Chapter 13 brings us face to face with the darkest season in earths history. Weve faced many terrible times and endured brutal leaders, but weve never seen anything like whats ahead. For 42 months (3½ years) God will withdraw His hand and let the earth experience what rebellious humans have been longing for since the beginning of time: life without Gods interference, freedom to do things our way, freedom to worship a god thats more like us. It sounds like there would be 42 months of partying, but another spiritual force quickly steps into the vacuum. Satan arrives in person and instead of granting religious freedom, he brings a stifling level of spiritual oppression. He demands that everyone worship him or die. And most people worship wholeheartedly by falling under the spell of his deception. Freedom from God ends up bringing slavery to Satan.
This chapter gives us a vivid picture of whats to come, but it also raises an ethical question: why does God give Satan and the antichrist authority to act for 42 months (v 5)? Why didnt He send Jesus back before all this took place and spare the world such deception and believers such suffering? The answers teach us a lot about God and His ways and help us understand forces shaping our own lives as well.
A. Read: Revelation 12:17 13:18
Satan amplifies his war against gentile (non-Jewish) believers (12:17) and demands the unbelieving world worship him:
v 2 the leopard returns (historys best manifestation of the antichrist spirit); v 3 satan possesses a man (he resuscitates the mortally wounded antichrist); v 4 satan has always sought to be worshipped (Is 14:12-14; Eze 28:12-19; Lk 4:5-8); v 5 antichrist declares himself to be god; v 6 he blasphemes God and those in heaven; v 7 a genocidal persecution covers the entire planet
v 8 the unsaved will all worship him; v 9 the saved will keep an eternal perspective on whats happening; v 10 he or she will remember God has permitted this to happen, but He will soon bring it to an end and give justice to our oppressors (Rev 14:12, 13); v 11 in this season a false Christ will arise; v 12 he will act as a high priest drawing the world to worship the antichrist (Mt 24:23-27); v 13 he will validate himself by miracles such as commanding fire (or lightening) to strike; v 14 he will order a statue of antichrist to be set up; v 15 the statue will come to life and command those who refuse to worship it to be killed; vs 16, 17 those who worship will be given a mark containing the antichrists name or a code number on their hand or forehead, those without it will not be able to buy or sell; v 18 the mark will have something to do with the number 666 which in some way identifies the antichrist.
B. The Year of Gods Favor (Lk 4:19)
During this season of history God tolerates a great deal of evil in order to allow the harvest of souls to continue. At the same time He also limits the arrival of the antichrist spirit, preventing it from coming to full expression. During this year in which we now live:
1) God has prevented a one-world government (Ge 10:8-12; 11:1-9; 2Th 2:6-9)
2) God has prevented the rise of a worldwide religion which demands the worship of a false god and attempts to kill all who refuse
3) God has repeatedly revived His people so that the growth of the church over the centuries cannot be attributed to human effort (Mt 16:18)
4) God has given very little justice and a lot of grace to those who hate Him: bad people seem to prosper (Ps 73); it seems God has forgotten to send Jesus back (2Pe 3:1-13)
C. The Week of Gods Freedom (Da 9:27; Rev 13)
At the end of the age there will be a final seven-year period of time during which:
1) God will allow a one-world government to arise which is tied to a false religion (Rev 17:3-6)
2) The antichrist will issue an edict of toleration for other religions (Da 9:27)
But during the final 42 months of that week God will drive Satan to the earth where he will lure all unbelievers to worship him and initiate a religious genocide against those who refuse.
Question: Why did God allow these 42 months?
1) To show us what would have happened if He had not been protecting us all along.
2) To let human evil show itself for what it really is (God gave them over, Ro 1:24, 26, 28)
3) To allow the earths cup of iniquity to fill up until God may justly act (Ge 6:5-7, 11-13; 15:6)
4) To drive the world into two camps: a) verse 6 those who dwell in heaven, (Rev 12:11, overcomer) life begins at death, so I have to cling to Christ; b) verse 8 those who dwell on earth, life ends at death so I have to seize the day.
The middle ground will disappear. People will either love Jesus or hate Him. All will be forced to consciously choose who they will worship. Daniel 3:1-7; 16-18; 24-27.
D. The Day of Gods Judgment (Is 61:2; Rev 13: 9,10)
Mercifully God will only allow this level of chaos to go on for 42 months. Believers whose faith perseveres through these hard times know their names are written in the Lambs Book of Life (v 8) and are confident that God will judge the wicked at His appointed day (v 10; 14:9-13)
1) The world is becoming more religious, not less.
2) Religious deception will increase until its overwhelming to all but those listening to the Holy Spirit.
3) Even now the world demands each of us worship an idol. What idol tempts you? What is your answer? What price will you pay?
1) Have you ever had to stand up for Jesus in an embarrassing or dangerous moment? If so, are you willing to tell us about it?
2) What are some of the idols in America that demand we worship them?
3) Name an idol that has tempted you. (There are certain personal matters that probably should not be mentioned in a mixed group.)