The Book of Revelation, Chapter 13:1-10

Revelation 13:1‑10  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 10
EV 13:1-10{In the previous chapter the fact of Satan's hostility to the "woman" and her seed is stated: in this the means or the instrumentalities by which he pursues his ends are detailed. They are the two "beasts" who, during Daniel's last half-week, or the 1260 days, will be allowed to exercise their undisputed sway in opposition to God, to His Christ, and to His people. The scene of the visions in the last chapter is in heaven. Here the stand-point of the prophet is the sand of the sea. He writes, " 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 names of blasphemy."(v. 1) If we now turn to the prophet Daniel it will aid us in the interpretation of this vision. He says, "I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another." The first, he tells us, " was like a lion, and had eagle's wings; " the second " like to a bear; " the third " like a leopard; " but the fourth was " dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns." We learn, moreover, that this fourth beast will continue until the Ancient of days shall sit; and that, on the beast having been slain, the dominion and glory and kingdom are given to One like the Son of man. (Dan. 7; see also chapter 2) From the same prophet we learn that the first three "beasts" represent the monarchies of Babylon, Persia, and Greece; and we also know from Scripture that the successor of Greece in sovereignty over the prophetic earth is the Roman Empire. Observe, moreover, that this last form of Gentile sovereignty continues until the end; and this enables us at once to identify the first beast of our chapter with Daniel's fourth beast. We also find from verse 2, that this beast of the Apocalypse combines in himself all the characteristics of his three predecessors, for he was "like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion." At the time of John's vision the first three beasts and their kingdoms had forever passed away. The fourth had come into their place, and had inherited all their characteristic features, as well as their dominion.
We may now examine the vision a little more closely. The beast rises up out of the sea, looking back to the origin of the Roman Empire, though seen here in its developed character at the end. The sea is a figure for a disturbed state of the nations, masses of the people in commotion, as, for example, in times of insurrection or revolution. It was out of such a state of things that the Roman dominion had sprung into existence. There has been in modern days a remarkable exemplification of a similar phenomenon. The first Napoleon suddenly emerged into view out of the confusion of a revolutionary period, and very soon asserted his power, and extended his sway over the half of Europe. The difference is only in the fact that in his case it was the sudden rise of a person more like the little horn of Dan. 7; whereas here it was rather the Roman power, although seen at the end incarnated in an individual head.
This beast, the imperial head of the revived Roman Empire, has seven heads, or forms of government, and, as pointed out in chapter 12, therein completeness; and he has ten horns, on all of which are diadems, indicating the fact repeated again and again (see Dan. 2:77They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it. (Daniel 2:7) also Rev. 17:1212And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. (Revelation 17:12)), that the dominion of the beast is composed of ten kingdoms, having their respective sovereigns, but allied together in a common federation under his imperial sway.
The moral character of this last representative of Gentile sovereignty is exhibited in one word-he has upon his heads the names of blasphemy. He not only is indifferent to God and His claims, but he is in open and wicked opposition to Him, and avowedly so before the eyes of men. Does anyone wonder that such a monster could be tolerated on the earth? If so, let him remember that a neighboring country has recently had infidel and atheistic governments; and that, in response to the invitation of such, thousands could rush over from "Christian" England to assist at the commemoration of a revolution which sought to dethrone God and to deify man and the reason of man. Ah, no, men were not shocked; for indeed the course of modern thought and of politics is fast paving the way for the apostasy, and the appearance of these names of blasphemy, adorned as they will be with all that excites the admiration of man as man. His rule will be the expression of all the preceding monarchies. He will be distinguished by the strength and majesty of the first, the voracity of the second, and the swiftness of the third, added to his own irresistible and relentless power. (See Dan. 7:4-74The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. 5And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:4‑7) with verse 2) We have next the source of his dominion unveiled.
"And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." (v. 2) He is therefore characterized by Satan's inspiration and energy. Such is the picture presented to us, delineated by an infallible hand, of the last governmental power on the earth, before the coming of Christ to establish His kingdom.
In the following verses we have a brief and figurative description of the resuscitation of the Roman empire, and an account of the place and supremacy of its head during his brief career. "And I saw," says John, "one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world [the whole earth] wondered after the beast." (v. 3) In chapter 17 we read, " The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition." (vv. 9-11) Combining these two scriptures, and recalling the fact that the heads are symbols of forms of government, or governing powers (" kings "), the interpretation is not difficult. At the time of the vision five of these governing powers, in the various vicissitudes of the Roman dominion, had passed away; but " one is" said the angel, and that one was the imperial, for Rome then had its emperors. There was, however, another to arise before the advent of the beast, one who, like Napoleon I., was to "continue a short space," and then, with what interval we are not told, the beast would appear, an eighth; for Satan ever imitates, and thus even here would dazzle the minds of men by the semblance of a resurrection (of which " eight " is the symbolic number). But while the beast is the eighth, he is yet of the seven, and only, therefore, possesses seven heads. The conclusion from these scriptures is evidently that the "head," wounded as it were to death, was the imperial one, seen too in the fact of the destruction and disappearance of the old Roman empire, which to-day, and for centuries past, save in the attempt of Napoleon to revive it, has clean gone from human view. When, therefore, we are told that the " deadly wound was healed," it will mean that this imperial form of government will be restored in connection with the beast of our chapter. It is this unexpected revival that will astonish, and excite the admiration of, " the whole earth."
Two effects follow, effects awful to contemplate, but none the less certain. First, "they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast." (v. 4) And who are the "they"? The eighth verse, though speaking there of the beast, answers the question. They are all outside of God's elect saints, elect saints on earth, after the rapture of the Church. It will include, therefore, the inhabitants of the prophetic earth, where Christianity was once professed, but who now, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, are under " strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." (2 Thess. 2:10,1110And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (2 Thessalonians 2:10‑11)) Such is to be the final issue of modern civilization, progress in thought, art, and science -men will pay homage to Satan. It is not only that they will have cast off all fear of God from before their eyes, but they will also enthrone Satan in His place. Secondly, they will likewise worship the beast. They will "worship" him because of his wisdom and power; for so blinded will they be, that they will not be able to discern between what is of Satan and what is of God. Adumbrations of this Satanic delusion are constantly seen, when men prostrate themselves before statesmen, or warriors, on account of their genius, "foresight," and skill in the conduct of affairs. The private lives of the objects of their homage may be never so corrupt, but all is condoned under the influence of their intellectual brilliance.
The character, duration, and exploits of the beast are next given. The reader will remark the repetition of the phrase, there was " given unto him " (vv. 5, 7), a phrase explained by verses 2 and 4, reminding us that not only is the beast's power derived, but also that it was derived from Satan. The time, it must be remembered, is after the Church has been caught away, and before the appearing of Christ, an interval during which God will own no power on the earth until He takes His own in the person of the true King First of all the beast has a mouth "speaking great things and blasphemies." (v. 5) He will be a boaster, puffed up, like his god Satan, with the sense of his own merits and excellencies; and in his daring impiety he will open " his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." (v. 6) He cannot rid himself of God, of heaven, or of the heavenly saints, but in the impotence of his rage, exulting in his earthly supremacy, he vents his wicked heart in insolent blasphemies. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have him in derision. In the next place, we find again that the duration of his career will be forty and two months- the 1260 days, the last half-week of Daniel's prophecy, completing his seventy weeks. (See Rev. 11:2;12. 6-14)
Two other particulars are added: 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." (vv. 7, 8) The saints against whom he will wage war are those specified in the previous chapter (v. 17), he being in this, as indeed in all else, but Satan's instrument. God allows them to be overcome (compare Matt. 24:9,109Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Matthew 24:9‑10)), not all of them as we learn after, but many, to test their faith, and to purify His people in the furnace of affliction. Moreover, the beast will be irresistible in his might, for " all kindreds, tongues, and nations " will acknowledge his sway. Save the elect, all men also will worship the beast-all that dwell upon the earth, and this expression now, losing its special moral significance, will include every one, within this sphere, except God's people. It will only be the revival of the old Roman custom of paying homage, and offering incense, to images of the emperor. This relic of heathenism is shocking enough to the Christian mind, but in the deification of intellect and human power, already proceeding with such rapid steps, the way will be easily prepared for its restoration. All these who will worship the beast are said not to have their names written in the Lamb's book of life. (Compare chapter 20. 15) Those whose names were written in it did not therefore join in this idolatrous worship. One point of difference between the earthly saints, thus negatively indicated, and the heavenly saints may be noted. The latter are said to be chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, whereas the former's election only dates from the world's foundation. It is but another proof of how carefully the saints that form the Church, as united to Christ, are distinguished from all others, whatever their blessedness.
This part of the chapter closes with a special proclamation. Solemn attention is called to it by the cry, "If any man have an ear, let him hear;" and then it is added, "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." (vv. 9, 10) Two things are here contained.
First, the assurance that divine judgment should surely fall upon the beast, the persecutor of the saints, and that he should be dealt with in the manner in which he had dealt with them (see Psa. 137:88O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. (Psalm 137:8)); and, secondly, that the attitude of the saints in the midst of this unparalleled tribulation must be one of " unresisting patience," the attitude of our Lord Himself, who, when the hour of man and the power of darkness had come, suffered Himself to be " brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth." The faith and patience of the saints would be displayed in their confidence in God, and in their meek endurance of the fiery trial through which they would have to pass. (Compare Jer. 15:22And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. (Jeremiah 15:2)) E. D.