Sunday, September 11, 2016, 8:18 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 12 (ESV). A Male Child (vv. 1-6) And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. I do believe the woman is a figure of Israel, not physical Israel, but spiritual Israel, the children of promise. Jesus Christ did come from Israel. He was/is the promised seed of Abraham, and he is the one who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. Yet, we who are in Christ, who are now the children of promise, will rule and will reign with him. Satan tried to destroy Jesus Christ, but he was not successful. Jesus Christ conquered him, instead. First he tried to have him killed when he was still a small child. Eventually he incited the religious leaders of his day to incite a riot of people to demand that Jesus be crucified. And, they did hang him on a cross to die. Yet he was resurrected from the dead, and in his death and resurrection he was victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. Then, he ascended back to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father until the time when he comes back to judge, to receive his own, and to rule and to reign on the earth. After he left the earth, he sent his promised Holy Spirit to indwell and to empower all of us who have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. Today this same dragon is standing before the true church, the saints of God, and is waiting for any birthing of revival in the hearts of God’s people so that he can destroy it as soon as it happens. He is waiting for people’s hearts to be drawn to the Savior so that he can snatch the seed right out of their lives (minds and hearts). And, he is standing and watching and waiting for any of us to begin to give testimony to our faith in Jesus Christ, and/or to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, so that he can attempt to destroy our testimonies and to discredit us so that people will not believe us when we expose these wicked deeds of darkness, and we bring them into the light. He wants nothing more than to destroy the works of God in our lives. The Dragon (vv. 7-16) Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Satan was once a beautiful angel in heaven. But he wanted to be God, so he rebelled against God, along with many of the angels in heaven. They were cast from God’s heaven. And, now Satan is the prince of the earth. He roams the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He is at war still with God, and he is still trying to destroy Jesus Christ, only now he is trying to do it by killing Christ’s servants, or by trying to kill their testimonies for Christ, or through deception within the church to try to destroy the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, although he will be allowed to pursue the children of promise for a time, and he will be allowed to tempt them, to try to discourage them, to deceive them or destroy them and their testimonies for Christ, and/or to physically put them to death, the saints of God will triumph over him by the word of their testimony, and because they are willing to die, if need be, for their faith and witness for Jesus Christ and for the gospel. In the end of time, as we know it, the dragon will give (or has given) his authority to the beast rising out of the sea, and then there will also be a beast rising out of the earth, which will cause the inhabitants of the earth to worship the first beast. To the best of my understanding, I believe this first beast is a one-world government and the second beast is a one-world religion, i.e. a state church of sorts. We are already seeing, since the 1950’s, this worship of the first beast in the institutional church via the pledge of allegiance (vow of fidelity) to the US government and via the worship of our military, giving praise to them as our saviors who keep us safe. As well, some of our government leaders and some of our religious leaders in America, and in the world, have been pushing this one-world religion and the demise of the full gospel message of salvation for some time now. They have been doing so through pushing the subject of unity among people of all walks of life and of all faiths. Their big push right now is that we, as a nation, and as a world, need to do away with all which divides us as the people of the world so that we can all come together as one united people. Well, the gospel of Jesus Christ divides us – saved and unsaved. And, so those who follow the gospel of Jesus Christ are tagged as disunifiers, bigots, hatemongers and intolerant. And, so we must be destroyed, discredited or reprogrammed so that we, as well, worship the beast or face the consequences. Yet, we must stand strong in our faith and not give up! I believe that the institutional church, under the authority of the US government, is a state church. It is not the true church of Jesus Christ, although the true church does exist within its borders. And, I believe God is calling his true church to come out from her so that she does not share in any of her (Babylon the Great’s) sins or in her punishment, for her sins are piled high to heaven (See: Rev. 18). I also believe God/Jesus wants to clean house, i.e. to cleanse his temple of all her adultery, idolatry and worldliness, and to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness which are being passed off as works of righteousness in many cases (See: Rev. 2-3). Time is running out. The beast is rising, and we are moving quickly toward the full fulfillment of the prophecies of scripture with regard to the last days. To Make War (v. 17) Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. These are the ones who are Satan’s true enemies. They are those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, who follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives, and who hold to the true (full) gospel message of salvation from sin. We believe the Word of God when it says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). We believe the word when it says that Jesus was put to death on a cross so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. And, we believe scripture when it says that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) – See: Ro. 8:1-14. Holding to the testimony of Jesus, though, is so much more than just believing what the Word teaches us, but it is putting the Word into practice in our daily lives, and it is, by our lifestyles, living holy lives pleasing to God, following Jesus’ example. It is loving what he loves and hating what he hates. And, it is confronting sin in sinful humans, warning of divine judgment, calling people to repentance, and giving them hope of a future with God if they repent of their sin and turn to faith in Jesus Christ. And, it is loving and caring for people as Jesus did, showing them the love of Christ. Satan will hate us, and he will try to destroy us, but we must remain steadfast in our faith, and cling to our Lord and to his Word always. Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind, Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, Seeking the wandering sinner to find. O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave; Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer others to save. O to be like Thee! while I am pleading, Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love; Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling, Fit me for life and Heaven above. Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee, Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art; Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.