Revelation 13

Revelation 13  •  21 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“AND I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." The prophet standing on the sand of the sea beholds a beast. It is the same as the terrible beast of Dan. 7:7, the fourth of the four great empires which wield power during the times of the Gentiles. It rises up out of the sea. That is, it comes into power out of a vast, surging mass of revolutionary elements. It has seven heads and ten horns, like the great red dragon in chapter xii. 3, which shows the close connection between the two. But with the beast there are ten crowns on the ten horns, whereas with the dragon, as we have seen, the crowns are on the heads, the double signification of which we have sought to chew. This beast sets forth the future revived Roman Empire. It will have a ten kingdom form, the beast being over them (chap. 17:11-13), and thus a mimicry of Christ's rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. Sometimes the term "beast" is employed to set forth the person of the individual who wields the power at the head of the empire, at others to set forth the empire itself; just as one might speak at one moment of an emperor who wields the power of one of the great modern empires to-day, and at another of the empire itself. We might, for instance, say Germany or Russia went to war, or the Kaiser or the Czar went to war. We should be equally understood.
Next, it is stamped on the page of scripture as a blasphemous beast: "Upon its heads names of blasphemy." It makes no pretense to religion, either orthodox or unorthodox. It is altogether blasphemous, a power which utterly refuses all acknowledgment of the one true God, and of His Son Jesus Christ and His holy word. He openly blasphemes. (Ver. 5.) Each of the seven heads bears a blasphemous name. Daniel's vision of four beasts in chapter 7. helps us to the understanding of the characteristics of this blasphemous beast in verse 2. It is a well-known fact that when the Roman Empire of old overcame the world, conquering many kingdoms and forming them into one vast empire, the Romans found it impossible to alter the moral character and traits of these peoples, or to eradicate many of the customs, traditions and manners which had characterized them previously. Many of them had for hundreds of years formed part of the empires which preceded the Roman, namely, the Grecian, Medo-Persian, and Babylonian powers. Now in Daniel's vision the first of these powers is seen as a terrible beast; the second, as a leopard; the third, as a bear; and the last, as a lion. Hence, when the Roman Empire rose to power, she retained within the sphere of her rule many of the characteristics of the other three beasts. She was like a leopard (the Grecian power), had feet as a bear (the Medo-Persian), a mouth as the mouth of a lion (the Babylonian). With the swiftness of the leopard, the unwieldy and savage character of the bear, the noble hut predatory character of the lion, well might she in her turn be called "a terrible beast." It has still these characteristics when John sees it in the vision coming out of the sea. The dragon gives the beast three things: his power, his seat (or throne) and great authority. When Satan offered these things to Christ, God's faithful and true witness, He absolutely refused them. But the beast gladly receives them at his hand, and so he practically wields the scepter of the dragon in the world.
“Arid I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 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?" (Verses 3, 4.) We have seen that the seven heads represent from one point of view the different ruling powers of the Roman empire in its past history. One of these was the imperial, that of the Caesars. Now one of his heads was as were wounded to death. The universal imperial power received a wound through which it fell, apparently never to rise again. But here we learn that the deadly wound is healed. Imperialism in widespread form will be revived in Europe. The beast will sit upon an imperial throne with power given to him by Satan, having sway over ten kings. All their power will be concentrated in this man. The world to-day is sighing and crying for a man. God's Man, Jesus, they will not have, in spite of their religious (so-called Christian) profession. But the mass will gladly accept the beast, Satan's man. The human mind gets easily intoxicated with power, glory and success. Great will be the power of this man (for it is of Satanic origin), great the outward glitter of his high throne (for it is that of the dragon), great and widespread will be his authority. This is not the man who is called the antichrist. This latter will be a Jew and corresponds with the second beast of this chapter. (Ver. 11.) We shall have much to say of him as we proceed. But the first beast, the one we have been speaking of, is a Gentile. The two, are intimately linked together. Both have one policy. They are the heads of Gentile and Jewish apostasy, and are anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, infidels, and blasphemous. Like Pilate and Herod, who (previously at enmity) became friends together in the rejection and death of Christ, so the enmity of Gentile and Jew in these two, leaders will cease, and they too will be heartily one in the refusal of both His divine and human rights.
And all the world, or rather the whole earth, will wonder after the beast. His exaltation, power and glory will fill men with admiration, but they will find out to their bitter sorrow and pain the awful hardness of Satan's rule. Completely blinded and duped, men's infidel hearts will not only refuse all worship to God and His Christ, but without conscience they will openly worship the dragon who gives power to the beast, and the beast himself. The boasted enlightenment of men will end in apostasy and in the worship of the devil. And they cry, "Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" Christ, God's incomparable One, is utterly forgotten. The beast, Satan's great imperial ruler, becomes man's ideal I He will have practically the whole power (military and naval) of the ten kings at his disposal. They have one mind, and give their power and strength to him. (Chapter 17:13.) Who indeed could make war against the head of such a vast and powerful confederacy, with the power of the dragon behind it all! “And there was given unto him, a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." (Verses 5, 6.) A month is given to him, doubtless by the dragon, and he speaks great things and blasphemies. Men delight in a tongue that can utter great things. Comparatively few trouble whether the utterances are suited to the ear of God. The beast combines blasphemies with them. Whilst the Holy Ghost and the church are here below there is a restraint. But when the devil is cast down, and his men in power, the present restraint will have ceased. Except for the witnessing remnant of Jews, and any who come to a knowledge of God through them, there will be no deterrent voice. And these the beast will seek to destroy, as the next verse shows. (Ver. 7.) The beast will be openly blasphemous, and approved of men! In the mercy of God the period of his power will be a comparatively short one; lasting for the last half week, or forty and two months, but men will go to dreadful lengths in blasphemy, wickedness, violence and corruption during his sway. The beast opens his mouth in blasphemy against God, and it takes a threefold form. He blasphemes the holy name of the great Creator and Preserver of all things; he blasphemes His holy dwelling-place; and he blasphemes them that dwell in heaven, the saints who, refusing Satan's sway, bowed to God, received His testimony by faith, and were already reaping in heavenly glory the blessed and eternal fruits of redemption.
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 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." (Verses 7, 8.) The power to make war with the saints then on earth is given to, him, and he is successful. He gets the victory over them. And he will wield the scepter of universal dominion in the sphere of the revived Roman Empire. It is given power, and all kindreds, tongues and nations come beneath his sway. The earth-dwellers are again distinguished. All of them shall worship the beast. Their names are not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb, for so it should read. The language used here shows again most clearly that there is a class of saints different from those of the present day. These latter were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; the names of those who do homage to the beast are said not to be written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, implying that there will be saints at that day whose names are written therein. The names of those against whom the beast wages war are doubtless those whose names were written thus.
“If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." These familiar words here repeated, "If any man have an ear to hear, let him hear," shows that all should be concerned as regards this terrible being, the beast, and his actions as here described. Many are deeply concerned as to modern politics, but notwithstanding all the wisdom of the greatest minds, and all the varied ways of the governments of the world, what God has foretold must surely and shortly come to pass. (Chapter 1:1; 22:6.) Things are clearly working towards this goal. The European concert is a familiar term to many. Some six great powers are constantly seeking to act together. Eventually there will be ten.
We do not suggest here which they will be. But we know full well that nothing can be a, success without a head. The Roman Empire will be revived in a ten-kingdom form, and in order for all to work together there must be a head. This paves the way for the beast. It will be Satan's kingdom, the beast being the visible head. It is a great mercy for the Christian to know that, through the coming of the Lord for His people (1 Thess. 4:15-18), the true church will be kept out of this terrible hour of trial.
This part of chapter 13 closes with judgment being pronounced in a twofold way. "If any one leads into captivity," captivity will be his portion. "If any one shall kill with the sword," with the sword that one must be killed. Satan, the leader of all who lead men captive (2 Tim. 2:26; Rev. 12:7), will be bound and a captive in the abyss. If anyone fights and kills instead of yielding, like the One whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), in the just government of God that one must be killed. The believer is called to walk by faith and to trust God, who will support him. The testimony of God too often suffers through its advocates turning to human and military power for its maintenance instead of counting alone upon Him. It is very testing to refrain from meeting violence with violence, to suffer wrong rather than resent it, to return good for evil, even at the cost of life. But this was the spirit of the blessed Master, whom His servants represent. Hence it closes by adding, "Here is the patience and faith of the saints." "If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.”
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon." (Ver. 11.) John beheld a second beast. It does not say when he comes up, but whence. Probably soon after the first. He comes up out of the earth. The first rises up from the sea, where, as we have seen, a state of agitation and revolution exists. His great power produces apparently for the moment a more ordered and settled state of things externally and governmentally. Hence the second comes up out of the earth.
He had two horns like a lamb." This shows that he is an imitation of the Lamb of God. He is the false Messiah, the one of whom, Christ said, "another shall come in his own name" (John 5:43), the antichrist. Many mistake him for the Lamb, through the deceit and blinding power of Satan; but once his voice is heard, his true character comes out. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matt. 12:34.) He spake as a dragon. It was the voice of that mighty arch-deceiver.
“And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed." (Ver. 12.) This verse shows very clearly the close alliance which will exist between these two powers. We must again remind our readers that the term beast represents both an individual and a vast system, political or politico-religious, of which such an one is the head. This second terrible being exercises all the power of the first, which is draconic in its origin, and causes the earth-dwellers to worship him. The tendency today is towards democracy, socialism, and republicanism. But just as in the course of the French revolution, when men, after struggling with violence and bloodshed for what they called liberty, eventually settled down under the iron heel and successful military power of Napoleon, so will it be in this coming day. The beast having come to the forefront out of a state of revolution and anarchy, men, under the influence of the second beast, will worship the first, whose deadly, wound is healed. That is, deceived by the dragon, they bow down to imperialism in the person of his man at the head of the revived empire. It shows the vain character of human politics and religion, and how easily the world is influenced by the dominant power of the moment.
“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 in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.". (Verses 13, 14.) We have a remarkable instance in the Old Testament of fire coming down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, by which they were led to own that Jehovah was God. (1 Kings 18:30-40.) By Satanic power the second beast does great wonders and miracles. He too is enabled to make fire come down. Men are deceived by it to believe Satan's lie. Christ was a Man approved of God by miracles, wonders and signs. And this false Christ has power to imitate these evidences, so that the dwellers on earth are duped, and are ready to make an image to the first beast, which had a wound by a sword and did live.
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." (Verses 15-17.) We have a foreshadowing of 'this character of things when the times of the Gentiles first commenced. Nebuchadnezzar, the head of the Babylonian empire, to whose hand the kingly power was transferred in the government of God, when Israel had failed (Dan. 2:37), saw in a dream a remarkable image, the meaning of which was interpreted by the prophet Daniel. Learning that the head of gold represented his own great power, he made an image all of gold', and commanded all men, at the sound of music, under penalty of death, to fall down and worship it. (Dan. 2) Here the second beast 'causes deceived worshippers to make the image. And then, by Satanic power, he gives life (or breath) to the image, so that it speaks. And he causes all that refuse to do homage to the image of the beast to be killed. Moreover, he causes all classes of men, from the highest to the lowest, to receive a mark either on the right hand or on their forehead. No one can escape; the great as well as the small of this world, those who are rich and living in luxury as well as those who are poor in this world's goods, free citizens of standing as well as those in bond-service, all alike, whether they live by the power of their minds or by their hands, must bow. They must bear either the mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name. The world's prosperity depends upon its commerce, but no one in that day will be allowed either to buy or sell without the mark. It is easy to conceive what a fearful tyranny and terrible trial it will be. To refuse to do homage to the idol will entail death; to refuse to bear the brand of the beast, practically the mark of being a servant of the devil, is at the cost of being refused to trade, and that also will entail death.
These things are details of what will transpire on the earth when the now fast-ripening apostasy shall have come to a head, and Satan's men shall be in power. Of the second beast viewed as the wicked one it is said in 2 Thess. 2:9-12, "Whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Though not brought out in Rev. 13, it may help our readers, before we pass on, to better understand the nature of the close Alliance between these two beasts, if we turn to two Old Testament scriptures which speak of the covenant between them (which we have already had occasion to refer to briefly in passing). In Dan. 9 it says that the prince that shall come (of verse 26) shall confirm the covenant with many (i.e., of the Jews) for one week (of seven years). This prince is the same as the beast of Rev. 13:1, the head of the revived Roman Empire in its ten-kingdom form. In Isa. 28:14 we read, "Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement," etc. The wicked one, the antichrist, will be at the head of these scornful men ruling at Jerusalem. It appears that the Jews having returned to their land in great numbers and with great wealth will be exposed to the captivity and attack of the north-eastern powers. Hence, with antichrist at their head, they make this covenant with the first beast, the great prince who is the false king of kings, having ten kings under him, to be protected by his great military power. They thus trust in an arm of flesh instead of in Jehovah their God. And in the middle of the week, Satan having been cast to earth in a great rage, both beasts come out in their true colors, and the awful state of things depicted in Rev. 13 is the result. In addition to this, and notwithstanding the covenant, the overflowing scourge, the Assyrian, or king of the north, passes through and devastates the land. It is the hour of Jacob's trouble. (Dan. 9:27: "he shall make it desolate" should read "there shall be a desolator," the Assyrian.)
“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six." (Ver. 18.) This is an acknowledged difficult passage. The wisdom of God shines in all His ways. Understanding may be given in His grace, in the day when all these things shall be fulfilled. It is clear from the passage that the number six hundred and sixty-six is the number of a man.
Now we know that Christ the Son of God was a Man, sinless, perfect, holy. And this second beast is a man, Satan's mimicry, the antichrist, another that shall come in his own name. (John 5:43.) In that Christ was and is the Son, He could say, "I and my Father are one." And He wrought by the Holy Ghost on earth. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three divine Persons in the Godhead. There is only one God. This being so, in that we find such a close alliance between the dragon and the two beasts, it seems to set forth a Satanic anti-trinity, an imitation of the true. The number six hundred and sixty-six may possibly point to the threefold imperfection of Satan's mimicry. The two beasts are so closely allied together, it is difficult sometimes to be sure which is spoken of. We judge that the two beasts, speaking broadly, are the imitation of the Father and the Son, and Satan the imitation of the Holy Ghost. The Jews attributed the power of the Holy Ghost through Christ to Beelzebub the prince of the devils. (Luke 11:15.)
This thirteenth chapter of the Revelation shows that, notwithstanding all the boasted progress in civilization, education and science of the twentieth century, men will throw off allegiance to God, and will end in worshipping the dragon, the beast, and the antichrist! (Chapter 13:4; 2 Thess. 2:3, 4.) It is further striking to notice that the Jews, notwithstanding all their misuse of their privileges, and consequent contempt of the Gentiles, will, at the close of their present history, form an alliance with them. They will unite together, like Herod and Pilate of old, in the rejection of Christ, the true God. And they will both receive and acknowledge the false Messiah, who shall set himself up as God (2 Thess. 2:8-12), and his coadjutor the beast.