Reading Revelation 13 as a Missional People

(For the message from Sunday, August 1, 2021: “The Beasts of Revelation 13: The Call to Endurance and Wisdom.” You can view this sermon by clicking HERE.)

Yesterday at Westwood I had the privilege of leading our church family through Revelation 13. This is a chapter that has been met with rampant speculation as it introduces two new characters who join the dragon of chapter 12 in his nefarious and diabolical scheming. Because of the mystery, this has been a chapter that has resulted in much debate and division. But the greatest danger of this chapter to the church may be the potential for distraction. We need to be reminded that this chapter–and the whole of Revelation, really–should cause us to glance forward for the purpose of sharpening our focus in here and now.

Revelation should cause us to glance forward for the purpose of sharpening our focus in the here and now.

Although it certainly is not wrong to break down what the chapter has to say about the identity and purpose of the two beasts introduced through Revelation 13–indeed we took a good amount of time to do just that in our study yesterday–I believe the main message of the chapter is framed by two statements, two exhortations that are offered at the end of each beast’s description. The first is found in v. 10, and is “a call to endurance and faith of the saints.” As I shared with our congregation yesterday, there is no prosperity gospel in Revelation 13. The first beast will rise up, mimicking God. The world will respond in worship as they marvel at him and follow him. And the beast will launch a bloody offensive against God’s people as he seats himself in God’s seat and blasphemes his name. But the passage also reminds us that he is a defeated foe who already bears the plague of a fatal wound, a crushing blow to his head by the true Lamb (Colossians 2:15).

The second comes in v. 18, and is a call to wisdom. This call comes along with the message, “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.” In the midst of all the speculation that surrounds this mark and this number, we need wisdom. We see that this mark of the beast offers such a stark contrast to the sealing of the Spirit. Both are marks of ownership and authority. As I shared yesterday, due to the sealing not bearing a physical mark, that leads me to believe that this mark of the beast is not a physical mark. And that mark, just like the seal of the Spirit, is very much relevant to us in our own day and time. Whereas those marks will have dangerous ramifications in the day of Revelation 13, it also carries ramifications for us today.

As I thought about these exhortations even beyond our service yesterday, I thought about how key they are to our pursuing the mission that God has given us. We need endurance and wisdom. We must not be distracted.

We will be effective in faithfully pursuing that mission only as we are secure in our own identity as his people. This security comes from pressing intentionally and intensely into Christ.

We will be effective in faithfully pursuing that mission only when we gain an increasingly bigger view of the gospel! As I shared with our folks yesterday, there exists exactly ZERO threat to the gospel! The mission that we have been called to pursue–we have been purchased to pursue–is a victorious mission. The gospel is the cosmic announcement that Jesus is Lord and King, and nothing can thwart God’s purposes and plan. Our confidence is found there. It must be found there! And we gain that bigger view of the gospel only as we press more intentionally and intensely into Christ!

God intends for us to grow into disciples who are secure and confident in him. This is the path of endurance and wisdom. It is a life lived by faith, not in the gospel as concept, but the gospel as Way. And as we more and more align our lives with that Way, it changes EVERYTHING. It marks our lives in a way that is distinguishable in our world. It has to be, because it swims against the way of the world around us.

Here is the danger, brothers and sisters. The danger is we live in a place where it is easy and super cheap to profess Jesus with our mouths and yet walk in the way of the world. One of the graces of the glimpse we see from Revelation 13 is that it will increasingly become more uncomfortable to do that. We cannot straddle the fence. We cannot love the world and love Jesus as Lord. We cannot pursue the mission of the gospel and yet pledge all of our time, talent, and treasure to the ways of the world. We cannot bear both the seal of Christ and the mark of the beast.

So, what does my life reveal about the mark my life bears? What “way” is illuminated by my life? We need endurance and wisdom to walk the Way of Christ.

Praying through this Passage

Praying through this passage should reflect the simplicity of these exhortations.

We need to pray for endurance, even as our flesh pulls us toward the way of the world. We need endurance to bear the cost when walking the Way of Jesus becomes uncomfortable and difficult. We need endurance for the sake of pursuing the mission of the gospel. For the sake of the world and to the glory of our King.

We need to pray for wisdom, because sometimes it is hard to know the difference between these ways. Our hearts not only pull us toward the way of the world, it justifies our doing so. Our hearts seek to baptize the way of the world. It seeks to Christianize it. We can so easily conflate the two. We need wisdom to discern, as this chapter reminds us of the pervasive deception of our enemy. We need wisdom to be sober-minded.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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