Beast from the Sea.
The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7Also, it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.* It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.
Back in 2005 Steven Spielberg released his version of H. G. Wells classic novel War of the Worlds. Another movie based on the novel was made in 1953. So here is a bit of movie trivia. Gene Barry and Ann Robinson had parts in both movies. They starred in the 1953 original, and they played the grandparents in Spielberg’s 2005 remake. That is the kind of information you never need to know. I saw Spielberg’s movie when it came out 3 years ago. Recently, when I was doing the treadmill, I watched it again. On hot days, instead of walking outside, I do the treadmill, and, to keep from getting bored, I watch movies.
As I was watching War of the Worlds (2005), I was amazed again by how well Spielberg’s computer wizards can do special effects. They can blow up the whole world and make it look real. Alien tripods blast their way across the landscape, throwing trains through buildings, ripping down whole sections of elevated highway, trampling on mobs of people. They are out to exterminate us, and we are only barely saved when they get our diseases and die. The movie was exciting, but as I thought about it, I was reminded of those chapters in Revelation that talk about catastrophic events near the end of time.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse ride forth bringing war, famine, disease, and death, We read of earthquake and fire and a third of the earth being burned up. A meteor named Wormwood strikes the planet and poisons much of the water. Plagues of locusts and scorpions swarm across the planet. All that has happened before chapter 13. Much, perhaps most, of the human population has been killed. We have 6 billion people on the planet now. After the disasters of Revelation, only a fraction of that number will remain, perhaps one or two billion. Then comes the beast.
After a whole series of cosmic catastrophes, the traumatized remnant of humankind will be all too willing to worship this demonic savior in the hope of some kind of material salvation. The apostle Paul calls him “the Man of sin” “the son of perdition.” In Revelation 13, he is the beast from the sea. The sea in Revelation’s symbology represents confusion, chaos, and turbulence. The beast arises from the chaos of endtime events.
The beast of Revelation reminds us of the four beasts from Daniel 7. Daniel tells us that his four beasts represent four empires. The first three beasts represent the ordinary human empires of history, but not the fourth. In v7 Daniel says, “Behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” The ten horns symbolize 10 kingdoms or countries or factions. The fourth beast of Daniel was not a direct successor to the other 3 beasts. It was put together later from the various factions left over after world catastrophe. Numbers in the Bible, particularly in Daniel and Revelation, are often symbolic. The number 10 represents many. Out of many factions and groups and remnants of a ruined world civilization, the fourth beast slaughters and stamps its way to power.
In Revelation 2:2 we learn the source of the power of the beast--the dragon, the old serpent, the devil. This is a demonic world empire that will rule over the remnants of humankind with an iron fist.
In verse 3, we are told a surprising little detail. One of the seven heads, “seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound* had been healed.” This is the demonic version of the resurrection. The beast is a shadow Christ, the devil’s version of the crucified and risen Lord.
You can imagine the effect on the world if they thought that this great leader had been mortally wounded and miraculously resurrected. V3 says, “In amazement the whole earth followed the beast.” And also v4, “They worshipped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’” this is a demonic world government run by a demonic world religion. But thankfully we are told in v5 that this government will only last 42 months. This is to reassure the people of God. The beast may proclaim that he is making permanent change, but his time is limited.
The beast will say, “haughty and blasphemous words.” It is interesting that in Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast, the little horn that came up among the ten horns had a mouth, “ speaking great things” (8). The beast has all sorts of programs and proclamations. He has a five plan and a ten year plan. Like Hitler he may proclaim a thousand year Reich, but it will all shortly come to nothing.
The religion of the beast is the beast itself. V6, “It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.” The beast worships the beast. And those who follow the beast worship the beast. As I have said, this is a demonic version of Christianity. And v7 indicates that the beast will overthrow and defeat the church, at least temporarily. We imagine churches forcibly closed, the public worship of God declared illegal.
The beast initially is a phenomenal success. Again, we read in verses 7 and 8, “*it was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it.”* God will still have his people here, there will still be Christians, but they will be persecuted and hounded, and locked away in concentration camps. We imagine public massacres of Christians, as well as a massive propaganda campaign to ridicule the church.
That is summary is what the beast is about. The beast, who is called the antichrist in the letters of John and the man of sin in the letters of Paul, wants to be God, wants to be worshipped as God.
He will be Satan’s tool for corrupting the world and turning people away from God. We read in II Thessalonians, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (2:9). He is the false messiah who desires to replace and mock the rule of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. In fact, we have here in Revelation 13 an evil trinity: Satan, symbolized by the dragon; the antichrist, symbolized by the beast that comes out of the sea; and later on the chapter the second beast which comes out of the earth. This second beast leads the whole world to worship the first beast. So Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet are a demonic trinity which makes an attempt to establish a demonic civilization, but their efforts will ultimately fail.
We can easily imagine the logic the beast will use in establishing a world government at that time. The world will be a disaster. All other forms of government have failed. The only answer seems to be a dictatorial, oppressive global authority.
The same thing has happened on a small scale many times in the past. After World War I, Germany was a chaotic mess. Adolf Hitler rose to power promising an authoritarian regime of peace and stability. Many good people backed Hitler because he seemed to be the best option at the time. Magnify that to a global scale, with a leader who seems to be miraculously resurrected, and we can easily see why most people would willingly worship the beast.
Now a mistake that is made in interpreting what Revelation says about the beast or is to suppose that the beast will come to power in our present society. Some say that the leader of the UN will naturally evolve in the beast. But the UN is far too weak and too democratic to be the kind of government that Daniel’s fourth beast represents. Some say the president of the US will become the beast. Again that is not likely. The two wars we are fighting now have made us very much aware of the limits of American power.
But this is a game that we are always playing in church. Who is the antichrist? Every generation has had its own special candidate. Back in the thirties, Adolf Hitler was an obvious candidate. In the fifties, it was Joseph Stalin. In the seventies, it was Henry Kissinger. I don’t know where that came from. More recently I have heard that Bill Gates is the one. There are web sites that say that if you take the name William Henry Gates III, and converted it to ascii code, that is computer code, and add up all the numbers, you get 666. I don’t know about that, and I have trouble imagining Bill Gates, the ultimate nerd, as antichrist.
In just the last week or so, the McCain campaign has an ad that seems to identify Obama as the Antichrist. The McCain campaign says that the ad is a joke. They are mocking the way some supporters almost seem to worship Obama. I have no problem with that. We are in the midst of a presidential campaign and we expect the candidates to say bad things about each other.
In fact, I do not give much credence to any identifications of the Antichrist right now, because of the way Revelation describes the rise of the antichrist. The antichrist does not come to power by any slow evolution out of our current political institutions. The beast comes from nowhere, to save the world from chaos and turmoil.
Again to use an historical example, Adolf Hitler failed out of high school. He wanted to be an artist, but he failed at that. He never was successful at any job before he became the principle speaker of the tiny National socialist German Workers Party. From that very unpromising beginning, he led a revolution in Germany, that eventually engulfed the whole world in war.
Hitler is the type of the antichrist, and this is the lesson: You will have never heard of him, you will not know where he is coming from until suddenly he is a rising power on the scene that cannot be stopped.
He may be a great speaker. He may have great personal charm. He may appear to be concerned only about the wellbeing of the people. He will disguise his true motives in the beginning andgreatly appeal to the masses. This will be the great end-time mass movement.
But as the old saying is, the velvet glove will conceal an iron fist or is it mail fist, whatever. The primary foundations of the power of the beast will be intimidation and persecution. The beast will have his brown shirts, his thugs, to beat opponents into submission. he will have his concentration camps and execution squads. And he will particularly despise Christians because Christians worship another lord.
So what is the application of all this for us? Why did John write about catastrophes at the end of time and the beast who is antichrist? It may seem odd to us but John’s intention is to reassure us. He indicates this in v10 when he writes: “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” We suspect that John was writing to people who were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. He writes to all Christians of all times and places who are suffering. His call is to endure. His call is to have faith. His assurance is that suffering will not continue forever. Even the antichrist, the greatest tool of Satan, is limited to a brief period of time. Even so, all our sufferings, all our tribulations, all our troubles, are only for a brief period of time, and Christ finally triumphs. If you don’t get anything else, then get this. Christ wins in the end. Therefore, keep the faith, believe in Jesus.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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