedience, that is not God talking. He is not from God. It is just a man, that is all, thinking and acting like a fallen man. It is not the real Lamb -- it is only a fake lamb, so laugh at him and refuse to follow him. But be prepared to hold out even unto death! That is the message of this chapter. I hope you can see how true this is, how it is confirmed by life around us every day. We are headed for these very things at a greater speed then we have ever seen before in the history of the world. -- When Men become Beasts
TO BE CONTINUED
“Then the king (of Israel) shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.
But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.
“At the time of the end the king of the South (Egypt) shall attack him; and the king of the North (Iran) shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land (Israel) and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon (Jordan). He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians (Sudanese) shall follow at his heels. But news from the east and the north (China) shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he (Northern invader) shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas (Mediterranean and Dead Sea) and the glorious holy mountain (Jerusalem); yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.
“At that time Michael (the Archangel) shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 11:36 - 12:3)
Ray Stedman 1969:
On the twenty-fourth day of the first month as I was standing on the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with gold of Uphaz. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the noise of a multitude. (Daniel 10:4-6 RSV)
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like the son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:12-16 RSV)
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me; my radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. (Daniel 10:7-8 RSV)
Commentary: The Time of the End by Ray Stedman.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.
Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25-28)
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them
in ages to come.
Fire devours in front of them,
and behind them a flame burns.
Before them the land is like the garden of Eden,
but after them a desolate wilderness,
and nothing escapes them.
They have the appearance of horses,
and like warhorses they charge.
As with the rumbling of chariots,
they leap on the tops of the mountains,
like the crackling of a flame of fire
devouring the stubble,
like a powerful army
drawn up for battle.
Before them peoples are in anguish,
all faces grow pale.
Like warriors they charge,
like soldiers they scale the wall.
Each keeps to its own course,
they do not swerve from their paths.
They do not jostle one another,
each keeps to its own track;
they burst through the weapons
and are not halted.
They leap upon the city,
they run upon the walls;
they climb up into the houses,
they enter through the windows like a thief.
The earth quakes before them,
the heavens tremble.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
The Lord utters his voice
at the head of his army;
how vast is his host!
Numberless are those who obey his command.
Truly the day of the Lord is great;
terrible indeed—who can endure it?
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain-offering and a drink-offering
for the Lord, your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
assemble the aged;
gather the children,
even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her canopy.
Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
“Where is their God?” ’
God’s Response and Promise
Then the Lord became jealous for his land,
and had pity on his people.
In response to his people the Lord said:
I am sending you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a mockery among the nations.
I will remove the northern army far from you,
and drive it into a parched and desolate land,
its front into the eastern sea,
and its rear into the western sea;
its stench and foul smell will rise up.
Surely he has done great things!
Do not fear, O soil;
be glad and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again
be put to shame.
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.
The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. |
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved;
for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape,
as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. (Joel)
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Originated September 26, 2019. July 22, 2022