Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Revelation 13, The Antichrist and the False Prophet

In this chapter, as the signs in heaven continue, John sees the Antichrist and the False Prophet arise from the earth in the form of two hideous beasts that together strive in unison to accomplish the will of Satan.

v.1 "Then he stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name."

This image is a continuation from the last chapter, therefore, it's Satan whom John sees standing on the sand of the sea, and as we'll discover, the Antichrist who is the beast emerging from the sea. Moreover, both idioms "sand" and "sea" are symbolic to mean multitudes of people on this earth (Gen.32:12; Rev.17:15). So the image can be stated this way:
"As the fallen angelic spirit Satan stands upon the people in dominion over them, the Antichrist will be a man he raises up from amongst the people"
Okay, let's look at the Antichrist. Clearly, this beastly characterization of the global leader appears much more deviant to John here at the second half of the Tribulation then what was shown to him earlier at the beginning of the Tribulation (Rev.6:2). In other words, Antichrist, the man John was shown riding upon a white horse has now become a beast emerging from the sea.

I’m going to suggest that this current less human characterization of the Antichrist might be due to the fact that he has become possessed by the devil and thereby becomes the personification of the beast.

Allow me to summarize (details follow in our notes below).

At the start of Tribulation, Antichrist, the man, will possess extraordinary political and militarily skills and personal charisma that will soar his popularity with the ungodly. Moreover, because he is more sinister than most, full of blasphemies and lies and flattering words, it gains him leadership over the New World Order, and with cunning and force, he will subdue kingdoms.

During the middle of the tribulation, however, he will be assassinated. And for some amount of time, at least to the world, he will appear to be dead then shortly afterward will appear to resurrect back to life; thus setting the stage for Satan to deceive the world on a scale as never before.

I believe, given Satan is cast out of heaven knowing little time remains (Rev.12:9), that he seizes the assassination of Antichrist as an opportunity to cut a deal with him, to possess and empower him, and in turn to “miraculously” raise him as the incarnation of himself on earth (more to follow in the notes below).

The heads, and horns, and crowns of the beast are identical to the dragon (Rev.12:3) because of the similar character and purposes and activities of the beast and the dragon. The unknown “blasphemous names” on his heads denotes exaltation of man as a god, thereby blaspheming the true God.

v.2 "Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority."

The form and shape of the beast are interpreted for us by Daniel as four kings and kingdoms.
“And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other…The first was like a lion…And suddenly another beast, a second like a bear…After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard…After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (Dan.7:3-7)

“Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth” (Da.7:17)
Four great world empires evolved from Daniel to John: Babylon (the ruling empire when Daniel saw his vision), Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (the ruling empire at the time of John).

Each empire was subsequently conquered by the empire that followed it except for Rome. The Roman Empire (“different from all the beasts that were before it”) merely dissolved and was never conquered by a subsequent kingdom. Thus making Rome the world’s last great empire; thereby conforming to Daniel’s prophecy that just four great kingdoms would rise up out of the earth starting in his day through to the end of the age; and the reason why it is generally agreed that the “ten horns” of the fourth beast in Daniel's prophecy signify ten nations that rise to power in the latter days from territories that were once part of the ancient Roman Empire.

“And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority." No other insight about Antichrist better explains his position of world eminence, powers of deception, and hatred for God during the second half of the Tribulation better then this one. As stated earlier, I believe that Antichrist cuts a deal with Satan following his assassination at the middle of the Tribulation. He agrees to become the personification of the devil, fully possessed, and with the power, throne, and authority of the devil.

One interesting note before we proceed. Compare the order of the beastly kingdoms given by John to that given by Daniel. Whereas Daniel begins with the lion and concludes with the beast, John lists them in reverse order, beginning with the beast and concluding with the lion. As one commentator observed, this is because Daniel was at the head of the line gazing into the future, whereas John was in the future gazing back into the past.

v.3-8 "I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?' And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blasphemy His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. And it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And 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.”

Some commentators interpret the head of the beast that's mortally wounded and resurrected to be a nation, and not an individual. But I disagree, and later will make the argument that the seventh head is in fact that of the Antichrist (notes—Rev.17:9-11). I also accept the notion that the phrase “mortally wounded” implies assassination and is reminiscent to the following prophecy given by Zechariah.
"A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; His arm shall completely whither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded" (Zech.11:17)
But that raises another question. Does the “mortal wound” kill the Antichrist? And do the subsequent events suggest that he actually resurrects from the dead? I don’t think so. God alone possesses the power to raise the dead, and there’s no Scriptural evidence He has, or ever will give that power to Satan.

From the world’s reaction, however, it does appear that the ungodly believe Antichrist dies and resurrects; and therefore will exalt and worship him as a god from that point forward throughout the entire three and a half years of the second half of the Tribulation (which is “forty-two months”). The result of which will cast the entire world headlong into the darkest, most violent, and ungodly age that humanity has ever known.
"He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time" (Dan.7:25)
“'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord God, 'that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it' " (Amos 8:11-12)
v.9-10 "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."

These will be days of horrendous persecution for the believer. And though God makes no promise of immunity from either death or from any other terror, He does encourage the believer to remain patient inside the assurance that their suffering will not be in vain. God’s purposes are at work. Those who lead into captivity will go into captivity, and those who kill will be killed. In the end, following their judgment, they will become captives of the eternal fires of damnation, sentenced to an eternal death.

v.11-14 "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 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. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived."

We know that the identity of this second beast is the false prophet because it's stated so later (Rev.19:20). He too will arise out of the earth as the same-type dangerous-beast as the Antichrist, but with a dramatically different appearance.

Upon his head are not the horns of nations but “two horns like a lamb.” This is taken to mean that he will appear Christ-like, or gentle, serene, and deeply spiritual. He will exercise all the authority of Antichrist but for a profoundly different purpose: Antichrist is intended to rule the world as a god; the false prophet is intended to inspire the world to worship him as a god.

His influence will come from an ability to perform great signs. “So that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” Moreover, his sphere of influence will help Antichrist. Keep in mind that the Antichrist is a politician from Europe whose oratory and military skills might have minimal positive affect on his popularity to a religious people in a third world country, and in fact could alienate it.

The false prophet will exalt the Antichrist in the eyes of the world as a god. And with great signs and wonders cause the unbelieving religious-minded and the whole world to believe the lie, and then to erect an image to Antichrist as a form of worship and adoration.
“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. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie…” (2Thess.2:9-11)
v.15-17 "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. And he causes all, 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."

The "image of the beast" and the "mark" are both highly speculative. Theories offered by commentators range from the supernatural to a form of advanced technology. Some interpret the false prophet’s “breath of life” as a lofty call to the demons, and others as an act as ordinary as switching on a computer. So let’s examine both events in the light of what Scripture tells us then consider a possible scenario.

According to Scripture, the image of the beast is definitely some form of idol that characterizes the Antichrist. It's made by man as an object of worship, and when set in the holy place of the temple becomes an abomination that desolates the temple (Dan.9:27). What we know of the mark we read here in Revelation. It includes the name of the Antichrist and the number of his name and in turn carries with it the privilege to buy or sell goods. Its purpose will be to identify dissenters. For when one attempts to exchange goods without the mark, they will be branded an enemy of the state and thereby arrested and executed.

Okay, here’s a possible scenario:

In my opinion, given our world’s newly acquired reliance upon the computer, I see both the image and the mark as parts of a computerized system—the image being a computer, and the mark a computer chip implanted under the skin that feeds data into that computer. It’s the swiftest and surest way to monitor the buying and selling activities of every man, woman, and child simultaneously across the globe. Moreover, for his purposes, Satan can accurately separate out from humanity those who worship Antichrist and those who do not.

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."

This chapter closes with possibly the most widely known element in all of the Revelation—the number 666. It might also be the most-widely misunderstood. So, before we dig in, let's first consider what the passage says about the number.
  1. It is wisdom - insight about the number is given by God
  2. It should be understood – people of understanding will calculate the number
  3. It is the number of the beast and a man – the Antichrist
  4. It is a real number – "His number is 666"
Now let's consider what it might mean.

Most commentators believe (as do I) that the name of Antichrist, when translated into either Hebrew or Greek, will contain letters that total the number six hundred sixty-six. For unlike our alphabet, Hebrew and Greek alphabets assign a number to the letters. The letter 'A", for instance, might be assigned the number "1", "B" the number "2", and so on. Therefore, when a name is translated into either Hebrew or Greek, a number can be calculated simply by adding the numerical values assigned to the letters. In the case of Antichrist, it appears that the name of this man translated into Greek or Hebrew will total the number 666.

Okay, but allow me to stress this about the number:

Those who calculate the names of world leaders hoping to locate and identify the Antichrist are mistaken. God imparted this wisdom for those who are here during the reign of the beast so they can recognize, and not be deceived by him. We should know about these things to teach others, but should keep in mind that the Church is told to watch for Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

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