29 November: The vaccine and the End Times

Injection, Medical, Syringe, Medicine

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
29 November 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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Welcome

Let us continue to remember those on the front-line in this second lockdown and pray we can see a significant decline in the ‘R’ number.

Testimony

(Thanks Katherine)

On July 18th 2011 my boyfriend died after being ill for seven years. On 24th July, I really felt God giving me this poem, as though He was responding to some of the questions that I was asking Him about suffering:

I am a loving Father Kathy.

Sometimes I see the pain my children are suffering and I want to stop that pain.
What loving father can stand by and see the suffering and do nothing about it?
Sometimes it may involve going to heaven and having a perfect healing.
Rather than my loved ones remaining on earth.
And sometimes I do this when a person has endured so much pain that their body can’t take it anymore.
Or their mind is in tatters.
That’s when I call them to me.


They awake in my arms of love.
That’s when the healing comes.
And for them there will be no more tears and pain.
As I hold them in my arms of love.
I wipe away their tears.
And give them a new body.
One free from pain.


Sometimes the healing that I give is not the one the world seeks or understands.
But as a loving Father, I know what’s best for my children.
And that’s why I call them home.
To spare them any further pain.
Because as a loving Father I no longer want to see them suffering.
I want to take it all away.
I get to the point where I can’t stand seeing my child in pain.


And that’s when I act out of love to spare them from any more pain.
To give them a perfect healing.
While they live forever in my house.
Happy, healed and whole.
How you will see them when you too come to heaven.

I am a loving Father who wants to give good gifts to my children.
And sometimes the best gift of all is to be with me.
A gift perhaps only understood and enjoyed best when you get here.
When I’ll finally answer all the whys.
And you’ll understand the questions niggling away at you.
And then we’ll have a massive party in the heavens as another son or daughter has come home.
Home to their Father.
Happy, healed and whole.


My child when your pain is so great that’s when I call you home.

Worship

(Thanks Katherine)

One time when things were tough one of my Christian friends told me to write a gratitude list. Things to be thankful for. I told them it would be a short list but did it anyway and realised how many blessings I had to be thankful for.  It would be a great thing to do as a church actually to see if we can get to 1000 things in a year. Especially as things are tough for people at the moment. There is also a book about this song detailing people helped by it, written by Matt Redman. I would suggest you read it if you haven’t:

Matt Redman – Ten Thousand Reasons (10,000 Reasons) (Bless the Lord), New Album – 10,000 reasons, Year: 2011

Word

Reading

Revelation 13

Text

This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

Revelation 13:18

Introduction

This week I am taking a detour from Acts because, interestingly, Mandy and myself received two separate messages last week, on the same day, from two completely unconnected people, stating that they believed that the vaccine for COVID-19 is the mark of the beast (666) and one mentioned that once we have it we are condemned to hell. Bill Gates was also referred to as being involved in this.

So, what are we to make of it all? The vitally important thing to understanding the meaning of Scripture is not to start in the 21st century and work backwards, but to find out, as best we can, what the original Scriptures were saying to its original hearers/readers, and then move on from there. In other words, we need to take these Scriptures about the mark of the beast in their original context.

Before we get too wrapped up in trying to interpret what ‘666’ is all about we need to keep in mind that

“the fulcrum of this book is … the vision of God and the Lamb in Revelation 4-5 … The conjunction of the two chapters shows us the God of creation as the God of redemption, accomplishing His sovereign and gracious will through the crucified and risen Christ”

“The book of Revelation” – G. R. Beasley-Murray

Compare this to where popular focus is:

“No verse in Revelation has received more attention than this one with its cryptic reference to the number of the beast. Although the verse opens with the declaration, “This calls for wisdom,” the history of interpretation demonstrates that no consensus has been reached on whom or what John had in mind”

“The book of Revelation” – R. Mounce

It is also vitally important to remind ourselves that those who are in Christ Jesus are eternally secure:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:11-12

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

John 10:27-30

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

John 6:37-40

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Bearing this in mind amidst all the mass of information that has been written on this one verse what can we say about it?

“It is accepted throughout the NT that in the last days there will be a special outbreak of the powers of evil. Sometimes this is associated with an individual who may be called the antichrist (1 John 2:18) or ‘the man of lawlessness’ (2 Thess. 2:3). It is this figure who is behind the opening vision of this chapter 13 in Revelation whom John calls ‘the beast.’ A wealth of picturesque detail brings out the horror associated with him. He is closely linked with Satan, and indeed is something like an incarnation of the evil one. Many see in the beast a reference to the Roman Empire but this seems to be too simple. We may well see in the Empire a preliminary manifestation of the evil that will one day be realised to the full in the antichrist. But there is much more to the beast than ancient Rome”

“The book of Revelation” – Leon Morris

“A code which would have been familiar to John’s audience but has since become obscured. Great care and sensitivity is needed, therefore, in order to understand it”

“The Revelation to John” – S. Smalley

Smalley highlights three main approaches to discovering the meaning of this symbolic number:

(a) The number 666 and Pythagorean arithmetic

The most complicated of the three! Bauckham in his ‘Climax of Prophecy’ explains this method and concludes: “that 666 in this context reveals by isopsephism that Nero is the beast.” Smalley’s conclusion on this: “It is hard to imagine that the symbolism in Rev. 13:18 should need such a remote and complicated numerical system for its elucidation, for John was a prophet-seer, and not a mathematician” – Amen to that!

(b) The number 666 and gematria

This is a more popular way of understanding the identity of the beast using numbers which involves assigning to each letter of the alphabet its own numerical equivalent, as a result of which rabbinical writers interpreted the hidden significance of words and names. Irenaeus seems to have been the first theologian to have used this approach in the interpretation of 666 in Rev. 13:18, from which he concluded that the number stood not for Nero but for ‘Euanthas’ (an unidentifiable name) or ‘Lateinos’ (imperial Rome) or ‘Teitan’ (the Greek mythological Titans who rebelled against the gods). Smalley acknowledges that many commentators accept that 666 in verse 18 is, in some way, a cryptogram for the Emperor Nero (AD 54-68) but also refers to “the tortuous method of arriving at this solution involving transliterating from the Greek into Hebrew the title ‘Caesar Nero’ “and the fact that the numerical approach, in any form, is amenable to the subjective presuppositions and credulous ingenuity of each interpreter” (Hughes – quoted by Smalley).

(c) The number 666 and generic symbolism

“The passage and enumeration at Rev. 13:18 yields much better sense, and is theologically on safer ground, if it is not approached as an esoteric mathematical puzzle. It is important to notice, at the outset, that nowhere else in the Apocalypse are numbers used in a way which requires literal calculation, or indicates a (historical) individual. On the contrary, all numbers for John are generic; they have a figurative significance, and symbolise a general spiritual reality … The possibility of a generic interpretation in this instance must accordingly be given serious consideration … The clue is to be found in the use of the number six, in relation to the general significance of John’s favourite number, seven. Six falls short of seven, the perfect and divine number, as humanity’s imperfection and failure fall short of God. On this basis, the threefold six, may be understood as a generic symbol for a humanistic and indeed idolatrous trinity, parallel to that triune satanic force made up of the dragon (Satan, Rev. 12:9) and his two demonic-agents: the beast from the sea (the figure of Antichrist, 13:5-6). and the beast from the land (the false prophet, Rev 13:14).

The repetitive ‘666’, therefore, stands for those human and secular forces, including the Romes of any period, which are oppressive and unjust, and seek to dethrone the Creator and enthrone the creature. John is not referring here in the first place to individual and historical tyrants; he is speaking of varied types of authority which use power wrongly …

In one sense, that is what the Apocalypse is all about … and such a scene was certainly true of the first-century situation, in and around John’s own church, which the seer needed to address.

It is also true of any period in which the basic human instinct is allowed to exchange the glory of the immortal God for mortal images (Rom. 1:23), and where the god of this world blinds the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4).

Revelation 12 and 13 have set before John’s audience the ultimate conflict between good and evil, which is highlighted in the symbolism of the cryptogram 666. Now the stage is set for the final encounter between the forces of right and wrong. The end is not yet, and the battles to come will be real; but victory, in Christ and for His followers will be achieved, and the sovereign rule of God will be eternally established.”


“The Revelation to John” – S. Smalley

Beasley-Murray emphasises this way of thinking:

“Now every commentator duly notes that the name Nero Caesar rendered into Hebrew from Greek yields the number 666 … It has long been realised that 666 is eminently suitable to characterise the Antichrist, since it implies a consistent falling short of the divine perfection suggested by 777. Now it was early realised among Christians that the name ‘Jesus’ in Greek totals 888. Manifestly the contrast between 666 and 888 strikingly conveys the difference between the Devil’s ‘Christ’ and God’s Christ … If the contrast between 666 and 888 was present in John’s mind, the use of 666 in 13:18 crowned in a superb way the theme of satanic imitation that runs throughout chapter 13. The Antichrist of Satan falls as far short of being the true deliverer of mankind as the Christ of God exceeds all the hopes of man for a redeemer … The notion of history as a world week was familiar to John. The history of man = six days, followed by the rule of the Messiah as the sabbath of the world. The eighth day ushers in the age when time is no more and when God and the Lamb are all in all.”

“The book of Revelation” – G. R. Beasley-Murray

Contenders for the beast over the years

Many people try to identify 666 with a particular person and hence, over the years, there have been numerous differences on this identification. e.g. One of the most far-fetched ones Ronald Wilson Reagan (because each of his 3 names has 6 letters = 666); The Pope; Luther; Hitler – based on A = 100; B = 101; C= 102 etc. Hence H = 107; I = 108; T = 119; L = 111; E = 104; R = 117 = 666 in total! To think that the people who originally read the book of Revelation would never have been able to know who the beast was having never heard of Ronald Reagan/Hitler!

“Recent suggestions are equally ingenious and similarly unconvincing. Giet finds that the initials of the Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Vespasian, add up to 666, but he has to omit Otho and Vitellius to make it work out. Stauffer suggests that John was counting up an abbreviated form in Greek of the full Latin title of Domitian (‘Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus’) which appeared in part on his coinage.”

“The book of Revelation” – R. Mounce

“… let not the believer despair. Let him remember that the number of the beast is the number of man. Now man was created on the sixth day. Six, moreover, is not seven and never reaches seven. It always fails to attain to perfection; that is, it never becomes seven. Six means missing the mark, or failure. Seven means perfection or victory. Rejoice, O Church of God! The victory is on your side. The number of the beast is 666, that is, failure upon failure upon failure! It is the number of man, for the beast glories in man; and must fail!”

“More than conquerors – An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation” – W. Hendriksen

Conclusion

Space doesn’t permit a detailed look into this but suffice to say, believers are secure in Christ. To say that anyone who receives the mark of the beast, almost unknowingly, by way of, say, a vaccination for example, will be condemned to hell, such will not stand up to the overall teaching of Revelation and the Scriptures as a whole. We would be getting nearer to the context of Revelation and the persecution of the early church if before receiving a vaccination we were required to publicly renounce our faith in Jesus Christ and actively worship the beast, and following our refusal would be martyred for worshipping Jesus Christ as Lord, Amen!

Quote of the Week

“Why the Revelation was written? It was not written in order to hold threats of damnation before sinners, but to encourage saints to press on, despite all opposition, and to win the inheritance. The Revelation was written that men and women might enter the city of God, and the city is the true climax of the book – its goal, not simply its finis”

“The book of Revelation” – G. R. Beasley-Murray

Verses of the Week

The Lord will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52:10

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Revelation 12:11

Let’s Pray

Our gracious loving heavenly Father, we come to You in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ and in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Father, thank You for Your eternal purpose and plan which You are bringing about through Your church. Lord we praise You for that eternal security and assurance we have in the beloved One, Jesus Christ, and that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.

Sovereign Lord God Almighty, strengthen Your church in these last days as evil and wickedness increase; let not our love for You and for each other grow cold but that all may know we are Your disciples by our love for each other and our love for You. Let us return to our first love and let us persevere in the faith.

We especially pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus throughout the world who are being persecuted for their faith in You. Lord strengthen and enable them to stand. Deliver them from the evil one.

Let Your kingdom come and Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Father forgive us our trespasses and sins and help us to forgive those who have sinned against us. Where we have fallen short of Your glory, Lord God teach us and restore us to that place of righteousness in You and obedience to the faith.

Strengthen us in the time of testing and help Your church to overcome and remain true to Your Name, that Name that is above every name. In all the places of this world where Your people are suffering, Lord reveal Your glory.

Let Your light shine brightly through Your church that others may come to know You. Father, may Your people be one in You and may You bring us to complete unity to let the world know that You have sent Your Son and that You have loved them. Lord, do great things in these days to bring glory to Your Name in Jesus Christ, Amen