"And I saw a beast rise up out of the sea… and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority… And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?... And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God… And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them… And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world… And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do" (Revelation 13:1-14).
In the chapter preceding this revelation the dragon is identified as Satan and these verses of scripture are generally understood by Christians as referring to the last days, just prior to the second coming of Christ. It is also generally understood that the imagery of a beast represents either a nation or a person who has such great political power that he can enforce his authority over people throughout the entire world.
From the scriptures just cited, this nation or person will speak blasphemous things about Jesus Christ and force people all over the earth to renounce Christ and worship Satan Those who refuse to do so, this person will make war against them and will prevail against them, meaning that this person of great, evil authority, will be so successful in his efforts to impose his will that the saints of God will not be able to withstand his attacks, despite their great faith in Christ.
Yet, even so, as Christians we also believe that despite all the power that the dragon and his beast will have to impose their evil will on others, God will ultimately defeat them both.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about saving people from their sins and preparing them to live with God forever. The gospel has also been referred to as the plan of happiness whereby we can have a fullness of joy. Jesus Himself is known as the prince of peace and He has promised His followers that they shall have His peace to be with them (John 14:27). And yet, throughout history there have been many times when Christians have had to suffer, sometimes horribly, for their belief in Christ. They have not always been able to live in peace and their lives have not always been one of joy.
Furthermore, it is believed that God is omnipotent, meaning that He is all-powerful and can do whatever He wants. And if He is all-powerful, then it follows that nothing or no one is more powerful than Him. It is believed that God is so powerful that with just His spoken work He brought into existence the entire universe. More than that, He controls the entire universe, and at His command He can both create and destroy stars and planets according to His own pleasure.
If all of this is true, then how is it possible for Satan in the last days to have so much power through the influence of one nation or person than he can force his ungodly will upon people all over the earth? If the plan of salvation is to save people from their sins, then why will Satan be able to wage war against the followers of Christ and they will be powerless to successfully fend off his assault against them?
However, what we read in Revelations about Satan's power in the last days is nothing new. Satan has been exercising his power and influence upon people since the time of Adam and Eve. The history of the world has been one continuous round of wars, subjugation, and unrighteous dominion over others. Around 600 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom extended over most of the known world at that time and no one could resist his power and authority. His word was law over a vast number of people. The same could be said for Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire is perhaps the best known nation whose power and authority to govern over people was the largest in history.
In modern times we have fought two wars that were global in scale and the twentieth century has been called the bloodiest century in the history of mankind in terms of lives lost through warfare. At the start of the twenty-first century the pace of violent conflict and bloodshed seems to be increasing, and the likelihood of it getting even worse seems to be certain.
If God is so powerful and He loves the world so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save all of us, then why is there so much evil in the world? Put another way, if God loves us so much then why doesn't He put a stop to all of this evil if He has the power to prevent it from happening?
Adolf Hitler is usually the name people associate with the worst mass murderer in history (although that is not true. There are others who have killed many more people than him). As we study his rise to power we see that there were many points in time when his evil designs could have easily been thwarted. Although his dogged determination, brutal methods of perseverance, and sinister manipulation of people worked in his favor, he was by no means unstoppable. In fact, in a number of instances he barely managed to succeed in advancing to the next step in his plan to become the dictator of Germany.
Then how did Hitler come to power when it would have been a relatively easy matter for God to prevent him from achieving a position where he could inflict so much evil on the world? When we consider how Hitler used that power to not only exterminate but tortured and brutalized God's chosen people, the Jews, especially when they were doing nothing to warrant such treatment, it seems that God was powerless to change the course of history.
But the Bible predicts that in the future there will be people who will be more evil and more powerful than Hitler ever was. The world came together to fight against Nazi Germany and, in the end, they succeeded in destroying Hitler's ambitions, but in the book of Revelation we read that the time is coming when just the opposite will happen.
There is yet to come a person so powerful and so evil that he will rule over the entire world and that no one will be able to resist his authority. More than that, he will blaspheme against God Himself, daring God to strike him down, and will still effectively be able to force everyone to worship Satan. Those who persist in believing in Christ will be unmercifully killed.
This isn't just a matter of God not being able to stop such a beast but is actually predicting what will happen. It isn't a matter of if this person will come to power but rather the only uncertainty is when he will exercise such power? When viewed from this perspective, it seems that God is actually wanting such an evil person to control the world, and is deliberately allowing him to perpetrate the most heinous crimes against humanity that mankind has ever seen up to that time.
But why would a loving God, a prince of peace, whose only desire is to bring us joy and happiness to all of mankind, do such a thing?
We can't answer that question with any degree of accuracy but what we do know with certainty is that both good and evil are an essential part of God's plan for the salvation of His children. Exactly how all of these wars, tortures, maimings, killings and murders fit into that plan, is something that God has not fully revealed, and events like this only tend to illustrate how little we actually know about what God is doing.
As Christians we are taught that salvation comes from believing in Jesus Christ, that He was God's only begotten Son, that He took upon Him our sins and sacrificed His life so that we may live forever. We have a little idea of why God allows sin to exist and how the struggle to overcome sin is necessary to help us become spiritually stronger, but we only understand this concept in a very general and superficial way.
It's when we get into specific situations that our limited understanding of sin's purpose doesn't provide an adequate answer. For example, thousands of innocent people are killed or maimed in automobile accidents every year and we wonder why God would allow so many needless deaths? Innocent, God-fearing woman are not spared from being brutally raped and we wonder why God didn't protect them? Christians around the world are being persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ while people of certain other religious faiths are protected from persecution and we struggle to understand why God allows this inequity to take place.
There are millions of innocent civilians living in terror of their own government through no fault of their own because of a dictator who has no concern for their well-being, and there are millions of others who are starving because of a man-made famine brought about through political corruption. All of these things seem so unfair and unrighteous and we wonder why do bad things happen to good people?
It is situations like this that seems to contradict the idea of an all-powerful God of love and peace. Yet, the very Bible we believe in that teaches us about God's salvation and His promise of eternal joy, also tells us that God allows Satan to spread misery and destruction upon innocent people. In fact, God's word predicts exactly how bad things will be in the last days. This isn't a matter of God being unable to stop evil. Instead, it is a clear indication that God deliberately intends to allow such horrific evil to exist and flourish.
Yet all of this suffering will only last but for so long. According to the plan God has revealed in His word, there will come a time when Satan will be bound for a thousand years and will no longer be permitted to exercise any power over the souls of men (Revelation 20:2). However, when the thousand years of peace has reached its time limit, Satan will once more be allowed to unleash his full fury against God and His people, and there will be one last great and terrible battle where Satan will gather all the armies of the earth to fight against the saints of God (Revelation 20:8,9).
The question this raises is, why doesn't God bound Satan now and never let him loose again? Why does God allow this man of unimaginable evil and hatred towards everything God stands for to exercise his power in any degree whatsoever, let alone allow him to exercise it with full impunity?
Although God's word is silent on this matter, what the scriptures do tell us is that no matter what happens or how bad things may get, we are commanded to have faith in God in all things.
What we also know is that God is all-powerful and that there is a good and righteous reason for all that He does. The fact that we don't know why certain things happen, or that we can't see the good that can come from bad things is part of the test of having faith in God. It's easy to have faith in God when things are going well, but the real test comes when we can't understand or see the reason for why bad things happen.
Noah didn't know for sure that God would send a flood to cover the earth when he began building an ark. Abraham didn't understand why God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac, especially when he was the promised son through whom Abraham's posterity would be blessed. Moses didn't know how he was going to free his people from Egyptian captivity as God had commanded him. All the ancient Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah without knowing for sure that their words would actually come to pass. As the writer of Hebrews explained, they did all these things in faith without knowing the outcome ahead of time (Hebrews 11:4-31)
In America, there are many people who are concerned about what they see happening to their country. They see many of their God-given inalienable rights being taken from them, they see what they consider to be a divinely inspired Constitution being disregarded by their elected officials more and more every day, they see the values that have made this country great being mocked and maligned, and perverse behavior being enshrined as desirable and preferable. They see their cherished customs being degraded and changed, and they feel increasingly unsafe within the borders of their own country. Even as they live in a land that's supposed to be governed by the people and for the people, they feel that their elected representatives no longer listen to their concerns and are actually working against their best interests.
Needless to say, these Americans feel frustrated, betrayed, and increasingly powerless to do anything to correct the negative course of events that are destroying America's republican form of government as they helplessly watch their country being ruled more and more in a tyrannical manner. They go to the polls to elect people they hope will be able to effect a change at the highest levels of government only to later find that things keep getting worse instead of better.
And the situation isn't any better in other countries. Especially in Europe, things are going from bad to worse and people are becoming more dissatisfied with their governments. As a result, people there are reacting bitterly and sometimes violently. In the Middle East there is a major conflict brewing between Sunni and Shite Muslims that has the potential of dragging the world into another global war.
The faithful followers of Christ hold prayer meetings imploring God's help to turn things around and yet the wicked seem to be increasing in power and the righteous are facing greater persecution than ever before. It is easy to conclude that God has either turned a blind eye to what is happening or doesn't care. Yet, neither of these assumptions are correct. The reason for all of the conflict and turmoil in the world is all part of God's plan, just like it was part of God's plan for Hitler to come to power and be the impetus behind starting WWII.
The fact that we don't fully understand why God allows the wicked to rule, or why He allows misery and destruction to occur, especially to His own people, doesn't mean that He is powerless to stop what is happening. People come to power at certain times in history according to God's plan. Sometimes that plan calls for good people to rise up to make the world a little better place, as He did with the Founding Fathers of America, and other times His plan calls for wicked people to come to power where they are allowed to spread their damaging mischief.
But it is precisely when bad things happen that we need to rely on a God who is so powerful that He not only can but does direct the course of human events according to His purposes. It is precisely when we don't understand what is happening or wonder why God isn't answering our prayers as we think He should that our faith should become stronger rather than weaker. It is during times of uncertainty that we should remember how little we understand about God's plan and increase our trust in Him and rely a little less on our own understanding. It's when things seem to be going in the wrong direction that we need to remind ourselves that God is in control and that everything is working exactly according to His plan.
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