Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 13
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

Chosen Beforehand

Yesterday I picked up the latest copy of Bicycling magazine from the magazine rack in our house and read about the favorites in the Tour de France. It was interesting to read the article after the race was finished. The rivalry which was heralded on the front cover between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador never materialized, due to some bad luck for Armstrong in the early stages of the race that cost him big chunks of time. The real battle in the Tour this year was between Contador and Schleck, who was also mentioned as a favorite, but was not really expected to win. Other favorites named included Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans and Dennis Menchov. Only one of those three finished on the Podium in Paris, so the writers for Bicycling were only half right about their top picks.

I'm sure it was nice for the riders who were chosen in advance to be GC contenders to read about themselves before the race even started, but it didn't change the outcome any. Writers can speculate all they want about who will do well, but the real race takes place on the roads of France and decides the winner.

There is one instance of being chosen beforehand that does make a difference, however. John tells us about it in Revelation 13:8: "All who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." John warns that all those who are not among the elect will succumb to the seduction of the beast's blasphemy. They will not endure until the end. But the chosen ones will stand firm until the end and exhibit faith and endurance that will allow them to experience eternity with the Lamb who was slain.

This verse makes clear the fact that our salvation is a gift of God's grace. We are not responsible for our own salvation. No, in fact, we were chosen "in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." (Ephesians 1:4-5) Certainly, if God chose us before creation to be his own, then nothing we do could be the cause of, or contribute to our salvation. It is a pure gift of God's grace.

This is also a great source of comfort when life is full of tribulation and it's difficult to stand firm in the faith. We know that since we were chosen by God in advance, He will keep us safe in Christ unto eternal life. Our names were written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world.

There is actually some question whether that phrase (before the foundation of the world) should be connected with names written in the book of life or whether it refers to the Lamb who was slain. It really doesn't make any difference. Before creation God chose his Son to die for our sins and in eternity Christ consented to die in our place. As a result, it is as though he was slain before the foundation of the world. And at that same time, before the world began, God chose us in Christ to be holy and blamless through Christ, so that we could have eternal life with Him. The two go hand in hand, and because they do we need have no fear about the trials that may come before the end of time. God will preserve us safely to the end, because we were chosen and our names were written in the Lamb's book of life before time began.

So our situation is much better than that of the GC contender's in Bicycling magazine. Their pick didn't make a difference. Our being chosen beforehand assures us of eternal life in Christ. Praise God for his grace in saving us!

Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 13
Author: Pastor Zach

In 2007, one of the most captivating displays of raw talent ever seen was aired on the primetime hit "America's Got Talent" in the voice of Terry Fator. Terry is ventriloquist, now residing in Las Vegas, where he signed a contract worth a reported $100 million to be the headliner at the Mirage Casino. He rose to fame after winning "American's Got Talent" with his turtle puppet singing a rendition of Roy Orbison's "Crying," a song which is not easy to perform even when you can move your lips!

I have always been fascinated by ventriloquists, most likely because I've never been able to throw my voice. Although I've tried my hand at ventriloquism, my lips inevitably manage to move and I sound more like a grunting gorilla than a seasoned entertainer. So much for my Vaudeville career.

In our text for today from Revelation 13, we are introduced to a strange character: "Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb" (verse 11). Throughout John's vision in Revelation, the image of a lamb has served to refer to Christ, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). But this lamb seems to be of a different, if not even of a sinister, sort. And indeed he is. For John continues, "He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon" (verse 11). Satan, it seems, is trying to play the part of the Lamb of God. He "performs great and miraculous signs" (verse 12) and even dresses himself up like Christ. But Satan is not a very good ventriloquist. He may look like Christ, but he can never sound like Christ. For the lies and blasphemies that Satan utters can never sound like the truth and grace that Christ declares.

Jesus warns his disciples, "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible" (Matthew 24:24). John's vision in Revelation 13 is the fulfillment of Christ's prophecy in Matthew 24. And Christ warns that these false christs - these demons who look like lambs, but in reality are dragons - will try deceive even the elect saints of God.

How are we to keep ourselves from being deceived by such deluding demons? By listening to what they say. For although Satan may be able to fake Christ's appearance, he can never fake Christ's voice. As Jesus himself promises, "My followers will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice" (John 10:5).

Sadly, there are many false teachers in the world today. And, just as Jesus and John warn us, they teach untruths and half-truths about Christ and his gospel. Some teach that all paths lead to God rather than the path of Christ alone. Others teach that if you just have enough faith in God, you will no longer have troubles or trials of any kind. Still others teach trumped up doomsday versions of the apocalypse and the end of the world, meant to strike fear rather than to engender faith into the hearts of those who hear them. These are all false teachings. For these all contradict what the Lamb of God says in his Word. And no matter how lamb-like these teachers may look, it's what they say that counts.

Are you following the voice of the Lamb of God alone, or dissenting voices that do not parrot the voice of Christ? As Christians, we are called to listen and to learn from the voice of the Lamb of God alone. This is why we are to read the Scriptures. This is why we are to pray. This is why we are to receive wise counsel from trusted Christian friends. So that we never get taken in by a counterfeit Christ. And, by God's grace, we won't. For by God's grace, we know the Lamb's voice. My prayer is that you hear, follow, and obey his voice today.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2019-11-15 09:43:27