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This Chapter is introduced with an Account of a Beast arising from the Sea, to whom the Dragon gives his Power. Another Beast cometh also at the same Time upon the Earth. This latter causeth the Earth to worship the Image of the former, and to receive his Mark.
(1) And I 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. (2) 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. (3) 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. (4) And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? (5) 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. (6) And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. (7) And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. (8) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (9) If any man have an ear, let him hear. (10) 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.
Here, if I mistake not, begins the first of Popery and Mahometanism. And if I am correct, this Chapter, in point of time, corresponds to the ninth Chapter of this blessed Book, which opens with the sounding of the fifth trumpet. Four hundred years or thereabout, had run out while the Empire was heathen. One hundred more or thereabout, under the professing Church of Christianity, when the heresies of Arius and Pelagius, had arisen to harass the Lord's people. And now the heresies of Popery and Mahometanism come forward to commence their horrible war, against the true faith as it is in Jesus. And these have both extended their powers, the one East, and the other West, (except in a few instances,) to the present hour, and so will continue during the whole of the sixth trumpet's dispensation, and that woe is past. By comparing those scriptures together, the Reader will be best enabled through grace, to behold the correspondence in the history, and what is yet more, will therefrom learn also, somewhat of the grace and tenderness of Christ, in giving his Church through John a beautiful and most interesting duplicate of what they are so highly concerned to know, of those heresies which have distressed the Church, their beginning, progress, and sure destruction. In this Chapter we have only the features of the former.
Under the similitude of a beast rising up out of the sea, John is taught of a new power, coming forth to the persecution of the Church. This beast cannot be the Dragon before mentioned, because in the second verse of this Chapter, the Dragon, that is the devil, is said to give him his power. Therefore it will follow by an undeniable conclusion, that if the dragon which John saw before; in the twelfth Chapter, was the devil, and there so expressly said to be, (see Revelation 12:3 with Revelation 12:9 ) and this same dragon in this Chapter, is said to have given his power to this beast, John here saw coming up out of the sea, it must follow that this beast, be who or what he may, hath derived all his power and authority from hell. Laying this down as a proof which no one can deny, it will be our next grand concern, who this beast represents, and what he is.
The first account given of him, is of his strength and power. He is said to have seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and blasphemy upon all. That Rome is the seat of this beast's empire, there can be no question. Here it was, that all the great transactions of the Church were carried on. In consequence of its extensive empire at the time that these prophecies were given, it was called the world. Romans 1:7-8 . Moreover, in further confirmation, it is remarkable, that the city itself stood upon seven mountains or hills, and is said to have had, under the jurisdiction of the empire, seven kingdoms. Hence those heads and crowns. Perhaps in the further extent, the ten crowns implied, that three other kingdoms had been added since the Empire ceased to be heathen, and when overrun by two nations which arose after, namely, the Goths and Vandals.
The second feature which this Chapter noticeth of this beast, is that the dragon, that is the devil, gave him his power and his seat, and great authority. Nothing can more strongly define a thing, than what is here done. The devil could give no authority to this beast, but for devilish purposes. And as the last account we had of the devil in the preceding Chapter was, that he was wrath, and went to make war with the remnant of the seed of the Church, and here in this scripture which immediately follows, we find him giving his power, and his seat, and his great authority, to this beast, it must have been as an Antichristian heresy, to afflict and make war with the true Church of God. This statement must also be allowed as correct.
Thirdly. John saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death, and yet this deadly wound was healed. Perhaps this alludes to the destruction of the empire, after it became Christian by profession. For it was mouldered away and divided. Therefore, in point of temporal power, Rome was lessened, before that this beast came to the government of it. And this might be intended, by the figure of a deadly wound. But now by the great power given to the beast by the dragon, this deadly wound was healed, and all the world wondered after the beast; namely, that if the great Emperors gone before had not been able to keep their authority, what a wonderful power must this be, upheld by the dragon, to exercise such authority.
Fourthly. Let the Reader duly observe the bottom of this business. The great object of the whole is to worship the dragon. Yes! the beast, be whoever be may, is only made the tool of this whole concern. It is the devil that is to be worshipped, not the beast. Oh could the fool, whether it be the Pope or any of his Cardinals, that is here meant by the beast, but see what a tool he is made in this trumpery of show, how would he revolt at the impudence of the dragon upon the occasion.
Fifthly. Observe, that upon the heads of this beast was the name of blasphemy. And blasphemy indeed it must be, in the whole of this concern, which begins as we have seen with the devil, in giving his power, and his seat, and his great authority to the beast, and ends, as we read Revelation 19:20 , in the beast being taken, and with him the false prophet, and both being cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Sixthly. And it is said that there was given unto him, a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. Yes. This is the bait by which the dragon, the devil, catches the world of the ungodly, both Popes and Prelates, men of titles, and the rich of the earth. When this devil, this dragon tempted Job, he stripped him and made him poor. The devil is grown wiser since. He was foiled then, for Job belonged not to him, and he could not prevail. He useth a more sure plan now. He does all by them that are his, as he did by this beast. He gives his power to him, and his seat, and his authority. He gives his followers these rattles, which, like children, shall amuse and lull them on. And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. But when the forty and two months are over, the mask falls off; and their eternal destruction is come.
Seventhly. The dragon is not satisfied with the ruin of this beast only, he must have all his followers. Hence, therefore, it is said, that they not only worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast, but they worshipped the beast also, saying, who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? Hence we see, that the beast himself shall not only commit blasphemy, and open his mouth to blaspheme God, but his followers shall even take the words of God's children, and which can only be applied to God, when they say, as is upon record, who is a God like unto thee, O Lord, who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders, Exodus 15:11 . And these wretched men, shall dare to use similar language in their addresses to the beast; who is like unto the beast, who can make war with him.
Eighthly. Awful to relate, and as a close for the present to this awful account, it is added, that all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life, of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Hence the power of this beast, and the dragon which hath given for a time his power to him, is much more extensive than is generally supposed. There is no preservative, but in the electing grace of God. Blessed be God! they are secured, whose names are in the Lamb's book of life. Neither beast nor dragon, neither Pope nor devil can touch them. But without this, all the world shall wonder after the beast, and all worship him. Reader! ponder well the account; and beg of God to give you a right understanding in all things.
(11) And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. (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. (13) And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, (14) And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (15) And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (16) 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: (17) 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. (18) Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Various have been the opinions of men, on the subject of this other beast. Some have contended, from the term other beast, that notwithstanding this agrees with the former in sentiment and in conduct, yet it cannot be the same. And, no doubt, in the first view of the subject, it should seem to be another character. Nevertheless, it hath been as strongly asserted by others, that it is but one and the same, the former intimating a temporal power, and the latter an ecclesiastical government; and that both must describe, for the characters can belong to no other than the Pope of Rome. I leave the Reader, however, to form his own opinion, under the grace of God.
It will be our best improvement, in order to a clear apprehension of the subject, to attend to the particular features of character, by which this beast is described.
First. He is spoken of as a lamb with two horns, probably to intimate his affecting the character of religion, and that of Christ the Lamb of God. If this be, as is generally supposed, the representation of the Pope, in his papal office, there can be no difficulty in explaining what is here said, in reference to that character. For as the Pope, Christ's vicar, as he blasphemously calls himself; and head of the Church, Peter's successor, and the like, and agreeably to those assumed titles, he utters great swelling words, and speaks as a dragon, this name of lamb, surrounded as he is with his cardinals, bishops, abbots, and priests, is just as suited to him, under this ecclesiastical power which the dragon hath given to him, as the other is considered in his temporal pomp, as a prince and sovereign. He and his cardinals, both ecclesiastical and temporal lords. A. pretty groupe!
Secondly. His exercising the same power as the beast before him, seems to imply an identity of person, and that it is one and the same, and the place of government is the same, which could not well be, if it were not so. And, as he is said to enforce the worship of the first beast, it should moreover seem to point to those Anathemas, bulls, excommunications, and the like, by which the papal authority is known. On this ground, there doth not appear much difficulty of apprehension.
Thirdly. His deception of them that dwell on the earth, by miracles, or rather pretended miracles, is yet an higher proof still. For no power but the Pontiff, ever assumed the character of working miracles, or rather, palming off upon the common people, the tale of lying wonders. This is so striking a feature of Popery, that it belongs to no other. And to read an account of what some Popes have been said to do this way, is one of the most impudent attempts the world ever had palmed off upon them, excepting indeed, the counterpart of the same, in the Hegira of Mahomet.
Fourthly. And to crown all. The mark of the beast in the right hand or forehead of the people, is the finishing account of this awful beast. And to what extent, in what numbers, to how many persons the awful delusion hath reached, who shall calculate or say? Most distressing is it to consider, that, from the ignorance of the common people, and the craft of the higher, in the support of a system; that upon principles of human policy, hath been found the best state-contrivance, to keep the lower order in subjection, multitudes have received the mark, and worshipped the beast. Indeed, the prohibition of trade and employment without the mark, is such in popish countries, that the practice is universal. And still, if possible, more awful to relate, concerning those who profess to know better and to be above such foolish notions, it is to be feared that the numbers are not few, who receive the mark in the moment they deride it, the better to carry on the secular, or ecclesiastical purpose of the world! Such are among the awful deceptions of this heresy.
I forbear to offer a single observation on the number of the beast, six hundred, three score and six. Much hath been said and written upon it, by carnal men. Few, I believe, of those taught of God, have ventured to give their opinion upon it. The Holy Ghost saith, here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast. But it would be well to remember that it is him, that hath understanding; none beside. And where the Lord giveth not understanding, the wisest will only stumble at the very threshold of enquiry. I retire from it with diffidence. The Lord in his own time will explain. And here I leave the subject.
IN reading this Chapter, well may the child of God, cry out with the Apostle, how doth the mystery of iniquity already work! What an awful account is here, of him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs, and lying wonders? And how hath the Lord, for this cause given the ungodly up, and sent them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie!
Can the imagination conceive any view of the dark and ignorant state of the human mind, as great in point of self deception, as is here stated? That men should be brought to worship the beast, and with him the devil, to hear his blasphemy, to receive his mark, and to call him by names which belong to none but God. And that this delusion should descend from father to son, in a regular succession; from one age to another; no man being able to deliver his soul and say, is there not a lie in my right hand? Blessed Lord Jesus! be thou adored, and loved, and praised, and delighted, in that thou hast kept thy people, and secured them from the possibility of worshipping the beast, for thou hast marked all their names in thy book of life. Oh! the blessedness of electing, preserving, redeeming, regenerating grace! Lord! do thou keep my soul in the hour, and from the power of temptation that is coming on the earth! Lord! give me to see the sure cause of rejoicing, in that my name is written in thy book of life.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29