Good morning. First reading is from the Book of Revelation 1311 318. Then I saw another beast beast coming up out of the earth. It had two horns like those of a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and it makes the erets, the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, the one in whose fatal wound has been healed. It performs great miracles, even causing fire to come down from the Shamahim, from heaven onto the earth. As people watch, it deceives the people living on the earth by the miracles it is allowed to perform in the presence of the beast. And it tells them to make an image honoring the beast that was struck by the sword but came alive again. It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast, so the image of the beast could even speak. And it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death. Also forces everyone, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark that is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
This is where wisdom is needed to understand. Should count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. And that number is six. Six, six, the word of the Lord. If you at all, please stand for the reading of the Gospel. This will be a reading from the Gospel of Matiahu or Matthew, chapter 22, verses 34 to 30. When the crowds heard how he taught, they were astounded. But when the Pruchem or Pharisees learned that he had silenced the Zukum or the Saduses, they got together. And one of them, who was a Torah expert, asked a question to trap him. Rabbi, which of the mitzvaht or the commands in the Torah is the most important? He told him, you are to love Adonai, your Elohim, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This is the greatest and most important mitzvah or command. And a second is similar to it. You are to love your neighbor as yourself. All the Torah and the prophets are dependent on these two Mitzvolt, these two commandments, then, turning to the assembled Pruchem or Pharisees? Yeshua, put a question to them.
Tell me, in your view concerning the Mashiach, the Messiah, whose son is he? They said to him, Dave or David’s. Then how is it, he asked them, that Dave, inspired by the Ruoch, the Spirit calls him Lord when he says, adonai said to my Lord, sit here at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. If David does cause him Lord, how is his son? No one could think of anything to say in reply. And from that day on, no one dared to put to him another question the word of the Lord.
Thank you, Joe, for that reading. Reading from a Bible that gives us some of the words in Hebrew. Mitzvah are the commands. And I believe the Jews also use that word for their deeds, and they are commanded to carry out good mitzvah, good deeds. So thank you. Hey, kids. It is time for Kids Alive. I want to pray for you as you go. Lord, we love the kids that you have brought to this church. We pray that as the name of this church is Tree of Life, they would experience life and life to the full, that you would bless their teachers, you would bless their comprehension. They would grow and learn and grow strong in you and carry out many good mitzvahs for Your sake. We pray these things in Jesus name. Amen. All right, kids alive, off under the tree. I love it. That’s awesome. All right. Would you join me in prayer now? Father, we want to prepare our hearts to receive from you as your children as well. We ask that you would open our ears, our minds to you, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you would anoint the words that I speak that they might make clear to our hearts the word that you speak and that by Your word, we would be changed more and more into the image and likeness of your son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.
So we’re in the last book of the Bible, so it’s easy to find. It’s the Book of Revelation. It’s a book that many people just don’t know what to do with, and a book that can be intimidating and scary. But the book is called Revelation for a reason. It’s a book that reveals something about the true character and nature of God. And in the chapter we’re looking at, we come to a pretty significant verse that talks about a mark that means something. When I was in fourth grade, I had my first girlfriend. I may have even told you about this before. Her name was Anniwinsky. Do you remember me saying that? Anna Winsky. She’s so cute. Annekie. Well, I asked her to go with me. Now, I’m not sure I knew what that even meant, and I didn’t have the guts to actually verbalize that. I wrote it out. And she wrote her answer that, yes, she would go with me. Where, we don’t know. But we didn’t even hold hands. I mean, this was fourth grade. It’s just kind of make googly eyes at each other and everything. But we found a way to express the depths of our love for one another by writing each other’s names on our shoes.
That was the way we did it. It was significant. There really is something to that. How many times do you see a hat or a T shirt or a sweatshirt with nothing on it. It’s pretty rare. Usually a hat or a tshirt or sweatshirt has the name of some college, some institution, some team, or some person that you admire or want to build or emulate in some way. We tend to do homage with these things. Well, tattoos are kind of the same deal. Do you know that in America today, americans under the age of 35, 40% of them have tattoos? 40%. That’s significant. It’s very interesting to ask people what their tattoos mean, and they often light up and they want to tell you. One of the most common tattoos that people have is the name of somebody, somebody significant in their life, somebody who they want to emulate, somebody to whom they want to do homage. It is a good thing that I did not tattoo Annawinsky’s name on my body, because I would have had to remove it to marry Susan. In the ancient world, tattoos were common in some cultures for the same reasons, but in other cultures, they were forbidden.
They were forbidden among the Jews. The Romans were not particularly fond of tattoos. They used tattoos on slaves and prisoners and mercenaries. But among the Jews, it was considered a desecration of the body. And yet the concept was familiar to them, the concept of binding to yourself a name or a phrase that you wanted to do homage to or give honor to or emulate. In fact, in Deuteronomy, chapter six, when Moses recites the shama, which is how Jesus answered the Pharisees and the Sadducees, you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. When Moses recited that, he, speaking in the power of God, told the Jews to take those words and tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and your minds. And the tying of them literally would be a symbolic way of saying, they’re in my heart and in my mind. And that practice carried on to Jesus day. And it was a practice that Jesus did not condemn, except when it was done in a hypocritical way, except when it was done merely for show.
He said the Pharisees were big into this. Everything they do in Matthew 23, it’s recorded. Everything they do is done for people to see. They make their falactories wide. A falactory was a leather box that you would tie to your forehead, and I guess it was meant to be a modest thing, but in order to outdo others, to say, I’m more spiritual, the shaman, means more to me than it does to you. I’d make an even bigger box on my forehead, and I don’t know where they drew the line, but I bet at some points it got ridiculous. But this practice takes one step further when we come to the book of Revelation. In fact, in Revelation, we see that names are written everywhere. They’re tattooed on all manner of things. On Revelation 22 four, it says of you and of me, and of all the saints who will gather around the throne, that we will see his face and his name will be on our foreheads, a spiritual tattoo, and that Jesus in Revelation 19 had a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. And on his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written king of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So Jesus is tattooed. And with that we have the groundwork for one of the most fascinating verses in the Bible. Let me read it to you again. Chapter 13 of Revelation, verse 18 or 17. The people, rich and poor, free and slave, received a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is six. So here’s the context. When we come to something scary like this, it’s important to remember context. The Book of Revelation is a book that promises happiness. It promises blessing to those who read this word, to those who hear this word, but most of all to those who heed this word, who take it to heart and seek to live it. It’s also important to remember that this is a book about what was, what is, and what is to come. It is a big mistake to read this book as if it’s only in the future.
A big mistake to read it as if it’s only in the past. It is a book that deals with the past that is relevant for the present and will be relevant for the future. I love what Eugene Peterson says. Tanner quoted him last week, but I think it’s worth repeating. He said, I do not read Revelation for information. He said, literally everything that’s in Revelation in some way or form or shape is found in the rest of the Bible. I do not read Revelation for information, but I read it to revive my imagination. Our God loves to stoke the imagination of his people. The opening words of Genesis are imaginative and vivid words. Great pictures are painted for us to see the creative energy and power and majesty and awesomeness of God. If you read Genesis one and two, you realize that there is poetry and song going on here. The very way that the Bible opens is the way that the Bible closes. And it’s helpful for us to become a people whose imaginations are stoked around the very truth and facts of Scripture. So when we come to chapter 13 in Revelation, we’ve had a lot to imagine about.
There have been seven trumpets that had sounded in the heavenlies and in each trumpet there were woes that came upon the earth. Lightning and thunder and earthquakes and famines and all manner of disaster. And finally the 7th trumpet blows. And by the way, as we look at the six trumpets before it, in many ways we see the history of the world, a world that’s been beleaguered by woes and sins and brokenness and all these things. And so the 7th trumpet sounds and it says that the kingdom of this world, the kingdoms of this world, have now become the kingdom of our God. And you hear that in the handles of Messiah and he shall reign forever. It’s an awesome thing when you get to that moment in the concert. But that is the 7th trumpet. He triumphs. He will reign. So you’d think the book of Revelation would be over at this point. But what happens in Revelation is the visions imaginatively take us back and forward and through and back again. And so now we come to chapter twelve. And in chapter twelve, it opens like this. I’m not going to read the whole chapter, but it opens like this.
A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with a moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Now, many theologians look back and they say this is a picture of Mary about to give birth to Jesus. And that is probably a very valid way of interpreting that. Others also say, well, the twelve stars symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. And so the woman is Israel, the Old Covenant giving birth to the new. And that also is probably a very valid way to interpret that passage. And whether it’s one or the other, what clearly is in view here is the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is being born. But then another sign appeared in heaven. An enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its head. And what follows? There is this amazing cosmic battle as the dragon waits to devour. The child wants to destroy Jesus, our Messiah. And the dragon goes to war in the heavenlies. He is struck down by the archangel Michael. A third of the angels are struck down with them and cast down to earth.
And it looks like that’s the conquering of Satan. And indeed words of victory are expressed in chapter twelve. But then it says this but woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you. He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring. Those who keep God’s commands his mitzvahs and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. That’s you and me. The dragon Satan, enraged that he could not destroy the messianic plan nevertheless has gone off to make war against those little children underneath the tree over there who are learning the mitzvahs of the Lord, who hold his commands, you and me who gather to worship the Lord. Satan wants to destroy us. Well, how does he do so? And here is where the relevance comes in. For what was this was written to first century Christians and it was written to encourage them. It was written to say, you can be blessed, you can be equipped, you can be ready for all that is coming in this world.
Hold fast because Satan is after you. And so this is what happens in chapter 13. The dragon stood on the shore of the sea and I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, just like the dragon did, with ten crowns on its horns. These crowns signify worldly power and on each head a blasphemous name. We see the tattoos, right? And 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 in 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 filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshipped 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 wage war against it? This beast from the sea, for anyone who was biblically literate at the time, would have called the mind Leviathan, which is a sea monster that we see in Job, we see them in the Psalms and a number of other places in the scripture.
And it’s a sea monster that’s representative of the powers of evil in this world. We would also recognize that this beast is a lot like the beast seen in Daniel’s dreams in his prophecies, where he’s told that those beasts represent kingdoms, political and military minds. And so it’s a sure bet that what’s being prophesied in John’s vision. So the Christians of his day is that there are political powers that are rising and they are fearsome, who can stand against their might and they are arraying themselves against the people of God. In fact, where is John right now? He’s in exile on the Isle of Patmos. Why? For his faith. Why? Because of the power of the state. He would not bow or bend the knee. Christians at that time were more and more frequently being asked to give homage to Caesar, whose name inscripted on coins often was inscripted with the title Son of God. One of the Caesars, I can’t remember which off the top of my head actually inscripted simply God that he himself was God. And so at state occasions and at various gatherings of the guilds and all those things. It was not an uncommon thing that you would give homage to your God, who Caesar, by either making a certain sacrifice, by saying a prayer of thanks for your food to him, whatever it might be.
And Christians, more and more would come under persecution for not bowing the knee. Domician would be followed by Nero. Nero would have parties like this, much bigger parties, actually. Parties that would go into the night, and to light up his parties, he would burn Christians on stakes. This was the kind of persecution that the spirit, through John was getting the Christians ready for. And so it rightly says at the end of that first section in chapter 13, verse nine, or like verse eight, rather, all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast, all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Whoever has ears, let them hear. If anyone is to go into captivity like John, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with a sword like Stephen, and the martyrs with the sword, they will be killed. This calls for patient, endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people. So we see a beast rise up that represents coercive force. Our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing some of that coercive force right now.
Chinese Christians, Christians among the Islamic nations, who are forced to bend the knee or die, who are forced to recant their faith or die. That coercive force often happens in subtle ways in a culture like ours, whether through laws that seek to bind Christians to do things that we believe goes against the commands of God. And when those things happen, God, through the Spirit, through John, tells us, hold fast. This calls for patience, endurance and faithfulness. Don’t bow the knee, don’t give up the name. But there’s another beast, because oftentimes the power of coercion doesn’t work on the people of God. So another beast rises, a beast from the earth, which again, there’s a Bihamoth who appears in Job and in the Psalms, and he’s a beastly creature, a creature of the earth that again represents the powers of evil. But this one’s interesting. Verse eleven. Then I saw a second beast coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. Who’s the lamb of God? Jesus. This beast looks lamblike seems to be something like the religion that we profess, but it speaks like a dragon that if it’s speech is uncovered, what we find is it’s not the voice of a lamb, it’s the voice of the devil.
This beast represents all false religion, all false religion that seeks to manipulate the people of God, to compromise. This beast leads others, it says to honor the beast who is wounded by the sword and yet lived. And this beast performs great signs even causing fire to come down from heaven to the Earth in full view of the people, whatever that means. It means this beast is impressive and has the power to bring down false signs and miracles and so to sway people. Perhaps it’s the impressive of sophisticated religion, I don’t know. But because this is a book about what was, we can know that it’s very much tied to the pagan cults of the Christians time back in Rome, and a book about what is we can look at how Christianity has been twisted in our own day and age, how people say, well, Jesus didn’t really say that, or didn’t really mean that, or don’t you think that’s a little bit too restrictive? Or any number of things that they say about, well, Jesus is a good teacher, but he certainly couldn’t have really been the Son of God. Let’s just kind of follow his words, but not believe that he is.
The way, the truth and the life false religion will always seek to move us from the belief. Lamb like, they appear, they appear to be serving the greater good of society, but their words are from the dragon. And so finally, we come to the end of this chapter where we see the mark of the Beast being given. And the mark is the number 666. This number was often calculated through the process of something called Jamatria, a system of assigning numbers to words and to letters and being able to say, Oh, look, Nero. His name, through the process of Jamatria, equals 6666. So Nero is the Beast. And there were people who said that the only problem with Jamatri is there are a lot of other names that it lines up with. Maybe your name or my name, I’m not sure. But you can kind of look it up and it can get pretty amusing at times. It can yield hundreds of results. But in Revelation, symbolism is king. Imagination is king. Symbols, numbers, they’re all meant to stoke our imagination for what they mean. And we know what seven means, right? Seven is the number of perfection.
God created the heavens and the Earth, and on the 7th day he declared it holy and he rested from his labor. Salvation is pictured as entering into the rest and the perfection of God, where all of our sins, through the blood of Jesus Christ, are forgiven, and you are declared in the eyes of God, perfect. You will never be more forgiven or more cleansed than you are right now. Now, we live in a world that’s broken and we’ve got bodies that are broken and we still sin. And yet the spiritual reality is we’re washed clean. We have entered into the seven of God that is and is not yet that is yet to come. But even now, we enjoy and experience. So if seven is that perfection, if it’s that rest, what is six? It’s the falling short of that perfection. Six days you are to labor, and on the 7th day, rest. One of the most unholy things that happens in humanity is when people are enslaved and they’re never allowed to rest. They’re driven by Pharaoh. They’re driven. Do you know there are more slaves today in the world than there ever have been?
There are more. You can look it up. There are more people sold into slavery today than during the days of the African slave trade. It’s crazy. It’s unconscionable. It’s Satanic. And yet we often do the same things to our very selves when we never rest, when we are always working, when we buy into the American dream. And the American dream is all about achieve, achieve, achieve, achieve, achieve. And one day you’ll rest. One day when you’ve earned your millions, you’ll retire and go off into glory. But God says, Sabbath now rest now. I’m the God who provides. You need not worry. And so is it any wonder that the mark of the beast is six? It is the multiplication of that number six. It is the unceasing, unresting, ever working, ever oppressing number of man. Isn’t that interesting? It’s the number of man. It says it can be translated aman, but it can simply be translated the number of man. What did Jesus say to Peter when Peter told him, you shouldn’t go to a cross? I’ll never allow that. He said, Get behind me, Satan, for you don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.
When we stop short with the things of man, we’re in the realm of the Satanic. But when we step through and realize that what man was ever meant to be was to step through into the rest and the perfection and the joy and the love of God, into the seven, it’s then that we’re properly marked. It’s then the Lamb’s name that’s written on our foreheads, that tattoo that we cannot see, that will only become visible when we stand around the throne by faith. It’s only then that too, marks us and tells us who we really are, that we belong to Him, that it’s Him we emulate. It’s Him whom we do homage. I don’t want you all to run out and get tattoos. You can if you want. And you may wonder if I think highly of tattoos or not. My daughter is tattooed. And the tattoo on my daughter Becca’s back says this in omnibus requiem cave at NASCOM infinity nichikum dale. If somebody’s here that can translate that, I’m very impressed. But I’ll tell you what it means. I’ve looked everywhere for peace and nowhere have I found it except with God. She tattooed it on her body at a time in her life when she had been down the road of searching for her own meaning in her own way, apart from God, and had come lovingly to the end of herself and realized that the only mark she ever wants is the mark of Jesus upon her life.
And that’s what those words signify. That mark by faith is yours if you have faith. If you don’t have faith, simply turn over to the Lord and ask for that faith. He’ll give it to you. He will reveal Himself to you. He is a God who reveals because he loves you. And he wants his name written not just on your forehead, but on your heart. We praise God for that. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, I know there’s so much more in this book. I know our imaginations haven’t even begun to grasp how wide and high and deep and long is the love of God in Christ. How secure we are in a world that’s crazy, in a world that might even kill us one day, Lord. But we are secure in you and in your love. We pray that that security would grow among your people, among your children. We pray that that love and that honor and that homage and that emulation would well up in our hearts. We would go out into the world doing the deeds, the mitz, fuzz, the commands of Christ that all the world may know and more and more might be rescued from that mark of the devil and receive in their lives the name of the Lamb.
It’s in your name we pray. Amen.