WHAT ABOUT THE ANTICHRIST?

 

Week of July 13, 2008

 

Bible Verses:Revelation 13: 1-10,16-17.

 

Biblical Truth: The Antichrist will lead the world to worship Satan, oppose God, and persecute believers.

 

Satanís PR Man: Rev. 13:1-6.

 

[1]And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. [2]And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. [3]I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; [4]they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" [5]There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. [6]And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.[NASU]

 

[1-2]The beast that John now sees coming up out of the sea of humanity in its fallenness is a monster of terrifying aspect. Like the dragon, who is Satan, it has seven heads and ten horns, and as such may be understood to be the dragonís agent or representative in human society, invested as it is with the dragonís power and throne and great authority. This beast should be taken as denoting the activity of the devil throughout the history of this age by the instrumentality of human movements and organizations rather than a single individual. The blasphemous names on the beastís heads is indicative of radical hostility to God. From early times this beast from the sea has been identified with antichrist, whose appearance was expected at the end of the present age. It is preferable, however, to see it as the spirit of antichristianity manifested through human agencies during the whole course of the Christian era, though perhaps achieving its final and fiercest force under the leadership of a malevolent personage in the ultimate climax of all history. The beast described by John has characteristics associated with all four of the great beasts seen by Daniel coming up out of the sea in his vision. It was like a leopard (as also was Danielís third beast); his feet were like those of a bear (Danielís second beast was like a bear); its mouth like the mouth of a lion (Danielís first beast was like a lion); and (like Danielís fourth beast) it had ten horns [Daniel 7:3ff.].These features emphasize its fearsome aspect and also the concentration of the savage ungodliness of the successive empires of this fallen world.

 

[3-4]One of the heads received a fatal wound. This could refer to the suicide of the emperor Nero in AD 68. Or it could refer to the phenomenal growth of the apostolic church in its earliest days. The beastís fatal wound was healed, however, and the antichristian monster continues his savage persecution of the church for forty-two months, by which the period of the churchís testing by affliction on earth, that is between the two comings of Christ, is signified. Yet the beast is in reality mortally wounded, for it, together with the dragon with whose authority it is empowered, is powerless against the victory of the incarnate Son on the cross and in His resurrection, and is unable to deprive the Lordís people of the eternal life which is theirs in Him. Indeed, it is they who, even though the beast kill them, are the true overcomers [12:11]. Its doom is all along decreed. In the meantime the vigor of the beast is regained and to the people on earth it is an impressive spectacle. We are told that the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; the deceit of the antichrist evokes the willing response of worldwide admiration. Not only were the people of the world amazed concerning the beast that appeared to be so invincible, but they also worshiped it and with the dragon who had invested the beast with his authority, and in doing so they make him the god of this world [2 Cor. 4:4], though he is in fact no god but a creature. In a word, the world of fallen mankind has substituted the worship of Satan for the worship of God. Instead of assigning all the glory to the true God and His Christ, they blasphemously glorify the devil and his antichrist.

 

[5-6]The beast is not as free and powerful as he appears to those on earth to be: both its authority and the mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies have been given to it by the dragon. But neither is the authority of the dragon endless and supreme: the time-limit of forty-two months within which the beast is active in human society applies also to the dragon. The moment when the activity of the dragon is brought to an end by God whose power alone is supreme and endless, is also the moment when the activity of its agent the beast is brought to an end. Rampant and raging though they are, the dragon and the beast are on Godís leash throughout the course of this final age and can only go as far as God permits. The blasphemous assault of Satan through his agent, the antichristian beast, is essentially rebellion against God and His supreme authority. It is all the more frantic and embittered because of the leash and the limitation of time. Moreover, to blaspheme against God is to blaspheme His name which is holy and also the company of the redeemed who are His tabernacle, in accordance with Godís covenant promise that He will dwell among them. Godís people are described as those who dwell in heaven because their true home and their true citizenship are not here and now, in this present pilgrimage, but in the glory that is to be revealed hereafter. The kingdom of total peace and righteousness awaits them; but in the meantime it is warfare (as verse 7 shows).

 

The Ultimate Control Freak: Rev. 13:7b-8,16-18.

 

[7b]and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. [8]All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. [16]And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, [17]and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. [18]Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. [NASU]

 

[7b-8]The authority which the beast is given by the dragon is worldwide in extent, as the fourfold designation over every tribe and people and tongue and nation both explicitly and symbolically discloses. By its subtle and deceitful propaganda the beast attracts the worship of all who dwell on the earth, that is to say, inhabitants in every land. That the reference is not intended to be all-inclusive is clear from the explanation that all here denotes everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb. Here we come face to face with the ultimate division of all mankind: those whose names are, and those whose names are not written in the Lambís book, the regenerate and the unregenerate. That the names of the Lordís elect have been written in the Lambís book from the foundation of the world testifies not only to Godís transcendental sway over all, including the beast and the dragon, but also to the infallibility of His purposes in creation. These purposes are brought to fulfillment redemptively in Christ, the Lamb who has been slain and by whose blood men, women, and children have been ransomed for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation [5:9]. This is a universality that prevails over that of the beastís power. It testifies also to the absolute security of those whose names, well known to God, and chosen before the foundation of the world [Eph. 1:4], are written in the Lambís book of life. The worship offered to the beast is the worship of all that is ungodly and unchristian: worldly wealth and power and lust and covetousness, the idols by which the worshippers of the beast are brought to perdition.

 

[16-18]We have already seen that the Lordís own people are sealed on their foreheads [7:3ff.], indicating that they are known to Him and secure in Him. Here we have another counterfeit, namely, the sealing of men and women of all sorts and conditions with the mark of the beast to give them a false sense of identity and security. Actually, it is a sign of perdition, for, though it bestows on them permission to buy or to sell and the privileges of social respectability (the mark on their right hand perhaps denoting the license to gain employment and conduct business and the mark on their forehead the granting of status and approval in the community of mankind), it stamps them as those who have allied themselves with Satan and thus who are doomed with him, and the benefits it confers are passing and insubstantial. This marking is a marking at the heart of a personís being rather than something merely external. The mark of the beast, we are told, is one with the name of the beast, which, while unspecified, is the equivalent of antichrist, or the number of his name, which is specified and is declared to be a mystical source of wisdom for the person who has understanding. That number is revealed as six hundred and sixty-six. Like the other numbers of this book, it has symbolical significance; its meaning is not exposed in a literal manner on the surface; it requires the ability to calculate the number in order to understand its meaning. The one clue that John gives is that the number of the beast, 666, is the number of man. The number six has been regarded as a symbol of man, in that it falls short of seven, which is the divine number. On this basis the threefold six may be understood as indicative of a human or humanistic trinity, that is to say a counterfeit of the divine Trinity, with all the pretensions to supreme power and authority that such a counterfeit implies. It may perhaps be inferred from the context that this pseudo-trinity is that of Satan (the dragon) plus antichrist (the beast) plus the false prophet (the second beast), who are united in the one diabolical objective, namely, to dethrone the Creator and to enthrone the creature and to substitute the image of the beast for the image of God in man.

 

The Persecutor: Rev. 13:7a,9-10.

 

[7a]It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. [9]If anyone has an ear, let him hear. [10]If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. [NASU]

 

[7a]The beast is empowered not only to make war with the saints but also to overcome them. That is to say, its warfare has every appearance of being successful as saints are arrested and imprisoned and put to death. Yet the beastís victory is more apparent than real; it is temporary, not permanent. To silence Godís faithful witnesses by killing them may look like overcoming them, but Godís martyred saints are the true overcomers because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony [12:11]. The Lordís witnesses who are slain are raised up to life again [11:7,11], as will happen, certainly, at the last day. But in the meantime the light of Christian witness is not snuffed out. God is in control even when the beast is in the worldís eyes gaining the victory. God, because He is God, cannot fail always to be the true and ultimate overcomer. Through His grace and power His saints are overcomers, no matter what may be done to them. Hence the great blessings promised by the Lord to those who overcome in the letters to the seven churches.

 

[9-10]The admonition If anyone has an ear, let him hear corresponds to the exhortation He who has an ear, let him hear that is present in all of the letters to the seven churches of Asia. Here it introduces instruction concerning the persecution which the saints are called to endure. The statement in verse 10 is a reference to Godís faithful servants, giving them the assurance that in the suffering of imprisonment or death nothing happens to them that is not under Godís control or contrary to His will. In all things the Lord rules and overrules. Those who face captivity or sword may be sure that it is in accord with His plan. It is in the acceptance of affliction that the perseverance and the faith of the saints are triumphantly demonstrated. Such testing gives proof of the genuineness of their faith and the unshakability of their hope in Christ. The suggestion of inevitability implies the supremacy of the divine will, which is always directed to the good and the blessing of the redeemed community.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.††††††††† In these verses, John introduces us to the unholy trinity: the dragon [1], the beast from the sea [1], and the beast from the earth [11]. What are the essential characteristics of this trinity? How do they get the world to worship them?

 

2.††††††††† What does John tell us about how God limits the power of this unholy trinity? How does John describe those who do not worship the beast? What protects them from worshipping the beast?

 

3.††††††††† If anyone has an ear, let him hear is a popular admonition in Scripture [see Matt. 11:15; Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22]. What is its meaning in 13:9? What assurance does verses 9-10 give to the saints?

 

References:

The Book of the Revelation, Philip Hughes, Eerdmans.

Revelation, Grant Osborne, Baker.