Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Whose Image Do You Bear? - Revelation 14
Chapter 14 of Revelation sets the stage for what is to come. The source of conflict and persecution has been identified. The workers of Satan were shown in chapter 13. In this next chapter three angels declare messages, announcing the impending doom of the beasts and those who follow them. The chapter ends with a reaping of the righteous (v. 14-16), and a reaping of the wicked (v. 17-20).
Something we’ve noticed through Revelation thus far is the “marking” or “sealing” that has been done by God and the beasts. There was the sealing of God in Revelation 7:3, and the marking from the beast in Revelation 13:16. Here in chapter 14 we find both markings mentioned (v. 1, 9). The marks were identifications of whose side they were on. Were they obedient to the Lamb? Were they servants of the beast? The answer to that question determined the fate of that person.
It’s the same for us today. No, it’s not an actual mark or symbol we have on our heads and hands. It’s a life that proves where our allegiance lies. Are we living for Christ? Are we obedient to the Lamb? Are we faithful in times of peace as well as times of adversity? Who sits on the throne of our heart?
No, belonging to God doesn’t mean we’ll be free from the storms of life, just as these Christians were not promised peace. But there is a greater assurance and comfort to be found in belonging to God. The temporal pain inflicted by Satan and his workers can’t be compared to the eternal reward promised to those who belong to God. As one poem stated:
“The seal of God is on his own, secure are all His sheep; the evil one may all harass, but God will surely keep. Not so, for those who do not trust in God’s own holy Son; On hands and head they’ll have a mark, but from that wicked one. World’s darkest night will then take place, no ray of hope breaks through; flee now to Him – He wants to be God’s sheltered place for you.” – Anonymous (John J. Van Gorder, ABC’ of the Revelation
“Righteous King, I pray today that I may be found true and loyal to you. Satan seeks to lure me to his cause, and win the battle over my heart. But my heart, my mind, my words, my will – my life belongs to You. When the storms start brewing, Father remind me of Your promises. Refresh me in Your victory. Today I wear Your name, I wave Your banner, I fight Your battles, and follow Your footsteps. All glory be given to You – King of my life.”
Failure Upon Failure - Revelation 13
In the movies the evil genius always has a group of henchmen ready to do his bidding. In real life wicked people rarely work alone. The masterminds of some evil enlist others who will carry the bombs and deliver the packages. There would be no Al Capone without his henchmen. There would be no Hitler without his generals. There would be no Darth Vader without his storm troopers (oops that last one wasn’t real life, I don’t think).
Satan doesn’t work in this world alone. We are told in Ephesians 6:12, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Satan has spiritual forces who are against believers. They are at his disposal.
We learn from Revelation 13 that Satan also has physical forces on earth that he uses against believers. He was using these forces against the early church to break their spirit and faith, and he still uses these same methods on believers today.
We are coming into the middle of the story that started in Revelation 12. The devil was unsuccessful in his effort to destroy the woman and the child, because when Jesus died on the cross God raised Him from the dead and He ascended to the right hand of God (Rev. 12:5). The work of Jesus removed the devil’s power of sin and death (Gen. 3:12; Heb. 2:14), so that he can no longer accuse God’s people before God’s throne.
Chapter 13 describes how Satan wars against the saints on earth. He uses two helpers; a beast from the sea and a beast from the land. In chapter 12 Satan lost the battle against Jesus, but he wages a war against the church thinking if he can destroy the church then the work of Jesus will be for nothing. In chapter 13 we learn how Satan wages this war against the church. Most of the chapter is about the devastating power and deadly purpose of the two beasts. In fact, fifteen out of eighteen verses focus on the power and destruction of the beast. The first beast is described in verses 1-8; the second beast in verses 11-17. The beasts are described as pervasive, invincible enemies.
The sea beast speaks arrogantly against God and assumes titles that belonged exclusively to God (vs. 6). The beast appears to have unlimited power (vs., 2). Not power given by God but given by Satan, the dragon. He declares war against the people of God. It appears the whole world is under his authority and power. Who would be foolish enough to resist? Only the Lamb, when He comes in His power can overcome the beast (19:20). The knowledge that the beast will be brought down gave the saints a reason to persevere. Their faith in the power of God to overcome enabled them to endure while the purposes of God were being worked out in the history of man (vs.10).
The land beast deceives (vs. 14). He works great wonder deceiving man by the apparent miracles he could perform. Whatever signs God allows Satan to perform, they are never of the same quality as those worked by God's servants. This difference is clearly set forth when the sorceries of Simon are seen in contrast to the attesting signs performed by Philip (Acts 8:5-13). In the biblical sense, an authentic miracle is an observable act directly produced by God with means other than physical laws of nature. If Satan could do the same, there would not be a way to determine the true message of God from the devil's false words. Whatever signs Satan has attempted to duplicate have only been counterfeit, as Moses proved before Pharaoh (Exod. 7:10-12).
He also uses the threat of death and economic destruction (vs. 15, 17). This was to get man to bow before Satan and worship him. If Satan can intimidate, deceive or threaten man he can accomplish what he wants even if Christ did die on the cross.
“Having failed in his first three attempts to stop Jesus from being able to provide salvation, Satan now begins this fourth effort. His plan is to mount a heaven persecution of Christians in which he hopes to kill all Christians or drive them into denial of their faith. If he can achieve this, it will not matter that he failed in his other attempts. It only takes the span of one generation to push the message of Jesus into extinction. So he will try to persecute the church out of existence. With no one left to tell the story, it will not matter that Jesus died to make forgiveness possible.” (Stafford North, Unlocking Revelation, pg. 71)
But he is doomed for complete defeat and failure (vs. 18). Not just failure but failure upon failure.
Behind the Scenes - Revelation 12
Chapter 12 of Revelation is sort of an interlude to the main narrative we’ve been told. The first 11 chapters have given us heaven’s perspective of the conflict taking place. Chapters 12-19 will give us earth’s perspective. Much like how chapters 1-5 set the stage and showed us the behind the scenes, the scene of God on the throne; chapter 12 gives us a behinds the scenes look at the conflict taking place.
There are 3 main characters described in chapter 12. The woman (God’s people), the child (Jesus), and the dragon (Satan). It is Satan who is at war with God’s people. He has since the very beginning. His purpose is death. His aim is destruction. Satan will stop at nothing to win the battle for your soul.
This chapter gives us the “why?” Why was Rome persecuting Christians? Why were they suffering? Why do we today face persecution for our faith? One answer: Satan. The real adversary was not Rome – it was Satan. He used a world empire to persecute God’s people.
What does this mean for us? Revelation is a book of victory. We read of the victory of Christ and His people. The victory is promised. Satan’s defeat is announced. And yet he is still hard at work. He will take as many as he can down with him. He will work to destroy homes, marriages, churches. He will use friends, family, brethren, nations and empires to accomplish his goals. Don’t be naïve in thinking Satan is done. Don’t be deceived into thinking that Satan’s influence is weak. And for each of us – be on guard – don’t let Satan use us (our words, our attitude, our behavior) to accomplish his desires.
Can we overcome? Can we win? Yes. We can. In Christ we will. Verse 11 tells us how: 1. Stay in the Word. 2. Die to self and live for Christ (even if one day that would require my actual death). 3. Lean on the Lord – it is through His blood, the victory of His death and resurrection that hope, forgiveness, and victory are found. We sing the song, “In Christ alone my hope is found – he is my light, my strength, my song.” Can we overcome Satan? Yes – in Christ. Today live in Christ.
“Amazing God, thank You for these words we’ve read today. They remind us of the conflict taking place from the beginning. The enemy is real. His weapons are great. His intent is grave. And yet we know that in You we have all we need – You are our strength and shield, our strong-tower and defense – by Your strength we will be victorious. Keep Satan from me today. Guard the hearts of my family, my mate, my kids, my brethren, and my own, from his evil and enticing snares. Help me see through his empty promises. Help me cut down his lies with the power of Your words. I know, God, that today I can live in You, and fight this good fight for You – and because of You – be victorious.”
God’s Message Wil Not Be Stopped - Revelation 11
The difference between those on the inside and those on the outside is how they accept God’s standard of divine authority. Only as one lives by the divine standard, truth, does he experience God’s blessings, protection, comfort and constant care (Rev. 11:1-2).
John says, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”(Revelation 11:1). The temple is referring to believers. All who walk in harmony with God’s divine authority find fellowship. Those outside stand for everyone who has rejected God's standard of divine authority. Also included in the outer court are worldly and indifferent Christians who may appear to be God's children, but in fact are not faithful. God promises no protection to those who only make a pretense of coming to serve him (Luke 6:46).
The message is clear. Those who accept the gospel have life, but those who reject it, it is a message of death. For example, the message of Elijah, Ahaziah’s soldiers aredestroyed by fire until they approach the prophet with respect (2Kings 1:10). Also, Elijah asked that God shut up the sky before Ahab (1 Kings 18). In both cases God’s spokesman prevailed against wicked government authorities. The point is, God will achieve His purposes. All who, down through the ages, have declared His truth will not have done so in vain.
No one will be able to stop God’s witnesses before their mission is complete. They will finish the work the Lord commissioned before He ascended to heaven when He sent out His apostles to preach the gospel to all the world, to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). Within a thirty year period after the resurrection of Christ, the gospel had been extended to "all the world" (Col. 1:6) and to "every creature" (Col. 1:23). These two witnesses had given clear testimony, confirmed with miracles, that their message was from God.
But they were all killed. It seems they failed. The world’s having a party over their death. They are gloating over their demise (vs. 10). Enemies might seem to be in control for the moment but they cannot destroy God’s truth. Their joy will not last long. The cause of Christ shall not be stamped out by Satan (Heb. 12:28; Dan. 2:44). Even the enemies shall fear (vs. 11). But those faithful to God will be victorious (vs. 11-13).
“This scene shows, in mini-version, the gist of all of the book of Revelation. When God's word is preached it will be followed by persecution. But God's cause will be vindicated in the form of divine retribution against his enemies. All attempts to correlate these signs to specific, historical events is an impossible task and fraught with speculation and imagination. However, when these signs are correlated with the theme of Revelation, the rest of the book unfolds as a picture of a victorious church. Though the saints are in the midst of persecution, they will not perish. God will overthrow all enemies. The true spiritual Israel will be protected and preserved by God in the troubles that lie ahead.” (Robert Harkrider).
The Little Book - Revelation 10
The 10th chapter begins with an interruption of the trumpets blasting. The last trumpet won’t sound till chapter 11. In this chapter John is told to take a little book, being held by an angel, and to eat it. We’ve seen something similar in Ezekiel, when he was told to eat the scroll (Ez. 2:8-3:4). Jeremiah spoke of eating God’s words (Jer. 15:16).
John is told that the book will make his stomach bitter, but it will taste like honey. When we hear the sweet as honey, our minds go to Psalm 19:10. We understand just how sweet, how pleasant, how delightful God’s words are to our soul. We understand how they enrich our lives, how they comfort our hearts. But the words are also bitter – they will contain a message that’s unpleasant to hear – perhaps exposing sin? Perhaps announcing future judgment? Perhaps unpleasant due to those who would not heed his message?
Whatever this book was, the message was magnificent. John was to appreciate, admire, and accept this message. Perhaps one of the greatest needs for God’s people today is to consume God’s words. Our faith is directly tied to those words (Rom. 10:17). Becoming more like Christ, making His will our own, being reproved by His correction, finding hope through His promises – it comes from reading the Word. But catch the language – not nibbling, not snacking – eating – consuming the Word. Perhaps the greatest challenge we have is getting into the Word of God daily – reading and studying this word, thinking deeply about the things we’ve read – putting to action the things we’ve studied. It is digging deep into God’s words, making them become part of our hearts (Col. 3:16).
Take in the questions that come from this chapter – what does the Word of God mean to you? Are you feasting on the Word of God? Do you have time daily set aside to read, think, and pray on the Bible? The message given to John is a message that applies to us – take this Word – eat it – make it part of your life – and make sure to share it (v. 11). Never underestimate the power of God’s word, nor the need for it in your life. Let’s come hungry to the table of God and find our fill as we feast on His words.
“Holy God, how wonderful are You and Your words. I love Your Words. I cherish the time spent in reading them. You lead me through life. You comfort my weary heart. You fill me with hope. You show me who You are. Forgive me of all the times I fill up on the junk of the world, rather than finding my fill through Your words. Help me daily to come to Your table hungry, to come thirsty – only to find my satisfaction with time in Your book. What a precious gift You’ve given me. Help me to cherish these words, to consume these word, and to share these words today.