Part 5 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
God's testimony to us is Jesus Christ—that we have life in His Son (1 Jn.5:9-11, Jn.3:16, etc.). And His command is that we love one another just as He has loved us in His Son (Jn.13:34, 15:12, etc.).
Christ is the life—there is no other 'life' by any other way. He is the wonder and marvel of heaven, and He is the news in the hearts of His people—there is no other news so good as the gospel, no other news so important, relevant, or crucial to know. In Christ is the fullness of God, and we have all fullness in Him (Col.2:9-10) and lack nothing in Him (1 Cor.1:7). He is the One who astonishes us—because of what He has done for us on the Cross.
His command is that we follow Him by walking in His love (1 Pet.2:21-23, 1 Jn.2:6). There is no other way to 'follow Him' and there is nothing else that He asks of us beyond this (Rev.2:24-25). Because He has loved us while we were His enemies, He has commanded us to love each other just as unconditionally—even our enemies. God does not show favoritism (Act.10:34, Rm.2:11), and we are not to show favoritism either (Jas.2:1).
ASTONISHED BY ANOTHER
"And I saw a beast coming out of the sea... One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?'" (Rev.13:1-4)
"The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Rev.17:8)
The world who does not know Christ is permanently astonished by the return of the beast—by the return of a kingdom that existed before John's time, but that didn't exist during John's lifetime because it had apparently disappeared because of war ("the sword"—Rev.13:14). The beast is successful in being re-established, particularly in its wars, to the point where it seems the beast cannot be moved. It seems there is a power behind it that gives the beast success and keeps it from being beaten in war. And so many people worship the supernatural power that favors the beast over other nations and peoples.
Instead of being astonished by Christ, the victory He won on the Cross and His resurrection, people are astonished by this kingdom's return—it's "resurrection"—and its victories in war. Instead of proclaiming the good news that Christ is the Favored One of God (who has favored all by giving His Son), the 'news' becomes how "God" favors this particular nation, this kingdom, above all others.
ANOTHER MANNER OF SPIRIT
The beast seems to have the favor of God because it is successful in the manner of the kingdoms of the world—unlike Christ whose servants didn't need to fight to prevent His arrest and death. This kingdom is a kingdom of the world and its servants fight to prevent its destruction, and they are successful. Its law is self-preservation, prospering itself and its own instead of living by the sacrificial love commanded by Christ: "Love one another as I have loved you," "Love your neighbor" and "Love your enemies."
In other words, the beast makes war and is victorious—but not according to the command or the ways of the kingdom of God. Only Christ makes war in righteousness and with justice. The spirit behind the beast is one that does not value what Christ values. The nations are Christ's inheritance, but this kingdom values itself (its kingdom) more than it values its neighbors and enemies. It wants to attain what it believes is its own, and its desires, more than it seeks to be a blessing to the nations.
THE 'GOD' BEHIND THE BEAST
Because of the success of the beast in re-establishing itself and winning victories, many people worship its spiritual "God". This "God" appeals to our natural, human desires for things in the world—prosperity, land, security, etc. And that's why many people follow after it.
In many ways, this kind of "God" is much more attractive than Jesus, who promises His inner peace in tribulation, and who told us to love our enemies and bless whose who curse us. This "God" gives victory over literal enemies, peace by securing borders, and declares that its enemies are cursed.
Essentially, this "God" promises things according to the terms of the Old Covenant: if you honor this "God" and it's favored earthly kingdom, then you will be blessed—with victory and prosperity in the world. But if you don't honor this "God" by honoring its earthly kingdom, then you will be cursed and defeated, and you will not prosper. But unlike the true God who made the Old Covenant, what this "God" teaches doesn't eventually lead to Christ, His sacrifice for all peoples, or His inheriting of the nations. Instead the end-goal of this "God" is the blessing of its favored kingdom.
THE HEART OF THE BEAST
In the same way as the "vision" of the beast is a rejection of the New Covenant in favor of the earthly blessings of the Old Covenant, the heart of the beast "that once was" is simply to become again on earth what "it once was" before it lost its kingdom because of war. This is why the number of the beast is "666"—
"The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents."
(1 Kg.10:14, 2 Chron.9:13)
The early kingship of Solomon was the high point of the peace, prosperity, stature and domain of ancient Israel. At his peak, Solomon received 666 talents-worth of weight in gold every year. In the same way, the beast longs for its former glory, for the peak of what it once was, but lost: its ancient domain, stature, prosperity and peace. It was "gold" in the past, and it wants its "gold" back again.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?
What are we astonished at? Is Christ Jesus the 'news' we are proclaiming? Is He the Favored One of God in our message—the One in whom we have every blessing? Or is there a kingdom or nation we tell people they must honor because they are favored by God and we will be cursed if we don't support them?
What is the 'law' we are proclaiming? Is it that we must love as Christ loved us while we were His enemies? Or is it that He desires for us to fight to secure our own domain before we put His commands into practice?
What is the heart of the kingdom we seek? Is it to gain a place on earth—an earthly inheritance—and victory over enemies of flesh and blood? Or is the heart of the kingdom we seek an inheritance in heaven—a new Jerusalem—and inheriting with Christ our neighbors and enemies as brothers and sisters for eternity?
Part 6: "The False Prophet"—Subverting the Foundation