Posted by: stpowen | April 27, 2013

Revelation (9). Chapter 13: The Two Beasts

Matthew 24:24-25. ‘For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.’

Read Revelation 13.

In the article on Revelation 12, we saw Satan being defeated and cast down to earth. We saw that he is filled with hatred and malevolence against the people of God and at the end of the chapter we read that he, ‘Went off to make war with the rest of [the woman’s] offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ’ (12:17). In Chapter 13, we shall discover how Satan carries on that war.

v.1. ‘Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rise out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.’

John {1} stands on the seashore, the border between the land and the sea and he sees two amazing creatures, literally thuria, ‘wild beasts.’ The first beast has a close resemblance to the dragon (12:3), having the same number of heads and horns. It is interesting to conjecture why the dragon (Satan) wears his crowns on his heads, while the beast wears them on his horns. It seems that the Spirit is saying that Satan’s power comes from his great intelligence and cunning, whilst the beast’s power comes from brute force. We shall see (v.2) that Satan is the mind behind the beasts and they operate at his behest to aid him in his quest to destroy God’s people.

Two details will enable us to identify this beast. Firstly, it rises out of the sea. I certainly do not expect to see such a creature appearing off Exmouth sea-front! The sea represents the mass of unsaved humanity. ‘But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt’ (Isaiah 57:20. cf. Jude 13). John himself likens the sea to humanity in 17:15. Secondly, the creature ‘Was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion’ (v.2). The reference here is to Daniel 7:3ff, where Daniel sees a vision of four beasts; one like a lion, one like a bear, one like a leopard and one which was ‘dreadful and terrible.’ These animals are readily identified as representing the four ancient empires of Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome. By combining the creatures into one composite beast, John pictures for us all the world powers down the ages that are hostile to Christ. The bear symbolizes strength, the leopard speed, and the lion, savagery. Such are the forces that oppose the people of God. Satan has invested these nations with all his false authority and with great power. This beast therefore represents secular world power as it stands opposed to God.

v.3a. ‘And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed.’

Obviously this is in some sense Satan’s parody of Christ who was slain and yet is alive for ever more (cf. 1:18). I think there is more to it than that however. Early Christians would undoubtedly have associated this beast with the Roman Empire, and, as they faced persecution from the authorities, it would not be surprising if they were thinking of Daniel 2:44 and asking, “If the kingdom of God has come, why hasn’t the Roman Empire been broken into pieces, why hasn’t it received a mortal wound?”

The message here in Rev. 13 is that Satan’s kingdom has indeed received a mortal wound. In Chapter 12 we saw that he was ‘cast down’ and that he knew that his time was short. When Christ came, the whole kingdom of the devil received its death-wound. Consider Matt. 12:28-29. “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he firsts binds the strong man? Then He will plunder His house.” Satan has been defeated and is bound, and The Lord Jesus Christ is busy plundering his goods by bringing men and women out of his clutches into the kingdom {2}. Yet as we are looking at the power of the beast from an earthly perspective it seems that his power is as great and as malignant as ever. The Roman Empire finally fell in the Fifth Century, but other manifestations of the beast have arisen down the ages, and unless the Lord comes soon no doubt others will arise; but this does not change the fact that the beast has received a mortal wound and that his time is short. ‘And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly’ (Rom. 16:20).

vs.3b-4. ‘And all the world wondered after the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and the worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war against him?”’

Because these powers and governments seem so powerful and indestructible, people put their faith in them rather than in God, and when they do that they are worshipping Satan whether they realise it or not. ‘Who is like the beast?’ They ask in unconscious parody of Exod. 15:11, and of course these governments claim power that belongs only to God. The present British Prime Minister makes a show of going to church, and political parties will sometimes make a show of courting the Christian vote, but in legislating for same-sex ‘marriage,’ the government is showing itself to be anti-Christ in that it is claiming to be wiser than God. It forgets that ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people’ (Prov. 13:34).

v.5. ‘And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.’

So the beast is allowed to continue for 42 months which, as we saw when we looked at Chapter 11, is identical to 1260 days (11:2) and ‘Time, times and half a time’ (12:14), and represents the entire Gospel age, from the first coming of Christ until His second. All through this time, says John, governments will be boasting of their powers and abilities and claiming prerogatives that belong to God (cf. Daniel 7:8, 11, 20). Yet God has put a limit upon their authority and that of Satan, and in His good time will bring both to an end (cf. Isaiah 37:23-29). God rules, even in the midst of His enemies.

It is noteworthy that the 42 months that are allotted to the beast are the same time that the Two Witnesses are preaching and witnessing in 11:3, and the beast is unable to prevent them. This is what we see in places like China, India and Iran; the Church is growing in spite of all that governments can do. The beast’s kingdom continues in parallel, if you will, with God’s kingdom.

v.6. ‘Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe and language and nation.’

There are two ways to read these verses. The word translated ‘Then’ by the NKJV is the Greek word kai, the usual meaning of which is ‘and,’ though ‘then’ is certainly within its semantic range (cf. Luke 19:15). So perhaps verse six is simply an expansion of verse 5: ‘and he was given a mouth…….and he opened his mouth.’ In this case the blasphemy, the war that the beast wages, his victory and his authority are things that go on all through the present age (cf. Luke 21:16-19; 1 John 5:19). We have seen that there is suffering for God’s people all the way through Revelation and Church history tells us that they suffer many defeats.

The alternative view is to read verse 6 as following on after the 42 months. If we adopt this view, we need to read these verses in conjunction with 11:7-10. Both extracts seem to indicate an increase in the beast’s power and insolence, and a time of greatly increased persecution for God’s people. Note that the beast’s blasphemies are now directly against God, the Church and heaven. This is ‘Satan’s Little Season’ when he is given free reign for a very short time (three days and a half, according to 11:9). We might look at Rev. 20:7 and 2 Thes. 2:7-8 to see the same teaching. In the Old Testament we should consider Zech. 14:2-3, where Judah and Jerusalem stand for the Church. Zechariah isn’t portraying a literal attack upon modern-day Israel, but an increase in deception and persecution that will almost destroy God’s people. Some people think it’s already started. It is noteworthy that of the 30 million or so Christian martyrs down the ages, more than half of them have given their lives during the past century. Whether this is Satan’s time, or whether that is still to come, it does not affect our position. Our job is to stand firm and to preach the Gospel.

v.9. ‘All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’

There is a difference of opinion as to whether it is the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world, or the names that have been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. Either reading is possible; the latter seems the more likely. At all events, the fact is that most people love the world with all its excitements and opportunities more than they love Christ. ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world’ (2 Tim. 4:10). Many professing Christians try to love both the Lord Jesus and the world, but they will find, as Demas did, that ultimately it cannot be done (cf. Luke 16:13). One or other will always win out, and without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart, it will always be the world that wins. ‘If anyone has an ear, let him hear’ (v.9). We need to understand these things. We have a choice to make. In Bunyan’s famous word portrait of a godly preacher, the world is portrayed as being firmly behind his back. So should it be for all Christians.

v.10. ‘He who leads into captivity, shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword {1}. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.’

We are reminded of our Lord’s words in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:52). There is a day of judgement coming for the men of violence and the persecutors. The consolation of the saints all through this age is that the Lord will avenge His saints (cf. 6:10). Christians should never avenge themselves upon their enemies. ‘”Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the LORD’ (Rom 12:19 etc.). Patience and faithfulness are what is required of us.

v.11. ‘Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.’
John is still standing by the sea-shore, and now a second beast appears. We are given no description, save that it has horns like a lamb and the voice of a dragon. So how does a dragon speak? With a mighty roar? Not this dragon (12:9). This dragon says, “Has God indeed said….” and “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:1, 4). This beast claims the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, but the words it speaks are those of the devil himself. This is false religion and anti-Christian philosophy, especially those religions and quasi-Christian denominations that are closely bound up with the State. Elsewhere in Revelation it is referred to as the ‘false Prophet’ (16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The beast comes up out of the earth. ‘The first man [Adam] was of the earth, made of dust’ (1 Cor. 15:47). The second beast promotes man’s wisdom, while claiming to represent God.

v.12. ‘And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.’

The second beast is closely aligned with the first, meaning that instead of exalting God, it exalts the state. This would have been no mystery to the First Century Christians; the roman priest of Jupiter had no problems associating himself with Emperor worship, just as much of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches (with some noble exceptions) had no difficulty accommodating Hitler. The ‘Three Self’ Church in China is State-controlled and supports the government, which is why the House Churches face persecution. The priests of Baal supported Ahab and Jezebel and were in turn supported by them (1 Kings 18:19). Islam is a system of religion and government rolled into one, and the mosques and the government unite in their persecution of Christians.

The wonders and miracles of verses 13 and 14 also should cause us no puzzlement; we can think of all the bogus miracles of the Church of Rome down the ages, with relics and bones of dead saints, vials of blood that changed colour, weeping madonnas and so forth. Hindu priests have been shown to do similar tricks as well. It is important to note that the Bible states that signs and wonders in the last times are always going to be fraudulent. ‘The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved’ (2 Thes. 2:9-10. cf. also Matt.24:24). Charismatics, please note!

v.15. ‘He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.’

In Roman times, a statue of the Emperor was erected in every city, and every citizen was expected to offer up a pinch of incense to it. Whether verse 15 suggests that by some trickery the priests made it seem to speak, I don’t know, but this may just be poetic imagery for saying that the second beast exalts the first. At all events, at several times during the Roman Empire, those who would not perform some form of religious act towards the Emperor were put to death, and throughout the ages, those who have refused to bow to images, attend the idolatrous mass, confess to a priest and so forth, have suffered. Today also, those who will not recite from the Qu’ran or worship at Hindu shrines or compromise their faith before communist officials are being persecuted, often to the death

vs.16-17. ‘He causes both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.’

Now we come to the mark of the beast. Every one of us either belongs to Christ or he belongs to Satan, but there are very few out-and-out Satanists. Anyone who belongs to Christ has His seal upon him. ‘….In whom [Christ] also, when you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory’ (Eph. 1:13-14). So the seal is the Holy Spirit. When we looked at Chapter 7 {4}, we saw that the 144,000 represented God’s elect from the Old and New Covenants, those that carry the seal of God, the Holy Spirit, and no one can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:28-30).

But Satan too has his people who carry his mark. There has been a lot of nonsense talked about the ‘mark of the beast,’ fuelled by certain books and films, suggesting that it will be some sort of silicon chip implant that people will have to have some day. This is to miss the point entirely. The mark of the beast is to do the beast’s will. Bob Dylan had a song which went:

‘You’re gonna serve somebody;
Yes indeed, you’re gonna serve somebody.
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna serve somebody.’

And indeed you are. ‘Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?’ (Rom. 6:16). The mark on the head and hand signifies thought and action. Are your thoughts prompted by the Holy Spirit, and is that fact (if such it be) corroborated by your actions? Or do your thoughts and actions mark you out as an unconscious servant of Satan?

People all down the ages have been tempted to compromise their faith in exchange for worldly advancement. In Rome, before you could join a craft guild (something like a trade union) you had to offer a pinch of incense to the patron god or goddess of that craft, just as to become a freemason today you have to make a vow to ‘Jabulon,’ and in Moslem countries, to get certain jobs you have to recite from the Qu’ran. And in this country, if you are a doctor or a nurse, you are expected to assist with abortions and if you’re a shop-worker you may have to work Sundays. This is what is meant by verse 17: ‘….That no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.’

So how do we know the beast? How can we be sure that we are following Christ and not Satan? When we see the great success and the numbers in other churches, how can we know if it is we or they who are the True Church? When we see people promoted in front of us because they are not so picky about what they do or say, are we right or are they? How can we tell? It calls for wisdom.

v.18. ‘Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: his number is 666.’

We calculate the number of the beast. What is that? Why, the verse tells us! It is the number of a man. The number is 666. It is the number of a man- born on the sixth day, always and continually falling short of the divine Seven. It is the number of failure, because Satan must fall before Christ. So let us look at our churches; do they follow God’s word or man’s? Let us look at our ethics; do they come from the Bible or from human wisdom? Let us look at our conduct; are we led by the Holy Spirit or by our own desires? May God grant us wisdom in these days to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, and may He grant us grace that we may be found in Christ on that great day when He comes to crush Satan under His feet (2 Peter 3:10-13).

{1} A good number of texts and most modern Bible versions have the dragon standing on the sea-shore. I prefer the traditional reading because it seems to flow better. ‘I stood……I saw……’

{2} Rev. 6:2 also speaks of the Lord Jesus waging war against the realm of Satan and defeating it.
{3} There is a textual variant, preferred by most of the modern Bible versions which reads, ‘If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he shall be killed.’ This reading picks up on Jeremiah 15:2. The textual witnesses are about equal for the two readings. The reader must decide for himself which one is the more likely. I have gone with the Received Text because that is the historic reading of the Church.



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