In Revelation 12, we saw the dragon, Satan, persecuting the church and in chapter 13, we find that Satan employs various means to accomplish his designs of destroying the church. Chapter 13:1 speaks of the dragon and says, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea.” The dragon comes down to the sea and stands on the seashore. Next, we see him finding a helper in his efforts to destroy God's people. So, verse 1 continues: “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.” We see a beast coming up out of the sea. What is the significance of the sea? Perhaps, it has no particular significance. If it does have any significance, it has reference, apparently, to the nations.
Notice Isaiah 17:12: “Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters.” So, the nations are spoken of under the figure of the roaring seas in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 17:15: “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues.’ ” We see a beast coming up from the sea, a beast emerging from the nations, from the peoples. All of these are plural: multitudes, nations, peoples and tongues. The beast does not emerge out of a single nation, out of a single people at some particular point in human history. This is the beast that emerges from the peoples, the tongues, and the nations. This beast is something that is in existence over a vast period of time. It is the persecuting power of human governments.
I believe that interpretation is borne out as we look at a further description of the beast in Revelation 13:2: “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” Again, we must allow the Bible to be its own interpreter and, if we do that, there is one passage in prophecy in the Old Testament that serves as the perfect setting and background for what we see in Revelation 13.
That is found in Daniel 7:2–8. There, we are given a description of four beasts that came out of the sea. It says, “Daniel spoke, saying, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it. And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: “Arise, devour much flesh!” After this I looked and there was another, like a leopard which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night vision, 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. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before who three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.’ ”
If we go back to Revelation 13 again, we will see that this single beast that rises out of the sea is a perfect composite picture of four separate distinct beasts that are found in Daniel 7. You find the same three animals, the leopard, the bear and the lion, and you notice in Daniel that the fourth beast is not identified with any animal. In Revelation 13, the beast is a composite of the three animals and it also incorporates the fourth beast of Daniel because the beast has ten horns. So, when you put the four beasts of Daniel 7 together, you have a beast that has seven heads (because the third beast in Daniel had four heads and there were three other beasts, a leopard, lion and a bear, making seven heads) and seven horns.
What is the significance of all this? In Daniel, from which this is drawn, the four separate beasts represented successive kingdoms, the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman. If you compare it with Daniel 2, it becomes crystal clear. Now, what do we have? What would be a better way to represent all the governments of the world that a composite of
the symbol of the four beasts representing four successive great world empires? Put them all together into one, and you have a beast that represents human governmental powers that persecute God's people. The Persians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans all were persecutors of the people of God. Consequently, I think that the imagery that is drawn from Daniel, helps us to see that we are looking, in Revelation 13, at a beast that represents an instrument of Satan that kills God's people. Specifically, these are persecuting human governments.
If we go back again to verse 1, I believe there is further confirmation of that. In describing the beast, it says that the beast had “Seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads seven crowns.” What we are seeing is that the human governments take upon themselves the characteristics of the one who has given to them their power. Satan himself, Satan is the one who is represented as the dragon with the seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns.
There is a slight distinction in the description, which I think is somewhat significant. It has ten horns, and “horns” throughout the Bible is used as suggestive of destructive power. It has seven heads. “Seven” is a symbol of completeness. A “head” is a symbol of authority. Here is a symbol of complete authority. Does this mean Satan has complete authority? It is complete in the sense that it affects all human governments throughout the whole earth. It is true, of course, that whatever authority Satan has is under the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ who has all authority on earth and in heaven. It is true, also, that governments, as individuals, yield in differing degrees to the power Satan exercises. But, his power is worldwide.
Paul said in Ephesians 2:2: “In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” In Ephesians 6:12, Paul said, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The world rulers of this darkness are headed by a single world ruler, Satan, the dragon, the prince of this world whom Jesus said he would cast down. We are seeing in Revelation 13, human persecuting governments that reflect the characteristics
of Satan himself. Satan had seven crowns on his seven heads indicating his authority to rule. It is an arrogant authority; it is an authority that he has taken on himself. It is not a legitimate rightful authority. It is an authority that is under the dominion of God himself.
On the sea beast in Revelation 13:1, we find the crowns sitting, not on the heads, but on the horns. Here is a picture, perhaps, of crowned cruelty in the persecuting power of human government. Authority was given to them by Satan, and used by Satan for his purposes. We see a good description of what is taking place back in Luke 4, when Satan confronted Jesus in verses 5 and 6. Remember, it says, “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory, for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.’ ” Satan was not able to give it to Jesus. He refused to have that kind of authority at that time. But, in Revelation 13, John sees the dragon giving authority to these world–rulers to persecute the people of God.
Now that we have seen what the sea beast is all about, we continue in verses 3 and 4: “And 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 worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’ ” What is the picture here? The beast has seven heads and now one of the heads is wounded in such a way the beast appears to die. But, then, to the surprise of everybody, it seems to revive and come back and exercise its power again so that the world marvels and wonders and says, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
If we get the picture of what the beast is, I think we can begin to understand. The beast seems to be killed, but he revives. That was to convince the world of the futility of resisting the beast. In other words you have tried to kill this horrible, ugly, monstrous creature, and it has been unsuccessful. So, you are likely to say, “What is the use of trying to fight?” The history of the world says that when evil governments are seemingly destroyed, evil governments rise again. That seems to be the
picture of world history; and evil, corrupt, oppressive government is destroyed and there is great rejoicing. Then, to the dismay of the world, here comes another human government just as bad as that one, or maybe worse. Then, men gather together and put that one down and there is great rejoicing, and here it comes again. It seems to suggest the picture we are getting here. Here is the persecuting human government, the instrument and agent of Satan, being seemingly destroyed and killed and here comes another just as bad as the first, or this one seems to regain its strength to come back again. Finally, it gets to the point where men will tend to marvel and say, “It is no use. We might as well give up.” And, once God's people give in, there is no hope.
As you look back on Old Testament history, you see this time and again. What did Nebuchadnezzar, in the Babylonian Empire, do? He erected an image and required all of the people to bow down and worship it. What is he saying? He is saying, “Who is like Nebuchadnezzar?” And he is requiring the people to say, “Who is like Nebuchadnezzar?”
What happened in the Assyrian Empire? Sennacherib came down into Judah with the most massive army the world had ever seen. Sennacherib brought that army down and surrounded the city of Jerusalem and the people of Jerusalem were terrified. Hezekiah tried to calm the people by saying, “With us is the Lord our God to help us” (II Chronicles 32:6).
But, in II Chronicles 32:13–15, Sennacherib said, “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the people of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands in any way able to deliver their lands out of my hand? Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed that could deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? Now, therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or persuade you like this, and do not believe him; for no god of any nation or kingdom as able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?”
What did Sennacherib say? He said, “Who is like Sennacherib? Your god is nothing. I have wiped out the gods of surrounding
nations. Who is your god, anyway?” Of course, we know the end of that story. Sennacherib turned back and an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of his soldiers, and we find out who really is in charge. God takes that kind of abuse only so long. It may seem that after Assyria has fallen, there is rejoicing, but Persia arises, Persia falls and the Greek Empire arises and so it goes. The Roman Empire arises and Caesar demands that the people bow don and say, “Caesar is Lord.” We see repeated again and again the question, “Who is like unto the beast?” And, the answer the Christian gives is “The Lord God!” He is the One who has the power in heaven and earth.
Notice Revelation 13:5 says, “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty–two months.” And notice in verse 7: “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.” The beast has no authority in and of himself. It was given to him. God has given to him and permitted him to exercise certain authority in our world. but God is saying, “You can go this far and no farther.” The authority that the beast has is a limited authority and it is limited not only by extent of power, but it is limited by extent of time. It says in verse 5: “... and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.”
God has ordained that that this authority will continue only this long and no longer and there is nothing you can do to change it. God has ordained the powers to be and how long they can operate. So, the power of the beast, the power of the persecuting human government, is limited and it can only go so far. We read in verse 7: “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.” It is one of only two times in Revelation where the term “overcome” is used of anything other than God and Christ and God's people. We learn in Revelation that there comes a time, which is at the very end of time, when it seems as though Satan and his forces are victorious. And here, it seems that the people of God have been overcome.
This is a perfect parallel of what is found in Revelation 11:7. Just remember 13:7 and 11:7 and study them together with
their contexts. Revelation 11:7 says: “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” That is God's people. But, then, as you read the rest of chapter 11, that does not last for very long. It is a very brief period, three and a half days, then God's people are caught up to meet the Lord in the air and so shall they ever be with the Lord. So it is in Revelation 13, the overcoming is temporary, it is limited, and it is only for a time.
We come to verses 8 through 10: “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. 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 faith of the saints.” The point is, the saints of God know God will avenge His people. They know that God will be triumphant and that those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will not be destroyed. But, rather, that God shall resurrect them. They will be saved and they will enjoy the presence of the God forever. So, the message of Revelation in this part it: “Do not worry about human oppressive persecuting governments. God in His good time is going to take care of that and he is going to preserve you.” That is the patience and the faith of the saints, that God does come out victorious and so do His people.
But Satan is not finished. There is one instrument he uses in his warfare, persecuting human governments. But, there comes another as we come to verse 11: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.” What is this beast? This beast had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. What we are seeing in this beast is also described to us in Revelation 16:13: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.”
In Revelation 12 and 13, we are introduced to the dragon, the sea beast, and the earth beast, in that order. In Revelation 16, when they are described, they are described in terms of dragons, the sea beast and the false prophet. The false prophet
is in the same position as the earth beast. In case that is not obvious, go to Revelation 19:20, and there it becomes clear: “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
Now, we have the false prophet identified as the one who deceived them that had received the mark of the beast. We have the earth beast identified elsewhere, as the false prophet and that is exactly what the earth beast is doing, he is deceiving the nations. He is one who is exercising the capacity of one who deceives spiritually and would misguide. I believe that is why he is described in terms of a lamb that speaks as a dragon, because the lamb is the symbol that is used throughout Revelation in reference to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Jesus Christ. But we see this seemingly innocent, harmless creature, that comes out of the earth, described as a lamb. But, it is really, so to speak, a dragon in lamb's clothing because it speaks with the voice of the dragon, but has the appearance of a lamb. It is deceptive, you see. It is the perfect picture of false religion that deceives, that creates an illusion of innocence, as a lamb.
But, the message is a message that destroys; it is the message of the dragon, of Satan. I believe that is what we are seeing. I believe we see it described in II Corinthians 11:14: “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” What does that mean? The next verse says: “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness whose end will be according to their works.” So, Satan has his ministers, too. They appear as ministers of righteousness, but they speak with the voice of the dragon. They say what Satan wants them to say.
We see the same thing spoken of by Jesus in another figure of speech in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in Sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Here is a picture of wolves in sheep's clothing, but in Revelation, it is the dragon in lamb's clothing. But, what happens to these? Jesus tells us in just a few verses in Matthew 7:22–23: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have
we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness?’ ” Here were men who had deluded themselves into thinking they were prophets of God, exorcists and faith–healers, or something similar, but the verdict of Jesus was that they were workers of iniquity and He never knew them. What were they? They were wolves in sheep's clothing. They were dragons in lamb's clothing. So, what we are seeing, when we see this beast that comes out of the earth, is false religion which has much to gain from governments that persecute those who are truly God's people.
Notice Revelation 13:12: “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.” Anti–Christian government and anti–Christian religion have always worked hand–in–hand. You can trace it right down through history and you see the priest who is promoting the proconsul. You see in nation after nation persecuting governments being promoted and supported by a religious establishment. Notice verse 13: “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” ”
Notice false religions are capable of producing great signs. But, are they genuine miracles? Look at verse 14: “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by these signs, which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” Not, it is not a genuine miracle. It is a kind that deceives. Paul said in II Thessalonians 2:9: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.” It says that the man of sin would do lying wonders of Satan.
Return to Revelation 13:15: “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.” Again, it was given to him. God permits it. He is given this power. It is not something he has within himself, and it is under the limit and control of God so that he can only go so far.
In Verse 16: “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.” Now, what is this mark that is given? Verse 17 continues: “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.” Earlier in Revelation, we saw that the followers of the Lamb were sealed on their forehead.
As we saw earlier, that simply was a way of saying that they were under the protection of God and they belonged to the Lamb of God. When it spoke of them being sealed on the forehead, it did not mean that there was literally some kind of stamp placed on their forehead as a visible sign. It simply means that there are those who have been marked as followers of the Lamb. What are we seeing when we come to this passage? To receive a mark of someone was simply to belong to someone, or to serve or worship someone. Slaves were branded or marked to show that they belonged to a certain individual. And those who have the mark of the beast simply means nothing more than that these are people who bear in their lives those characteristics that mark them as being followers of Satan, rather than being followers of God.
How do I know that? Revelation spells it out for us. For example, Revelation 14:9–10: “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.’ ” The idea of receiving the mark is the idea of being one who worships the beast. The same thing is in verse 11: “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Notice also Revelation 20:4: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a
thousand years.” Those who do not receive the mark of the beast are simply those people who do not worship the beast, those who simply are followers of Jesus, followers of the Lamb. Those who have the seal on their foreheads were identified in Revelation 7:3 as God's people. But, that is not like some kind of a little chain you hang around your neck; that is not what makes you a Christian. The mark of the Christian is the evidence of love and peace and joy, the fruit of the spirit in the life of the Christian (Galatians 5:22–23). So, it is with those who have the mark of the beast. You can mark them out by their lives, by whom they are worshiping, whom they are honoring with their lives.
We come to the statement concerning “a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead.” We have already seen in the case of those who were sealed on the forehead, who were followers of the Lamb, that this suggests the disposition of the mind, the thoughts of those who are so sealed. Their minds are set in the direction of the Lamb of God. In a similar way, those who have the mark of the beast on their hand or their forehead have their actions and thoughts directed toward the beast and toward Satan. They show the mark, the evidence and the stamp of Satan in their manner of life. Thus, one who has the mark of the beast is simply one who manifests, in what he thinks and does, the evidence of the dominion of sin and Satan in his or her life.
Let us notice Revelation 13:17: “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.” As long as those who are sealed by God are in a minority to those who are marked by Satan, economic hardship is a very possible and a very likely companion. Those who bear the mark of the beast, who participate in false religion and who cooperate with persecuting human governments, are likely to cause economic problems for the Christian. In every age this has happened. As we have seen from the beginning, we are not talking about one point in human history, we are talking about what has happened throughout history and will continue to happen till Jesus comes again.
This is a description of the way you can expect things to be. But, the beauty of it all is that victory is yours! And how do we know? Because of the last verse in Chapter 13: “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.” What does that mean?
First, in the Greek text there is no definite article before “man.” Therefore, the phrase can be translated, and I believe should be in this case, “it is the number of man.” It is the number of “man” in the sense of “mankind.” The number of the beast is the same as the number of man. What is the number of man? It is six. Man was created on the sixth day. Man falls short of the perfection of seven. His number is six. Six falls short of seven, it fails. The beast's days are numbered. The number of the beast is the number of man and that number is six, six, six, that is failure after failure after failure. The beast glorifies in man and in human affairs and, consequently, must fail.
It may be significant, incidentally, that the numerical number of Jesus in the Greek language is 888. He exceeds perfection while man continually falls short. Man's number is 666. Consequently, all that is wrapped up in man apart from God and Christ will fail. Persecuting human governments will come to an end, false religion will fail, but Jesus will be triumphant. Victory is through Him. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
While we may not be experiencing economic hardship today, it is not an unreasonable expectation that in our lifetime we might so suffer due to our allegiance to Christ and His way. But, failure cannot be ours if we place our trust in Jesus. If you do not belong to Jesus, you are on the side of failure, and there will be in your life one failure after another.
But, if Jesus enters your life, you will find victory upon victory and, finally, eternal life with God and His Son, Jesus, if you live as God would have you live. It is your choice. Choose from this day who you will serve.