Revelation 12-15: The Fifth Facet
Week 7, Wednesday: False religion
A second beast emerges, having a strictly “earthly” provenance. He is introduced by spiritual referents, but his purpose is anything but holy. This beast embodies every false religion that has sought to make people captive to merely human schemes and power, some of which we’ve already seen in Jesus’ letters to the churches of Asia Minor.
Read Revelation 13
Meditate on Revelation 13.11-18
1. How many different “spiritual” referents can you identify associated with this beast (cf. vv. 11, 13, 14, 15)? But how can you tell from verses 15-18 that the “spiritual” purposes of this beast are not in line with God’s economy?
2. Again, this beast does not represent any particular false religion, but any and all “religions” that enslave people to human schemes and power. In this respect, is secularism a false religion? Explain.
3. This beast can perform “great signs.” However, we need not think of these in supernatural terms only. “Great signs” are simply works that impress people enough to cause them to “worship” those who perform such works. Might all kinds of false religions be capable of “great signs” – including the false religions of scientism (not science per se), secularism, and so forth? Explain.
4. A close alliance exists between false religion and abusive political power. Can you cite any examples of this from your lifetime? Do you suppose this has been true throughout the “last days” since John was writing to the present?
5. Much is made of the “mark” of the beast – 666. But this is simply a way of indicating people who are committed to manmade and earthly schemes, rather than to God and His economy. The “mark” indicated on the “hand” or “forehead” may refer to the works or thoughts and plans of people (cf. Deut. 6.6-8). How can we tell when our works or thoughts or plans are beginning to stray from the divine economy to resemble more the works and thoughts and plans of false religion? Is there a hint to this answer in verse 17?
Does economic wellbeing ever threaten to become an idol in your life? How might you know if or when that was beginning to be the case?
The Glory of God
Again, God continues in the background. We’ve already seen that His book is unfolding these scenarios before us, and His angels are working out all the details of God’s sovereign rule on earth. How might God intend to use false religion to “test” the faith of His people (cf. Deut. 13.1-5)? Is it good for us to have to endure such “tests” from time to time? Why?
Glory to Glory
Many people in your Personal Mission Field are slaves to false religion, whether in the form of materialism, liberal Christianity, postmodernism, or other forms. What is your responsibility with respect to these people? Meditate on 1 Peter 3.15 as you think through your answer.
Recite your memory verses aloud: Revelation 12.10, 11. Share them with a Christian friend. Share any way that these verses have begun to affect your daily walk with the Lord.
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them.
T. M. Moore
The book of Revelation is the culminating episode in the story of God’s covenant. To learn more about that covenant, and to discover the way it integrates all of Scripture into the Gospel of Jesus Christ, order a copy of T. M.’s book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.