Revelation 13:11-17

Sermon preached on January 11, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

As we begin the year 2015 it's important that we Christians are prepared to stand boldly for Jesus, for his truth. Opposition to Christianity is becoming more and more prevalent in our society and if you are walking with Jesus you're going to experience this opposition. This past week (January 7, 2015) Open Doors USA released its annual World Watch List on Wednesday. It concluded that Christian persecution reached historic levels in 2014, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing dire consequences for merely practicing their religion, according to the report. The report said that if current trends persist, 2015 could be even worse.

But it's not just other countries where Christians are persecuted. Just a few days I ago I heard that the Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran of Atlanta, Georgia was fired for publishing a book that was designed to help Christian men overcome feelings of guilt and condemnation over past sins. In the 162 page book, less than one half page mentioned homosexuality. One sentence included homosexuality in a list of sins and said that those sins were the opposite of purity. That book got him fired. But even before he was fired Cochran was suspended without pay and ordered to undergo sensitivity training. Many in our society believe Christians who follow Jesus need to be reeducated.

In Matthew 10:22 Jesus said,

"All men will hate you
because of me,
but he who stands firm to the end
will be saved."

Samuel Rutherford, the great Scottish theologian who lived from 1600 to 1661said that if you walk with Jesus, you're going to meet whatever He meets. He put it this way. ("The Loveliness of Christ")

"God hath called you to Christ's side, and the wind is now in Christ's face in this land; and seeing ye are with him, ye cannot expect the lee-side or the sunny side of the brae."

Opposition to Christ and His kingdom is here and is increasing. The great question is: Are you going to stop walking with Jesus because of it?

The world and the forces of evil will try to get you to leave Christ's side. Satan will use many strategies to try to get you away from Jesus. Two that are highlighted in our text are the inability to buy and sell and death itself. It tells us that anyone who doesn't worship the image of the first beast is going to be killed. Anyone who doesn't have the mark of the beast is not going to be allowed to buy or sell. In our society we are already seeing previews of this. Because of this, this passage has great lessons for us as we enter 2015.

One of the things we see from our text is

how astute you Christians need to be.

The picture we have in our text is one of deception, of falsehood, of counterfeits.

Consider this beast out of the earth. He's one of three. Our chapter opens with the dragon, Satan, standing on the shore of the sea. Then we have the beast out of the sea. This beast was given his power, throne and authority by the dragon. He had a seemingly fatal wound that was healed. Men worship the dragon because of the first beast. The beast out of the earth makes the people of the earth worship the first beast. He performs great signs and wonders. He honors the first beast and kills those who refuse to worship the first beast's image.

All this shows us that what we have in Revelation 13 is a false trinity, a counterfeit trinity. (See Revelation 16:13) Grant R. Osborne suggests that Satan's original rebellion was probably, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 521)

"a self-centered desire for adulation…"

He adds that this theme continues in Revelation. Satan wants to be worshiped. It's his great goal. You'll recall that when he tempted Jesus one of the temptations was that he wanted Jesus to bow down and worship him. We shutter to even think of such a vile suggestion. But it's the reality. Satan wants to usurp worship that properly belongs to God.

Some commentators see Satan in chapter 13 forming a counterfeit trinity to enable him to receive worship. The devil, here referred to as the dragon, along with the two beasts form a counterfeit trinity. The beast out of the sea is the antichrist and the beast out of the earth is the false prophet. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, NICNT; p. 255)

"the evil triumvirate is now complete. As Christ received authority from the Father (Matt 11:27), so Antichrist receives authority from the dragon (Rev 13:4); and as the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ (John 16:14), so the false prophet glorifies the Antichrist (Rev 13:12)."

Just about everything here is evil and deceptive.

Vern Poythress says of the beast out of the earth, (Revelation, p. 145)

"When he exercises the authority of the first beast, (v. 12), he is counterfeiting Jesus' sending of the Holy Spirit as 'another Counselor' with his authority (John 16:13-15). He promotes the worship of the Beast (Rev. 13:12), just as the Holy Spirit promotes the worship of Christ. He performs miraculous signs (v. 13), analogous to the Spirit wrought signs in the book of Acts."

Elsewhere the beast out of the earth is called the 'false prophet'. (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10) His teaching is false and he leads people astray. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, NICNT; p. 257)

"The second beast imitates the miracles of the true prophets to deceive the people into worshiping the beast. Like Elijah he calls down fire out of heaven in the sight of everyone. As a false Elijah he prepares the way for a false Messiah. It was widely expected that the appearance of the Antichrist would be marked by numerous miracles. Jesus predicted the rise of false Christs who would lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Mark 13:22). Paul speaks of the lawless one whose coming 'will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders' (2 Thess 2:9)."

It's a false trinity whose blasphemous goal is to take the praise, honor and glory that human beings ought to give to the true, wonderful God—and instead to bring it upon themselves. They will use any means to accomplish their goal. They will use deception, coercion, and deadly force to get what they so desperately want. It's war against God and against humanity. It's evil wanting to be worshiped as good. It's falsehood wanting to be declared as truth. It's hatred wanting to be acknowledged as worthy of praise. It's about idolatry. As such this chapter is one of the most horrific of the entire Bible.

There is a great lesson for us here, which shows us how to be astute.

It is this:

your primary focus, as far as what to believe and how to live is concerned, is to be on God's Word.

You need to rest fully on the solid foundation of God's Word. The Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6 puts it this way,

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory and man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly stated in Scripture or by good and necessary inference may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or by traditions of men."

Many Christians today are interested in the miraculous. We tend to view it as a sure sign that God is working. We're ready to believe the miraculous are signs from God.

But miraculous is never to be placed above, or even alongside of God's Word. Miracles in themselves are nothing. They're not proof that something is from God. You must not be deceived by the false trinity. You must not be fooled by great miracles. In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Moses wrote,

"If a prophet, or one
who foretells by dreams,
appears among you and announces
to you a miraculous sign or wonder,
and if the sign or wonder of which
he has spoken takes place,
and he says,
'Let us follow other gods'
(gods you have not known)
'and let us worship them,'
you must not listen to the words
of that prophet or dreamer…

It is the Lord your God you must follow,
and him you must revere.
Keep his commands and obey him;
serve him and hold fast to him.
That prophet or dreamer
must be put to death,
because he preached rebellion
against the Lord your God,
who brought you out of Egypt and
redeemed you from the land of slavery;
he has tried to turn you
from the way the Lord your God
commanded you to follow.
You must purge the evil from among you."

We have a similar warning in our text. The devil can do miracles. The beast from the sea can recover from a seemingly fatal wound. The beast from the earth does great and miraculous sings and can call down fire from heaven. He can give breath to the image of the first beast.

If believing the miraculous is your criteria for deciding what is true—you're wide open to the deception of the false trinity. You'll be easily and quickly led astray. In 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul told the Corinthians wrote,

"But I am afraid that just as Eve
was deceived by the serpent's cunning,
your minds may somehow
be led astray from your
sincere and pure devotion to Christ."

He then went on to warn them that,

"Satan himself masquerades
as an angel of light.
It is not surprising, then,
if his servants masquerade
as servants of righteousness."

The sure foundation that God has given us is the Word of God. You must judge everything by the Word of God, by the doctrine given to us in it. As the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1: 8-9,

"But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach a gospel other than the
one we preached to you,
let him be eternally condemned!
As we have already said,
so now I say again:
If anybody is preaching to you
a gospel other than what you accepted,
let him be eternally condemned!"

We have the true word of God, the true gospel. In Jude 3 the apostle urged the saints,

"to contend for the faith that was
once for all entrusted to the saints."

We judge everything by God's Word. It is our firm foundation. Stand on it.