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DOUBLE TROUBLE

Russell Maltby once observed, "Jesus promised His disciples three things: that they would be entirely fearless, absurdly happy, and that they would get into trouble." In Revelation 12-13 the apostle John is writing to a church that is in trouble. Revelation 13 reveals that the dragon/devil who made war against the people of God in 12:9, 17 is allied with two "beasts": one from the sea (13: 1 -10); one from the earth (13:11-18). Many commentators see in these beasts an apocalyptic description of the cult of emperor worship which confronted so many Christians in the Roman Empire. This cult consisted of civil, political and even (false) religious leaders who pressured citizens to recognize Caesar as Lord and to worship an image of him. Those who did so received "the mark or the name of the beast" (perhaps a form which officially certified participation in Caesar worship). Failure to obtain this certificate carried a stiff penalty for the earth beast had power to "cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed ... and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast" (13:15, 17). Whatever the exact identity of the beasts in Revelation 13, one thing is beyond debate: they were agents of the devil and they represented double trouble for the people of God.

The devil continues to trouble God's church. The simple truth is that Christians who honor God by faithfully keeping His commands and preaching His gospel are a source of trouble to the devil, and should expect the devil to trouble them: "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). While true no modem Americans are being pressured to worship Caesar as Lord, we are being pressured to worship money as Lord. Or sex as Lord. Or drink/drug as Lord. Or pleasure as Lord. Or personal choice as Lord. Or Allah as Lord. Or uncritical tolerance of all morals and doctrines as Lord. But the message of the New Testament in general and the book of Revelation in particular is that Jesus and Jesus alone is Lord, and that His way is the only way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! That was the message which aroused hatred toward the early church and brought double trouble from the devil and his beasts, and it still brings trouble when proclaimed in its simplicity and fulness. In 1529 Martin Luther wrote, "And tho' this world, with demons filled., should threaten to undo us, We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us" (3rd  verse of **A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"). The devil continues to trouble God's church, but he will never triumph over God's truth.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ