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11 The Beasts (Revelation 13)
The forty and two months of Rev 13:5, or three and a half years, clearly indicate that the events foretold in this chapter will take place during the last half week of Daniel's seventy weeks - the period immediately preceding the appearing and reign of Christ. From the previous chapter we learn that during this terrible time, when man's wickedness rises to its height, the great power behind all the evil will be the devil. In this chapter we see the two great instruments of evil that the devil will use, and that will appear before the world, are symbolised by two beasts. The first beast clearly represents the political power or revived Roman Empire finding its expression in its head (Rev 13:1-10). The second beast, or religious power, is surely the Antichrist or false prophet (Rev 13:11-18).
(V. 1) In this vision John sees the first beast rise up out of the sea. As a symbol the restless sea is often used to set forth the nations in an unsettled and revolutionary condition. Are we not then to learn that out of a condition of anarchy and confusion a great imperial power will arise, the characteristics of which are set forth under the figure of a beast "having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns and upon his heads the name of blasphemy?" Dan 7:7; Dan 7:8, and also the further light given in Rev 17:8-13, we may conclude that this beast sets forth the revived Roman Empire. The prophecies of Daniel, under the figures of four beasts, foretell the four great world empires that will exercise government during the times of the Gentiles. The first was likened to a lion; the second to a bear; the third is said to be like a leopard. As to the fourth beast, Daniel can find nothing in nature to which it can be likened. He describes it as "being dreadful and terrible," and "diverse from all the beasts that were before it." Moreover, he says, "it had ten horns." In this chapter of Revelation we again have a ten-horned beast, and in the seventeenth chapter this ten-horned beast with seven heads is connected with "seven mountains." Is it not clear that all these scriptures refer to the same beast, and that this imperial power is the revived Roman Empire with its centre in Rome, the seven-hilled city? Upon the seven heads John sees names of blasphemy indicating that this last world empire will not only, like a beast, be ignorant of God but will be deliberately antagonistic to God.
(V. 2) Further, the beast that John sees is likened to a leopard, a bear, and a lion. It is plain then that this last world empire during the times of the Gentiles, will gather up and combine in itself all the evil features of the first three imperial powers. Moreover, we learn that this last empire will have a directly Satanic source, for the power of his throne and authority are derived from the dragon, that we know, from the last chapter, is the "old serpent," "the Devil and Satan."Rev 17:9; Rev 17:10 we learn that the seven heads not only set forth seven mountains but also "seven kings," or forms of government. John sees one of these heads wounded to death, doubtless setting forth the destruction of the imperial power of Rome which, we know from history, has led to the break up of the Roman Empire as a world-wide political power for many
past centuries. From this Scripture, and Revelation 17, we learn that this empire will be revived as set forth by the deadly wound being healed. This revival will be a wonder to all the world and call forth its admiration for a power with which no other power can be compared, and with whom none will dare to make war. Nevertheless, to praise and laud this empire will in reality be worship to the devil.
(Vv. 5-7) In the verses that follow we are permitted to see the outstanding marks of this revived empire, personified in its head. Firstly, the head of this empire, like every other dictator that attempts to rule the world, will above all else seek to exalt himself and boast in himself, as we read, he will have a "mouth speaking great things."1Jn 2:18). It is only in the Epistle of John that the Antichrist is referred to by name. There his character is wholly religious and he is presented as an heretical apostate that denies foundation truths as to Divine Persons in connection both with Judaism and Christianity. He denies that Jesus is the Christ - the expectation of the Jew; further, he denies the Father and the Son, the outstanding revelation of Christianity.
We may gather from the mention of the temple in 2 Thessalonians 2 that this second beast, or religious leader, will have his seat at Jerusalem; while the first beast, or political leader, will have his centre in the West, at the seven-hilled city of Rome.
This second beast, under the power of Satan, will use his authority to lead those who dwell on the earth to entirely set aside all fear of God by exalting man into an object of worship. Having refused Christ, these earth dwellers will be deceived by means of the miracles that this man will have the power to perform. In result the grossest form of idolatry the world has ever known will be set up in the very sphere that once had the light of Christianity. The first beast, while he will astonish the world by reviving the Roman Empire, will apparently perform no miracles. This second beast, energised by Satan, performs great wonders, even to making fire come down from heaven. Elijah, in his day, was empowered by God to call down fire from heaven to witness to the true God and expose the worship of an idol. What Elijah did by the power of God, Antichrist will imitate by the power of the devil, to turn from the true God to worship an idol, or image of the beast. In Elijah's day the fire having exposed the idolaters, the prophets of Baal were slain. In the coming day the wonder of the fire from heaven having deceived men into the worship of an idol, those who refuse to worship the image will be slain (1Ki 18:36-40).
This wicked man will claim universal religious authority over all - both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond. To enforce his authority he will insist that a public submission to the first beast is made by a public mark in the right hand and in the forehead, without which it will be humanly impossible to exist, for without this mark none will be able to buy or sell.Luk 21:24). From the prophecy of Daniel we learn that these times commenced with the government of the world being taken from the Jews, who had fallen into idolatry, and being placed in the hands of the Gentiles, represented by Nebuchadnezzar, to whom it was said, "The God of heaven hath given thee the kingdom, power, strength, and glory;" and wheresoever the children of men dwell he was made "ruler over them all" (Dan 2:37; Dan 2:38).
Alas! even as the Jew had broken down, so the Gentiles have utterly failed in carrying out the responsibility, given them by God, to govern the world. This failure was manifest at the outset, for Nebuchadnezzar, as another has said "Instead of conducting himself humbly as a man before God - as before Him who had given him his power, on the one hand, he exalted himself, and on the other hand, ravaged the world to satisfy his will."
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30