Read: Revelation 13
This is one of my favorite chapters in the book. It’s so intriguing.
First of all, this chapter is basically about cheap, rip-off imitation models of the real thing.
There is an old adage that the devil is forever aping God. The devil is the enemy of God and yet can’t help imitating God and employing the sorts of devices that God invented and implemented himself. This is why the devil is often so tricky to spot. He mimics God so closely. One of the devil’s nicknames is Lucifer; which literally means: light-bearer. The devil parades around as an angel of light; making him hard to distinguish from good angels (a very disturbing notion).
In chapter 13 there is a beast who arises from the sea. He is given power by the dragon (devil) just like God the Father grants power and authority to the Son. The beast suffers what appears to be a fatal wound, yet recovers. That’s not quite a resurrection…but it’s darn close. Another nice piece of imitation. People marvel at the miracle which is the beast and his recovery, and the miracles he works. They worship him. The beast is described as having two horns like a lamb. And lastly in this string of imitative maneuvers, the servants of the beast are given a mark, just as we saw the saints of God being marked in an earlier chapter.
If everything’s the same in terms of how the bad guys operate in comparison to the good guys; how can you tell the good guys and the bad guys apart? How do you know that you’re one of the good guys and on the right side? Is your mark the mark of God or the mark of the beast? Everybody thinks that they are on the right side, otherwise they would switch teams. How can you be confident that you’re not on the wrong side? The deceived and the misled are always quite confident that they’re right.
This brings us down to one of the bottom-lines of the gospel that brings it all home for me. We have to hope and believe in a God who is gracious even when we are wrong. Such knowledge of a gracious and forgiving God doesn’t inspire us to seek to be wrong just because we can be and still get away with it. To know that our God is such a forgiving God is comforting and inspires one to want to know and to follow him all the more closely.
Chapter 13 is all about confusion and how easy it is to be misled by the powers of darkness. It’s hard to tell the right from the wrong. We should still want to try to tell. But there is no guarantee that we cannot be deceived. So we had best hope in a God who is merciful in the face of our many weaknesses. If we start with that understanding of God, then maybe it will become easier for us to find the right God and the right way and to distinguish it from the wrong; which is never so forgiving.