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Chapter Thirteen The Two Beasts
The Coming Federation of Nations (Revelation 13:1-10)
A federation of nations! How much is this phrase on the lips of politicians and persons interested in national affairs at the present time (1919)! It was far otherwise but a few years ago. When teachers of prophecy declared that the Word of God predicted just such a federation as men are now deeply interested in, they were met with ridicule. It was openly declared that these teachers were dreamers, giving in to foolish imaginations, and proclaiming something that could never be fulfilled. But World War I and new conditions have changed the viewpoint of these cavillers considerably in the last few years. Now there are those who hold the confederacy of nations as the one solution to the difficulties confronting statesmen everywhere. Many consider this alliance will be the panacea for all reconstruction perils. Just what will come out of it all, while the church still remains on earth, one would not attempt to prophesy. But after the church is gone there will indeed be a great confederacy of the nations that have sprung out of the old Roman empire. It will be Satanic in origin and character, and will in fact be the devil’s last card, if I may borrow such an expression, before he is obliged to admit his complete defeat. This is the subject of the first ten verses of Revelation 13:0.
In the last chapter we were noticing that the enmity of Satan will be turned against God’s earthly people (Israel) in a special manner, after the church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air. In this chapter we will see just what form that enmity will take. And in properly placing this passage, we need to remember that this portion of Revelation has in view a time of solemn and momentous import-the time between the first resurrection and translation of the saints at the rapture and the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. This chapter encompasses the time before Christ returns as the long-looked-for Messiah of Israel, who will sit on the throne of His father David and rule over all the earth in righteousness. If there is confusion as to this, nothing will be clear.
It is not hard to imagine something of the condition in which this world will be found after all real Christians have been snatched away to be with the Lord; especially when we realize that many in high places-rulers, governors, and other political leaders, are at heart Christian men. Perhaps, I should not say many compared with those who are unsaved and indifferent to the claims of Christ for Scripture tells us that “not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Lady Huntington was a devoted woman who lived in the days of Whitefield and the Wesleys and was such a help in spreading the gospel. She used to say that she was just going to Heaven by an “M.” Had the verse been “Not any noble,” there would have been no hope for her, but the “M” took her in.
But certainly there are some in high places who truly know the Lord and would be caught away with the church at His coming. Their removal would be like the breaking of a dike, permitting the rushing waters of anarchy to sweep over every land. Think how evil will then be intensified. What frightful lengths unsaved men will go to in their efforts to bring about a millennium without Christ. Whether carnal men realize it or not, the true Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Let every Christian suddenly be taken away from this world, and you will have gross darkness covering the earth. With the preservative power of righteousness gone, the masses of men will be given up to corruption and violence. Read the account of the days before the flood, and you will have some sense of the chaotic condition that will prevail. Even now we see lawlessness spreading everywhere in the world. And back of all this is a Satanic effort to destroy all faith in God and His Word, and to substitute in its place evil systems that can only result in eternal ruin to those who follow them.
In our day, though the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God is here to lift up a standard against him. The Word of God tells us that the mystery of lawlessness does already work, but during this dispensation the Holy Spirit hinders the full development of evil. When He is taken out of the world-that is, when the Holy Spirit takes the church up to meet the Lord in the air-then the last hindrance to the power of evil will be gone. There will no longer be any restraint on the machinations of the devil. In Heaven the saints will be presented before the judgment seat of Christ. As we have seen, for the last time Satan will appear as the prosecuting attorney against them before God, as he has done for so many centuries. But he will be utterly cast out of Heaven and will come down to the earth with great wrath because he knows that his time is short. Only in Israel will he find a testimony for God in that day, so he will turn all his malice against that people. He will undertake to work for their ruin through human government when it has utterly cast off God.
In Daniel 2:0 we are told that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great image, which depicts “the times of the Gentiles.” This term refers to the period during which the Jews are scattered among the Gentiles, the times in which the nations hold authority over the land of Palestine. These Gentile times began with Nebuchadnezzar, who is represented by the head of gold. Following this comes the rule of the Medes and Persians, depicted by the silver breast and arms. That, in turn, was succeeded by the Greco-Macedonian empire, set forth by the bronze torso of the image. The last world-empire is the kingdom of iron, the Roman. But Daniel goes on to show that the Roman empire would take on a very peculiar form in the time of the end. In the feet of the image you have an attempt to amalgamate that which cannot be amalgamated, iron and clay. It is a picture of man’s attempt to amalgamate the iron of imperialism with the potter’s clay of social democracy.
It is impossible to mix imperialism and democracy. The one must, of necessity, destroy the other. And this Scripture which we now have before us, makes it plain that in the end the imperial power is going to triumph in measure. Men will grow weary of the constant conflict, which has been so prolonged; for, whatever optimistic statesmen still may say, God’s Word shows that the confusion will grow worse and worse. And we need not be surprised if, even before the church is taken away, instead of raising armies to make the world safe for democracy, it may become necessary to conscript the young manhood of our nation in an attempt to save the world from democracy. The people will soon attempt to take everything into their own hands, thus jeopardizing all property rights. This is a condition which cannot forever be tolerated. Out of it all will rise, after the church has been caught up to meet the Lord, one man who will combine in himself the statesmanship of a Caesar, the military genius of a Napoleon, and the personal attractiveness of a Chesterfield. This man will head a combination of ten powers, formed, as before mentioned, from the nations that have sprung out of the old Roman empire. When they have cast off all allegiance to God and His Word, through this confederacy he will, for a time at least, dominate the world.
As already intimated, Daniel pictures this final phase of things by the ten toes of the image. Of old, the Roman empire was divided into the eastern and western parts, which is symbolized by the two legs of the great image, but united under one central authority until disintegration began.
In Daniel 7:0 we read of the times of the Gentiles pictured in a different way. The man of God had a vision in which he saw nothing beautiful or grand, but the four great empires were represented as four ravenous beasts, waiting to spring on each other. These beasts were so dreadful that nothing on earth fully satisfies the description of the wild creatures there depicted. The Babylonian empire was symbolized by a lion with the wings of an eagle-a hybrid, formed from a beast of the earth and fowls of the air. The Medo-Persian dominion appeared as a bear, lifting itself up on one side. It had between its teeth three ribs dripping with blood, representing probably the three chief cities of the Babylonian empire that were sacked by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus. The Grecian, or Alexandrian empire, was pictured as a leopard with four heads and four wings of a bird on his back. The four heads, of course, depicted the fourfold division of this Greco-Macedonian empire after Alexander’s death. Finally, Daniel wrote that the fourth beast was dreadful and terrible. It had great iron teeth and broke in pieces and devoured all that came in its way. He gave no exact description of it, however he added that it had ten horns.
That last beast clearly answers to the iron legs of the image, the Roman power. The ten horns are the ten toes, which illustrate it in its final form. I think there can be no doubt whatever that it is this last dreadful beast which is fully delineated for us in our present chapter. It is the Roman power which was in existence when the Lord was born and was responsible for His death upon the cross. The Jews had no power at all unless it were ratified by Pilate, as representing Caesar. Therefore the Roman empire, of which Pontius Pilate was the official representative, crucified the Lord of glory. It is true that Pilate simply gave the sentence called for by the Jews, and therefore they are held responsible for killing their Messiah. But the Roman procurator must face that clause, repeated over and over again through the centuries in the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed: “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” Pilate can never get away from that. It will stand against his record forever.
We have already seen in Revelation 12:0, that the great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, represents Rome energized by Satan seeking to destroy the man-child. Here, in chapter 13, we have Rome in the time of the end. The empire revived, summoned from the sea of the nations by the devil himself. Verse one should read, according to the best manuscripts, “He stood upon the sand of the sea,” that is, Satan, the dragon. And it is he who summons the wild beast to rise up out of the waters, “having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.” This is imperial Rome revived, as the ten crowns declare.
After the death of the Lord Jesus Christ the Roman empire continued in existence for something like 500 years, though divided into the eastern and western parts, which until the end of its history held together more or less loosely. It was finally destroyed by the invaders from the north and the east. But though the empire as such was broken in pieces, nevertheless Roman principles prevailed throughout the great part of Europe and became the basis of the civilization which we now know. Our American system of jurisprudence is founded on that of Rome. In World War I the Allies, including America, were all representatives of the old Roman empire, with the exception, of course, of Japan, China, and other heathen nations. On the other side we saw the very same powers joined together (the Goths, Vandals, and Huns), who, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, hurled themselves upon the Roman empire and destroyed it. It was a most singular thing surely, and almost unexplainable for those who do not read their Bibles, that in the twentieth century the same great divisions were maintained as in the closing days of Roman domination. But we may see from this how readily that Roman empire will be revived through a great international movement-a confederation of all the Latin or Latinized nations. One of the great agencies which shall have much to do in bringing this about will be the Roman Catholic church, whose power is increasing continually, even in the very lands where the Reformation, at one time, would have made this impossible.
It was the boast of the Roman conquerors that they never destroyed a civilization; they absorbed into their own great commonwealth everything that was best of the various nations which they subjugated. And we cannot but be reminded of this as we read the second verse: “And 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: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” Observe how, in these few words we have a distinct illustration of the fact that the last phase of the Roman empire will be linked up with all that has gone before. In Rome you have the leopard of Greece, the bear of Persia, and the lion of Babylon. Thus you have incorporated into this last great confederacy the chief elements of every civilization that has left a great mark on the world. Everything that man has been able to build up and has learned to value throughout the centuries, will be headed up in this final federation of nations.
For it is not Rome as existing in John’s day merely which is in view, but Rome as it will exist in the closing days of the dispensation. This is plain from the third verse, if rightly understood: “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” We will find help in understanding the heads if we turn to Revelation 17:8-13. There we are told that the same beast is in view. In those brief words, we have a synopsis of the whole history of the Roman empire. For something like 900 years it was the greatest earthly power. But a time came when it could be truly said “the beast is not.” It had been destroyed; its imperial head had been wounded to death. For centuries no man unenlightened by the Word of God would have been bold enough to have predicted the return of imperial power to that fallen dominion; but Scripture had declared that it would come to pass. While statesmen and carnal theorists have rejected what seemed to them a ridiculous assumption, students of prophecy, guided by the Spirit of God, have for nearly a century taught that the nations into which the Roman empire had been divided will again come together under one head. Today only a bold man would deny the likelihood of this very thing. But when statesmen talk of a coming world federation, how little they realize who it is who is going to bring this about. The beast is to ascend out of the abyss for it is Satanic power that will bring into existence what is here pictured. It will be the devil’s last effort to make men believe that they do not need God’s Christ, that they can have peace and security while the Prince of Peace is rejected. But God will ruin all their plans, for He has said, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn,… until he come whose right it is” (Ezekiel 21:27).
But now notice two interpretations of the seven heads. We are told they are seven mountains, on which the woman sits, and they “are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition” (Revelation 17:10-11).
The seven mountains have generally been taken as meaning the seven hills on which the imperial city is built. I am inclined to think this is correct, even though some would refuse the idea from the fact that the hills themselves are not in any sense mountainous in character. But the very fact that it was the delight of the Romans to speak of their capital as the seven-hilled city, would naturally bring this city to mind to any who read John’s description.
As to the second interpretation, a king is the familiar symbol for a form of government. Livy, the Roman historian, showed us that Rome had passed through five very distinct forms of government prior to John’s day. The sixth, which was in existence in John’s time, was the imperial. That was the form which was destroyed, and I am persuaded that this was the head wounded to death (13:3). But that deadly wound is to be healed, for the imperial form is to be restored, but under altogether different conditions, making it distinctly the seventh. For ten nations, all banding themselves together, will elect one of their number as the head of the confederacy. This man is distinctly called the beast. It reminds us of Louis XIV, who said, “I am the State.” This beast will exercise authority as the elected head for only a short time before throwing off all restraint (as did Napoleon, elected as first consul, and later declaring himself emperor), thus bringing about the eighth form, which derives from the seventh.
So spectacular will be his coup d’ιtat that men will be thrilled with admiration at his masterly genius. Accepting the principle that nothing but an imperial form of government can give them settled and continuous peace, they will readily acknowledge his pretensions. In doing so they will worship the dragon that gave power to the beast and do homage to the beast himself, saying, “Who is like unto the beast; who is able to make war with him?” (4) I think God has given us a wonderful illustration of this very thing in the history of Napoleon Bonaparte, as mentioned above. Think of this Corsican, utterly insignificant, first coming into notice as a second lieutenant in the revolutionary army. Suddenly, after the bloody reign of terror, he emerged from his former obscure place, and became the central figure of the world in that day. Elected by an overwhelming majority as first consul of France, he proclaimed himself imperator, dazzling all France and the world for a time, and ended his course on the isle of St. Helena.
One greater than Napoleon will yet arise out of the chaotic conditions that will prevail in Europe after the church has been taken home. He will be a man of marvelous appearance and transcendent ability, wholly given up to Satan. He will be the great civil leader of the last days-the man who will have the final word in all matters, religious as well. All the civilized earth will wonder after him and do homage to him and his hidden master, the devil. In his pride and his folly he will speak great and blasphemous things against God. He will doubtless consider himself the man of destiny whom no power, human or divine, can overthrow. But the God whom he denies has limited his control, for power will be given him only “to continue forty and two months”; that is, for three and a half years, the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week, he will be in authority over the prophetic earth. During that time he will open his mouth in blasphemy against God and blaspheme His name and His tabernacle and all that dwell in Heaven, namely, the saints who will have been caught up at the rapture. He will make war with the faithful in God’s restored Israel and overcome these saints on earth, power being given him over all countries, and tongues, and nations.
This then is the manner in which the dragon will attempt the destruction of the remnant of the woman’s seed. His effort will be to completely root out everything that is of God in the earth. In order to do this he will have a trusty lieutenant dwelling in the land of Palestine itself, who will uphold him in all his nefarious plans. The rest of chapter 13 (verses 11-18) deals with this assistant.
The days of the beast are the days referred to by our Lord Jesus Christ when He said that if it were possible the very elect would be deceived. But, thank God, He will preserve His own, even in that dreadful day. So we learn from verse 8 that none will be deceived by him nor do homage to him, but those “whose names are not written in the book of life… from the foundation of the world.” How solemn is the challenge of verses 9 and 10 of the 13th chapter: “If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” These will be the days of the great tribulation, which, in all its intensity, will be directed against Israel. But the Lord will be watching over His little flock. Scattered as they will be among the heathen, He will be to them a little sanctuary in every place that they may wander.
Only those who have exchanged the heavenly hope for an earthly one will be deceived by this great leader. He is the coming man for whom the world is waiting. Mistaken and blinded statesmen will hail him as the head of the nations, the one who will solve the problems-social, political, and economic-that are now disturbing the world. How blessed to be warned by God Himself of all these things beforehand, that we may walk apart from everything that savors of that day of reproach and blasphemy. And when it actually comes, who can question the value of this present scripture for the guidance and consolation of God’s earthly people Israel. Otherwise they might well be in despair at the apparent defeat of righteousness and the triumph of iniquity.
But “the triumphing of the wicked is short,” (Job 20:5) and “the man of the earth” will be destroyed in due time. Faith will have its reward when the Lord appears from Heaven to take vengeance on all who dare lift up their bloody hands against His afflicted people. “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
The Personal Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-18)
The world is waiting for an authoritative religious leader. In an age of doubt and uncertainty men are longing for one who can speak a final word on all the ethical, religious, and political questions which today trouble so many. Instructed Christians know that God has already spoken authoritatively in the person of His Son and revealed His mind in His holy Word. But they, too, are looking for a coming One, even the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory to establish Heaven’s authority and power on the earth. He will descend from Heaven and with all His glorified saints will reign over the earth for a thousand years of peace and blessing. However, the coming man for whom unbelievers look is one whom they expect to be born on the earth-a man of the earth, therefore not the Lord from Heaven. This expectation is to have its fulfillment in “the man of sin,” the personal antichrist, the false messiah, who will soon be revealed. In fact, it is a solemn consideration that he may already be in this world-perhaps a baby-possibly a precocious youth-possibly a man of affairs! But he will not be made known until after the church of the firstborn has been raptured at the presence of the Lord.
The remarkable thing is that many who are waiting expectantly for the antichrist imagine they are looking for a reincarnation of Christ Himself. They profess to wait for a savior and expect him to appear on earth, born after the course of nature. Theosophists and others are expectantly waiting for a great world-teacher. They are really preparing the world for the advent of the man of sin, the son of perdition.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. God’s holy Word has predicted the coming of this false one and has clearly shown what will lead up to his revelation. No Spirit-taught Bible student can fail to observe the shadow of the antichrist falling across many pages of prophecy. “Ye have heard,” wrote the apostle John, “that antichrist shall come” (1 John 2:18). The only question that troubles many has to do with the identification of the person or thing referred to. Is the antichrist a person or a system? Many weighty names could be quoted in favor of either view, but, in order that our faith may not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God in this matter as in all else, we desire to be guided by the written Word.
Before turning to a number of definite Scriptures, let me remind you of this blessed fact: Christ is a person-a glorified, holy, all-powerful person-one of the eternal Trinity. He has taken humanity into union with deity through being born of a virgin on earth, where He humbled Himself as man to the death of the cross. Logically one would expect that the antichrist would also be a man, a definite personality, opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, yet claiming to be all that He was-usurping the place of Christ. But we would not forget that there is in the world a body united to Christ of which He is the glorified Head. There is also a great apostate system opposed to this divine one. This system falsely claims to be the spouse of Christ and the only authorized custodian of the mysteries of God. Is this system the antichrist, or is it rather Babylon the great, the antichurch? I think we will see as we go on that the latter view is the correct one.
The prophetic Scriptures outline two great religious deceptions: a false Christ and a false church. But the one is not to be confused with the other. The antichrist will be a man, as the Christ of God is a Man. Babylon is a vast organized system, even as the church of God is a divine organization. But the one is a Satanic counterfeit of the other. When the voice of prophecy speaks of the antichrist, the masculine pronoun he is used. When it speaks of the false church it uses either the neuter or the feminine, it or she. There is good reason for this. The antichrist is the final head of the apostate system that bears the same relationship to him, in an outward way, that the church does to Christ. Ever since the primeval promise of the seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), men have looked and longed for a deliverer to arise from among themselves. Such an expectation was grounded on Scripture and was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. But since He has been rejected, this expectation has become a perversion of the truth. The God-sent deliverer, “the woman’s seed,” has been caught up to God and to His throne. It is the serpent’s seed who is coming (the anti-Christ), and they who wait for him realize it not! The serpent has for millenniums been the symbol of esoteric religion, which stands for wisdom. The coming one will claim to be the wisdom of God. Esoteric religion, I may say, is the religion par excellence of the antichrist.
A man then is being awaited. His advent draws near. He will come at last when the restraining power, the Holy Spirit, has returned to the heavens. This coming one is the grand monarch of the new humanity cult. He is the coming leader or Mahdi of the Muslims. He is the long-expected last incarnation of Vishnu waited for by the Brahmins; the coming Montezuma of the Aztecs; the false messiah of the apostate Jews; the great master of all sects of Yogis; the ultimate man of the evolutionists; the Ubermensch of Nietzsche, the Hun philosopher, whose ravings prepared the way for World War I. He will be a Satan-controlled, God-defying, conscienceless, almost superhuman man-an individual whose appearing will mean the consummation of the present apostasy, and the full deification of humanity to his bewildered dupes. Thus the world will turn away from the Christ of God and stretch out eager hands to welcome the coming man of sin. And, depend on it, he will be on time! God’s Word has declared his advent as surely as it predicts the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory.
Meanwhile the great antichurch (the evil system that is a counterfeit of the true church for which Christ died) is casting overboard every truth of Scripture. This antichurch follows the lies that will prepare them to receive “the liar” of whom 1 John 2:22 speaks- the antichrist. “All liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” is the unalterable decree of the God of truth (Revelation 21:8).
The most complete description of antichrist is found in Daniel 11:36-45. Notice that in these verses it is predicted that a king will arise in Jerusalem who will be an utter atheist. Yet evidently, he will be a Jew; for it is distinctly said of him that “neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women” (Daniel 11:37). The expression “the God of his fathers “ can mean nothing else than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is frequently so used in Scripture. The expression “the desire of women” is recognized by both Jewish and Christian expositors as referring to the messiah. This point is, I think, very important, for the antichrist could not be the false messiah if he were not a Jew. Otherwise he would have no claim on the allegiance of Israel. He will be a great Jewish leader who will seem, at first, to be a wonderful lover of his people and will establish them in their own land. But he will soon throw off all restraint, exalt himself, and will magnify himself against every god. He will speak marvelous things against the God of gods during the last three and a half years of Daniel’s seventieth week. Notice how this passage in Daniel connects so intimately with the portion we are considering in Revelation 13:0. In verse 11 we read: “I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” Observe he does not arise from the Gentile nations (depicted by the sea) as does the first beast. He comes up out of the earth, or land-that is, the land of Palestine, the very same land in which the king (Daniel 11:0) is to be revealed. He had “two horns like a lamb,” for he seems at first to have both the meekness and strength of the Lamb of God, but his dragon-like speech betrays him. It is the speech of self-exaltation, which indicates that his condemnation is the same as that of his master, the devil, who fell through pride.
Daniel wrote that though the willful king will not regard any supernatural god, he will honor one who is called “the god of forces” (11:38). Evidently he is a man, for the king pays tribute to him: “a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and precious stones, and pleasant things.” This mighty one will be the backer of the antichrist. In return for his protection, he will cause Palestine to submit to his authority and pay tribute to him. Thus “a strange god… he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain” (11:39). This relationship is also implied in Revelation 13:12: “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” He is the vicegerent of the first beast. This first beast, whom the world recognizes as a god (in the sense in which it recognized the Caesars of old as gods) is the master whom he enriches with Jewish wealth.
Verses 12-14 tell us that antichrist is not only a crafty politician, but a wonder-worker as well. The striking account of the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 agrees with this description. Those verses are a prediction of the coming of the atheist king of Daniel 11:0 and the wonder-worker of Revelation 13:0.
One of the signs of the times in our own days is the unhealthy craving for marvels and wonders, which is so prevalent in many places. It is a most dangerous condition of mind, and Christians should beware of anything of the kind. We are too near the end of the dispensation to expect divine miracles in any number, but Satanic signs and wonders will increase as we draw nearer the end. When the antichrist himself appears, he will give men all the marvels for which they long-only to deceive them and lead them to accept his ungodly pretensions.
Just exactly what is meant by the “image” of the beast (13:14), I do not pretend to say. I have no doubt it is linked with our Lord’s warning as to the abomination of desolation that is to be set up in the holy place (Matthew 24:15). At any rate, it will be the culmination of the apostasy, and will be the signal for all believing Jews, who in that day of great persecution cleave to the Lord, to flee from Jerusalem and hide themselves in distant parts among the nations until the appearing of the Messiah Himself. We are told that the lamblike beast will give life to the image. It will speak “and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (13:15). A great society will be formed of apostate Jews and apostate Gentiles, which will be patterned somewhat after our present day labor unions and oath-bound organizations. This is intimated in verses 16-17: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Christians in this present time should keep themselves from all such worldly associations and unequal yokes.
Our Lord Jesus told the Jews of His day, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). He was speaking of this awful person whom we have seen portrayed in these various Scriptures. With them we might also link Zechariah 11:16-17:
For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, [note that, he will arise in the land of Palestine] which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
This idol shepherd is put in contrast to the Good Shepherd whom Zechariah was to represent, who was sold for thirty pieces of silver (11:12). This part of the prophecy has been literally fulfilled, and we may be certain that the rest will all come to pass in due time.
For this idol shepherd the Jews are even now waiting, though they little realize it. At a Zionist congress, some years before World War I, Max Nordau declared, according to the published reports, “We are ready to welcome any man as our Messiah who will lead us back to our own land and establish us there in prosperity.” Max Nordau was a so-called reformed Jew, who gave up the Messianic hope as set forth in the holy Scriptures. When Dr. Mosinsohn, of the Hebrew College of Jaffa, was touring America in the interests of the same Zionist movement, I had the privilege of hearing him give an address at the University of California. In the course of his remarks he said, “Think of all the great religious leaders who have come out of the East. Moses arose in the East, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus and Mohammed all arose in the East. And we say to you people of the West, with confidence, that if you will restore the Jew to his ancestral home it will not be long until we will give you another great religious leader who will perhaps transcend all who have gone before.” A Christian physician and I, who had gone to the lecture together, looked at one another in amazement. We felt that we were listening to a John-the-Baptist of the antichrist, so startling was the announcement. And with the light that the prophetic word throws upon the now very near future, who can doubt that this Hebrew leader’s declaration will indeed seem to an unbelieving world to be fulfilled in the willful one who is to be raised up in the land of Palestine, and who will be acknowledged by apostate Judaism and apostate Christendom alike as the Christ-the coming man. Toward this awful end all modern cults and isms are tending, and when the personal presence of the Holy Spirit has been withdrawn from the earth, his manifestation will not long be withheld.
I know that many have considered the papacy to be the fulfillment of the prophecies we have been considering; and I do not wonder at this, for that unholy system is one of the most amazing counterfeits of what is of God that the world has ever seen. But it certainly does not meet all the requirements of the case; though it is undoubtedly one of the “many antichrists” of which the apostle John writes, when forewarning us of the antichrist whose coming is still future.
I would direct your attention to six things predicted of this false one which have never been true of the papacy and are never likely to be.
First: The antichrist must be a Jew, otherwise he would not be acknowledged by Israel as their messiah.
Second: He is to rise up in the land of Palestine, not in Italy; in Jerusalem, not in Rome.
Third: He is to be subject to and in league with the civil power; he will not dominate it as the papacy did for centuries.
Fourth: He is to be acknowledged by the mass of the Jews as their king and religious leader. It is well-known that the Jews have never conceded to the pretensions of the popes.
Fifth: He is to be the patron of Israel, whereas the Catholic church has ever been their persecutor.
Sixth: He is not to be revealed until after the hindering Holy Spirit is removed. That will only be when He goes up with the church at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His people, before the hour of judgment strikes for this godless world where the Word of God, the Christ of God, the Spirit of God, and the church of God have all been rejected.
There are other systems equally anti-christian as the papacy, but none of them answer to the above requirements. Therefore none of them are to be confused with the personal antichrist who is yet to arise and delude for a time those “who refused the love of the truth that they might be saved.” The many antichrists are preparing the way for this incarnation of iniquity. The avidity with which men and women drink in their evil teachings may give us some idea of how easy a thing it will be for the false Messiah to establish his claims.
Some would ridicule the thought of vast numbers responding to such monstrous pretensions. But we need to remember that God Himself is going “to give them up” in retributive judgment “to believe the lie,” because they would not have His truth. (In the original version of 2 Thessalonians 2:11 it is the definite article “the lie”-not “a lie” as in the King James version.) In our own day, how easily deceivers, not to speak of Rome itself, have been able to enslave the minds and consciences of vast multitudes of people who refuse the simple truth of the Word of God. All this is taking place with the Holy Spirit still in the world, waiting to guide into all truth every honest soul who is willing to be led by Him and taught through the Word. How much easier it will be for error to assert itself when He is no longer here!
I know that many of you will be anxious to have me attempt to expound verse 18 and tell you plainly what is meant by its mystic number. All I can say is that six is the number of man, and three of manifestation. In these three sixes I see the full revelation of what is in the heart of man-man’s last effort to attain to divinity and deity, to rob God of His glory and to exalt himself. But, undoubtedly, when the antichrist actually appears and the first beast is seen, the meaning will be so plain that every one who turns to God in that day will be warned thereby to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11). But they will cleave to the Lord all the more earnestly because they know that the end has drawn so near. Guesses as to the meaning of 666 have been innumerable; I will not add another.
In closing, I would again remind my readers, that time for us also is flying quickly by. If any of you are unsaved, it is well for you to remember that mercy’s day is quickly gone. Gospel light already seems to be vanishing from the earth; the darkening apostasy is making rapid strides; a famine for hearing the Word of the Lord will soon be here. Oh, that now, in this day of grace, men would heed the testimony of the Scripture of truth, receive the virgin-born Son of God as Savior and Lord, and spurn the lies of every antichrist. “Oh earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord! / Hear, and your soul shall live”
“He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Revelation 13". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25