Three Angels Messages Part 49

Welcome again as we continue our study of the Three Angels’ Messages found in Revelation 14. We are now examining the message of the third angel, the first part of which reads, “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.’”

            Who or what is this beast? It is obvious that the term “beast” is used in a symbolic way. In our previous studies, we saw that the beast that has the mark to be avoided is the first beast described in Revelation 13, the beast from the sea, introduced in Revelation 13:1-10. We also noted that Scripture often uses symbols and figures to teach truth, and that there is a danger in being too literalistic when studying the Bible.

            Going back for a moment to verse 1 of this chapter, which speaks of the beast as having “seven heads,” one way of understanding the seven heads is to recognize them as representing Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, the papacy of the middle ages, the papacy of the deadly wound and finally the resurgent papacy. This line of thought corresponds well with the language of Revelation 17 when it speaks of seven kings and says, “five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” Revelation 17:10.

We will now continue with those verses that help us identify the “beast” which has the “mark” which must be avoided. Revelation 13:4 states, “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” Scripture exposes the shocking link between the worship of the beast and the worship of the dragon, the devil. Remember, verse 2 had said that “the dragon gave him his power.” Although in a secondary sense the “dragon” represented civil Rome, in its primary sense the Bible affirms that the dragon is indeed Satan.

            From the beginning of his fall, Satan has coveted the position of God. He has craved the honor and prerogatives belonging only to the Deity. He has desired to be worshiped. Of Lucifer the Scriptures said, “For you have said in your heart; ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’” Isaiah 14:13, 14.

            When Jesus came to earth Satan tempted Him to bow at his feet and worship Him. Matthew 4:9. It is Satan who stands behind the beast and seeks to be worshiped. By worshiping the beast, men unwittingly worship the dragon, the devil. The Scripture reveals, “They worshiped the dragon.” It is his rebellion, his agenda, his evil principles that instigated the departure from God’s ways. In a sense, the devil is using human beings as his pawns to work out his craving to be worshiped. It has always been this way. Paul stated that “the things which the Gentles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God.” I Corinthians 10:20. Those who engaged in idolatry in Old Testament times, as well as those who worship the beast, would be shocked if the curtain were removed and they saw themselves bowing at the feet of the arch rebel himself, Satan. Yet that is precisely what took place back in history when people worshiped their idols, and what will take place as history concludes with men give their homage to the beast and his image. Ponder well the words, “They worshiped the dragon.”

            The word “worship” is the key term in Revelation 13 and 14, being mentioned no fewer than 8 times in these two chapters. In the end, each person on this planet will give his or her worship to either the sovereign God, the One rightfully due our adoration by virtue of creation and redemption, or to the master deceiver Satan.

            What is “worship,” anyway? Let’s review for a brief moment what we discussed earlier about the meaning of this most important word. Sometimes words in our language become shortened for ease of pronunciation and we lose the significance of their originally meaning. The word “bedlam,” for example, is a corruption of the word “Bethlehem,” which referred to the “Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem” in London, an insane asylum. Because of the chaos associated with that institution, the word “bedlam,” an abbreviated form of “Bethlehem” came into usage in the English language.

            The word “worship” appears to come from an abbreviated term “worth ship,” which emphasizes the truth that whatever it is that we consider of highest worth, that we worship. The suffix “ship” means “state of,” as in friendship, fellowship, championship and a host of other words. Because the combination of letters “thsh” in that original word, “worthship,” is not easy to pronounce, it became shortened to “worship,” thereby diminishing the sense of its former meaning. The question is, Upon what do we put our highest value, as evidenced by our life choices? Do we put our highest value on the passing things of this age, or do we value as highest God: His presence, His ways, His Word and His law? It’s a matter of assessment.

            David addressed this matter of evaluation when he wrote, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:9, 10. “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of shekels of gold and silver.” “I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” Psalm 119:72, 127. His son King Solomon added, “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Proverbs 16:16. These texts are filled with comparison words, such as “more” and “better,” revealing the authors' higher evaluation of godly things (thus God Himself) than earthly things.

            To worship God is to accord Him the highest place in our lives and hearts. It is to give Him first priority in all we think and do. It is to esteem His ways and His words as having the highest value. Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12.

            This evaluation will result in loving and willing obedience to God’s commandments. How could it be otherwise? God’s ways and will are cherished in the heart of the one who treasures His word above all things. As a loyal citizen of His kingdom, willing compliance is inevitable! Thus obedience is the highest form of worship. All verbal claims, professions and representations to worship God clatter in empty and meaningless confusion if the heart is not surrendered to be obedient to His will. Is this not so? To “say” but “do not” is the highest form of hypocrisy. “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” I John 2:4.

            Thus Samuel said to Saul, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” I Samuel 15: 22, 23. Consider what those words mean! To think that I’m worshiping God while openly disobeying Him means that I might as well be under the spell of a séance; I might as well be practicing the abomination of witchcraft! The deception that a form of worship, birthed by disobedience, is nevertheless acceptable to Jehovah is the worst sorcery or enchantment of all!

            Jesus tried to open the eyes of the religious leaders of His day to this truth saying, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9. He made this principle crystal clear when giving His Sermon on the Mount. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23. Incredible blindness that one would think he is rendering worship to God while in fact he is practicing lawlessness, and in fact rendering homage to the devil! Yet such is the deception with which Satan has enveloped much of mankind. Make no mistake about it: the true worship of God is giving Him first place; worship is obeying His law.

            Does the beast power invite people to worship it? Can it be that a human organization would think it proper to accept the homage that belongs to God alone? Has Catholicism fulfilled this prophecy? Sad to say, the answer to those questions is “Yes.” We’ll study this a little more when reviewing verse 5.

            Verse 4 concludes with the question, “Who is able to make war with him?” This question suggests that the resurgent beast whose deadly wound has now healed has achieved such a status of power that it is considered invincible. As far as earthly powers go, there are none to withstand her. Modern Babylon will bask in such authority and impregnability that she considers herself unconquerable, just as ancient Babylon did, with its sturdy walls, plus its water and food supplies sufficient to with stand any siege. Nevertheless, Cyrus walked into her citadel and the Babylon of yesterday fell, just as prophecy had predicted.

            Who can make war with the beast? What a question! The question seems to be without an answer in chapter 13 of Revelation, but an answer is given in chapter 19. While there is no earthly entity able to muster forces to make war against it successfully, there is One Who is fully able to do so. John reports, “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He Who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him Who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Revelation 19:11, 13, 19, 20. Who can make war against the beast? The Bible gives us the answer: only Jesus. But Jesus will make war and will defeat the beast completely. When He comes in the sky as the Rider upon the white horse, the beast will be defeated and destroyed. How important it will be to be on the side of victory then, honoring the One Who rides the white horse! Please join us next time as we continue our study of the Three Angels’ Messages.

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