by Matthew W. Bassford
The contrast between Revelation 13 and Revelation 14 is one of the most striking between any two chapters in the Bible. In Revelation 13, all the news is bad. Even though the dragon has been defeated in heaven, a new ally for him, the beast, emerges from the sea. Another evil creature, a beast who is a false prophet, comes up out of the earth.
Together, these beings do incredible harm. The dragon leads all the earth to worship him and the beast. The false prophet mimics the work of Christ, deceiving all the people of the world. Now, anyone who does not worship the beast will be killed, and anyone who does not receive the mark of the beast cannot buy or sell. In short, by the end of Revelation 13, it seems that the bad guys have already won!
Revelation 14 tells a different story. There, we learned that 144,000 have not followed the dragon or the beast. Instead, they have remained faithful to God. Also, God uses His angels to begin his plan to overthrow the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Babylon, the city of the beast, will be destroyed. Furthermore, all who have worshipped the beast will be punished. The righteous will be rewarded, and in the end, it is the will of God, not the will of the dragon, that will triumph.
In addition to making for exciting reading, this two-chapter sequence reveals a fundamental truth about the cosmic struggle between good and evil. It always looks like evil is about to win. This has been true at many, many times throughout the history of God's people, and it is certain to continue to be true.
Indeed, we ourselves may feel this way right now. It may be that as we consider the apparent moral decline of our country, the work of the devil is as apparent to us as it is in Revelation 13. The same may hold true in our personal lives as well. In my own life, developing a terminal illness does not look like a victory for God!
However, we must hold the truth of Revelation 14 firmly in mind. It was not obvious at the end of Revelation 13, and it may not be obvious in our lives now, but God is preparing an answer. If we see trouble looming on the horizon, how much more is He aware of it! He has had all the time in the world to address our situation. He knows what He is going to do, and His power is such that He will infallibly do it. Nobody reaches the end of Revelation and concludes that God has lost, and if we are faithful to Him, no one will think that He has lost the battle in our lives either.
This is not always easy to hear. We may well feel like God should have turned the chapter to Revelation 14 a while ago! As always, though, God works on His timetable, not ours. If we trust in Him, His triumph in our lives is as certain as His triumph in Revelation.