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Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

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Well, I am currently rereading a historical book on World War II – I enjoy reading from that era – and I'm reading a book written by Erik Larson; it's the second time I've read it through, because I found it compellingly interesting. It's not fiction, but it reads like fiction – it's basically first-hand accounts; there's not a word of fiction in it, but it's entitled The Splendid and the Vile. It's a book about Winston Churchill, the splendid, as he battles his nemesis Adolf Hitler, the vile – and it's true; read anything about history at all, and you know that Adolf Hitler was truly a wicked, evil, vile man. But amazingly, he's not the worst, he's not the vilest world ruler that there is – one day, a world ruler will arise who will be the embodiment of evil. He will be completely controlled by Satan, he will dominate politics worldwide, and he will invite, demand, and receive the worship of the whole world. We're studying the 13th chapter of Revelation, where we meet this man, and we learn about his evil empire. Let's read, again, together, the first ten verses of Revelation 13, which describe this man.

The dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

Last time, we discovered the basic theme of these verses is this – during the future seven-year tribulation that follows the rapture of the church, Satan will raise up and empower a profoundly evil human ruler as a false Messiah who will rule and receive the worship of the entire world. Next to Jesus Christ, this will be the most famous person in history – he is the Antichrist, a powerful political world ruler who will arise during the coming tribulation. In Revelation 13-20, this person plays a crucial role – but here in chapter 13, John begins to introduce us to him and gives us two primary descriptions of this future world ruler. In verses 1-4, we learn about his person, and in verses 5-10, his career.

Now, last time, we looked at the person of the Antichrist in the first four verses – we learned, in these verses, five important facts about this future ruler and his person. First of all, his meteoric rise – verse 1 tells us, or describes in pictorial form, that he will rise from obscurity to sudden fame; he will come into the world stage with a flourish. We learned of his political power – in the second half of verse 1, Antichrist will be a powerful political leader whose final world empire will be a new manifestation of the Roman Empire, as Daniel makes clear – it will start as a ten-nation European confederacy, but it will spread to encompass the entire planet. Thirdly, we learned last time about his beastly character – Antichrist is a blending of, and shares characteristics with, all of the beastly rulers throughout history that have stood against God and His purpose, and those are detailed in those verses. Fourthly, we learned about his supernatural patron – he is backed by, empowered by the dragon. Verse 2 says the dragon – in context here, that's Satan – "gave him his power and his throne and great authority." And then, fifthly, we looked at his counterfeit death and resurrection in verses 3-4 – to imitate the real Messiah, Jesus Christ, and to strengthen his grip on the world, this false Messiah will experience an apparent death and resurrection. Look at verse 3 – "I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed." Later in the chapter, it's clear we're talking about the Antichrist himself. Under Satanic deception, the entire planet will be convinced that this charismatic world ruler has actually died and been raised from the dead. His followers respond to that by following him as his disciple, the language is, in verse 3 – they will worship Satan, either, in some cases knowingly, in other cases unwittingly, as they worship Antichrist himself. That's what we learned last time about the person of the Antichrist.

Tonight, we come to John's second primary description of this future ruler, and that is his career – the career of Antichrist is unfolded for us in verses 5-10; his career will be steeped in both world politics and religion. But before we get to Antichrist's specific activities, John first wants to remind us that even Antichrist is under God's sovereign control, so the first thing we learn in these verses about the career of Antichrist is that he will ultimately be governed by God. Four times, in two verses, John makes this point in unmistakable terms – in verse 5, and again in verse 7, John uses four times the passive verb was given, was given, was given, was given. You see, the power of the Antichrist is derived, it's not his own – where does that power come from? Well, in an immediate sense, it comes from Satan – in verses 2 and 4, Satan is described as the one giving Antichrist his power and his authority. But the four times that John uses was given, in verses 5 and 7, he's not referring to Satan – how do I know that? Because John uses this exact same expression throughout his book to refer to God; it's a divine passive – John is saying that God ultimately gives power and authority to Antichrist; God is sovereign over, and in complete control of, the activities of Antichrist.

Now, we're going to examine these verses in more detail in a moment, but for now, I just want you to notice what John says God is sovereign over, when it comes to the activities of Antichrist. First of all, we learn that God decides to allow him to live and prosper in spite of his blasphemies – look at verse 5. "There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies." Secondly, we learned that God decides to allow him unopposed rule for forty-two months – verse 5 goes on to say, "and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him." God establishes a strict limit on the time of his reign of terror. Thirdly, God decides to allow him to successfully persecute the saints – verse 7 says, "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them." And then, finally, in verse 7, God decides to allow him political control of the whole world; verse 7 ends, "and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him."

Now, this passage is fascinating because of what it exposes us to. Obviously, Antichrist is making decisions; he is a real man, he makes – he's not an automaton, he's making decisions about what he wants to do, about his own strategies. At the same time, he is led and directed by Satan, and at the same time, God is overruling and directing the activities of them both, and all of those under them. This is what theologians describe as the eternal decree, is what we're really talking about here. What is the eternal decree? Here's how the Westminster Confession puts it: "God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass." Now, look at that sentence again – "from all eternity." These were decisions God made, or more technically correct, this was a decision God made in eternity past. "By the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely" – there were no compelling factors; God made these decisions "freely and unchangeably." He "ordained whatsoever comes to pass," without exception. And then it goes on, "yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or the contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established." In other words, it's saying God is acting, but people are acting as well. Satan is acting, the man of sin is acting, and God is acting and directing all of that for His own purpose. Theologians divide God's decree into two classes of events – there are those that are directive; that is, God determined to effect certain events, either through necessary causes or His own actions. Of these things, we can legitimately say that God authors them and directly brings them about; God does them. But there are also events that are permissive; that is, God determined to allow created free agents to effect certain events – you know, the crucifixion of Christ is a great example of that. In Acts 2:23, we read this, "this Man, delivered over" – listen to this – "by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" – there's God acting – "you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" – there's the people who crucified Christ acting; both are true.

Now, what is the relationship between God's eternal decree and man's sin, as we look at Antichrist, for example – what's the relationship between God and man's sin? First of all, God does not act on or in our wills to cause us to sin – in other words, God will accomplish His purpose, but He doesn't tempt anyone to sin. James 1 says, "and He can't be tempted, He doesn't tempt anyone to sin."[SR1] Enns writes this, "Man's sinful acts do not frustrate the eternal plan of God, but neither is God the author of them – all acts, including sinful acts, conform to the eternal plan of God, but He is not directly the author of all acts." God takes no responsibility for sinful acts at all. Secondly, we can say that man's sin is not simply passively permitted, out of God's control, and separate from His plan – no, God weaves it into His plan. Thirdly, God's decree renders every sinful act absolutely certain; we're reading about the sinful acts of a future man in Revelation 13, and it's going to happen exactly as God said.

So, how does that work? Here's the key – God simply determined, A, not to hinder the sinful choices of the sinner's will – in other words, He's going to let Antichrist do what Antichrist wants – and, this is key, B, to direct and control the results of the sinner's choices to accomplish His own divine purposes. This is exactly how it will work with Antichrist's sinful activity – God has decreed to permit it, He controls it, ensuring that what happens is within His plan, and He directs the results for His own purposes; God will control it all, and Satan will control the Antichrist – yet Antichrist will also freely choose of his own will to blaspheme God, to exalt himself as God. And those who join Antichrist's army will do so voluntarily, but in so doing, they will fulfill God's eternal plan, His eternal decree. And the believers that the Antichrist will martyr will still be under God's protection and care; that will be His plan for them – the saints, in that time, can be encouraged to know that their suffering and its duration has been determined by God – Antichrist's power is limited; so, Antichrist will ultimately be governed by God.

However, as we just saw, at the same time, secondly, he will be personally dominated by sin. He will be personally dominated by sin – in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul calls him the "man of lawlessness."[SR2] Not surprisingly, his career will be marked by four sinful, lawless activities – let's look at them together. Here is how he is dominated by sin – first of all, by arrogant blasphemy, in verses 5-6. Look at verse 5 – "There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words." The other book that has the most to say about Antichrist is the Book of Daniel, and in Daniel 7:8, he's pictured there as a little horn, and the little horn there is described as "uttering great boasts." What are these boasts? Well, John goes on to explain the nature of Antichrist's boasts: "and blasphemies." You remember back in verse 1, when we read that on his heads were blasphemous names – Daniel 7:25 says "he will speak out against the Most High," Daniel 11:36, "this king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods." When Antichrist comes to power, there will be no subtlety – his attacks on God will be public, they will be outrageous, they will be monstrous. John MacArthur writes, "Antichrist's arrogance will surpass that of anyone else in human history – he will be Satan's mouthpiece, voicing his master's frustrated rage against God. He will be the supreme blasphemer in a world filled with blasphemers." Verse 5 goes on to say "and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him" – this is the same timeframe, by the way, that is spelled out for Antichrist's reign of terror in other places, but in different terms. For example, in Revelation 12:14, it's called "a time and times and half a time," reflecting Daniel 7, meaning three-and-a-half years; it's the last three-and-a-half years of the tribulation. Or it's 1,260 days, as it's described in Revelation 11:3 and Revelation 12:6. It is the second half of Daniel's seventieth week, in Daniel 9:24. So, we're talking about what transpires during the second half of the tribulation, from the midpoint through the end of the seven years.

Now, in verse 6, we discover the specific targets of his blasphemy – first of all, he will blaspheme God Himself. Verse 6 says "and he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name." To blaspheme God's name is simply to blaspheme all that God is. How will Antichrist do this? He will do it in two ways; his blasphemy will be obviously what he says against the true God, and his blasphemy will be that he will take the titles for God to himself – he will blaspheme God. Secondly, he will blaspheme God's people – verse 6 says "and he will blaspheme His tabernacle," God's tabernacle, God's dwelling. But then he says this, and this is an interesting expression, "that is, those who dwell in heaven." Now, that expression, "those who dwell in heaven," back in chapter 12, verse 12, referred to the saints in heaven. So, what he's saying here in this unusual expression is that God's people are the place God dwells – it's a very interesting thought. It's not the only place in the New Testament, though – in Ephesians 2:22, it refers to believers and says, "you are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" – believers are like a temple where God dwells. Individual churches are called that in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, but all believers together are like God's temple, His tabernacle. And Antichrist, notice, will blaspheme "those who dwell in heaven," the saints – so he'll not only blaspheme God, but the saints in heaven.

But Antichrist is not going to be just all talk – he is also going to engage not only in arrogant blasphemy, but secondly, in violent persecution. Verse 7, "It was also given to him to make war with the saints" – for His own purposes, God is going to allow Antichrist to make war with the saints. He's borrowing, really, almost the exact expression from Daniel 7:21, where it says, "I kept looking, and that horn," talking about the Antichrist, "was waging war with the saints and overpowering them." At the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation, as we have learned already, Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel – peace will flee. Antichrist will break his covenant, he'll set up an image of himself in the temple in Jerusalem, that's the abomination of desolation, and he will demand that he be worshipped – from that point through the rest of the seven years, he will initiate an unrelenting wave after unrelenting wave of the violent persecution of God's people. He will be prompted by Satan – remember, Satan was a murderer from the beginning – and he will be prompted to walk in his footsteps, and because of his own evil heart, and his hatred of the good, like Cain toward Abel, he will hate believers. In addition, Antichrist will undoubtedly see believers as a threat to his rule, since they refuse to bow, they refuse to worship, they refuse to support his evil regime – he will see them in the same way that Nebuchadnezzar saw the three Hebrew children, and he will lash out fury against them. Verse 7 says he will "overcome them" – not spiritually, but physically; in other words, he will kill them. Under Antichrist, in the last three-and-a-half years of the tribulation, there will be a worldwide slaughter of believers in the true God. We have already met some of these people, in chapter 6, verses 9-11, in chapter 7, verses 9-17, and in other places.

But here is the amazing thing – even Antichrist's deadly persecution of believers is under God's control. Notice how it's put in verse 7, "it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them." Daniel 7:25 puts it this way, "he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One … and they will be given into his hand for a time, times and half a time." God Himself will permit it, but He will limit its duration, and He will direct it to purposes completely unintended by Satan; He will use it to usher His saints into His presence, and ultimately to defeat Satan by their faithfulness to Christ, even in death. You remember what we saw? Look back at Revelation 12:11; it says, "they overcame" – the saints of that time period will overcome Satan, "because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." In other words, Satan will overcome them in the sense that he will kill them, but even in their death, remaining faithful to Christ, they will defeat Satan; God will turn his plan on its head, and the very thing he desires to do will fall on himself.

His third lawless activity will be political domination – verse 7 goes on to say, "and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him." Again, notice "was given to him" – God will give Antichrist authority to exercise military and political power "over every tribe and people and tongue and nation." Now, if you recognize that expression, that's a good thing, because we already met that expression back in chapter 5, verse 9, where it talks about those the Lamb redeemed being "from every tribe and people and tongue and nation." In other words, what John is telling us is that Antichrist's political dominion will reach every place from which Christ is redeeming a people for Himself – in other words, it will span the globe; Antichrist will finally achieve what all the rulers of the past have only dreamed, he will truly be a world ruler.

The fourth part of his evil activity is religious worship – and here in verse 8, John shifts from telling the story in past tenses, what he's done so far in Greek, to future tenses. Verse 8 says, "all who dwell on the earth will worship him" – the expression "all who dwell on the earth," we've met a number of times already, this is John's familiar way to describe all of those who are living at the time who are opposed to God; in other words, all unbelievers alive at that time, those are "all who dwell on the earth." Back in verse 3, we read "the whole earth" … "worshipped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?'"[SR3] Now, this worship that he will receive is going to be explained more for us in the next section, in verses 11-18, when we get to the career of the False Prophet – but you remember how Paul puts it in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? He says, "let no one in any way deceive you, for [the day of the Lord] will not come until the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction" – and here's how he describes him, this is Paul – "who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." Now, the worship that he receives will be enthusiastic for many, according to verses 3-4 we already studied together – I'm sure the worship he receives will be pragmatic for others; they don't really care, just like many people in our world who are only interested in life and pleasure and all of those things, but pragmatically, they make decisions to fit in; I'm sure there will be those – and it will be forced on everyone, as we will learn in verses 15-17.

But look at verse 8, there's more there – notice it says, "all who dwell on the earth will worship him," and then it qualifies it, "everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." Now, don't miss the big picture; what we're really being told is that all unbelievers will worship Antichrist – but notice the way unbelievers are described, all of them; their names have not been written in the book of life; now, that means there are some who will be alive at that time who will not worship the Antichrist, those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. But the distinguishing characteristic of unbelievers – think about that – is that their names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life. Morris writes this, "It is true that these people," that is, unbelievers at that time, "these people have set themselves in opposition to God, it is true that they are willing worshippers of the Beast, but the significant thing is that their names have not been written in the book of life. John wants persecuted Christians to see that the thing that matters is the sovereignty of God, not the power of evil. When a man's name is written in the book of life, he will not be forgotten – his place is secure."

Now, what is this book of life? Well, it was first introduced after the golden calf incident in Exodus 32:32-33, where Moses prays, "'If You will, forgive their sin, and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written.' The Lord said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.'" The concept also occurs in Psalm 69:28, "May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous." Also, in Daniel 12:1, "there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time, and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued." Now, the exact expression "the book of life" only occurs once in the New Testament outside of Revelation, and that's Philippians 4:3, where Paul writes, "my fellow workers whose names are in the book of life." But the book of life is alluded to in a couple of other passages – Luke 10:20, "rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven," Jesus says, and in Hebrews 12:23, the "church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." But the book of life is mentioned explicitly seven times in Revelation – what is the book of life? Well, when you weigh the evidence – and we already looked at this back in chapter 3, verse 5, when it was mentioned for the first time in Revelation – the book of life is essentially a divine register of those chosen for salvation in eternity past.

Notice how John describes this book – first of all, whose book is it? Verse 8 says "the book of life of the Lamb;" the book of life belongs to Jesus Christ. The Lamb is the most common way John refers to Christ in this book, twenty-eight times – it's His book; it's the book of life which belongs to the Lamb. How can God, or how can Christ, write any sinner's name in the book of life? Well, notice verse 8 says it's "the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain" – the atoning death of Christ is the only way anyone ever makes it into the book of life. Revelation 13:8 explains how a person comes to be written in the book of life – notice what he writes, everyone who is in the book of life, his or her name has "been written from the foundation of the world." Now, in the New Testament, the phrase "from the foundation of the world" is a synonym for before creation or from eternity past, either one of those works – that's what he's saying. So, their names have been written from before creation or from eternity past. Now, there's a debate about whether verse 8 should be translated this way, "written" from the foundation of the world, or should it be about Christ "slain" from the foundation of the world – there's a lot of debate. Of course, it's true that Christ was slain in the mind of God before the foundation of the world – 1 Peter 1:20, "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you." So, that's true, but what does John intend here? Well, I would argue that, based on the other time he uses this expression in Revelation, we should take it the same way, and there it's clear – turn over to Revelation 17:8. The middle of the verse says, "those who dwell on the earth" – there, all unbelievers, again – "whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world." So, there, clearly, he's talking about the name being written in the book of life before the foundation of the world, or from the foundation of the world. So, when John says that every believer's name was written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, he means that before creation, by grace alone, God chose individuals to be redeemed by Christ's death, and He wrote their names in His book of life. That's exactly what Scripture teaches – go to Ephesians 1:4, "just as He," that is, God, "chose us" – the word means exactly what it means, to choose out from others – He chose us, believers, "in Christ," when? He chose us "before the foundation of the world." Why? Well, so that we would be holy and blameless before Him, and in love, He predestined us, He predetermined our destiny to adoption as sons, through Jesus Christ Himself.

This is such a humbling thing – the reason your name is in the book of life is not because of who you are, it's not because God thought you were really special, it's not because you deserve it, it's not because you've earned it, it's not because you've done anything to merit it – it's because of God's sovereign grace, because of nothing in you – He loved you because He loved you, as He says about Israel in Deuteronomy 7. He loved you because He loved you, and He chose you, and He wrote your name in the book of life, which Christ has. Christ personally guarantees that He will keep the salvation of every believer safe and secure forever – He has the book of life. The redeemed are protected forever by the decree of election, by the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to Peter, by the power of God, and we are protected by the atoning work of Jesus Christ – the book of life of the Lamb.

Back to our text – so far, as we have looked at the career of the Antichrist, we have seen that he will ultimately be governed by God; it was given to him, it was given to him, it was given to him. Secondly, we have discovered that he will be personally dominated by sin. Thirdly, we learned in verses 9-10 that he will be patiently endured by believers. Verse 9 is a call – it's a call to carefully hear Christ's words through John. Notice verse 9, "If anyone has an ear, let him hear." Now, this expression originally comes from Ezekiel 3:27, where we read this. "When I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.' He who hears, let him hear, and he who refuses, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house." If you're not in rebellion, and you have an ear to hear, listen up – that's what Ezekiel says, and Jesus quotes that verse eight times in the gospels – and He quotes it, you remember, at the end of each of the seven letters to the seven churches in chapters 2-3 of this book. This is the only other time in scripture this occurs – and it's interesting here what John does not say in this text that the Lord says seven times in chapters 2-3; there he says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" – what's the rest of it? "What the Spirit says to the churches." He doesn't say that here. Now, I can't be dogmatic about that, why that's not there, but it may be because, as we have discovered, that the church was raptured at the beginning of the tribulation – so these words are not addressed to the church, they're addressed to the tribulation saints, those who come to Christ during the tribulation.

John calls his readers, especially those who will be alive at the time of Antichrist, to attention – he's about to give them an important principle for living during that time; specifically, then, he gives a call to patiently accept God's providence – that's the message of verse 10. Now, let me just admit to you that some see verse 10 as referring to what will happen to those who persecute Christians during the tribulation – if they persecute Christians, they will be imprisoned, they will be killed – but the best evidence, the textual evidence, etc., makes it clear that this proverb is addressed to believers. It makes no sense to say to believers to listen up and then give a threat to unbelievers – in context, it's clearly addressed to believers, to those being persecuted by Antichrist, and it tells them how to respond in the middle of his persecution. Notice verse 10, "If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes" – many Christians will be imprisoned by Antichrist. Verse 10 goes on to say, "If anyone kills with the sword" – a better translation of that is the passive verb, and it would be translated this way, "If anyone is to be killed with the sword" – "with the sword he must be killed." Many other Christians will be killed by Antichrist's fanatical religious purges – in God's sovereign purpose, He will allow Antichrist not only to exert his brutal rule over the world at large, but to persecute His people severely, and even to death. Before Christ's return, before His ultimate victory, the followers of Christ will face unparalleled evil, and they are to expect it. More than that, what verse 10 is saying is, they are to accept it as God's sovereign purpose, whether it means prison or whether it means death.

This doesn't mean that Christians should be silent in the face of evil – we must speak out against it, we must continue to have a testimony for Christ and His gospel. It doesn't mean that Christians can't use their legal rights and appeal to their legal rights to respond to injustice and oppression by political rulers – Jesus and Paul did that. But having exhausted legitimate biblical options, believers during the tribulation are called to accept prison and death as the Lord's own purpose and providence – they're to follow the example of our Lord, who, in 1 Peter 2:23, "being reviled, He did not revile in return, while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously."

He summarizes the response at the end of verse 10, "Here is the perseverance" – the word is endurance, it's a Greek word that means to remain under; the picture is like a weightlifter who lifts a huge amount of weight, and his body is trembling under the weight, and he just keeps holding it – that's what believers, then, are to do with the persecution they will endure at the hands of Antichrist. "And the faith of the saints" – here, faith is not talking about our believing, but our faithfulness to Christ. So, in other words, those persecuted believers, those tracked down, hunted down, imprisoned, and killed by Antichrist, are called to joyfully endure their circumstances, and whatever comes, to remain faithful to Christ, faithful to His gospel, while all the time accepting God's providence, trusting God, whether it means prison or death.

So, what are the implications of this incredible section of scripture that we've studied together? Let me give you several that I think are very important – first of all, God sovereignly allows evil, but He governs and directs it to accomplish His ultimate purposes; this includes its extent and its duration. Let me sort of develop that a little bit – God Himself determines to allow human rulers to live and prosper, in spite of their blasphemies. Think of those in our country who have set themselves, by their words and their policies, against God – God has determined to give them the place they have, and He will hold them ultimately responsible for their blasphemies.

God determines how long, to the day, rulers will be in power – I love the example of that in Daniel 5:26, where Daniel says to Belshazzar, "'God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it,'" and the end of that chapter says that very day, King Belshazzar died; the same thing is true for every earthly ruler. Listen – you think of the most godless people in authority and power in our country, you think of the most godless people in authority and power across the world – they are in the hands of the sovereign God, and the day He decides He's done with them in their role, they will go into obscurity and death, into hell itself.

Thirdly, God determines when, to what extent, and how long He will allow earthly rulers to successfully persecute His people. You remember back in Revelation 2:10 – Jesus says this to the Christians in Smyrna, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days." In other words, I have designated the time, I am in control – trust Me.

God determines the exact scope of every ruler's political authority, their geographical boundaries – you remember Acts 17:26; Paul, to the Areopagus, to the philosophers there, said of every nation, God has appointed "their appointed times and the boundaries of" that nation. And God has appointed their political roles. In our country, God decides who will be local judges, the mayors of our cities, the governors of our states, our U.S. Senators, the Speaker of the House, and the President – we vote, and we should vote, but folks, let me just be honest with you; in the end, God's vote is the only one that matters. Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn't speak out against the evil of those in power; it doesn't mean, again, that we can't use every possible legal avenue to try to affect and change their policies – but it does mean, at the end of the day, that, having fulfilled our duties, we can rest in the knowledge that what Nebuchadnezzar wrote twenty-five hundred years ago is still true. Turn to Daniel 4 and look at verse 17 – the end of the verse says, you know, God is doing all this to Nebuchadnezzar "in order that the living may know that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and He bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men." Go to verse 25 – the end of the verse there; Nebuchadnezzar, you are going to become an animal for seven years, "until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes." The end of verse 26 – "your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules." Look at the end of verse 32 – "until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes." That was true in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the king, and it's true in the days of President Trump, President Biden, and President Putin. So, God sovereignly allows evil and evil rulers, but governs and directs it to His own purposes.

Number two [SR4] – God will ultimately judge all who commit evil, from Satan to world rulers to the most insignificant sinner. Revelation 19:20 says the beast and the false prophet, these guys we're studying, these human beings who are the epitome of evil, they will be thrown by Jesus Christ "into the lake of fire" – but Revelation 20:12 says, "I saw the dead, the great and the small," the insignificant ones, "standing before the throne" of God, before the throne of Jesus Christ, "and books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds." In other words, there will be two books – if you die, and you leave this life without Jesus Christ, someday you will stand at what is called the Great White Throne of Judgment, we'll study it together in Revelation 20 – Jesus Christ will be the Judge, every unbelieving sinner will be there, and there will be the book of life, and if your name is not there, you are destined for the lake of fire. And then, your sentence in the lake of fire will be based on your deeds, the level of punishment you receive will be based on the level of your knowledge and the level of your rebellion against that knowledge – every, every sinner.

Number three – the only way anyone ever comes to belong to God is through His own gracious, unconditional choice in election. How is every true believer described in this passage? Look again at verse 8 – they are those whose name "has been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain."

Number four – the saints are always called to patiently endure the evil of world rulers, who are almost always Satan's pawns; Antichrist will only be the greatest example, but it's still true today, and we are still called to patiently endure their evil.

And then, finally – and I love this – Christ has the book of life, it's His, containing the name of everyone God chose for salvation in eternity past, and He will preserve them to the end. You realize that the way our names end up in the book of life is because of what's described in John 17, where Jesus says again and again to the Father, it's those You gave Me, it's those You gave Me, it's those You gave Me. You see, in eternity past, the Father wanted to express His love for His Son, and He chose to redeem humanity for His Son, to give to His Son as an expression of His love, a redeemed humanity that will spend eternity both praising the Son and reflecting the glory of the Son by being like Him in their moral characters. That was the Father's love-gift to the Son – Christ has the book in which our names are recorded, and He was God's Lamb, the Lamb of God, who was slain in order to redeem us, to save us, to purchase us for God – and He has the power to keep us even in the worst of times.

So, what ultimately happens to those written in the book? Turn over to Revelation 21:27 – he's talking about the new Jerusalem, the capital city of the new Earth, and verse 27 says, "and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying shall ever come into it" – so who gets to enter that city, who gets to live on the new Earth? "Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." If you're in Christ, that's your destiny, and it's secured by the very One to whom the book belongs. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You – thank You that You are sovereign over all things, thank You that You have directed all of human history to this point to fulfill Your eternal purpose, and that won't change; it's not different now, it won't be different tomorrow or next week or next month, when we read our news feeds or hear the news and discover some new catastrophic event. Lord, all of human history is marching to the beat of Your drum and will one day end in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the destruction of evil, and the establishment of His reign forever. Lord, thank You – thank You for Your grace, thank You that, unimaginably, by an act of Your sovereign grace, many of us here tonight, our names are written permanently, indelibly, forever, in the book of life. Thank You that they're there, not because of us, but because You chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, in order that You might adopt us as sons and daughters. Thank You for the privilege, thank You for the grace, thank You for the love that shows. Lord, help us to live faithfully, like You admonished these believers during the tribulation to live, help us to live with joyful endurance of our circumstances now, and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ until He comes.

It's in His name we pray. Amen.

[SR1]A paraphrase of James 1:13b.

[SR2]From 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

[SR3]Revelation 13:4b.

[SR4]Before starting this point, Tom said he said something out of order, saying "Whoops, that came out of order - let's do this one first."

Previous
33.

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10
Current
34.

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10
Next
35.

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18

More from this Series

Revelation

1.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3
2.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3
3.

Salutation & Dedication

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:4-6
4.

The King is Coming!

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:7-8
5.

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20
6.

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20
7.

Ephesus: Loveless Fidelity

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:1-7
8.

Smyrna: Faithful in Suffering

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:8-11
9.

Pergamum: Undiscerning Tolerance

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:12-17
10.

Thyatira: Extra-Biblical Authority

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:18-29
11.

Sardis: Dead Christianity

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:1-6
12.

Philadelphia: Enduring Faithfulness

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:7-13
13.

Laodicea: A False Gospel

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:14-22
14.

He is Worthy! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
15.

He is Worthy! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
16.

He is Worthy! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
17.

He is Worthy! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
18.

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17
19.

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17
20.

Tribulation Saints - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17
21.

Tribulation Saints - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17
22.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
23.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
24.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
25.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
26.

The Little Book

Tom Pennington Revelation 10:1-11
27.

The Two Witnesses - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13
28.

The Two Witnesses - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13
29.

The Seventh Trumpet: The Beginning of the End

Tom Pennington Rev. 11:14-19
30.

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17
31.

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17
32.

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17
33.

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10
34.

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10
35.

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18
36.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
37.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
38.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
39.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
40.

Heaven Prepares for the End

Tom Pennington Revelation 15:1-8
41.

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21
42.

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21
43.

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24
44.

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24
45.

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18
46.

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 18
47.

The Rapture of the Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures
48.

The Future Tribulation

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-18
49.

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10
50.

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10
51.

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:11-16
52.

Armageddon

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:17-21
53.

The Real Binding of Satan

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-3
54.

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10
55.

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10
56.

The Millennium: Christ’s Future Reign on Earth - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10
57.

The Last Judgment

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:11-15
58.

Our Eternal Home - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8
59.

Our Eternal Home - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8
60.

The Eternal City - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5
61.

The Eternal City - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5
62.

The Eternal City - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5
63.

How Should We Then Live? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21
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