FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 21, number 27, July 7, 2022
“If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger, and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” – Revelation 14:9-10
There are only two world views. The first believes God is sovereign and His word is to govern the affairs of any nation. The second believes man is sovereign and his own belief systems, which vary from nation to nation and which are arbitrary, are to govern man. Does the Bible speak to this important issue of world views? Yes of course it does, in many places, but for now, let’s consider this from the book of Revelation.
The interpretation of the book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John, has long been problematic. Many have believed that Revelation ought to be interpreted literally, so in Revelation it has been suggested that the beast is, among many possibilities—a revived Roman Empire, or a wicked ruler of a one world government (in the highly popular Left Behind novels his name is Nicolae Carpathia who dies, is resurrected by Satan, and who becomes the head of the U.N.). This teaching, called premillennial dispensationalism, has ignited speculation as to the identity of the antichrist (it has been suggested that he is—take your pick, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, or Henry Kissinger, to name a few). Gary Demar has shown the folly of such speculation in his book Last Days Madness: The Folly of Trying to Predict When Christ Will Return. Our dispensational brethren also believe the mark of the beast on the forehead and hand are to be taken literally as well, that during the seven year Tribulation period, those who worship the beast will have the number 666 implanted on their hands and foreheads.
Other exegetes, including those of the amillennial or postmillennial persuasion, believe that the apocalyptic genre of Revelation demands we take these images in a spiritual or figurative manner. In other words, Jesus does not literally have seven eyes and seven horns (Revelation 5:6). I am a postmillennialist and therefore believe we should interpret Revelation figuratively. So, who is the beast of Revelation? Kenneth Gentry makes a strong case for the beast being the Roman Empire at the time John received his revelation from the risen, exalted Christ. To be more specific, Gentry points out that sometimes the Beast is described in a generic fashion (the Roman Empire) and sometimes he is specifically identified. Gentry believes the beast was Nero, the wicked Emperor of Rome, who committed suicide in June, 68 A.D. If Jesus gave His revelation to John around 66 A.D. (as I and all these postmillennial scholars affirm), then He clearly is referring to cataclysmic events soon to take place (Revelation 1:1,3, 3:11, 22:7,12). The churches of Asia-Minor, to whom Jesus was writing (Revelation 2,3), were being severely persecuted by the Roman Empire on the one hand, and by the Jewish, religious establishment on the other. These believers needed encouragement to hold fast until Jesus came (this refers not to His second coming in final judgment, but to His coming in judgment on Jerusalem which was to come in three or four years) and conquered the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon. And this encouragement came from Jesus who promised to destroy all their enemies in the lake of fire that burns with brimstone (Revelation 19:20, 20:10). Jesus gives His revelation to John so that he can write it to the seven churches in Asia Minor, that they would stand firm, that they would not deny their Lord who was exalted to the right hand of the Father, who rules once and for all over all nations, kings, and despots (Psalm 2:8, 47:8, 110:1-2, Philippians 2:9-11, Revelation 11:15). The Jewish nation was destroyed some four years later, as Jesus had earlier prophesied (Matthew 24, 25) when Titus of the Roman Empire laid siege to Jerusalem, killing 1.1 million people (has there ever been a more horrific massacre in such a short time period) and destroying the Temple.
The Roman Empire, the beast of Revelation, was severely persecuting the people of God, demanding that they pay homage to Caesar, something they refused to do. Consequently they were often thrown to the lions and killed by gladiators in the Coliseum in Rome. The temptation for any Christian at the time was to denounce Christ and to proclaim allegiance to Caesar. Jesus is God, not Caesar. We are to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). Hence Jesus’ strong words of judgment on any who worship the beast, who put their trust and confidence in the Roman Empire! So it was vital that they knew what it meant to worship the beast, to give homage to Nero. Worshipping Nero was evident if one had his mark on the forehead or hand. What does that mean? We best not take this literally, as I have suggested earlier. To receive the mark on the head is to be controlled in one’s thinking by the state or someone else, to believe that the state is one’s savior. To have the mark of the beast on the hand is to have one’s work (we work with our hands) committed to Nero, to work for him and to work against the Christ.
So Jesus is directly speaking to people in that day in a specific situation of persecution. Does this mean then that Revelation has no practical benefit for us in our day? Of course not. It has great meaning for today. All of Scripture does. We have no trouble believing that Paul’s direct words to the Corinthian believers about eating food sacrificed to idols applies in a principled way to us. The message of Revelation is no different. Even as Jesus warned the churches in Asia Minor to not worship the Roman Empire, to not put their trust in Nero; we likewise are to refrain from putting our hope and trust in the state. If one worships the state, instead of the true and living God, then he is under God’s judgment. He will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of God’s righteous anger. Those who worship the beast will be tormented forever in fire and brimstone (the lake of fire). This torment will be executed in full view of God’s holy angels and the Lord Jesus Himself.
So it is vital that we make sure we are not worshipping the beast or his image. You may be doing so if you think Big Brother is to care for you from cradle to grave, if you think the state is to provide education for people, if you believe caring for the poor is the government’s business, if you believe health care is an entitlement Big Brother owes you. All that you have is from God and you are to be faithful stewards of it (1 Timothy 6:18-19). I am not saying all who are for limited government intrusion and lower taxes are Christians; nor am I saying all for increased government intrusion and higher taxes are infidels. Perhaps, however, you fall into the latter category. Have you really thought through your view of the world, church, and government? Step back for a moment and reconsider your position. Our problems today (Covid-19 lockdowns, mask mandates, and the desire by many to abolish or mitigate our First and Second Amendment rights, to name just a few) come down to the clash between two world views. On the one hand, there is the belief that God is our King, that our supreme allegiance is to Him and His word; and His word tells us that His covenant people are to provide for the education and welfare of the church and nation. On the other hand, there is the belief, perhaps unknowingly or unconsciously, that our hope is in man, or more specifically, the government. As long as a majority of people in the U.S. worship the beast then we can expect an ever increasing servitude to him which eventually will bring our national demise as we drink of the wine of God’s wrath mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger.
1 Dispensationalists like C.I. Scofield, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, and Charles Ryrie, to name a few, are Dispensational Premillennialists. O.T. Allis in Prophecy in the Church succinctly shows the error in such literalism. Not all premillennial dispensationalists today hold the exact views of Walvoord or Ryrie.
2 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, John Walvoord, Moody Publishers, 1966, pages 197-198.
3 A means no, millennial means one thousand. Thus, an amillennialist does not believe in a literal one thousand year reign of Christ. Instead it is a spiritual reign which began at Christ’s first coming and continues until His second coming. Post means after. Thus, a postmillennialist believes the spiritual one thousand year reign of Christ begins after His second coming.
4 I am not alone in this interpretation of Biblical prophecy. Many of the seventeenth century Puritans were postmillennialists. See Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope. So was Jonathan Edwards. Modern day proponents of this view include R.C. Sproul, R.J. Rushdoony, Gary Demar, John Jefferson Davis, Greg Bahnsen, and Keith Mathison.
5 He writes brilliantly and lucidly on the issue. See his The Beast of Revelation and He Shall Have Dominion, Both are published by The Institute of Christian Economics.
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