Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dragons and Beasts

The Book of Revelation is a series of graphic images: some deeply disturbing, and some wonderfully comforting. All the images are intended to expose the things that frighten us – and offer the comfort of a God who conquers evil:
Today I shared the images of Dragons and Beasts with my congregation: Revelation 12 & 13.

This is the stuff of nightmares:
• A huge red dragon with 7 heads, ten horns, and a long tail.
• A beast that emerged from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. This beast looked like a leopard, with feet like a bear's feet and a mouth like a lion's mouth.
• And another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb's horns, and it spoke like a dragon
Clearly symbolic language.... written for an audience who would understand the symbolism. There has been much speculation since then:
- Some say the Dragon with 7 heads – represents the seven hills of Rome...
others say no it is the seven hills of Jerusalem.
- Some argue that the 10 horns represent the ten emperors of Rome,
and other say that they are the 10 rulers of Israel.

There are 500 000 articles about this on the internet...
I am not going to try to link this to historical events of the past or future: I would rather invite us to discover the spiritual truth that has kept this book alive. This is the truth that has transcended every generation.

What do we have?
A dragon that tried to kill the son of the woman, “whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev 12). But her son escaped death and now rules over all nations from the throne of God.
Not too difficult: this is the conflict between evil, which tried to kill Jesus; and the power of God, which raised Jesus to life.

Then we have a frustrated Dragon: That then tries to kill the work of the Son of God.And does this by means of two beasts.
1. A beast from the sea
2. A beast from the earth.

What do we know about the beast from the sea?
Rev 13:3 The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast.
Rev 13:4 They worshiped the beast also, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?"
Rev 13:5 The beast was allowed to make proud claims which were insulting to God
Rev 13:7 It was allowed to fight against God's people and to defeat them, and it was given authority over every tribe, nation, language, and race.

Here is a beast that invites people to follow it
A beast that claims authority over every tribe, nation, language and race
Here is a beast that makes proud claims that insult the authority of God.
This is the beast of politicians and political systems.
Of course we need politicians, and political systems.
– but we need them to remember that they are accountable to God.

But there is a second beast:
Rev 13:11 Then I saw another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb's horns, and it spoke like a dragon.
Rev 13:12 It used the vast authority of the first beast in its presence. It forced the earth and all who live on it to worship the first beast.

This beast seems to be like the Lamb (“Two horns like lambs horns”) but it is not the lamb because it speaks like a dragon:
This is the beast of religious distortion:
This is the beast that uses its vast authority to serve the first beast:
Where religious values are placed at the service of political values:
This is the moment when politicians claim that their political plans are the will of God.

So where does all this leave us?
With the affirmation that all power, in heaven and on earth belongs to God.
Rev 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, "Now God's salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King!God delegates authority to human beings –
- Political power is used in ordering towns and countries
- Religious power is practiced in church communities
But beware: they can become beasts that use their power to frighten people
They can become beasts that misuse their power to undermine the dream of God.

So when Jacob Zuma tells an ANC rally in Khayelitsha that it was the will of God that the ANC ruled the country, or that “the ANC will rule until Jesus returns” – the beast is loose in the land. But, like all political systems and leaders, this beast too will pass, and God’s rule will continue.

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