California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie, who is taking his congregation through a series of messages called, “Revelation: The Next Dimension,” spoke about the mark of the beast, showing the world is already moving towards the fulfillment of the prophecy.
It is, however, important to know that the Bible also talks about a new beginning when there will be “no perversion, no terrorism, no war, no starvation… no problem of any kind.” As Isaiah 11:9 says, the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth. But “it is going to get worse before it gets better,” the pastor warned.
Revelation 13 talks about spiritually dark times, the tribulation period, he went on to say. “Satan’s son” will emerge on the scene… “the man of perdition, the man of sin, the beast… best known as the antichrist… the most evil man who’s ever lived… history’s vilest embodiment of sin and rebellion.”
Referring to his previous message on the antichrist, Laurie reminded the audience that the antichrist’s agenda will be to deify Satan. The antichrist will come to take the place of Jesus, and to kill all Christians. And the antichrist will have with him his “devilish worship leader, a religious guru,” the false prophet, referred to as the “second beast” in Revelations.
Laurie then quoted Revelation 13:15-18: “The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”
If you google the number 666, you’ll receive 543 million results, the pastor said. “And you probably will find 543 million ideas about what it actually means. I don’t think anyone can answer this with complete certainly, but this much we do know… The antichrist is going to introduce a cashless society… The endgame of this is to cause people to engage in devil worship.”
This scenario is unfolding before us, Laurie said. The technology to make that happen is already here. He quoted Mark Hitchcock, a writer on the topic of prophecy, as saying, “The fact that the words of Revelation 13 were penned in the age of wood, stones, swords and spirit, makes this prophecy one of the powerful proofs of the inspired nature and reliability of God‘s word that one could have ever imagined. Who could have predicted a one-world economic system that controls all commerce but God?”
God knows the future just as well as we know our past, Laurie said. While we sometimes forget even our past, God knows the future with complete precision. Only God can tell what is going to happen, as Isaiah 46:9, 10 says.
About the changing global economy, the pastor quoted a financial expert as telling Fox News, “The real reform is some kind of a banking union where everyone signs on board, that there’s going to be some kind of a banking overlord, a banking union that everyone’s gonna have to bow down to.” Can this actually happen? Actually, it can, Laurie said. “And the leader of it will be the antichrist, and he will have his mark.”
Laurie added, “The antichrist’s economic policy will be very simple. Take my mark and worship me, or starve to death… No mark, no merchandize… No seal, no sale.”
The technology to do this is already here, the pastor said. A June 1, 2012 headline from New York Daily News read, “‘Human barcode’ could make society more organized.” The article said, “Microchip implants have become standard practice for our pets, but have been a tougher sell when it comes to the idea of putting them in people.”
Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags, known as RFID, that store all of the information in the passport as well as a digital picture of the owner. In 2002, an implantable id chip, called VeriChip, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The chip can be implanted in a person’s arm, and when scanned can pull up a 16-digit id number containing information about the user. However, it was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety.
“Am I saying that this technology will be the mark of the beast? No, I’m not,” Laurie cautioned. “I’m just saying the ability to technically pull this off exists.”
We don’t know when the tribulation period will begin, five or 20 years from now, Laurie said. But with the technology today, we know all this is “totally plausible.” But let’s not overreact, Laurie advised. Not every stamp put on someone’s hand by some authority is the mark of the beast. Or, if an office building’s number is 666, that’s not the mark of the beast.
While we do not know exactly when the mark of the beast will appear, we know this though that a great delusion will come upon the world and many will believe the lie leading to their destruction, as 2 Thessalonians 2:9 warns. Destruction will happen “because they refused to believe the truth that would save them.” At the time of the tribulation, they will choose to believe in a lie that the antichrist is “God,” Laurie said.
God has given us a free will, the pastor emphasized. He’s not going to force us to believe something we do not want to believe. And if we continue to harden our hearts, there will come a day when God will strengthen our own resolve not to believe, he warned. But those who respond to the Holy Spirit are also strengthened in their resolve to believe, he added.
The false prophet will appear to be harmless – like a baby rattlesnake – but will be as harmful as the antichrist, Laurie said. He will mislead many people.
We’re already moving towards a global economy and a global religion, the pastor said. The watchword for the day is tolerance, he painted out. We have people talking about women’s reproductive rights, which means women have the right to murder their own babies; death with dignity, which means euthanasia of the elderly; and religious tolerance, which means you tolerate every religion except the one that says Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father.
However, Revelation 14:1 talks about another kind of mark, which we, who are believers, want in our lives: “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
Who are these people? These are Messianic believers who have found Jesus as the messiah set up by God to proclaim the Gospel during the tribulation period, Laurie suggested. Not one of them was lost. “God does not lose us.”
Laurie said it is important for us to learn from the characteristics of the believers that Revelation 14 refers to. They had the mark of the Father, and not the antichrist. You have a mark on you, and God can see it, he told the congregants. Even today it matters what mark we carry; God can see the mark.
They sang a new song. Songs are about celebration, Laurie explained. All believers should sing a “new song,” what God has done for them today. They lived pure lives – no premarital or extra-marital sex, and only in the context of married man and woman, he added. They were also sincere in their faith. They had no deceit or hypocrisy. And they “followed” the Lamb wherever He went. They were not like Twitter followers, Laurie said.
“Are you ready to meet the Lord?” Laurie asked the audience as he closed the message.
Besides for being in the news right now, what do Scientology, Lance Armstrong and gun control all have in common? All three of them reveal the downside of man’s controlling nature. All three of them point the finger back at each of us….because each one of us can easily become a “control freak” if we are not careful.
There is a new book out by Lawrence Wright on Scientology entitled, Going Clear. As expected, it reveals more damaging facts about the controlling nature of this organization. Pretty scary stuff….and terribly detrimental to children, and their families. What do we think is going to happen when a religious group carries out a secret agenda at the expense of its followers? Power, control, and suffering….this is what a cult is all about.
Read the stories of those who have come out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses….or Mormonism….or any religious group that carries out a secret and hidden agenda….and the stories will sound eerily similar. The false doctrines are varied….but the controlling nature of the leaders is almost identical. That’s because man’s nature is pointed in the direction of selfishness, and control.
Raymond Franz is a former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He wrote a book years ago entitled, Crisis of Conscience. It is a clear warning of what can happen when someone turns his God-given right of decision making over to an organization. The problem with certain religious organizations is that they are run by leaders who are awfully experienced at controlling others….and these men are callous to the real spiritual needs of the people.
Lance Armstrong has gone through his own “crisis of conscience” recently. In his interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong said, “It was impossible to live up to this. I’m a flawed character. All the fault and all the blame falls on me. Whether it’s fans or the media, it just gets going and I lost myself in all of that. I certainly couldn’t handle it, and I used to control everything in my life. I have controlled every outcome in my life.” We can all probably relate to Lance’s struggle in one way or another. We are all flawed….we are all sinners….and we all like to be in control.
And then there is gun control. There is that word again. It is amazing how often it tends to pop up in our lives. There are some people in our world, and perhaps even in our nation, who want to prevent people from even owning guns. These elite “control mongers” have their own agenda….and like the leaders of a cult, they feel they know what is best for everyone else. Control, control, control.
Do we want evil men like Adam Lanza being given guns? Of course not. We want responsible people to own guns….and there are millions of responsible people in our country who meet that qualification. When evildoers like Adam Lanza viciously attack children, responsible adults need to have guns on hand to stop the attack instantly. This is what will help to protect the children from such modern day monsters.
At the end of the day, it is about the children. We don’t want them to join a cult, and get controlled by power-hungry leaders. We don’t want them to imitate Lance Armstrong, and cheat their way to “victory.” And we don’t want them to be vulnerable to vicious men who wish to hurt them.
God loves the children, and He wants to surround them with His protection and peace. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for the children, and for each of us. It is only when we accept His forgiveness for our sins….and place ourselves under His leadership….and the control of the Holy Spirit….that we find the power to stop trying to control others.
If you are out of control today, turn to Jesus….and ask Him to take control. He will change your heart….and He will change the way you treat others. Are you ready to hand over control of your chaotic life to Christ? No Jesus….no peace. Know Jesus….know peace. Pretty simple huh?
As Americans tuned in to watch President Barack Obama be sworn into office for his second term on Jan. 21, a number of Christian leaders took to their Twitter accounts to offer reaction.
Arguably the most impassioned remark came from Pastor Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., who wrote that Obama knows neither God or the Bible. “Praying for our president, who today will place his hands on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know,” Driscoll tweeted. The Mars Hill Church pastor’s tweet was retweeted by more than 2,100 people.
The president has publicly professed his faith in God many times, but also has been accused by conservatives of attacking religious freedom, most notably with the Affordable Care Act that mandates religious employers to offer insurance that covers birth control, including abortifacient, to their employees.
In his tweet shared Sunday, Christian minister John Piper argued that Obama’s support of abortion stands against the ideals that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, whose day of remembrance falls on inauguration day this year.
Russell Moore, Dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, shared that he would be praying for President Obama.
“Congratulations President @BarackObama. Prayers for blessing, wisdom, direction, & health,” Moore tweeted.
Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Ga., who found himself at the center of a controversy surrounding the inauguration after he resigned from delivering the official benediction because he did not wish to be part of the gay debate, also shared a thought with his Twitter followers.
“The word benediction literally means ‘good + to speak.’ Seeking to do this today,” Giglio tweeted.
In his inaugural address, President Obama mentioned the gay rights riots at Stonewall, a symbol of the LGBT movement – which could have potentially caused more controversy if Giglio had remained in charge of the benediction. Several liberal websites have called the evangelical Christian minister “anti-gay” due to a 1990s sermon in which he preaches what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Pro-life groups are optimistic about the effectiveness of ultrasound technology in persuading pregnant women to choose giving birth over having an abortion.
Ultrasound technology has played an important role in helping pregnant women realize that the fetuses they carry are “alive and vulnerable,” said Roland Warren, CEO of Care Net, in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday. Care Net is a Christian ministry that supports such women through its network of pregnancy centers, 60 percent of which offer ultrasound exams at no charge.
Warren compares the impact of ultrasound technology on the pro-life movement to the impact of television cameras on the civil rights movement. During the civil rights movement, cameras captured images of the injustices perpetrated against black communities in the South and allowed those images to be broadcast nationwide.
“You have a similar kind of thing that’s happening with ultrasound,” said Warren. “In a similar way, you know, the ultrasound is coming into the womb and it’s helping people understand what’s happening to the most vulnerable among us.”
A number of different pro-life organizations have found ultrasounds helpful to promoting their cause.
The website for Options Pregnancy Resource Centers in Oregon says that among the organization’s Project Ultrasound clients who were considered “at high-risk for choosing abortion,” 75 percent of those who declined to receive an ultrasound ended up having an abortion. In comparison, only 30 percent of those who received an ultrasound did the same.
CitizenLink reported in February 2012 that Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound Program (OUP), which offers grants to support the use of ultrasound technology in Pregnancy Medical Clinics, had a role in preventing an estimated 120,000 abortions since the program’s inception in 2004.
Abortion clinic doctors in Texas are now legally required to provide pregnant women with a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion can be performed, except in some cases where the procedure can be performed no earlier than two hours after the sonogram. Doctors must also make the unborn child’s heartbeat audible to the woman seeking an abortion.
Texas Right to Life spokesperson Rachel Bohannon told CP via email that the “Sonogram Law,” which went into effect in February 2012, had an immediate impact in that it reduced the number of abortions and increased the number of visitors who visited pregnancy centers to receive free sonograms.
“When women come face to face with their preborn children, their natural desire to protect their children begins to kick in, and they often reconsider their abortion decision,” said Bohannon.
“This is not manipulation on the part of Pro-Lifers. The Sonogram Law is not meant to guilt or shame women out of abortions, as our opponents claim. The purpose of the Sonogram Law is very simple: to make women fully-informed by presenting them with all the medical information, and thus bring abortion practice in Texas up to contemporary medical standards of informed consent.”
Bohannon says appeals to “science, technology and common sense” have resulted in many pro-life victories since Roe v. Wade was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, and will continue to be important moving forward.
Warren described this week’s 40th anniversary of the court’s decision as being “bitter,” and even suggested that modern technology and medical knowledge might have prevented the legalization of abortion if it had been available before Roe v. Wade.
“I think, frankly, had people known then what we know now in terms of fetal development and all these different pieces, it would have been very difficult, I think, for abortion to even have become the law of the land,” he said.
Approximately 55 million legal abortions have occurred in the U.S. since the Roe v. Wade decision. According to the Texas Right to Life website, at least 1.2 million abortions are reported every year.
A total of 43 abortion restrictions were enacted across 19 states in 2012 – the second highest total ever passed in one year – the Guttmacher Institute reports.
“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:31-32
I didn’t mean to break it!
In fact, just the night before, as our hosts for the evening were showing my wife Martie and me around their beautiful home, they drew our attention to a gorgeous bowl of alabaster fruit. They talked about how valuable it was to them, not only because of its beauty and rarity, but also because of the memories that were associated with the piece.
Which made my klutzy moment early the next morning all the more distressing. In my pre-coffee fog, I walked by the table and knocked the alabaster banana to the floor, breaking it in half. Immediately, the dark side of my fallen heart began to think how I could get out of this jam. It was a clean break, and perhaps if I put it back into the bowl carefully the two halves would look like their original form. Weeks later when they would discover the broken banana, they would no doubt blame it on their kids, and we would be long gone.
In the end, the bright side of my redeemed heart prevailed and I apologetically admitted, “I hate to tell you this, but I knocked your alabaster banana on the floor and it cracked in half.”
I’ll never forget my friend’s reply.
“That’s all right, Joe, in our home people are more important than things.”
I was spared, but more importantly I was taught a great lesson.
In fact, that is exactly how God feels! With Him, people and their needs have always trumped everything else. Jesus made this very clear in His teachings and actions, but perhaps most profoundly in the familiar story of the prodigal son. When He told the story, He was surrounded by tax collectors, women of ill repute, and various other “sinners.” On the fringes of this crowd of outcasts, the Pharisees and teachers of the law stood muttering and grumbling about Christ’s apparent penchant for the unsavory characters of their day. So Jesus proceeded to tell these stories highlighting a lost sheep, a lost coin, and then a lost son. Each parable focuses intently on the passion God has for people as He actively seeks after us and then rejoices when, at last, we turn to Him and are found.
Pointing directly at the Pharisees with His words, the parable of the lost son concludes with the spotlight turned on a disgruntled older brother who is hung up on the “things” that have been lost—the family reputation, dignity, and most likely a sizable portion of the family inheritance. Viewed from his perspective, the father’s expenditures on a wayward son are wasteful and even unfair.
But Jesus, reflecting the heart of His Father in the closing words of the parable, points out that in God’s household people matter most. Not just “cleaned-up” people. Not just “churchy” people. But people who desperately need to hear that God loves them enough to forgive them of their sin, free them of their addictions, and find them at their point of darkest need. People matter most.
So when we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we have to ask ourselves: What matters most in our lives? Our possessions? Our personal preferences? Our perspectives on how people should act and think? Our plans? Our personal pride and reputation? Our rules? Or do the needs and nurture of people matter most?
My friend with the alabaster bowl got it right—people matter most. And Jesus has shown us the way!
- List a few of the priorities in your life (prized possessions, family, friends, schooling, career, church responsibilities, dreams, desires, etc.). Take a few minutes to honestly rank them according to how you have been living.
- Now go back over that list and rank each category in the order it would appear if you lived to make people matter most based on God’s Word and His priorities.
- What are some steps you can take today to realign your priorities and reflect the truth that people matter most? Make a plan and pray that God will give you the opportunity to convince someone that he or she matters most to you and to God.