The dragon now has another agent to help with his corruption of the world. It’s a little creepy how we see the formation of a demonic trinity here. Did you notice the attempts to “appear” similar to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Look closely. But these creatures truly represent false prophets because true prophets will lead people to God the Father, not a dragon or beast set on destruction.
It was in today’s passage that the “famous” mark of the beast is revealed. I say famous because it seems like most people associate the number 666 with the book of Revelation. Many times, that’s all people really know about the book. Yet they don’t truly understand what it means. And did you notice in the footnotes that some manuscripts record it as 616 instead of 666?
I’m pretty sure that everyone who reads Revelation is waiting to meet the beast. Not really “meet” as in a face to face encounter, but it’s who we’ve been expecting to see. There is a lot of attention given to the beast, so let’s figure out what we can about him.
We know that as Chapter 12 came to an end, the dragon was waiting for him. The text in 12:18 read, “Then he stood waiting on the shore of the sea.” We didn’t know then what the dragon was waiting for. But the fact that John’s vision included that gave me pause to wonder “waiting for what?” People often wait for “their ship to come in,” an idiom for the anticipation of success or wealth. Surely after his defeat in heaven, the dragon (Satan) was waiting for success.
I love the picture here of God giving the people what they asked for. They wanted to hear from God, but they didn’t want to hear his message directly again. It had really scared them in the wilderness. They thought they were going to die. Moses had become that spokesperson, but he wasn’t making the trek into the promised land with them. God would raise up another prophet or many others.
How would they know if it was a true prophet or just a false imposter? This is the answer. “If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message.” Depending on the prophecy, it might take days, months, or years to know if a prophecy was from God. That could seem like a lifetime to be following the wrong message.
False prophets, teachers, apostles–there are many in our world. Just as Eve was deceived by the “cunning ways” of a serpent, we can find ourselves hearing a watered down, twisted version of the Gospel message. If we aren’t careful, we might even give in and believe it. We are not immune when we call ourselves children of God. In fact, we are an even more tempting target for the evil one.
As followers of Christ, I sometimes feel like we have a target on our backs. The evil one lurks behind every barrier, around every corner, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on our doubting heart, our wayward soul seeking answers. Are we ready to know the difference between right and wrong? Will we recognize the lies, or will we be unwittingly sucked into the “un-truth” because it sounds good?
Have you ever heard that skepticism is a virtue? Well, at least
Solomon thought it was something to point out. In verse 15, it says, “Only
simpletons believe everything they’re told! The prudent carefully consider
their steps.” Simpleton is this translation’s way of calling out the
simple-minded, those who don’t think a lot about what they are doing.
In the day and age we are living in, we are constantly
bombarded with messages. Whether it’s on social media, the news, or the gossip
at the coffee shop, there is an information overload exploding around us. How do
you decide what is “good” news and what is “fake” news? How do you discern?