Dear Radio Friends,
One of the outstanding signs of the return of Jesus and the end of the world is the sign of Antichrist and his kingdom. In the message last week we began to look at this sign from II Thessalonians 2. Another chapter in the Bible that speaks of Antichrist is Revelation 13. There are three parts to this chapter. The first ten verses speak of the beast from the sea; verses 11-15 speak of the second beast, the beast from the earth; then verses 16-18 speak of the mark of the beast.
In this message we want to look at the first ten verses of this chapter, the first section—the beast from the sea. Then, in the subsequent messages, we will look at the other parts of this chapter. The first ten verses of this chapter describe for us the beast from the sea. He is described in symbolic language. In the first verse of the chapter we read this, that John “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 name of blasphemy.” In his vision John stands on the seashore, and out of the seashore in front of him rises an indescribably horrific monster with ten horns, each of those horns having crowns. Then, after the horns, he sees seven heads emerge from the water with the name of blasphemy on them.
Following this, he sees the body and the feet of the beast (v. 2). “The beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion.” This is a swift body, the body of a leopard. This is a strong beast, a beast with feet like the paws of a bear. And this is a beast that has as its focal point its mouth, the mouth of a lion—loud and strong. In verse 3, John sees that on one of the heads of this beast there was a wound that had been healed—a large scar. He says, “I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed.”
Then John goes on to notice some other things. Verse 2 says that this beast has its authority and power from the dragon. The dragon is mentioned at the end of the previous chapter as the one who turns his wrath away from the baby that is caught up into heaven and to the woman that represents the church. Then John notices, too, that all the people of the earth follow after this beast. And they say, “Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” This beast that rises out of the sea has dominion over all the nations of the earth, and he has a religion in which all the nations of the earth and all the people of the earth worship him and the dragon.
The focal point of this beast that rises out of the sea is its mouth. John mentions this in verse 2, and he comes back to it also in verses 5 and 6. “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” So that is the description of the beast that John sees.
John is familiar with this beast and familiar with its symbolism, not only because he has seen a similar beast in the book of Revelation in his visions. In the previous chapter, 12:3: “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” This dragon represents the devil himself, and now it is this dragon (v. 2) that gives power unto this beast that rises out of the sea. So the beast bears resemblance to the dragon that is Satan. This dragon (or this beast) is mentioned again in Revelation 17 as the beast that the woman (who is the apostate church) rides.
But John recognizes this vision not only from Revelation, but also from the book of Daniel, with which he would have been very familiar. Daniel, in the book of Daniel, chapter 7, sees a vision of the Antichrist and all the kingdoms of Antichrist. In his vision, though it is a little different, Daniel saw four beasts. Three of the beasts he could recognize. They were a leopard, a bear, and a lion. The fourth he could not describe because it was too terrible. On the fourth beast Daniel saw ten horns. Out of one of those horns, a little horn. Then Daniel zooms in, in his vision, on that little horn. That little horn has eyes and a great mouth that speaks blasphemous things and that makes war against the saints and wears out the saints of God. And this little horn in Daniel exalts himself as God over against the true God. Daniel also sees the destruction of this beast at the end of a kingdom that lasts, in the words of Daniel, “times, time, and half a time,” or three and a half periods of time—three and a half years, which is equivalent to the forty-two months here in Revelation 13:5. What John sees here in his vision is nothing more than a biblical development and fulfillment of the vision of Daniel. So we have here in Revelation 13 a clear description of Antichrist.
Now, what we want to do is to try to understand the symbolism of this beast that rises out of the sea and see what it says about the Antichrist in the future.
First, this beast out of the sea identifies the Antichrist as a political ruler. Sometimes we think of the Antichrist as religious. Certainly that is mentioned here, too. All the world wonders after the beast and they worship him and they say, “Who is like unto the beast?” While it is true that there is a religious aspect to the Antichrist and his coming kingdom (we will see that next week in the second beast), the Antichrist is primarily a political ruler. We see that in several things here. First, he arises “out of the sea.” In Revelation 17:15 we read this: “He saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” The waters or the seas represent these peoples and nations and multitudes and tongues. So, in Isaiah 57:20 we read that “the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” What we see is that the nations of the earth are tumultuous, they are filled with turmoil. There is always political and economic and social turmoil in the world. And this is stirred up by the pride and the ambition of wicked men and from the sin of man in his heart. It is out of this that the first beast rises as a political power out of the nations.
Second, we see that this beast has horns and a crown. A horn in Scripture is a symbol of power. The power that this beast has will be crowned, that is, he will rule in his power.
Third, the comparison of this beast to the prophecy of Daniel helps us to see that the Antichrist will be a political power. All the beasts that Daniel sees in his vision were symbolic of earthly kingdoms that arose.
So the Antichrist will be a political ruler. As a political ruler, in the second place, we see from this vision that he will be a universal and a global ruler, not just a localized and a regional ruler. He will be one king with one kingdom. Yes, there may be lesser kings, but every nation and every kingdom of the earth will hand over its power and rule to the Antichrist. Now you can immediately think of development in our modern day and people and politicians who want to hand over national sovereignty to a central world government in an effort for world peace. This is what the devil wants. In Revelation 20 the devil is bound for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand years he is released so that he may go out and deceive the nations that are in the earth and gather them together as one against the city and the church of God. This is what the devil wants and this is what will happen when Antichrist comes.
We see that very plainly in the vision itself. In verse 3 “all the world wondered after the beast.” In verse 7, the beast is given power over all the kindreds, tongues, and nations of the earth. In verse 8, all that dwell on the earth worship him. This is also seen in the ten horns. Ten represents the number of fullness. There were ten plagues, which symbolized the fullness of God’s wrath on Egypt. There are ten commandments, which represent the fullness, the completeness of God’s will for man. So here. Ten horns represent the fullness of political power in the earth—the fullness of authority. That helps us to see the purpose of the rise and the coming of Antichrist. His kingdom will be a culmination of all the powers of the world of the past. And the Antichrist will achieve something in his kingdom that could never be attained throughout history, even though again and again people have tried to do it. You see a contrast here to the vision of Daniel. Daniel saw these four beasts coming one by one, one after another. John sees all of them united in one beast, a composite beast that encompasses all the powers of the earth that have been before. So, what we see is that the Antichrist will be successful in establishing a worldwide kingdom. All the world will wonder after him. They will be amazed. They will follow him. They will worship him. The Antichrist will come as the one to whom they are looking and for whom they are longing. He will not come by force. He will not come twisting arms and forcing people to follow him. He will be a charismatic figure who will be compelling, who will be attractive, who will be inspiring. And the people will say, “What a beast! This is just what we’ve been looking for, just what we’ve been waiting for.” So, in verse 8, everyone whose name is not written in the book of life will worship him. He will bring an end to war; he will have an answer to world poverty and sickness and death. He will bring to man just what man wants. To the world he will not appear as a horrific monster but as the answer to all of its problems.
If we think about it, just as Paul says in II Thessalonians 2 and John tells us in I John 2, the spirit of Antichrist is already with us. Do you not recognize the cries for peace? Do you not recognize this in the dependence of people on government assistance and help and welfare? Do you not see this in the religion that exalts man over against God and the true gospel? Do you not see this in the search for a universal morality and peace and an economic system that will answer all the needs and meet all the needs of everyone in the world? Do you not see this in the cry of the governments of the earth for a world peace? This is the coming of the kingdom of Antichrist, and the Antichrist, when he comes, will give to man just what he seeks. In fact, as we will see, his number is the number of man: 666.
But we see here also that when the Antichrist comes, he will come as an adversary to Christ and to the church of God. He will not come so much to promote man, he is not so interested in people and in the progress of the human race. After all, he represents the dragon and the devil and he is a beast and he comes chiefly in opposition to Christ and the gospel, and his work is to oppose with all his might and main all that God represents in the earth.
We see that in the text here. He is given the name of blasphemy, or, in verse 2, the name of blasphemy is on his head. You see that again in verses 5 and 6. Blasphemy is this: that he speaks against God and against the gospel. He speaks in such a way to exalt man and to exalt the goodness of man over against what the gospel says and over against the righteousness of God. When the gospel says that man is depraved and unable to save himself and must repent of his sins and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, he will say, “No, no! The human race has the ability in itself to save itself.” That is blasphemy. When the gospel exalts God and the sovereign work of salvation, he will say, “No, no! Man can save himself by his own free will.” In the end his blasphemy will be this, that he will claim that he himself is God. He will say, “I am the king of kings; I am the one to worship.” He will have a plaque that says to all, “I am God.” In II Thessalonians 2, he will set himself up in the temple of God as God who must be worshiped. This is the abomination of desolation of which both Daniel and Jesus speak. And this is why he is called a beast. It is not ugliness that makes him a beast, but in his inward nature he is a beast because he is opposed to God and he follows the dragon, the devil, and he devours the saints and destroys the church of God. In the end, this is where he will direct his hatred. At the end of chapter 12:17 the dragon turns himself against the woman. Now it is this dragon that empowers the beast so that in verse 7 of the vision here it is given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. This will be his goal—to persecute the people of God. Again, in this, as in the establishment of his kingdom, he will appear to have great success.
Yes, it will be an immense task to bring all the nations of the earth together. It will be an immense task to unite all the religions and all the ethnic groups of the earth and to get them to cooperate in the persecution of God’s people. This will take a great work and a great power, but the Antichrist will accomplish this.
We see that in the passage here. In verse 3 the wound on his head is healed. This is not the only place you find it in the passage. It is repeated in verses 12 and 14. The beast that was wounded was healed and did live. This wound represents a stopping or a staying of Satan’s desire to rule all the nations of the earth. That is what the wound represents. Most likely, this is the wound that God inflicted on the nations of the earth in Genesis 11, at the tower of Babel, when all the people got together and decided that they would unite as one and stay in one place and make themselves a name. They built a tower up to heaven. And God said, looking down from heaven: “The people is one, their language is one, and with this that they begin, nothing will be able to stop them, and nothing will be restrained from them.” So God confounded their speech and He scattered the nations. Never since Babel have all the nations been united together under one power. That was the wound of the beast. That was the death-blow that frustrated the devil’s attempt to unite the nations of the earth against Jesus Christ.
But now that wound, as we see in the vision here, is healed. What manifests the healing of that more than anything else is the ability of the nations of the earth to communicate in a peaceful way with one another. This is what was stopped at the tower of Babel. But now this is reestablished. Certainly we can see it. There is not one language in all of the earth. But there is massive ability to communicate—in an instant of time, through wires and satellites and technology. Just think back a hundred years. Or think back ten or twenty years. The technology that enables communication today is phenomenal. Why that communication? It is to bring a unity among men in religion, in morals, in economics, in currency, in nationalities, in the intermingling of races, in the intermingling of religion, in the tolerance for every kind of life style. If you look at the world today, you think about it from this point of view, that there has never been such an interdependency and such a unity of the nations of the earth. Just think of things like finance and trade and currency and travel. All the world is coming together as one. The wound of the beast is being healed.
When Antichrist comes, he will unite all the world as one in war against the people of God to wear them out and to do everything in his power to put out the witness of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. That is what we see here: a political power that will bring together all the nations as one with one purpose, and that is to persecute the people and the church of God.
The question is: how do we respond? Are we going to take up weapons and try to resist the rise of the Antichrist? No, that is impossible. Instead, we see in verses 9 and 10 how the believer ought to respond. In verse 9: “If any man have an ear, let him hear.” This points to the importance of recognizing the sign of Antichrist and learning about the Antichrist. The Bible tells us about this not to scare us but so that we might know what is developing in history and what will take place at the end of the world. Jesus does not leave us in the dark, but He tells us the signs of His coming. In verse 10: “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity.” That tells us that what the Antichrist tries to inflict on God’s people will, in the end, be his lot. “He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.” Then, in contrast: “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” They do not kill with the sword. They do not lead into captivity. But they bear with patience under this trial. We can be patient because the rise of the Antichrist and his kingdom tells us that Jesus is coming. The more we see this, the evidence of Antichrist in history, the closer we know we are to the day of Jesus Christ.
So, we can have confidence. Our confidence is that God has absolute power over the Antichrist and the devil who is behind the Antichrist. All the power that the Antichrist has is given to him. In verse 2 we read that the dragon gave him power, but who gives the dragon power? Where does Satan get his power from? God gives him his power and God limits his power, God in heaven. You see that in the book of Daniel, in Nebuchadnezzar. He arose in fulfillment of the vision that Daniel saw, and he raised himself up in his voice against heaven. What happened? He was driven out. And he confessed in the end of Daniel, chapter 4, that God was sovereign and that no one could stand in the way of God and His hand.
You see, the Antichrist and the devil have no power of themselves. That does not mean that they are not responsible for what do. He that leads into captivity will go into captivity. He that kills with the sword shall be killed with the sword. But the devil’s power, the devil’s reign, is under the rule of Jesus Christ. The Antichrist and the devil do not call the shots.
You see that in verse 5, where it says that his kingdom will be for forty-two months, or three and a half years. That is half of seven. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that the days of Antichrist will be shortened. The idea is that he will not come to success and completion in his goals. Everything that he does is under the permission and the direction of the sovereign hand of God. And God sends it even for the sake of His church and people to chasten them, to exercise them under persecution and under the cross so that through suffering they are perfected, they are maintained in their witness, and they are prepared for glory. The persecution of the church has never been detrimental to the spiritual well-being of God’s people.
So, we are comforted in this too. The Antichrist is only carrying out God’s purpose for our salvation. You see that purpose here in verse 8, when it mentions the “book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Some do not have their name in that book of life. These are the ones who follow the Antichrist and worship him. But others have their name in this book. Who are they? They are the ones whom God in eternity has chosen, whose names He has written down, whom He has chosen in Jesus Christ. This is the Lamb’s Book of Life. These are the ones for whom Jesus Christ our Savior has given His blood. These are kept from worshiping the Antichrist, from going with the world after him in their wonder and amazement at the Antichrist. All of this takes place according to what is written in the books of the eternal counsel of God. And Antichrist himself serves that.
So, we should not be terrified. Our names are written in the Book of Life, the book of the Lamb slain, whose blood cannot be taken back, who has accomplished our salvation. We find our comfort in the counsel of God and in the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens must serve God’s counsel and our salvation.
When we think of the Antichrist as a beast, let us not look on him, but let us look at the Savior. Let us look at the one who is the Lamb, and let us put our faith in Him and worship Him and continue waiting and longing for the day of His return. Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. Amen.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for this beautiful vision, a vision that tells us not only of what will take place on the earth, but also of the dominion of Jesus Christ over all things, even over the devil and the Antichrist himself. We pray, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Dear Radio Friends,