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Revelation Lesson 37 - Fireworks!

Revelation Lesson 37 - Fireworks!

Series: Revelation
Ref: Revelation 13:13–15

Don't let the title of this sermon mislead you into thinking there's a worldwide party going on in Revelation 13. The fireworks on display are demonically inspired tricks used to brainwash the world.

Transcript

Fireworks!

Revelation 13:13-15

J.I. Packer, in his book on the Word of God, provided a mirror for the church of today by which to look at itself . . . and the reflection isn’t very attractive to say the least.  He writes, “Unlike the first-century Christians who in three centuries [reached] the Roman world [with the gospel] and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation and the Puritan awakening and the evangelical revivals and the great missionary movements of the 18th century, we today lack certainty.  Certainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line.  The outside observer sees us as staggering on from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where or which way we should be going.  Preaching is hazy.  Heads are muddled, hearts fret, doubts drain strength and uncertainty paralyzes action . . . why . . . because we lack certainty about the great issues of the Christian faith. / Quoted in John MacArthur’s sermon, The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1 (gty.org/transcripts)

I would agree with one author that the reason we lack certainty is because we have a sinful view of Scripture.  The church at large no longer believes the Bible is sufficient for the life and conduct of the church . . . and that is sin, in monstrous proportions . . . sin in denying the sufficiency of the Word of God. / Ibid

Listen, this is the reason the Dragon has never ceased his attack on the authority and sufficiency and clarity of the Scripture.

His very first act of temptation was to Eve and came in the form of a challenge to clarity of God’s word . . . “Has God said?  Did He really say all that?  Are you sure you heard Him right?  Here’s what I think He really meant!”

Satan’s temptation to the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who had come to bring forth a new race of redeemed believers and Satan came to him and immediately distorted the words of scripture.  And Jesus Christ responded with the correct use of scripture with three quotations from the Book of Deuteronomy. (Matthew 4)

Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor, encouraging him to cling to the word and preach the word.  Paul reminded him how that as a young child, you’ve known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15)

Timothy had the prophets and the testimony of the Apostles – he knew enough to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ alone.

And that’s the sticking point of the Bible, isn’t it?

It’s this Bible only stuff that makes it pretty clear that it’s Jesus Christ only and that really rattles everybody’s cage, right?  It’s this talk of ‘Christianity is the only way’ to God – John 14:6 – that makes people upset. 

That God has spoken and that His word is authoritative for what we believe and how we behave is really not all that welcome.

This has been illustrated for the church in recent days.  President Obama played into the religious confusion and pluralism of our day when he attempted to compensate for having an evangelical pray at his inauguration.  There was such an incredible backlash over it.  One New York Times article I read wrote that Obama compensated by asking Gene Robinson to pray at another inaugural event. 

He happens to be the first active homosexual elected to the high position of bishop in the Episcopal Church and his appointment in 2003 sparked a rift that has become an international chasm.

And so Gene Robinson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and prayed.  Further down in the article, he talked about his difficulty in deciding what exactly to pray.  In a telephone interview with the Times, Robinson said he’d been reading inaugural prayers through history to get an idea about what was said and he was, and I quote, “horrified at how specifically and aggressively Christian these [prayers] were.”  He oughta study a little more History. 

But he went on to reassure the public, “I am very clear,” he said in this interview, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that.”  In other words, don’t worry about me getting up and referencing the Bible or for goodness sake quoting from it.  That would ruin a prayer, wouldn’t it? 

He concluded the interview by saying that he might address the prayer to “the God of our many understandings.” / Citation: nytimes.com/2009/01/13

Has this thinking led to certainty?  No . . . greater confusion.  The fog only increases.  Humanity staggers around from religious gimmick to yet another gimmick.  It’s up to everybody to determine their own salvation . . . it’s anybody’s guess about right and wrong.

You see, the moment you go beyond sola scripture – the scriptures alone – any objective basis or foundation for wisdom from God is gone.

You might have the creation of religions, but you do not have the basis for a relationship with God.

Timothy, you knew the scriptures which made you wise unto salvation in Christ Jesus.

Saving faith comes from hearing the word of God.  (Romans 10:17)

In our last session we introduced the next step in the lie of Satan against the truth of God with the introduction of the third person in this trio.

Turn back to Revelation chapter 13.

During the Tribulation you have the control of those who dwell on the earth – that’s a term for those who do not believe the gospel but follow the Antichrist. 

The earth dwellers – unbelievers – will be controlled by these three faces of evil. The Dragon – Satan, who counterfeits God the Father; and Satan controls, the Antichrist, empowered by Satan to counterfeit Jesus Christ; and then we were introduced to another beast of a man – who partnership with them will empower him to do all kinds of amazing things.  He is called the False Prophet in chapter 19.

So you have this unholy trinity.  Satan, Antichrist and the False Prophet.

This partnership allows the False Prophet to move forward with his one passion – his priority. Notice it again in verse 12 –the middle part – And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast = that Antichrist – who’s fatal wound was healed.

The False Prophet will succeed where every other False Prophet has failed.  He will forge the world into one global religion. 

And he will use the thinking of our own culture, that every religion is acceptable; in fact, every religion is really saying the same thing so why don’t we just forget our differences. 

This is the universalism of the emergent church – the newest form of evangelical apostasy.  One of its leading spokesmen, Brian McLaren, said that Jesus really had a secret message which, by the way, McLaren is able to discern – here’s the secret message and I quote; “Jesus’ secret message in word and deed makes clear that the kingdom of God will be radically and scandalously inclusive.”

In other words, everybody gets into heaven.  And that will be scandalous – why?  He’ll explain and other emergent leaders with him, it’s scandalous because Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims and every liberal protestant who never bought into the idea of a literal resurrection or a literal hell or a sufficient atonement for those who believe in Christ alone – but guess what? Christ will save them all in the end anyway.

I read in one article, in this view, even atheists get in . . . they’ll come kicking and screaming . . . but they get in too.

This is classic universalism and it is becoming the religion of our world.

In the most recent National Prayer Breakfast, the speaker, who in times past were evangelicals, this time it was Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain.  

I was sent a transcript of the speech from a church member who was born in England, which I appreciated.

His speech fit well within the context of pluralism and universalism . . . it was one more speech that put into words what you’ve seen on the bumper sticker – all the religious icons are used to create letters that spells the word – coexist.

That was basically his message . . . but it was more than that.

Listen carefully to what only further, if not naievely sets the table for a one-world religion.

He said, “There are a million good deeds done every day by people of faith. What inspires such people?  Ritual or doctrine or the finer points of theology?  No . . . it is the unconditional nature of God’s love.  In other words, God loves everybody, regardless of what they believe about Him.

Then he gives them rather warm hearted illustration that has undiscerning people saying, “Isn’t that nice and it makes a lot of sense.”

Tony Blair said, “I remember my first spiritual awakening; I was ten years old.  My father had suffered a stroke and my mother sent me on to school to keep a sense of normalcy.  But my teacher knelt and prayed with me.  Now my father was a militant atheist – a militant atheist.  So before we prayed, I told her, “I’m afraid my father doesn’t believe in God.”  “That doesn’t matter” my teacher replied, “God believes in him.  He loves him without demanding love in return.” / Edited and excerpted from Tony Blair’s speech at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, 01/2009

In other words, you can deny the existence of God and not love him but you’re still in no danger of anything but love.

The Apostle Paul preached to the pluralists of his day these striking words, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will – not include everybody in heaven, by the way – in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” (Acts 17:30-31)

The Apostle Peter wrote, “By the word of God the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men.”  (2 Peter 3:7)

Jude speaks in his little epistle of those who are marked for condemnation . . . (why? Because these are the ones) who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  (Jude 4)

Blair went on to say basically listen that all the prophets throughout human history have said basically the same thing. 

He quoted from Hindu writings and Buddhist writings on moral platitudes that sounded just like the golden rule.

But then he said, “The global community is upon us . . . and into it steps religious faith.”

In other words, that’s what will bring it cohesion and peace.

Listen, all of our quotes from our last study and this study are all saying the same thing; from Muslim leaders to emergent philosophers to church bishops and even a former Prime Minister.  We’re really all one anyway and we’re just trying to follow our own version of truth.

This may very well be readying the world for the False Prophet of Revelation 13.  And what a perfect platform. 

Here’s the genius, yet simplicity of Satan’s plan revealed.  He will one day say, “You’ve been right all along.  You have heard from many prophets and scriptures and religions throughout the history of mankind and they’ve all said basically the same thing.  They were all speaking for God.  Now, let me introduce to you the next prophet in line!  But he won’t introduce you to an invisible God . . . he will introduce you to God who is now visible!

And John sees the world following this Antispirit – the False Prophet who comes to glorify the Antichrist as the true Messiah. 

But I have a question for you . . . how will people believe he’s the true prophet?

We’ve seen his partnership . . . we know all about his passionate purpose . . . but what will cause the world to believe he’s really a prophet from God?

The Antispirit’s Performance

I want to answer that by showing you some fireworks . . . notice his performance in verse 13.  He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.

John answers the question, why will the world follow him?  Look at his performance – great signs.

The word for sign in this verse – semeia (shmeia) – it’s the same word used of the miracles performed by the Apostles in Acts chapter 5 where Luke writes, and by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people. (Acts 5:12)

It’s interesting to me that John adds the word mega (megallaV) in connection with the False Prophet’s signs.  He will perform mega signs.

And the people will flock to him.

When you consider how the crowds flock to the so-called faith healers and miracle workers of our generation you can imagine the influx of followers here.

But this prophet isn’t just healing high blood pressure, bad knees, arthritis and bad credit.  He’s doing something that has Biblical precedent and proof of a genuine prophet.

Notice verse 13b again – he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.

That reminds you of who?  The great Old Testament prophet Elijah, doesn’t it.  And even more remarkable in its deception is the context of Elijah’s contest with who?  False prophets of Baal.  They prayed all morning and couldn’t bring down fire from heaven, but only the true prophet of God could.  (1 Kings 18)

And following the prayer of Elijah, a ball of fire from heaven fell and consumed the sacrifice, and a national revival followed and all the people said, “The Lord he is God”. 

Thus, Elijah had their undivided attention and introduced his generation of idolaters to the true and living God. 

So likewise, this False Prophet, will mimic the great Elijah, with Satanic power, designated and delegated by God to bring about His promise that all unbelievers would eventually believe the lie of Satan and follow the Antichrist.

The False Prophet will call down fire from heaven, proving to them that he is the true prophet of God and the God he follows is the one true God.

By comparing Elijah with this False Prophet, it also struck me that Elijah prayed to God before the fire fell.  This prophet didn’t even pray.  Which made him all the more remarkable.

The false prophets of today require the faith of people wanting to be healed. If they don’t get healed, they didn’t have enough faith; which is a wonderfully convenient disclaimer.

They would never call for such a visible demonstration of their authenticity, but not this False Prophet!

This is no sleight of hand . . . this isn’t smoke and mirrors and hocus pocus.  This is literal fire hurtling downward from outer space! / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 171

What a performance. The tense of the verb reveals that this is something he actually does whenever he wants. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 174

In fact, this dramatic present tense informs us that it his habitual practice to call down fire throughout the course of his pseudo-ministry.

Who can argue with that?  Who’s gonna defy him?

Surely he is the true prophet and the Antichrist he points to is indeed the true and living God incarnate!

Perhaps the False Prophet will mimic the miracle of Pentecost when tongues of fire descended from heaven resting on the apostles allowing them to speak in unlearned languages, thus inaugurating the age of the church.

Perhaps the False Prophet will do something similar to try and prove that he has come to form a new people of God.

Listen, it will be amazing.  These fireworks will be breathtaking! Every news cast will carry the sights and sounds of fire falling from heaven at the command of this prophet. 

Make no mistake; the Mormons will put away the writings of their Prophet Joseph Smith.  The Muslims will forget about Mohammed.  The Hindus will say, “Krishna is old news.” 

And the world will raise their collective voice and say, “You are indeed the next prophet in line – you are truly empowered by God!”

Now remember, the False Prophet isn’t soliciting worship for himself.  He will point people to him – the Antichrist – the world leader – the one miraculously risen from the dead – the peace giver – worship him – he is the true God.

The Apostle Paul has already warned the world, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

The world wanted unity.  The world wanted a one-world government; they wanted a one-untied religion . . . they loved that.  They loved to talk about that.

But they didn’t love the truth revealed in this Book so as to be saved.

Listen, every generation there are false prophets and false miracle workers – who lead people astray and not toward the God of this Book and certainly not into the Book of our God.

This should be warning enough to us all – exercise discernment, even when miracles appear to vindicate the messenger! / Daymond R. Duck/Larry Richards, Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 2006), p. 197

And that isn’t all the False Prophet will conjure up by his demonic power.

Notice verse 14.  And he deceives those who dwell on the earth – again, the expression, “earth dwellers” to refer to those who follow the lie, rather than those who believe during this Tribulation period – the believers who’ve come to faith in Christ during this period are referred to as saints – which means “separated ones unto the grace of God” – which they are indeed.

Now notice, 14b. Because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.  15.  And it was given to him (again another implication of his delegated authority, ultimately by God Himself) – notice, to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Fire from heaven is amazing, but this performance is almost unbelievable. 

Some authors suggest that this is some kind of sleight of hand – a microphone hidden somewhere . . . some sort of Disney life-like creature that moves as if it’s alive.

There’s nothing in the text to give us an easy answer.  Some credible commentators say that since you’ll notice in verse 15 that we’re told the image is given breath from the word pneuma (pneuma) instead of telling us the image was given life – from zoe (zwh); then the False Prophet just made it seem like it was breathing.   / Thomas, p. 178

I would actually like to believe that’s the case.  The problem is that later in the verse 15 this colossal creature is not just breathing, he’s speaking.

And keep in mind this would be one of the things that cause the world to believe the prophet is telling the truth; but also, this moment indicates that the image actually calls for the execution of all who refuse to worship the Antichrist; which indicates some sense of reason . . . a vocabulary and the ability to communicate on his own.

We’re told that this in verses 14 and 15 that this image is an image of the Antichrist.  It’s a greater than life statue of him that seems to parallel the desolation of the Temple Daniel refers to as the Antichrist desecrates the Holy Place.  It’s very likely that this image will be set up in the Holy of Holies, in the place of God as it were. (Daniel 11:31)

This will be the most blatant and shocking idolatry ever seen on the planet and it will be on a global scale. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 61

Imagine, the delegated power of the False Prophet who is permitted to give a living quality to this devilish image.   / Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: God’s Last Word (Zondervan 1971), p. 245

The world will fall at his feet.  The pilgrimage of millions of followers around the world will commence as they come to pay their respects – it will be reminiscent of Babylonians falling at the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, only this time it will be worldwide.

And there will be this threat – only this time there’s no mention of a fiery furnace for all who will not bow.  There is, still, the sentence of death to all who will not worship the Antichrist as their true and living God.

But the fireworks have evidently paid off . . . the world believes the signs and wonders . . . the majority of the human race has been duped . . . they have believed a false preacher who ultimately leads the world to Hell.

What a tragedy.  What an everlasting horror.

But listen, do you believe it’s a tragedy to have today, false teachers and false preachers and false miracle workers who are leading our own world and our own generation away from God and away from the Bible?

How disturbed are you about that?  That brought agony to the heart of Paul who warned the elders in Ephesus – watch out for the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Acts 20:29).

They’re gonna rise up from among you – they’ll look like you and sound like you but they will only want to draw people away after themselves –they don’t care about the sheep; they don’t care about the church and they don’t care about the truth.

So let me warn you dear flock of God with this timeless caution for today:

Whatever downplays or discredits or denigrates the authority of the word of God should be rejected.

Whoever and whatever.  Stay alert.

Those who deny the authority of scripture are merely blinded by the god of this world so they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

One emergent church leader, Brian McLaren, whom I’ve quoted already more than enough – co-authored a book recently with Tony Campolo to denigrate a number of what they believe to be old fashioned ideas that Christians believe that miss the point. Listen to one of them – like a number of them, they sound on target until you think again; and I quote, “The theology that has this implicit threat of being left behind, or of time running out – is merely used by [some] preachers to for evangelistic effect.  To the contrary . . . the history of the world is infused with the presence of God who is guiding the world toward becoming the kind of world God willed for it to be when it was created.  Human history is going somewhere wonderful.

Never mind that on the authority of scripture, the human race is warned about the coming rapture – I Thessalonians 4; never mind that the planet is heading for a firestorm that will destroy it – 2 Peter 3; never mind the coming wrath of God and a planet infused with the judgments of the terror of God – we’ve been studying this now for the last 7 chapters in Revelation.

Human history it is not going somewhere wonderful until it has gone some place terrible.

These guys are like that proverbial man who fell off the roof of a 10 story building; as he fell past an open window on the 3rd floor he was heard to say, “This isn’t so bad.”

Eventually reality will collide with his misguided perception.

One of the elders in our church sent me an article regarding an ad campaign in England that was launched this past month.  It was launched by the British Humanist Association and it carried the endorsement of the well known atheist and professor, Richard Dawkins.  They purchased large advertisement space on 800 British buses to announce their disdain for God.  Here’s the what the advertisement said, “There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” 

It backfired.

There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

I can’t imagine what that unemployed atheist is doing who came up with the idea.

There’s probably no God?

That’s the same thing as saying, “There’s probably a God.”

I read how Christian campus organizations have taken advantage of the opportunity and started debates on campuses and Bible studies to address the existence of God and many college students have already come to faith in Christ.

I had 3 brothers growing up . . . they were always into mischief unlike perfect little me.  I can’t tell you how many times growing up my mother sent me outside the kitchen door to pull off a switch from that bush so she could use it on one of my brothers . . . man, they needed it too!  Okay, I got it too.

How many times did we say to each other as we started into some mischief, “It’s okay . . . Mom and Dad are gone.”

It would never work to say, “It’s okay . . . Mom and Dad are probably gone.” 

  • Hey, go ahead and cut out early, your boss is probably not in his office.
  • Go ahead and cheat on that test, the teacher is probably not looking.
  • Go ahead and steal that item, those cameras probably aren’t working.

There is probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

Are you kidding?  We’re not talking about a spanking . . . we’re not talking about doing time . . . we’re talking about eternity . . . heaven or hell.

Here’s the message . . . there is a God, believe in Him and you can stop worrying about meeting Him and that’s the only way you’ll be able to enjoy your life.

Let me close with another note someone sent me – it asked the convicting question that I challenge you all with as we leave our study of the infallible, inerrant, authoritative, life-changing, true word of God.

What if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?

  • What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
  • What if we dashed back home if we forgot it?
  • What if we flipped through it several times a day?
  • What if we used it to receive text messages?
  • What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
  • What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
  • What if we used it when we traveled?
  • What if it became our GPS system of direction when we traveled?
  • What if we used it in case of emergency?

Unlike your cell phone, you never have to worry about being disconnected . . . it has service anywhere on the planet.

And the only difference in this analogy would be that when you came to church we wouldn’t tell you to turn it off . . . we’d encourage you to turn it on!  And I will add this . . . don’t turn it off when you leave. 

Stand and sing:

My faith has found a resting place
Not in device nor creed
I trust the ever living One
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died
And that He died for me.

My heart is leaning on the word,
The written word of God;
Salvation by my Savior’s name
Salvation through His blood.

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