Counterfeit Christ

Revelation 13:1-10

Decoys a common element of warfare, often used to great advantage. Work because they distract attention from where real action is happening. Useful in hunting as well. Work by attracting intended victim to place they wouldn’t be without incentive of decoy. In both scenarios, decoy works because mimics real thing well enough to escape notice until too late. Satan uses both to his great advantage.

Bear in mind images John describes intended to convey ideas of far more than appearance. Have much more to do with character and purpose. What person of any worldview in right mind would worship monster that appeared as described in our text? Christ is revealing in his word spiritual realities as much or more than physical ones.

Satan from beginning has worked diligently to acquire for himself all that rightly belongs to God. Let’s go back to Garden for minute: at first Adam and Eve genuinely loved God, gave him their highest loyalty. His word was indeed their command. Then along comes the serpent – by manipulating truth, enticed Eve to shift love to self and loyalty to him, shown by obedience to serpent’s suggestiion. What rightly belong to God now devoted to what was not God. Fast-forward to time of Jesus, beginning of his ministry. Satan no longer subtle, appearing as himself not a serpent. Approached issue head-on: “if you will worship me, all this will be yours”. Jesus’ rebuke right on target: “You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him”.

Attempts continue – now stakes are higher “because his time is short”. Putting all his resources into achieving goal of taking God’s place as sovereign over all things. Present method in this age: counterfeit God himself, including decoys of apparent trinity. Just as there is Father, Son, Spirit, Satan presents dragon, beast and false prophet. Parallels abound as will see in present text portraying a Counterfeit Christ, impersonating second person of Trinity. The character of the beast is revealed; is given worship; has a blasphemous purpose; will indeed be successful in his efforts; finally, what the Christian’s response should be.

A. character v.1-3

brought up out of the sea

a creation, in quotes, of the dragon – another form of evil personified, summoned to appear on world stage by Satan

know from Rev. 11:7 beast only appears to come from sea – true origin is bottomless pit, made war on two witnesses

in the image of the dragon – cf. Rev. 12:3

dragon has 7 heads, 10 horns, crowns on his heads, so also does Beast – is the incarnation of the dragon on the earth

self-identified with name belonging to God, claiming role and prerogatives that are exclusively God’s, expecting people to treat him accordingly

sad truth – unbelievers willingly give him what he wants, Christians can too easily be deceived and tempted

fulfillment of 4 beasts from Dan.7

number of shared features with what Daniel saw – lion, bear, leopard, and fourth horrifying creature – identified as four kings, four kingdoms that will arise on earth

Beast’s identity, then, corrupt worldly powers – kings and their kingdoms that either willfully or in ignorance take place of God… more later

appearance of resurrection from the dead

important to remember where we are in Revelation – beginning to see more of spiritual realities underlying physical ones

John, and we, with renewed minds and functioning spiritual sight can recognize Beast for who he really is… those who worship him cannot see the reality

totally convinced Beast is worthy of following because appeared as if had been raised from the dead – enough to cause profound amazement and honor

parable of rich man and Lazarus – send Lazarus to warn 5 brothers… they have Moses and prophets… no, if one goes from the dead they will repent

Jesus’ telling words: Luke 16:31 ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’

response to dragon and beast clearly demonstrate power of sin and Satan to blind, enslave, distort and deceive

cardinal truth that must be believed for salvation: Rom. 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

rather than believe truth, those who are lost believe an impostor who has neither power nor desire to free his captives

counterfeit

order from chaos as original creation; beast the image of the dragon as Christ the exact image of God; blasphemous names vs. Christ’s worthy names; power, throne, great authority from dragon as Christ from Father; fatal wound that mimics Christ’s resurrection, attracts great following

B. worship v.4

directed to the dragon

probably doesn’t fit mental image of Satan-worshiper: sacrificing chickens or neighborhood cats in middle of woods under full moon, or the like

worship expressed in many ways – who or what receives our highest acclaim, deepest loyalty, greatest dependence… that is what we worship

also to the beast

evil parody of praise that belongs to God – worship and praise due to Father and Son who is image of Father; here given to dragon and beast who is image of dragon

if Satan cannot destroy Christ and his church, will instead strive to set up parallel kingdom and lure/coerce/force as many as possible to give him what is due to God

in awe of his characteristics and (real) power

both rhetorical questions expecting negative response: none like the beast, none able to overcome him; misuse of Scripture here, just like Jesus’ temptation – Psa. 35:10 e.g., “O Lord, who is like you?”

of course real answer is: the Lamb not only is able to make war with him, the Lamb will make war and overcome him

identity – a political power / system as described in Daniel that far exceeds God-given authority and scope

at minimum encourages worship by its policies and practices; at worst, requires worship of citizens even though not explicitly identified as such

clearly present in North Korea, not a great stretch to view Islam that way (blasphemy laws) in sense that reverence is required toward what is not God

are strong tendencies in other places, even here – made much more likely when fail to grasp truth that God has ordained 3 institutions: family, church, state, with defined spheres

behooves us as people of God to properly understand and carry out roles and responsibilities God has given to each, resist encroachment of one on another

C. purpose v.5-7, 10a

put down/discredit true God and anything associated with him

anything God can do, I can do better; anything God can make I can improve; since evil exists, God either isn’t good or all-powerful; Christians are really intolerant; the church is full of hypocrites

across the board, all relates to God is ridiculed, minimized, mocked, criticized, rejected – in politics, entertainment, media… all tools of the dragon and beast

assume all that rightly belongs to God for himself

speaks and acts as though has ultimate authority – right and power to not only dictate behavior but also belief

getting dangerously close even here, government telling citizens what to believe about right and wrong – only God has authority over conscience, Beast tries to exercise same authority… in perverted way, calling evil good and good evil

destroy / overcome all he can who are loyal to God

has two weapons at his disposal that leads to third – imprisonment, sword/death… which leads to fear: many will comply through fear of other two

if regulation and intimidation don’t get desired result, then use force… deadly force if necessary to eliminate all opposition

D. success v.8

no middle ground, no third option – worship either true Christ or counterfeit Christ

John makes powerful (and unpopular) declaration – to worship anyone/anything other than Christ is to worship Satan

and the dragon-beast combination is effective – all worship him except only those whom the Lamb has redeemed

E. Christian response to the Beast v.9, 10b

listen to God’s helpful warning and exhortation

if not for Revelation, would be in the dark about Satan’s tactics; would far more easily be deceived, taken in by his lies

non-compliance will result in persecution

as Satan’s time gets even shorter, will become more and more desperate, turning up heat on committed Christians

yet… must resist pressure/temptation to give loyalty belonging to God to “not God”

must not look first to world or government to solve problems – God and his word must have top priority in all spheres of life

our loyalty, our worship must be given only to God and none other; when genuine, will be evident in all areas of life

remember who our Commander is, use resources he supplies to persevere

our Commander the one who not only can but will prevail over dragon and beast; meanwhile, he supplies all we need to remain loyal to him: his Word, Spirit, Church

All who are written in Book of Life belonging to the Lamb have nothing to fear. Even if it means imprisonment or even death, Christ is greater than all our enemies. He will be present with us in all our trials, he will bring us safely home at time of his choosing. Let’s make sure we are loyal to real Christ, not a counterfeit Christ.

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