Some thoughts about emperor worship

I am currently teaching through the book of Revelation in Sunday school and this past week we were in chapter 17 which begins with John being invited by one of the seven angels who poured out the seven bowls to come and see the judgment of the great harlot Babylon who was guilty of the blood of the saints (17:1-6). After a description of the coming beast that “carries her,” John is instructed in regard to the ascension of power of the beast (17:7-11). John is then told that the ten horns which he saw earlier on the head of the beast (13:1-3) are in reality ten kings (17:12) and together, they do something that frankly, human kings don’t easily do: give up power and authority.  In 17:12 these ten kings along with the beast are granted authority for a short time. Then in v. 13 we read a remarkable statement: “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.” Ten kings representing ten countries will hand over their power and authority to a coming world leader. As was mentioned earlier in the book, this coming world leader will be worshiped by the entire world (13:3-4). This may be hard to imagine but history validates that at any given time, some rulers were considered divine by their own subjects. This was true of certain Roman emperors of the first century and of Hitler and of Hirohito during the Second World War. In reality, emperor worship is not new. What is new in Revelation is that the worship is worldwide. When a sinful world is in crisis, it will look to one man to come and deliver them. Undoubtedly this coming world ruler will promise deliverance in light of the catastrophic realities of an earth under siege by God. Every time we see people fawning over political leaders we are reminded that sinful man will always look to another sinner for deliverance. This kind of response does not glorify God at all for it robs him of a right reserved for him alone. He is the only king worthy to be worshiped.

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