Recruiting Reinforcements

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Good morning, everybody. I want to begin with a real quick word. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is in Romans 12. There’s this little itty-bitty verse that says, “outdo one another in showing honor.” I just want to honor Bryan Gilbert, Quinn Varnado, and Jenny Dunster, who are our worship leaders who’ve kind of come alongside Peter and I in this Revelation series to try to find music that supports the Word. There’s not a whole lot of beast, dragon songs written. To come up with songs that go along with this message has been such a blessing. And with that, if you’re free on Friday, come to the Night of Worship. It will be right in this room. I’d love to see this place packed out with everybody. We’re going to sing, pray, just have a time to encourage and build each other up. I hear a rumor that both Bryan and Quinn played saxophone in junior high and may pull out the saxophones. Hopefully you’ll be here on Friday.

As far as the sermon, similar to last week, I’m going to have to begin with an admission. Revelation intimidates me and overwhelms me all at the same time. When I read through Revelation 12 and 13, it’s just so much. I wanted to try to get you and I on the same page for you to get inside my brain and feel what I feel when I read these two chapters. My friend Tyler helped me out. This is what I feel when I see Revelation 12 and 13. That’s my brain. How do you preach that? How do you get that out in about 35 minutes?

Choice number 1. One way to do that is, you kind of pick an interpretive system. There are systems that look at Revelation and they’re good things. This is how you interpret Revelation. I can choose one of those, quote people that are smarter than me in that system, mention other systems so I don’t offend anybody, and in the end hope people receive God’s Word. That’s one way.

Choice number 2 is after studying as hard as I can, I can share with you what I think this chapter means in the context and literary style of Revelation, work through as best we can to make some sense out of it without really worrying about which system it reflects, and in the end hope people receive God’s Word. I’m going with choice number 2, which means for you, I’m no expert. I’m open to be challenged on what I say about Revelation. I’m not going to neatly wrap this chapter up so that we know every last little symbol in Revelation 13. We’re not even going to talk about what the diadems mean. If that’s a make or break for you, sorry. We’re going to go with what I think the passage says, what it means, and get to at the end, “well what difference does this make?” What difference does Revelation 13 actually make for us today and tomorrow?

To get there I want us to quickly review Revelation as a whole. I think it’s really important that we know where we’ve come from, from literally chapter 1 until 13. Here’s all of Revelation in about two and a half paragraphs. Jesus, through an angel, gives this guy John a message. This message is recorded for us in this wild and weird and wonderful style of literature called apocalyptic literature. This apocalypse was meant for seven real churches in Asia. After specific statements to those churches at the beginning of the book, John receives an invitation to actually go into the heavenly realm and have these visions about what’s going on.

The first vision is actually about Jesus and this unbelievable heavenly worship scene. Right after that, it’s kind of about this big scroll with a lot of seals on it, and as those seals are opened, we start seeing what God is doing among his people. John lets us see events that have taken place in the past, are taking place when the letter is delivered to these original churches, and events that will take place in the future. Over and over John emphasizes that the hope for humanity is the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb is a big character in Revelation. We come to discover the Lamb is Jesus Christ. We learn if one chooses to follow Jesus that it is certain persecution will follow. They go hand in hand. John introduces us to the villain of the story in a way, the enemy. He calls him a great, red, furious dragon and he names him Satan and the Devil.

At the end of chapter 12 we see that great red dragon standing where the earth meets the sea. Revelation 13 describes how that dragon recruits reinforcements for his war. In chapter 12 we learn that the dragon has declared war on those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. He’s declared war on them. In Revelation 13 the dragon recruits reinforcements for that war, and those reinforcements are described as beasts. And there are two of them.

Before we get into that part, I want to give us a couple of key ideas that I want floating in your mind the whole time we work through Revelation 13. Key idea number 1, passive verbs/controlled situations. Passive verbs and controlled situations. What I mean by that is, you see that a lot of the action is being done to people. The beasts are given a mouth. They’re allowed to speak. They’re allowed to make war. They’re allowed to influence, and it’s within controlled situations. They’re allowed to do that for forty-two months. Even as we watch the beasts do their worst in Revelation 13, we know someone else is in charge. There’s someone greater than the action in charge.

Key idea number 2. Authority and worship. Authority and worship. As you heard that read, maybe your mind is going back into that chapter. It’s the main theme running through there. Who has authority? Who’s being worshiped? Using authority to misdirect worship seems to be the standard operating procedure for the beasts. The beasts’ main job seems to be to exercise the dragon’s authority to steal worship from God and redirect it to the dragon. Authority and worship.

Specific key idea number 3. Specific calls to God’s people. Specific calls to God’s people. Here’s where, however wild this information is for us in Revelation 13, all these different types of images, however crazy it can be, the point for the reader is very clearly spelled out in the text itself: specific calls. Because of this beast, there is a call. Because of this beast, there’s a call. We have to listen, endure and have faith, and exercise wisdom. We’re going to come back to those specific calls. But I want to anchor us all in – no matter what we do with the text – these points of action are crystal clear for everybody.

With those key ideas in mind, let’s look more specifically at the beasts. We’ll start with the beast of the sea, the first one that’s mentioned in the text, beast of the sea. This is the seven-headed, ten-horned, ten-diademed, blasphemous-names-written beast. What is he like? Last week I mentioned this idea that in Revelation things are mentioned and then explained later. I referenced Satan last week. He’s mentioned in chapters 2 and 3, but he’s not really explained until chapter 12. The same thing is true with the beast from the sea. He’s actually introduced to us in 11:7 with the name “beast from the abyss.” He’s then described in chapter 13, but he’s explained in chapter 17. You guys with me still?

I just want to mention, I find that style of literature helpful, because here’s what it can let us do real briefly right now. We can press pause right at the end of chapter 13 and just ask the question, if I didn’t have the explanation of 17, and I just read through here, what would be the point? And so, I would like to suggest that the most simple conclusion at the end of chapter 13 is this: Satan recruits a blaspheming beast from the sea and a deceiving beast from the earth to wage his war against God’s people. Satan recruits a beast that blasphemes and a beast that deceives to wage his war against God’s people. Now, admittedly, we may not know who those beasts are, what they are, what they represent, or any of that. But at the end we can all anchor in on we know the point of their existence — blaspheme God, deceive God’s people. If we get to the end of 13, that’s the simplest way to look at it.

Now there is advantage in jumping ahead to chapter 17 and figuring out a little bit more detail. We’re going to do that now. I’m not going to read all of 17 simply because of time. Hopefully you’ll be with us in the spring when we jump back into Revelation after the Christmas series. I’m just going to mention the main explanations from chapter 17 about the beast from the sea.

The beast from the sea has seven heads. In chapter 17 it says those are seven mountains. Seven heads on the beast equal seven mountains. This one, I think for most, is on the easier side. Many people seem to agree kind of across the board that this is a reference to the seven hills of Rome. Rome began with seven villages, each on a hill and was commonly known as the city on seven hills. The original readers probably would have picked up on this reference of seven heads. Seven mountains equals Rome. There we go.

John then says in chapter 17 those seven heads are seven kings. And I’m going to be honest, this is where John annoys me because I’m having a hard enough time making my way through the book as it is. And now he takes one symbol and makes it mean two things at the exact same time. At least he gives us some more information about these kings. He says this, of those seven kings, five are fallen, one is, and one is yet to come. We’ve talked about this number seven throughout Revelation, this perfected picture. There are five that are gone, one is, one is yet to come, and then John throws in another little twist when he says that beast from chapter 13 is an eighth king who is going to his destruction. I don’t want to get frustrated too much with John, but he’s painting a picture for us of some type of authoritative rule that exists. These are just kings. There are five here, one that’s here, one that’s yet to come. The beast will recirculate as an eighth king. We’ll come back to that.

Then he talks about ten horns. This seven-headed, ten-horned beast. These ten horns are also ten kings. These are kings that are not ruling yet. They’re going to receive authority — there’s one of our key words, key ideas, authority — with the beast. These kings are of one mind. They’re united, and they give power and authority to the beast. There’s our key idea again, authority, back to the beast.

With these two sets, the seven and ten kings, now kind of as a group we have a choice. Do we map out who those seven kings are and who those ten kings are or who they might be, or do we kind of see them as a composite picture all together of rule, government, kingship, authority, empire? Does that make sense? Are these seventeen individuals we need to figure out, or is this just a picture of kingship and rule? I believe the seven and ten kings are that composite image of antichrist rule. The point is not to track who the seven are, and there are people who do that with various theories of how that works. It’s not the point to track down the seven and ten. The point is to recognize the dragon recruits authoritative rulers to wage his war against God’s people.

Now let’s step back, back into chapter 13, and see a couple of other details about this beast that fit in this same theme of authority, empire, kingdom. John describes the beast with this simile. He says the beast is like a leopard with bears feet and a lion’s mouth. That’s what he’s like. That’s the picture. Now what’s really cool is this is one of those, I describe them as echoes in Revelation. You’re hearing something that was spoken before. This echo begins in an Old Testament book called Daniel. Daniel was this kid who got kicked out of Jerusalem, moved to this foreign country of Babylon, was a slave there, rose to power through God’s grace. Daniel was an amazing guy. And in Daniel, like John, Daniel has this vision. And in his vision are a leopard, a bear, and a lion. And many people believe those three animals represent different kingdoms during and after Daniel’s day. This beast that’s like a leopard with bears feet and a lion’s mouth is a Frankenstein image of Daniel 7. To put it in kind of modern terms, John takes these images from Daniel 7, throws them into photoshop, cuts them, crops them, and puts them back together in one new image of the beast.

These old kingdoms all thrown together are the beast. John also describes the beast that one of his seven heads received a mortal wound yet was healed. This head was killed with a sword but lives again. Killed, living again. When I say that in church world, who should we think of? Killed, living again. Who should we think of? Jesus, or the Lamb, died, and was raised. In chapter 13 it seems like this beast has a little bit of mimicry going on. In a similar way to Jesus, but less powerful way, the beast though apparently dead comes back. Just when you think he’s gone he appears again. Now some think this is a really specific reference to Nero. Because after Nero died three other people claimed to be Nero born again, raised from the dead. That might be true. But in light of the seven and ten kings imagery and authority and empire and kingdom, what if this head is pointing to the reality that Babylon, though at one time an amazing ruling country of the world, is dead. But empire isn’t dead. Somebody came after them and somebody came after them. And Rome, which is the great power of the day when this was written, we don’t fear Rome today. They’re dead, but empire isn’t dead. Empires are still in our world against Christ and his rule.

To try to put this all together, the beast refers to Rome — 7 heads, 7 mountains. The beast seems to point towards the 7 and 10 kings from Revelation 17 — authority, empire, rule, government. The beast is a Frankenstein image of old empires from Daniel’s day. I conclude, Satan recruits real historical empires to wage war on God’s people — from Daniel’s day, from their day, into our day. Babylon, Persia, Greece, the Medes, Rome, Sudan, India, China, Russia, Canada, the United States — any empire that goes against the true authority of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom is ultimately pointing to the Dragon and is therefore the beast. The mortally wounded head keeps coming back. It never dies. The beast, apparently dead, returns living.

What does this beast do in our text? He seems to have two roles. The beast blasphemes. He defies God. He blasphemes God where God lives and the people that live where God lives. There are blasphemous words written on him. Blasphemous words come out of his mouth. He is covered with blasphemy and is full of blasphemy. To kind of connect the dots to this real historical empire idea, consider what empires throughout history have said. In the readers’ day in Rome, the national slogan would have been about Caesar, that he was “Lord and God.” If you’re a follower of Jesus in the day of Rome, you can’t say the national slogan. That’s blasphemy. You can’t utter those words. Or consider when Nero was ruling, he had coins minted with his image on one side and “savior of the world” on the other. That’s blasphemy. That is not true. That is anti-Jesus. He blasphemes.

We also see that he makes war. He is allowed to make war and conquer the saints. Now that conquering is a very specific type of conquering. We’re not talking about a spiritual reality there, we’ll talk about the impact of that on our life a little bit later. But for me this making war and conquering is the big connection back to chapter 12. The dragon declares war on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. Now in chapter 13 the beast makes war on those people. He, the beast, mimics and carries out the war of the dragon on God’s people.

In chapter 13, how does mankind respond? What do they do? From mankind’s perspective, the text I think tells us that the beast to mankind is unique and unbeatable. It says this, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

Put yourself into the position of being a reader in John’s day under the rule of the Roman Empire. You don’t want to say, “Lord and God.” You don’t believe Nero is “savior of the world.” But you could literally conclude by looking at this empire of Rome, going who is like this in the world? Who could fight against this? Go to India with our brothers and sisters that Praveen mentioned and literally you’re looking at the ruling body of India being against what you believe. Who is like this beast and who can fight against it?

The text describes that the beast is in a sense universal, and it uses language we’ve heard before. It was given to every tribe and language and people and nation. Every tribe, language, people, and nation face the blasphemous impact of the beast. There is nowhere on the globe that you are safe from the impact, the blasphemous impact, of the beast. The text says that mankind follows and marvels and worships the beast. That following and marveling and worshiping is one of our key ideas. It’s worship. Worship is redirected away from God to the beast, to the dragon. The beast is the dragon’s puppet to steal worship.

Now in the middle of all of that cheery news there is a really big, humungous, important, exception clause in chapter 13. It says this about mankind. We’re still in mankind’s response. All mankind, all, worship the beast. And then it says this “everyone whose name has not been written … in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” At first you can hear that all worship the beast and completely freak out. But then it kind of qualifies it in a negative way. Everyone whose name has not been written in the Lamb’s book of life who was slain. The range, the extent of the beast’s message, the blasphemy met against God is universal. It goes out everywhere. Its effect is not universal. The beast’s worshipers are those who are not in the slain Lamb’s book. The worshipers of the Lamb, those who keep God’s commandments, those who hold to the testimony of Jesus, are those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life, which for us is huge encouragement. It appears that by not worshiping the beast we are a known quantity by Jesus. Known, written, contained, aware of who we are. Again I conclude, Satan recruits real historical empires to wage war on God’s people, and those empires are called the beast.

What about the other beast, beast from the earth? And this will be shorter. The beast from the earth. What is he like and what does he do? I’m going to combine those two together because his appearance and his actions are really closely linked. Like the beast from the sea, the beast from the earth borrows authority, one of our key ideas. The beast exercises the authority of the first beast. And, similar to the dragon and the beast, he’s introduced here but explained better later in the book. Three times later in Revelation, the beast from the earth is called the false prophet. I’m going to start calling him the false prophet because I’ve already said beast about 488 times in the sermon. Now, the false prophet, which that name helps us out. It gives us some more idea of his role. He’s a messenger of falsehood. He’s the manipulating mouthpiece of the dragon. Satan recruits the false prophet to deceive people into worshipping the beast. The false prophet redirects worship now to the beast.

What does he look like? In the text he’s described as a lamb with two horns. Now if you haven’t been with us all through Revelation, that might not be too striking. But if you’ve been here any number of weeks, as soon as we hear the word lamb there, we should get a little bit of a jolt — a little bit of a literary jolt. Because the Lamb, up until this point, has pointed to one specific person — the hero, Jesus. And now all of a sudden, the beast from the earth, the false prophet is a lamb with two horns who speaks like a dragon. He may look right, but what’s his message? The false prophet is a dragon in lamb’s clothing. The former beast, the beast from the sea, is terrifying in his presentation — seven heads and horns and diadems. And here it’s a lamb with two horns — deception. The characteristic of the false prophet is his ability to deceive, and in the text he uses means that are connected to true prophets. That’s that kind of fire falling down in front of people, that’s another echo. That’s an echo back to Elijah in the Old Testament who called down fire. This false prophet can even use means to deceive that appear very spiritual and connected to the truth. He works miracles similar to the great heroes of the faith. He is a subtle deceiver, subtly deceiving, redirecting worship away from the true God.

We discover that the false prophet also has a universal range with his message, the ability to deceive anybody. There’s nothing about any person on earth that inherently makes them undeceivable. You can see that in the language of these three pairs of words. It affects small/great, rich/poor, slave/free. Everyone has the potential to be affected by a deceiving message. And then in yet another moment where the beast imitates God, we find out that this false prophet marks people. Now, we have to go back to chapter 7 and remember how God seals people. God marks people too. He sealed his people and then in chapter 7 we see those sealed people as this great throng in heaven that nobody could number from every tribe, language, nation, and people — innumerable group of people — worshiping, sealed people. And then in chapter 13 the beast marks people. Just as God seals, the false prophet marks. The text describes using that mark in a place of prominence like a hand or the forehead, and that mark is the name of the beast. You’re sealed by God or sealed by the false prophet. I conclude, Satan recruits deceptive voices to redirect worship to the beast. Satan recruits deceptive voices to redirect worship to the beast, which is another one of his means to wage war on God’s people.

So what? In one way, whether this is accurate or not, so what? What do we do with it? If you if you’re here and you disagree with things I’m saying, again, I’m open to challenge. But even if you disagree at the end of it, what do you do with Revelation 13? And I think that’s where there’s the most clarity. What do we do with these images? No matter what system you fall in, what do we do with it? I want to give us three responses. And Lord willing maybe you can fall into one and God will work in this in your life this week.

Response number 1, see the polarity. You can make fun of me for that word because it’s not the best. I just could not come up with a better one. What I mean by polarity is the poles, north and south. See this and hear. A popular word right now, binary. Think binary in Revelation 13 — this or that, a fork in the road, this way or this way. Let me give you the examples in the text. Maybe this will help. Names are written in the book of life or they’re not written in the book of life. You worship the Lamb, or you worship the beast and the dragon. You’re sealed by God or you’re marked by the false prophet. Revelation as a whole does a great job of creating contrast between Lamb and dragon, worship and worship, Jesus/Satan, God’s kingdom/the kingdom of the enemy.

Revelation reveals, quite frankly, that if you do not worship the Lamb, if you do not worship Jesus, if you do not keep the commandments of God and hold fast the testimony of Jesus, in some way you are worshiping the dragon. And I know that’s not really kind of a culturally sensitive way to put it, because underneath there is kind of an implied “you’re a Satan-worshiper.” Worship Jesus, worship the dragon. Now I know in a formal sense if you’re here and you’re wrestling with the claims of Jesus, I’m not declaring you’re formally a worshiper of Satan. But what I am saying is Revelation 13 doesn’t let you just sit on the fence. It holds up a mirror to all of us. Who are you worshiping? There’s no neutral territory! And this is where my heart goes. If you don’t know the answer to that question, I’m not trying to be offensive at all, I’d love to talk to you. Even if you vehemently disagree with that, I’d love to talk to you about it. Let’s explore who this Jesus is. Come talk to me afterwards. If you don’t know who you’re worshiping. That’s response number 1: See the polarity.

Response number 2, listen. Listen, not to me, to the text. Listen. Since Satan recruits reinforcements in the form of the beast, then those who follow the Lamb must listen. How do we know that? The text says this,

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”

If you were with us last spring in Revelation you should kind of remember that phrase. That’s come up in the book before in chapters 2 and 3. That is said at the end of every little mini letter to each of those seven real churches in Asia.

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”

And now John kind of reaches back, pulls out that phrase, and in the middle of this big beast thing throws it back in there.

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”

The seven churches are asked to keep listening. If the dragon is waging war, if the dragon recruited the beast to wage his war, if the dragon recruited the false prophet to deceive, then you need to listen. Why? John answers that in verse 10,

“If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with a sword, with a sword must he be slain.”

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”

Listen. Why? Because this world will have real world casualties. We’re not playing around with some neat book. It’s not an allegory. This war is going to have real life casualties. Someone is in charge of this action. These are passive verbs again — if anyone is to be taken captive by someone, if anyone is to be slain with a sword. One more indication that God, even in the middle of persecution, is not absent. And that is very difficult for us as a people to reconcile. But it is the reality, nonetheless. And this drives us even to look at the life of Jesus. The way the way in which Jesus waged his war, if I can put it that way, was through his own sacrificial death. “The Lamb who was slain.”

This text is telling us as the people of God during our ongoing war with the dragon, the empires, the deceivers he recruits, some of us will wage our war in the same way Jesus did. We will be taken captive, and we will die. Jesus said,

“if the world hated me it will hate you.”

That’s kind of blunt on his part, there’s no real nuance to that phrase. Through many tribulations you will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is good enough for the servant to be like his master.

If that is true, in light of that, response number 3 is this: heed the calls. Heed the calls. If following the Lamb can result in imprisonment or death, then John says, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” The answer to the threat of captivity and death is endure, have faith, persevere, believe. There is another book in the New Testament, it’s called Hebrews. It’s also written to people who are suffering, kind of like Revelation, and there’s a whole section in there about endurance and faith. This call, have endurance and faith in light of persecution, I believe that the author of Hebrews would preach what John is saying this way. He would say:

“Recall your former days when after you were enlightened.” [Think about days since you were enlightened, since you held the testimony of Jesus.] “Recall your former days when after you were enlightened you endured a hard struggle through suffering, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew you had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence which has great reward. For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back my soul takes no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

The seven churches are being told hold on, believe, even under the threat of captivity and death. Hold on, believe. We’re no different in our response to this text. And for us it’s even the anticipation of this persecution. I said this last week, one of the things that God’s doing in my heart is I am convinced I will not be ready to do that if I don’t work at it when I’m free. And I’m not being mean to you, you won’t either. If our mindset doesn’t switch to this war mindset of Revelation 12 and 13, then the day when that comes at us, we will be unprepared. And Revelation 13 is setting us up. Be ready. Be ready, heed the call.

There’s another call. John calls us to wisdom. After describing being marked by the false prophet, John says this:

“This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”

I’m asking for wisdom now. Even non-churched people know 666. Thank you, Hollywood, for throwing that out there. When I was in high school, a long time ago now, I worked at the Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Company in Haywood Mall. Same location where it is. Yes, in high school I sold and decorated cookies. We had one particular order that was regularly ordered by people where the price of it came up to $13.34. And this was kind of, for most of you who are younger than I, this was mostly pre-debit card days. For $13.34 you paid with a $20 bill of cash. I made change which equaled $6.66. I cannot tell you the number of people who, upon hearing what their change was going to be, “Hey, throw in another cookie.” Or, when I gave them their change, they would take that penny and put it right back up on the counter and then walk away. Isn’t that, in a sense, that’s kind of an odd thing. Like there’s so much power that even in culture we’re not going to pay for cookies if that’s our change.

There are a lot of theories about 666. Language has to do with this a little bit. Original languages, they didn’t have letters and numerals. It was only letters. “A” in our alphabet, A=1, B=2, and on and on. And there’s a way where you can then use the letters to calculate a person’s number. Whatever “R-Y-A-N” would equal would be the number of my name. And I’m not critiquing that, there’s merit to that. People have done a lot of stuff with that, that say it proves that it’s Nero, proves that it’s Hitler. The weirdest article I read was that it proved it was an old politician named Henry Kissinger. They had to translate his name into Syriac and then into Greek and then into Hebrew and then it became 666. Personally, as we kind of wrestle with this 666, I’m just going to be honest, I have no clue. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that for a couple of reasons. One reason is I watched a guy who I deeply respect who has about three doctorates, literally, I think he speaks seven different languages. He preached for two hours on Revelation 13 and it’s awesome. That’s a long sermon y’all, two hours, and it was killer. And at the end of it this guy, Don Carson, goes “I don’t have a clue.” My heart just felt like if I get up here and be dogmatic, I’m just a fake to you. I don’t know.

Here’s what I think I do know though. The point seems to be the calculation leads you back to a man instead of Jesus. It is the number of a man. Whatever that calculation looks like, and one theory that I think has merit is if 666 and the numbers that we use in Revelation is equal to the number of a man, then the perfect number of Jesus would be 777. This one always falls short. Don’t follow, don’t believe, don’t worship what falls short — the number of a man. Don’t go there. Be wise. Know how to navigate life in such a way as to end up worshiping Jesus, not this fake that comes in between you and Jesus. Don’t be deceived by the false prophet. Don’t follow the beast. That will lead you, if you calculate it, to man. That’s the best I can do on that and I hold that with open hands.

But the call for wisdom is very clear. For us to follow Jesus in this life, we have to have wisdom. The dragon recruits reinforcements for his war on God’s people — the beast and the false prophet, historical empires, and deceivers. And we are being called upon to follow in the steps of Jesus, to keep God’s commandments, to hold fast the testimony of Jesus in the face of potential captivity and death. May God give us the courage to do that together. May God empower us to endure any scenario to the glory of his great name. Amen? Let’s pray.

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