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THE BEAST FROM THE SEA--THE DOCTRINE CONCERNING THE ANTICHRIST--THIS VISION A SYMBOL OF TEMPORAL SOVEREIGNTY IN ITS FINAL CONSUMMATION--AN INDIVIDUAL ADMINISTRATION EMBODIED IN ONE PARTICULAR MAN--A SUPERNATURAL PERSONAGE--HIS ATTRACTIVENESS AND GREATNESS--THE CONSUMMATE ANTAGONIST AND SUPPLANTER OF EVERYTHING DIVINE--HIS BLASPHEMY TOWARDS THEM THAT TABERNACLE IN THE HEAVEN--THE DEEP AND SOLEMN IMPORTANCE OF THESE FORESHOWINGS.
Revelation 13:1-10. (Revised Text.) And I [some MSS. he, the Dragon] stood upon the sand of the sea; and I saw a beast [or wild beast] coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy.
And the beast which I saw was like to a leopard [or panther], and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. And the Dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.
And (I saw) one of his heads as having been slain to death [killed], and the stroke of his death was healed; and all the earth wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the Dragon because he gave the authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast saying, Who [is] like to the beast! And who is able to war with him!
And a mouth was given him speaking great and blasphemous things; and authority was given him to act for forty-two months.
And he opened his mouth for blasphemies towards God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, they which tabernacle in the heaven.
And it was given him to make war on the saints, and to overcome them, and authority was given him over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. And all that dwell upon the earth shall (will) worship him,--[every one] whose name hath not been written, from the foundation of the world, in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.
If any one hath an ear, let him hear. If any one [is] for captivity, into captivity he goeth; if any one will kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed.
Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The Apostle John, writing to no particular Church, but in a general Epistle to a wide circle of churches, makes this remarkable statement: "Little children, ye have heard that Antichrist shall come." (1 John 2:18.) Where and how had the Christians of his time thus heard about "the Antichrist," and become familiar with the fact of his coming? The answer is, that this was a part of the common instruction given to God's people, both under the Old Testament and the New. It was distinct and prominent in the writings of the ancient prophets, and it was among the teachings of Christ, and those sent to preach and teach in His name. Even the light of the first promise of a coming Deliverer, had with it the dark adumbration of an antagonizing power to bruise His heel, and of a serpent brood to mass its strength against the mother's seed. And through all the ages of our world, there has been a Cain for every Abel, a Jannes and Jambres for every Moses and Aaron, a Babylon for every Jerusalem, a Herod for every John the Baptist, and a Nero for every going forth of God's consecrated apostles,-all the types and precursors of the ultimate heading up of all evil in one final foe, which is the Antichrist. Nor has it been possible for the teachers of God in any age to give full instruction touching the history of human salvation, without embracing in it the doctrine concerning this foul personage. It is part of the background of all Revelation, promise, and hope, given for the admonition and strengthening of God's people. And it is this Serpent seed, in its ultimate development, even the manifested Antichrist, whose portrait is given us in the chapter on which we now enter. May God help us to handle it with wisdom and soberness!
In the preceding chapter we were called to contemplate the great Dragon, the Old Serpent, his influence over our world, his perpetual malignity toward the saints, his casting out from the heavenly spaces at the glorification of the Church of the firstborn, his great rage at being cast down into the earth, and his consequent determination to destroy all the people of God yet to be found among mortals. But Satan is a spirit, and cannot operate in the affairs of our world except through the minds, passions, and activities of men. He needs to embody himself in earthly agents, and to put himself forth in earthly organisms in order to accomplish his murderous will. And through the inspired seer, God here makes known to us what that organism is, and how the agency and domination of the enraged Dragon will be exerted in acting out his blasphemies deceits, and bloody spite. The subject is not a pleasant one, but it is an important one. It also has features so startling and extraordinary that many may be repelled, and led to treat it as a wild and foolish dream. Nevertheless, we all need to look at it, and to understand it. No one is safe in refusing to entertain it. And whether we are able to grasp it fully in all its particulars or not, it is here set forth for our learning, that we may know just how things will eventually turn out.
John "in the spirit," finds himself stationed on the sands of the sea,-that same great sea upon which Daniel beheld the winds striving in their fury. He beholds a monstrous Beast rising out of the troubled elements. He sees horns emerging, and the number of them is ten, and on each horn a diadem. He sees the heads which bear the horns, and these heads are seven, and on the heads are names of blasphemy. Presently the whole figure of the monster is before him. Its appearance is like a leopard or panther, but its feet are as the feet of a bear, and its mouth as the mouth of a lion. He saw also that the Beast had a throne, and power, and great authority. One of his heads showed marks of having been fatally wounded and slain, but the deathstroke was healed. He saw also the whole earth wondering after the Beast, amazed at its majesty and power, exclaiming at the impossibility of withstanding it, and celebrating its superiority to everything. He beheld, and the Beast was speaking great and blasphemous things against God, blaspheming His name, His tabernacle, even them that tabernacle in the heaven, assailing and overcoming the saints on earth, and wielding authority over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. He saw also that all the dwellers upon earth, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain, did worship this Beast. And for forty-two months the monster holds its place and enacts its resistless will. This is the picture. What are we to make of it? What does it mean? How are we to understand it?
1. My first remark on the subject is, that we here have a symbolic presentation of the political sovereignty of this world. The Beast has horns, and horns are the representatives of power. On these horns are diadems, and diadems are the badges of regal dominion. The Beast is said to possess power, a throne, and great authority. He makes war. He exercises dominion over tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations. He has control of buying and selling, and fixes the conditions on which they are carried on. He furnishes the power to slay every one who will not come under his regulations. All of which proves political sovereignty and imperial earthly dominion. He is a monstrous Beast, including in his composition the four beasts of Daniel. He comes out of the same agitated sea, and behaves as they behaved. From the interpreting angel we know that Daniel's four beasts denoted "four kings," or kingdoms, that arise upon earth. The identification thus becomes complete and unmistakable, that this monstrous Beast is meant to set before us an image of earthly sovereignty and dominion. And if any further evidence of this is demanded, it may be abundantly found in Revelation 17:9-17, where the same Beast is further described, and the ten horns are interpreted to be "ten kings," together with other particulars, which identify the whole representation with this world's political sovereignty.
2. My second remark is, that we here are shown the world-power in its final consummation-the whole sum of it from the beginning to the end in one figure, as it will be in the last three and a half years of its existence. The duration of the dominancy of this Beast as such is explicitly given as forty-two months, or three and a half years; and when he finally falls, as described in chapter 19, he goes into perdition and all this world's kings, armies, and administrations end forever; He is therefore the embodiment of this world's political sovereignty in its last phase, in the last years of its existence. Daniel's beasts were successive empires, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Graeco-Macedonian, and the Roman. But the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the nameless ten-horned monster, each distinct there, are all united in one here. This Beast is therefore the consummation and embodiment of the whole world-power or political dominion from the beginning, as it presents itself at the final outcome. Nor do I know by what means this could be more definitely expressed than in the particulars and relations of this vision. "Every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation," is included under the dominion of this Beast. There is no political sovereignty on earth during its administration but that embraced in its horns and heads. It is therefore the whole sum of it as then existing. And as there is nothing more of it left after this Beast's fall, it is clear that what is here shown us must needs be the entire political power of this world in its final outcome or consummation.
3. My third remark is, that this beast is an individual administration, embodied in one particular man. Though upheld by ten kings or governments they unite in making the Beast the one sole Arch Regent of their time.
Ever since the period of the Reformation until now, the battle of the commentators has hung heavy over the question whether this Beast is to be construed as an individual imperial person, or a mere system, power, government, or influence, having its life in a succession of agents or representatives. Some take one side and others the opposite. Both parties are largely in the right as to the fact, though the more common historical interpretation is greatly at fault in the manner in which it applies the fact. There can be no kingdom without a king, and no empire without an emperor; neither can there be a king in fact without a kingdom. We cannot consistently speak of imperial power and dominion apart from a personal head which represents and embodies that power. A person is necessarily included in the conception, as well as an imperial dominion which that person holds and exercises. So far as the mere symbol is concerned, a succession of persons wielding the same authority might be embraced; but it cannot be so in this case. The period of this Beast's dominancy is specifically limited to three and a half years, and there is no room for much of a succession in that space of time. The attempt to stretch out these 42 months into 1260 years is without warrant in the Scriptures; and, if accepted, proves inadequate to any just application of the vision. It breaks down as to beginning, middle, and end. Try it as men will, it fails to reach the great day of final judgment, in which the dominion of this Beast so signally terminates. The 42 months are 42 months, and the 1260 days are 1260 days, not years; and the Beast, the measure of whose reign is thus limited, cannot stand for a series of successive sovereigns, but must be understood of one individual person. And other particulars require the same conclusion. This Beast is worshipped as a god; but people never worship an empire as such; neither do they make a succession of emperors into an object of religious devotion. The paying of divine homage to kings has been a common thing in the world's history, but it has always been rendered to individuals. An image or statue of this Beast is set up, and the worship of it demanded of all on pain of death; but antiquity tells of no images or statues of empires or dynasties set up for the religious reverence of subjects. It has always been the image or statue of the emperor, or the king; and so it must needs be in this instance. This Beast also has a proper name,--a name expressive of a particular number, and that number "a number of a man;" which cannot be conceived except on the idea of an individual person. This Beast is, by common consent, identical with "that Wicked," of which Paul wrote to the Thessalonians; but that monster instrument of Satan is called "that man of sin." An apocalypse is also ascribed to him, the same as to Christ, and various actions and position, nothing of which can be fairly understood except as applied to a per son. This Beast is also clearly identifiable with the wilful king of Daniel; but that king is in every respect treated of as an individual person, the same as Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes, or Alexander. This beast is finally damned. He goes into perdition, into the lake of fire, where he continues to exist and suffer, after passing from this earthly scene (Revelation 17:11; Revelation 20:10), which cannot be true of systems of government. We would therefore greatly err from the Scriptures, as well as from the unanimous conviction and teaching of the early Church, were we to fail to recognize in this Beast a real person, though one in whom the political power of the world is finally concentrated and represented.
 It is amazing to see the utter confusion to which those interpreters are reduced who take the 42 months or 1260 days as so many years. Joachim begins them with A.D. 1, ending at A.D. 1260; Walter Brute makes them extend from A.D. 134 to 1394; Melancthon, from A.D. 660, or thereabouts, to 2000; Aretius, from 312-1572; Napier, from 316-1576; Brightman, from 304-1564; Artopæus, from 260-1520; Cocceius, from 292-1522; Fleming, from 606-1848; Daubuz, from 476-1736; Lowman, from 756-2016; Gill, from 606-1866; Frazer, from 756-1998; Galloway, from 606-1849; Cunningham, from 533-1792; Faber, from 606-1866; Frere, from 533-1792; Croley, from 533-1793; Wood-house, from 622-1882; Fysh, from 727-1987; Habershon, from 584-1844; Elliott, from 529 to 608-1789 to 1868. This ought to be conclusive that by no possibility can any solid basis be found to rest on when the unwarranted assumption is admitted that these "1260 days" mean 1260 years.
 "The sense is not identical merely with a collective or abstract idea, that of Romanism or Paganism, the Roman monarchy, and such like. It is in the highest degree improbable that that mode of expression would be applied if such a relation were meant as the weakening of the Roman power by other nations, to which it has been repeatedly referred, or even by Christianizing. The expressions appear natural only when they are explained of a definite person."--Dr F. Bleek's Lectures on the Apocalypse, 1875, p. 92.
"The representation given of Antichrist plainly describes him as a person, as an individual. A stream of antichristian sentiment and conduct pervades the whole history of the world. From this stream, in the last days, proceeds Antichrist, as the completed evil fruit; it will express itself in many individuals, but by all these one personality will be considered as the centre of all their striving, and acknowledged as the master by whom they let themselves be guided. All great movements in the history of the world have definite personages for pillars. That the last and utmost development of evil will also attain to its centre in a personality, has the analogy of history entirely in its favour. That in Antichrist evil is only to be conceived as an abstract clearly contradicts the teaching of the Scriptures."---Olshausen, on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17.
"Taking the Bible as our guide, it seems strange that any other idea should be entertained of the Antichrist than that he will be an individual human being. Endless as are the passages referring to himself, his actings, and his end, they all, with one accord, so far as I understand them, proclaim him to be an individual man. All the attributes, circumstances, as well as appellations of individual humanity, are addressed and ascribed to him. He is distinctly called, and declared to be, a man, 'that man of sin,' which itself, and in the absence of any positive contradiction to it elsewhere in Scripture, ought to be conclusive. In Revelation 13:18, he is called a man. Also he is called 'the son of perdition,' as was Judas; but Judas was a man, and the inference is that such also will be his antitype. John, speaking of the Antichrist, says, 'Even now are there many antichrists.' Who were these but Christ-denying men? And who, then, or what would be the Antichrist yet to come but a man too? Evidently the one to come was to be of the same nature as the 'many' then already come. Christ was a man, a Godman, but still man, sin only excepted. Then the Antichrist, who is to appear as a false Christ, must needs be a man too, or how is it possible he could pass himself off for Christ? Antichrist is described as a King, even as other kings. Daniel 7:24 teaches that 'ten kings arise' and then 'another,' and that other, as Daniel 7:25 explains, undoubtedly is the Antichrist. That Antichrist would be an individual man, was never questioned in the first and purer ages of the Church. The idea of a power or system, or even series of individuals, being symbolized by the Man of Sin, was utterly unknown."---Molyneux's Lectures on Israel's Future, 1860, pp. 68-70.
"The old Fathers of the Church were for three centuries at least quite at one in understanding by 'the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, the Lawless One,' not a system of falsehood and unrighteousness, nor a succession of individuals at the head of such a system, but, according to the most obvious and natural import of the language,-some one man, the Personal Antichrist, the recipient of all Satan's energy, in whom Satan should, to so speak become incarnate, and thus bring to a decision the long-standing feud between himself and the Woman's seed. This ancient faith hath in it elements of truth which must be combined with the Protestant interpretation before we can get at the full import of this Divine Revelation."---Dr. John Lillie's Lectures on Thessalonians, 1860, pp. 537, 538.
4. My fourth remark is, that this Beast is a supernatural personage. As a political power, he rises out of the convulsed sea of peoples, the same as world-powers in general; but as a person, his origin is peculiar. He is repeatedly described as "the Beast that cometh up out of the abyss." "The abyss" cannot mean less than the underworld, the world of lost spirits, the receptacle and abode of demons, otherwise called Hell. Ordinary men do not come from thence. One who hails from that place must be either a dead man brought up again from the dead, or some evil spirit which takes possession of a living man. Many of the early Christians held and taught that the Emperor Nero is the Antichrist, and that he will return again to the earth, get possession of its empire, and enact all that is affirmed of the man of sin. They explained the passages referring to the matter to mean, either that Nero was not really dead, but in some mysterious way kept alive, presently to came upon the scene as this Beast; or, that, being dead, he will be satanically resurrected for this purpose. But even if not literally resurrected, he, or some other tenant of hell, might still fulfil the idea, after the style in which certain spirit-mediums claim to be animated and possessed, so as to think, speak, and act only as the will of the foreign spirit impels. In either case, the Beast, as a person, is an extraordinary and supernatural being. Nor can we adequately explain what else is said of him without assuming that such is the fact.
 Victorinus, in loc., says: "Nero will be raised from the dead, appear again at Rome, persecute the Church once more, and finally be destroyed by the Messiah, coming in His glory, and being accompanied by the prophet Elijah."
Lactantius refers to this opinion, though not holding to it himself, that "Nero will come the precursor and forerunner of the Devil, coming to lay waste the earth."
Sulpicius Severus wrote: "Nero, the basest of men and even of monsters, was well worthy of being the first persecutor; I know not whether he may be the last, since it is the current opinion of many that he is yet to come as Antichrist."
Augustine says: "What means the declaration, that the mystery of iniquity doth already work? Some suppose it to be spoken of the Roman Emperor, and therefore Paul did not speak in plain words, although he always expected that what he said would be understood as applying to Nero, whose doings already appeared like those of Antichrist. Hence it was that some suspected that he would rise from the dead as Antichrist."--Civit. Dei., xx, 19.
John tells us that he beheld one of the Beast's heads "as having been slain to death." The expression is so strong, definite, and intensified, that nothing less can be grammatically made of it than that real death meant to be affirmed. It is further described as a sword-wound, "the stroke of his death," or a stroke which carries death to him who experiences it. A man who has undergone physical death is therefore in contemplation. Whether he comes up again in literal bodily resurrection, or only by means of an obsession of some living man, we may not be able to decide. Whatever the mode, it will be in effect the same as a resurrection. The record is that his death-wound becomes effectually negatived, and so far healed, or made of non-effect, that, though dead, he enters again upon all the activities of life the same as if he never had been killed. Similar phraseology is used in this Book with regard to Christ, but all agree that it there means return to life by resurrection after a real bodily killing. How, then, can it mean less here? In the subsequent portions of the history this Beast is repeatedly spoken of as "he whose stroke of death was healed;" "the beast which had the stroke of the sword, and lived," or became alive again,--"the beast that was, and is not, and yet is," or as the Codex Sinaiticus has it (καὶ πάλιν πάρεσται), shall soon again be here. These expressions inevitably carry with them the notion of a violent and real death, and as real a return again to presence and activity on the earth. Indeed, it seems to be this revivescence and remanifestation of one known to have been dead that causes the universal wondering after this Beast. Be the explanation what it may, the implication strongly is, that this Beast is a man who once was living, who was fatally wounded, whose place was in the abyss of lost souls, who somehow comes forth from thence in convincing evidences of his real identity, and who, having been slain, returns again to take the lead in the activities and administrations upon earth, to the great wonder and astonishment of the whole world.
The source whence he derives his extraordinary character and power is clearly indicated. It is from no intervention of God in his behalf, though for the punishment of the godless world permitted. The record says: "The Dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority." It is therefore by the Devil's power that he is thus revived, just as all demonism, necromancy, and witchcraft are of the Devil. When Christ was on earth, the Devil took him into an exceeding high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said to Him: "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." There certainly was supernaturalism here. The holy Jesus, indeed, spurned the offer; but Satan eventually finds one to accept his conditions. This Beast is a worshipper of the Devil, and causes all under him to worship the Devil. In return, he gets what was proposed to Christ. The Devil makes over the infernal dominion into his hands, brings him again from the abyss, and constitutes him his great vice-regent in the sovereignty of the world. He thus becomes in some sense an incarnation of the Devil. Accordingly, it is written that his manifestation "is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." (2 Thessalonians 2:9.) Unmistakably, then, we have here to do with a very extraordinary being-with a man altogether different from anything ever beheld in humanity before-with one who hails from the bottomless pit, endowed with all the energy and power of Satan himself.
5. My fifth remark is, that this "Man of Sin" will be an exceedingly attractive, fascinating, and bewitching personage. He draws upon himself the intensest admiration and homage of the world. John beheld, and "all the world wondered after the Beast." Mankind are represented as so struck, captivated, and entranced by the contemplation of his wonderful qualities and powers, that they even render willing homage to the one who could give them so glorious a leader, and join in honouring and glorifying him as a very god of wisdom, power, daring, and ability. They can conceive of none like him, and celebrate his praise as the Invincible. The adoring cry is:
"Who is like to the Beast? And who is able to war with him?" It cannot therefore be otherwise than that this man is supreme in whatever is admirable to the taste, judgment, and imagination of the world.
There has been much in the great empires of the past for men to wonder at and love. In Babylon was the golden majesty and splendour of sovereign rule, always so captivating to the souls of men. In Medo-Persia was the towering prowess and massive ponderousness of power, at which the world has ever stood in wondering awe. In Greece was the polish and elegance of intellect and art, combined with heroism for liberty, for which the human heart has ever been full of enthusiasm. And in Rome was the idea of justice, the iron strength of law and martial discipline, to which the nations still look with admiration. Conceive, then, the resistless attractiveness of these all combined in one, and attended with the results thereto pertaining. How would mankind even now idolize such an exhibition? And how much the more if concentrated in an individual man, and he recognized and acknowledged as one of the great illustrious dead? God means soon to manifest a man, even the Man who is His fellow, as the centre and channel of all majesty, wisdom, glory, and power. So Satan, as anti-God, glorifies with his glory the final Antichrist; whilst men in their depravity and delusion rejoice in it, and cry their devoutest vive le Roi to his hell-derived majesty. Imagine all that has ministered to the glory of worldly empire in the ages past-the imposing array of intellect, knowledge, arts, and arms-the splendour of Oriental monarchs, the valour and grandeur of mighty heroes and conquerors-the eloquence, wisdom, and power of statesmen, orators, and poets, and all the varieties of mental accomplishment and external greatness united in one marvellous man, possessed of all the hitherto divided power and distributed attractions of all preceding times, and where is the soul, untaught of God, that would not run wild with enthusiastic adoration over him? Yet this is the sort of appeal which this Beast makes to the unsanctified millions of his time. Not as an instrument of terror, dismay, and horror is his revelation, but with all the blandishing allurements of the sublimest champion of human interests and greatness. Men will not fly from him, but love him, and delight and glory in him as the consummate sage and hero of all time. He will be the idol of the world. All kings will gladly yield him their thrones, and give their dominion to him; and all the nations will think their millennium come in the splendour, and wisdom, and miraculous greatness of his teachings and his deeds.
In Nimrod's days, when the people combined to build a city, and a tower which should reach to heaven, and make themselves a name, lest they should be scattered abroad upon the earth, what was it but one grand ceremonial of worship to earthly greatness? And if they could thus glory and sacrifice to the ambition and schemes of Nimrod, how much more to the wonderful Antichrist? If the genius and exhibitions of such men as Caesar, Charlemagne, Frederick, Napoleon, Voltaire, Mirabeau, Byron, and the like, have been able to delight the souls, fascinate the minds, and lead captive the wills of the children of disobedience, how can it be otherwise, when the glories of intellect and taste, of war and conquest, of miracle and majesty, of recovery from death, of mastery over all the mysterious forces of nature and spirit come forth in one sublime embodiment!
The very cities and regions over which this Beast rules will add to the fatal delusion of those times. Where, indeed, have the thoughts of men so fondly lingered as in Rome, in Greece, in Egypt, in Babylon, in Jerusalem? All the associations of greatness, conquest, taste, learning, eloquence, art, and religion are mostly bound up with these places. And these are to rise up again under the Antichrist, as if from the world of death, whence he himself comes, mimicking the glories of the true restitution which the Son of God is then about to bring.
And to the natural impulses of the human heart will be added the unwonted instigations of the Devil himself operating behind and through all, influencing the hearts, and tongues, and energies of men. And so they will be deluded, bewitched, and rallied to the worship of the Beast, and to the acceptance of him as the true and only God.
6. My sixth remark is, that this Beast is the consummate antagonist and supplanter of everything Divine. He is exhibited in the vision as having "on his heads names of blasphemy." To the same effect it is added, that "a mouth was given him speaking great and blasphemous things,"--that "he opened his mouth for blasphemies towards God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, they which tabernacle in the heaven." The seven heads of the Beast are explained in chapter 17 to be "seven kings," or powers, five of which were fallen at the time, one of which then existed, and the seventh was not yet come. That is an allusion to a succession of imperial headships, of which the Antichrist is the consummation. It may refer either to the emperors of Rome, or to the successive great dominions of all time, the Roman emperorship being the one existing when the Aposte wrote. Taken in either way we have the key to something of the nature of the blasphemy which comes to its highest culmination in this Beast. Counting back from Rome as the sixth, we find five great empires,-the Grecian, Medo-Persian, Chaldean, Egyptian, and old Assyrian, and in every one of these the deification of the monarch, and the claiming and giving of divine honours to him was part of the common piety of the state. Such was particularly the case with the emperors of Rome. Julius Caesar took divine titles, accepted divine honours while he lived, and had temples erected to his worship after he was dead. Augustus Caesar favoured the erection of temples for the worship of his uncle, and of others devoted to the worship of himself. At Angora the remains of one of these may still be seen, and on it the inscription: "To the God Augustus." In the same locality there is an inscription, "To Marcus Aurelius, unconquered, august, pious, successful, by one most devoted to his Godhead." Nero was styled God while he lived. Lamps have been found devoted to Domitian as "our God and Lord." Nor can there be any question of the profession and award of Deity in the case of all the great heads of secular power from the beginning on. They all wore names of blasphemy. And these names of blasphemy are received by this Beast in augmented intensity and impious-ness, and worn as of right his own. Daniel says of him: "He will exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god. He will speak marvellous things against the God of gods. He will not regard any god, for he will magnify himself above all." Paul says: "He opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." (2 Thessalonians 2:4.) He is at once Anti-God, Anti-Christ, and Anti-Spirit, antagonizing each particular Person of the adorable Trinity, trampling on their claims, usurping their honours, putting himself into their place, and abolishing all worship and recognition of either.
As a necessary concomitant, he is a consummate persecutor. The Apostle in vision saw it "given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." It is he that wars with the Two Witnesses, and overcomes them, and kills them. (Revelation 11:7.) It is through him that Satan persecutes and pursues the Woman, and turns to make havoc of the remainder of her seed. It is under him that as many as will not worship his image shall be slain, and no one can either buy or sell without accepting his mark in hand or forehead as his slave and devotee. All this is set forth again and again in the Old Testament and the New.
A particular object of his blasphemies is "God's tabernacle, they which tabernacle in the heaven." This is a side-proof that our interpretation of the birth and rapture of the Manchild is correct. It will then be known and acknowledged that a resurrection and translation of saints has occurred. It will then be known and understood that they are in the pavilion cloud with the Lord in the heavenly spaces. (Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:20.) Even the Beast, with all his setting aside, and ridicule of everything divine and sacred, is conscious of the presence of these glorified ones on high, and annoyed at thought of them. He speaks of them; he acts with reference to them; and he pours out his special blasphemies with regard to them. This is a necessity to him. The catching away to heaven of so many people of God must needs leave a deep impression behind it. The slain and abused bodies of the Two Witnesses are visibly revived, and taken up into the sky before the eyes of Antichrist's minions. This was a grand and most convincing evidence against him and all his infamous pretensions, a manifest token of his devilish falsity and approaching doom. And he needs above all to break it down, to cast discredit and dishonour upon it, and to root out the very idea if he can. Hence his particular railing and impatience with reference to this divine tent of the glorified ones, and his virulent blaspheming of those who tabernacle in it. The Dragon's wrath at the defeat of his efforts against these chosen ones is thus outwardly vented in this blasphemy of the Beast, and his bloody persecution of all on earth who dare to believe and hold contrary to his will. How blessed are they who through faith and watchfulness have been accounted worthy to escape his power by being caught up to God ere he is revealed!
7. My seventh and last remark, for the present, is, that Christians have great need to study and understand what is thus foreshown. There is appended to the vision a special admonition and command: "If any one hath an ear, let him hear." It is the same which the Great Divine Teacher has laid upon mankind with reference to the most vital things of His Gospel. It shows that something of the most intense and urgent importance is involved in these things, not only for theologians and scholars, but for every Christian--for all classes of men--for every one that hath an ear for the learning of divine truth. It shows that the predisposition will be, and is, to ignore and disregard this and such like subjects-to treat them as wild speculations--to pass them by as destitute of practical worth, if not as positively injurious. It shows that God's idea of the study of prophecy, and of the drawing from it of doctrine and admonition to condition our faith and shape our lives, is very different from that which many modern Christians inculcate. And it makes plain as language can tell, that it is the solemn and gracious will of heaven for every one to "mark, learn, and inwardly digest," for living practical use and effect, what is here foreshown of the character and doings of this Beast.
Nor is it difficult to see that the admonition to hear and understand this matter is rooted in the deepest practical necessities. Without a proper idea of the revelation of the final Antichrist, of the grievousness and abominations of his times, of his wonderful career and destiny, of the tribulations which his administrations will inflict, and of the offered privilege of being entirely saved from these awful trials, we cannot half fulfil the Saviour's commands to watch and pray for that salvation, and to aim at being accounted worthy to escape all these things. Without a proper knowledge of the subject treated in this vision, we cannot fully appreciate our Saviour, the offers He makes to us, the redemption He proposes, or the character of the administrations in which His kingdom comes. And particularly for those who are "left," and living on the earth at the time when this Beast comes into power, there is no security, hope, or consolation whatever, except as they understand these things and establish themselves upon them. It will be a time of such "deceivableness of unrighteousness," that if it were possible the very elect would be cheated out of their faith, and deluded to certain perdition. It will be a time of such awful pressure, that no one can maintain himself at all except as he is forewarned, forearmed, and entrenched in the fortifications provided in these revelations. For any one who holds fast to the name of Christ in those days there will be no alternative left but to recant, to accept the mark of the Beast, and go to inevitable perdition with him; or be driven away into the mountains, the wilderness, the dens and caves of the earth. To hope for deliverance by the sword, or to take up arms against the Beast, can bring no relief; for if any one will kill with the sword, with the sword must he perish. If any one is ready to accept flight or exile for his safety, into captivity he will have to go, with no pity for him, and no relaxation of the hard necessity. Even the Two miracle-girded Witnesses, who maintain themselves for a time, are eventually overcome and slain; and no mortal can live where the Beast's power reaches, without letting go Christ for Antichrist.
Many a sore trial of their patience and faith have the saints of God experienced from the persecuting powers of this godless world; but they will all be as nothing compared with the tribulations of these last evil days. Not under the Chaldean oppressions,--not under the Seleucid despots,--not under the bloody persecutions of the Caesars,--not under the inquisitions of the Popes,--but "here is the patience and the faith of the saints." Under the Antichrist shall all true worshippers be tested and tried as never in all the ages before. Nor can any one hold out faithful then except he be posted and grounded beforehand in the divine teachings concerning the infernal character of the power which then reigns, the sure interference of Heaven for its speedy destruction, and the certain damnation of all who abet its blasphemies or accept its mark.
My dear friends, let me then add a word of solemn caution with regard to this subject. Having listened with so much patient attention to the imperfect sketch I have given, be careful that you do not go away and jest over it as nonsense and imbecility. Remember the words with which this Book of the Apocalypse opens: "Blessed is he who readeth, and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and observe the things which are written in it." Remember also what the holy Apostle appends to it when he says: "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the Holy City, and from the things which are written in this Book." Mysterious and impossible as it may all seem to man's ordinary experience and reason, the thing is too overwhelmingly important and solemn to be ridiculed, or to be treated with indifference. Nor can any one tell how vitally his own security and salvation are wrapped up in right apprehensions of these very things. I therefore press the admonition which God Himself has affixed to this particular subject: "If any one hath an ear to hear, let him hear."
THE ANTICHRIST NOT ALONE--THE RELIGIOUS ELEMENT IN HUMAN SOCIETY--COUNTERFEIT OF THE ADORABLE TRINITY--COMMENTATORS ON THE BEAST FROM THE EARTH-AN INDIVIDUAL PERSON--HIS RISE OUT OF THE EARTH--PERHAPS JUDAS ISCARIOT--HIS TWO LAMB-LIKE HORNS--HIS DRAGON SPEECH--AT ONE WITH THE FIRST BEAST--A SUCCESSFUL OPERATOR--CAUSES "THE EARTH" TO WORSHIP THE BEAST-THE WEIRD ACCOUNT LITERALLY PROBABLE.
Revelation 13:11-12. (Revised Text.) And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and he was speaking as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causeth the earth and those that dwell in it to worship the first beast whose stroke of death was healed.
The Antichrist, though an individual, is not alone. He not only has the ten sovereignties working into his hand with all "their power and strength," but he has a more intimate and more potent companion, hardly less remarkable than himself, duplicating his power, and without whom he could not be what he is.
When Pharaoh lifted himself up against Jehovah, and against God's two Witnesses, Moses and Aaron, the magicians were summoned as necessary helpers, to compete with their miracles, and to withstand their claims. When Balak, king of Moab, sought to destroy Israel, Balaam was in requisition to prophesy for the king as the arm of his success. When Dan, in marauding avarice, settled in Laish, he must needs have the Levite, son of Gershom, to set up a worship for him, though he had to steal both priest and gods. Absalom, the murderer and fratricide, plotting for his father's throne and life, and warring against God's anointed king, could do but little without Ahithophel to aid his treason, and further his parricidal schemes. Jeroboam, in revolt, found necessity for a new religious administration, with new gods and new observances, requiring priests and prophets to abet his wilfulness. Ahab, the seventh head of the line of Israel, could not have been Ahab except for Jezebel, with her herd of foreign priests. And thus the final Antichrist, of whom these were types and forerunners, cannot be the Antichrist without his great spiritual consociate and false prophet.
The religious element is one of the most powerful in humanity. Its great potency appears in all the history of mankind. It cannot be ignored, suppressed, or put aside. It may be misled and perverted, but its presence and power are inevitable wherever man is man. Nothing can securely stand against it. No other power can be sustained without its aid. True or false, human nature must have a religion. If the state does not provide one it must allow of it, and throw some sanction over it, or it kills itself. There can be no society, no kingdom, no commanding administration without it. Even the French Atheists, who pronounced against all traditional religion, and sought to abolish God, yet glided into one, carved images and idols of Liberty and Equality, offered incense to them, sung hymns to them, and knelt down before them in great civic ceremonials. Napoleon, who became the great military head of this revolution, held it as one of his maxims, that the state cannot live without a religion. Alison has told us how the Emperor, actuated by no spirit of oppression, by no jealousy of a rival authority, but out of what he viewed as essential to the solidity of his empire, sought to connect the Pope with his government, and to establish the See of Rome in close connection and subserviency to himself at Paris. And so the Antichrist, though opposing and exalting himself "above all that is called God, or that is worshipped," still finds it essential to have a religion. Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King; and he who proposes to take His place, and to be the true Christ as against the incarnate Son of God, must needs fill out the same departments. To do this his Devil wisdom simply inverts the order, assigns to himself the central and all-conditioning position of absolute King, and accepts and adopts a grand religious establishment, whose head and centre is another great Beast, administering in the department of priesthood and prophecy.
The Eternal Power and Godhead is a Trinity. "The true Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. Also there are not three incomprehensibles [or infinities], nor three uncreated; but one Eternal, and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty; and yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord; and yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Christian religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other, none is greater or less than another; but the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal; so that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped."
The truth of this holy doctrine is evinced and reflected in the copy of it which appears in the constitution of the Devil's grand system as the anti-God. The full embodiment of all evil in our world comes out in an infernal Trinity, the mimicry of eternal realities. First, is the unseen and hidden Father, the Dragon, that old serpent, the Devil. The next is the seven-headed and ten-horned Beast from the sea, "the Son of Perdition," begotten of the Devil, his earthly manifestation, who dies, and revives again, and reappears on earth after having been in the invisible world, as Christ, and is awarded the power and throne of his father the Devil. And to this comes a third, the two-horned Beast from the earth, who proceeds from the Dragon Father and Dragon Son, for his speech is the Dragon's speech, and "he exerciseth all the authority of the first Beast in his presence," carrying into living effect the Satanic will of both the father and the son. Thus we perceive three distinct personalities, the Devil, the Antichrist, and "The False Prophet;" and these three are one,-one vital essence, one economy, and one administration. The Dragon sets up as the anti-God; the ten-horned Beast, his son, is the anti-Christ; and the two-horned Beast, proceeding from and operating in the interest of both, is the anti-Holy Ghost. And these three together are Hell's Trinity in Unity, the Devil's Unity in Trinity, as revealed and operative in our world, when iniquity has once come to the full.
At present we are to consider the third in this infamous Trinity, as exhibited in the vision before us. The Lord God of heaven and earth guide us into a right understanding of His truth!
The first, most direct, and most natural question on the subject is: Who and what is this Beast, with two horns like a lamb? Carrying it to the leading commentators for solution, very confused and contradictory are the answers given. Out of some forty whom I could name, one-half say this Beast is the Pope, or the papacy, or the papal kingdom, or the Roman clergy, or the spiritual Roman Empire, or the various spiritual orders under the papacy; whilst no one of them is able to define just exactly what he does mean; for the theory falls so far short of the record that it is continually breaking down in the hands of its defenders. The other half give nearly as many different applications as there are writers. Sir Isaac Newton thinks the Greek Church is this Beast. Galloway thinks the French Republic is intended. Fysh thinks it means the Jesuits. Mulerius thinks it refers to the Roman theologians. Hengstenberg thinks it means the earthy, carnal wisdom, including the heathen philosophies, false doctrines, and the like. Waller says it is "the evil which arises in the Church of Christ." Stuart says it is the heathen priesthood. A nameless writer maintains that it is none other than the principle of the inductive philosophy, the mechanic arts, the mechanical forces. Gebhardt holds that witchcraft and soothsaying, the heathen religion as divination and magic, is meant. Whilst a large number of writers interpret both these Beasts, as well as the image which the second causes to be made to the first, as really one and the same thing, denoting only different aspects of the Romish Church, or the papal system.
To get anything solid out of such presentations is simply impossible. We must therefore abandon entirely the whole system of interpretation which results in such confusion and uncertainty, or conclude, with some, that nothing definitely ascertainable is contained in these prophecies; in other words, that there is here no revelation at all. The fault has not been in the intentions, the learning, the earnestness, the diligence, or the candour of the men concerned, so much as in the unwarranted prepossessions, misconceptions, and defective methods by which they have approached what God has thus commanded to be written. In the simple straightforward way in which we have been contemplating this momentous Book, taking things as they are given, with all the mysteriousness of the contents difficulties have melted away as we approached them, and everything has come out in thorough self-consistency; whilst the whole body of Holy Scripture takes on fresh illumination from the plain literal construction of what by special divine aid and direction the apostolic seer has put on record as the outcome of all. And by adhering to the same processes we may also reach some definite idea of what is intended to be foreshown in this vision of the second Beast.
One of the most embarrassing mistakes in the treatment of this vision is the assumption that we dare not here think of an individual person. But why not? Every item in the record calls for individuality, as do all the relations of the subject. When Jesus told His disciples, "there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24), everyone agrees that he referred to persons; that is, to individual men, who should severally give themselves out as if they were Christ, or claim to be endowed with all wisdom and power to command the reverence and obedience of their fellows. But when the Saviour thus prophesied of the rise of false prophets, it is impossible to suppose that "the false prophet" which this second Beast is thrice declared to be (Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10), was not embraced. He certainly is one of those many, nay, the impersonation of them all, as he is by emphasis "The False Prophet," as the first Beast is "The Antichrist." But being thus one of many whose individuality is conceded on all hands, he must also be of the same kind and nature with the rest; that is, not a system, church, philosophy, school, corporation, order, or general spirit, but an individual person. Being a prophet, he must, of course, have a doctrine, a system which he puts forth, an economy which he seeks to sustain, and consociates and followers who operate with him; but with whomsoever or whatsoever coalescing, confederated, or conjoined, he is not the False Prophet on their account, but in his own individual personality. All the prophets that have ever been, whether true or false, pagan, Jewish, or Christian, have been individual persons. And when it comes to "The False Prophet," the last and greatest of his class, the very consummation of all false prophets, we would do violence to all language or the use of terms, not to admit and recognize an individual personality. The Beast, as such, is not a person, but a symbol, which covers the whole economy and administration of the False Prophet; yet, for that very reason, and above all, it includes a personal administrator, in whom the entire thing has its being and centre. It is also impossible for me to conceive how this False Prophet can be made the subject of divine punishments, be cast into the lake of fire, and be kept there in torment from age to age on account of his wickedness, as the record is (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10), if he be not a true and real person. Do states, false churches, systems, hierarchies, and the like exist and suffer as such in hell?
Prophecy and prophetic administration imply inspiration and miraculous power. In the case of true prophets the inspiration is from above, and the power from on high. This Beast is a false prophet, the consummation of all false prophets, and his inspiration and power must needs come from beneath. Hence he is represented as coming up out of the earth, as the first Beast comes out of the sea. If the sea in the one case means the political agitation of peoples, the earth in the other case represents what is more settled and firm in human thought and society. And so we find that the religious sentiments and systems have always been more firm and fixed than political sentiments. A prophet has to do with the religious element; and the coming of this Beast out of the earth may refer to the evolution of his system out of the religions that have place among men, and the progress of human society with reference to beliefs and spiritual things. But this may not be the whole meaning.
There is a particular oppressor referred to in the Psalms 10:15, who is described as "The Man of the Earth," and who meets his fate in the great judgment time. According to the uniform patristic application of this Psalm, the reference must be to one or the other of these Beasts; but, as the first Beast is distinguished as the Beast from the Sea, and the second as the Beast from the Earth, this "Man of the Earth" must be this second Beast, if either. If so, his particular and emphatic characterization as "the Man of the Earth" so early as the days of David must mean something special and peculiar. The apparition to the witch of Endor came up "out of the earth" (1 Samuel 28:13). It was from the spirit-world, usually conceived of in the Scriptures as located under, or in the interior of the earth. Hence a recent writer, with whom I have often found good reason to agree, concludes that this Beast, as to his personality, is a man from the underworld, whom he identifies as Judas Iscariot, returned again to the activities of this world, either by Satanic resurrection, or by some form of obsession, something after the manner of the first Beast, whom he identifies as the Emperor Nero. This would harmonize with the fact that neither of these Beasts dies; each goes down alive into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). The startling character of the idea is also much relieved when we consider, as Hengstenberg observes, that the separation between earth and hell is at that time very slight, and the communication very easy. Even in the ordinary course of things, either heaven or hell, God or the Devil, spirits from above or spirits from beneath, are always in the background of all the spiritual and supernatural activities upon earth; and very much more potent will be the putting forth of Hell in those last evil times, when everything pertaining to heaven is largely withdrawn, and all that remains in the earth is mostly abandoned for the time to the rule of the infernal powers. I should not wonder, therefore, if this would turn out to be the true interpretation, namely, that this coming up out of the earth means a coming from the underworld, and that this Man of the Earth, this Beast as to his personality, is, in one sense or another, that very Judas, "Son of Perdition," who betrayed his Lord. He is at least a man, one who fills the office of a prophet in consociation with the first Beast, one possessed of supernatural powers, and one who has all his inspiration and miraculous potency from beneath, in contrast with that of true prophets, which is from above.
 The considerations offered by this writer as favouring this opinion are, that the characteristics of "The False Prophet," as here offered to our notice, were typified in the former life of Judas. Does this beast exercise all the power of the first or kingly beast? In his betrayal of Jesus Judas appears as leader of the band that took Jesus. He acts out the plans of the wicked Jews. They hated Christ, and he sold himself to them. Is the false prophet partly like a lamb, and partly like a dragon? Judas meets Jesus with a kiss, and the salutation, "Hail, Master;" while he says to His enemies, "Hold Him fast." He furthers the wish of the rulers of apostate Israel. He counsels them. He leads the way. He accomplishes their end for them. He professed great love for the poor, yet was influenced by thievish avarice. The false prophet presides over the worship of the empire of Antichrist. Judas was ordained an apostle of the Christian faith. Satan enters him, and he is made an apostle of the devil's son. The false prophet serves three and a half years, and that was the length of time Judas was hypocritically in the service of the Saviour. Does the false prophet do great wonders? Judas was gifted with miraculous power, even though he was a devil, there is no intimation that it has been revoked, and because of this perhaps it was that Satan took possession of him for his own ulterior designs. Jesus sets him at the head of all unbelievers, as Peter at the head of believers, and said of him that he is a demon. Is the false prophet an instigator and patron of idolatry? Judas was blindly and persistently covetous, and every "covetous man is an idolater." He was a suicide, like Ahithophel and Nero. He "went and hanged himself." The false prophet instituted a sign or mark for those who follow him; so did Judas. "He gave them a sign" (Matthew 26:48). Parts of 109th Psalm are by inspiration applied to Judas, and the 6th verse must also apply to him: "Set thou a wicked man over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand." If he be the false prophet, the man of sin would be his superior, and Satan his great helper. The words as they stand have never yet been fulfilled; this would fulfil them. There is something peculiar in the description of what became of Judas after death. He went "to his own place," as if reserved for some future time and work on the side of evil, as the Two Witnesses, Enoch and Elijah, on the side of good. He and the Man of Sin are the only two to whom the title of "Son of Perdition" is applied. This is not distinctive of them as going into perdition, for that is the common lot of multitudes of others. A son of perdition is rather one begotten and born of perdition, one that comes forth from hell, which would be most eminently true if they both are Satanically resurrected men, after having been in hell.--See Apocalypse Expounded, by Matheetees, in loc.
This second Beast has "two horns like a lamb." Horns are the symbols of power; but these horns have no diadems, and are like the horns of a gentle domestic animal. Political sovereignty, war, conquest, and the strength of military rule are therefore out of the question here. This Beast is a Prophet, a spiritual teacher, and not a king or warrior. His power has a certain softness and domesticity about it, which is sharply distinguished from the great, regal horns of the first Beast, although in reality of the same Wild Beast order, and belonging to the same Dragon brood.
What, then, are we to understand by these two lamblike horns, or the twofold power of this Beast? Here commentators have been at great loss, and have perpetrated some very absurd things to make their schemes tally with the record. But bearing in mind that the matter relates to a religion and a great religious establishment,--to the head centre of a universal spiritual teaching and worship,--I do not see that close thinkers should have much difficulty on this point.
Taking the whole history of all religions, true and false, from the beginning until now, and searching for the elements of their hold on men's minds, their power, it will be found to reside in two things, which, in the absence of better terms, we may call naturalism and supernaturalism; that is, the presence of revelations, or what are accepted as revelations, from the superior powers, and held to be divine and binding; or conclusions of natural conscience and reason, deemed sacredly obligatory because believed to be good and true. It is difficult to conceive on what other foundation a religion can rest; and analysis will show that on one or the other of these, or on both combined, all religions do rest, and must rest. Here is the seat of their strength, their power, whether true or false, the horns by which they push their way to dominion over the hearts and lives of men. They are just two, and no more. As a religionist, therefore, this Beast-Prophet could have but two horns. But he has two horns, and hence both the two only powers in a religion; therefore he is at once a naturalist and a supernaturalism-a scientist and a spiritualist,--a Rationalist, yet asserting power above ordinary nature and in command of nature. In other words, he claims to be the bearer of the sum total of the Universal Wisdom, in which all reason and all revelation are fused into one great system, claimed to be the ultimatum of all truth, the sublime and absolute Universeology. And professing to have everything natural and supernatural thus solved and crystallized as the one eternal and perfect Wisdom, he must necessarily present himself as the one absolute apostle and teacher of all that ought to command the thought, faith, and obedience of man. The possession and exercise of the two horns of religious power certainly can mean nothing less than this.
The same helps to a right idea of the further particular concerning this Beast, to wit, that, though having but the two horns like a lamb, he yet speaks like a Dragon. He is lamblike in that he proposes to occupy only the mild, domestic, and inoffensive position of spiritual adviser. What more gentle and innocent than the counselling of people how to live and act, for the securement of their happiness! But the words are like the Dragon, in that such professions and claims are in fact the assumption of absolute dominion over the minds, souls, consciences, and hearts of men, to bind them irrevocably, and to compel them to think and act only as he who makes them shall dictate and prescribe. Only to the eternal God belongs such a power; and when claimed by a creature, is, indeed, the speech of the Devil, the spirit of hell usurping the place and prerogatives of the Holy Ghost.
Hence, also, in so far as this Beast is able to maintain and enforce these prophetic claims, "he exerciseth all the authority of the first Beast." There is no more complete or exalted dominion under the sun than such a sway over the intellect and will of universal humanity. The first Beast, in all his imperial power, has no greater authority than the common acknowledgment of such claims would give. When this is exercised, all the authority of the first Beast is exercised. But the first Beast is quite willing that his hellish consociate should assert and press these claims; for the two are but different Persons in the same infernal Trinity, the second witnessing to the first, as the Spirit witnesseth to the Son. It is all in the one interest of the Dragon, out of whom the whole administration comes, and it matters not through which of the Persons the Devil work is done, whether by the first Beast as imperial dictator, or by the second as the absolute spiritual adviser and teacher. Therefore the latter exerciseth all the authority of the former, "in his presence," with his approbation and consent, and as his consociate and prime minister.
It is not common for great impostors and powers in evil thus to agree. When Mahomet was ruling at Medina there arose another pretender of the same order with himself. The second proposed to make common cause between them, and wrote a letter to Mahomet which read: "From Moseilma, the prophet of Allah, to Mahomet, the prophet of Allah. Come now, let us make a partition of the world, and let half be thine, and half be mine." But Mahomet answered: "From Mahomet, the prophet of God, to Moseilma, the Liar;" and there was nothing but hatred and war between them. When Napoleon, in the grandeur of his power, sought to avail himself of the authority and influence of the Pope, and to endow the pretended See of St. Peter with glory and honour as an instrument of imperial rule, the Pope answered him with a bull of excommunication. When certain vagabond Jews of Ephesus proposed to adorn and dignify themselves with the credit of casting out evil spirits in the Saviour's name the answer came: "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." (Acts 19:15-16.) But between these last two outgrowths of hell there is a perfect understanding, harmony, and concord. It is Akiba and Barchocebas repeated on a mammoth scale-the Satanic mimicry of the sacred ministrations of the Holy Ghost to the Divine Saviour's cause.
And a most efficient minister does this False Prophet prove to be. Eight times it is written of him that "he causeth." He is a successful executor. And what "he causeth" is the most extraordinary in all the history of falsehood and wickedness. The account is full and specific, and needs to be considered in detail.
First, we have the statement that "he causeth the earth and those that dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose stroke of death was healed."
The meaning of "the earth," distinct from its inhabitants, some represent as a wordiness or pleonasm, meaning only all them that dwell upon the earth. But there is no proof that such is the fact. The Holy Ghost is not liable to load down His utterances with redundancies, as we in our infirmities often do. And I am always suspicious of that sort of exegesis which has occasion to throw out words and phrases from the divine records, as if they meant nothing. If there is any meaning to be attached to the particular statement that this Beast comes up "out of the earth," a corresponding significance must attach to the statement that "the earth," in contradistinction from the dwellers on it, is made to worship the Beast. It may be difficult for us to understand it, but we are not therefore to conclude that there is nothing in it.
If the coming of this Beast "out of the earth" means a coming from the place of depraved spirits, the worshipping ascribed to "the earth" may mean worship rendered by these evil spirits. The statement would then be, that this Beast first of all induces the tenants of the underworld to adore the great Son of perdition, who was wounded to death and became alive again. When it is said that "the whole earth wondered after the Beast," we can readily understand it to mean the inhabitants of the earth; but when the earth is named separately along with its inhabitants, we can hardly be at liberty to construe it of the inhabitants only. Neither is it impossible for this great miracle-worker, who can cause fire to come down from heaven, and who has power to make an image speak, also to cause the rocks and hills, the woods and trees, the fountains and streams to give forth tokens of acknowledgment and reverence to the great, miraculous, Saviour-omnipotent claimed to be present in this marvellous man.
But, whatever the fact may be with regard to "the earth," there can be no question about "the dwellers in it." They are induced to accept the Beast as the Deity, and to worship him as God. In the first instance, when this man's great wonderfulness and power burst upon the view of the world, the astonishment, admiration, and celebration of him as the Invincible seems to have been spontaneous, a mere wild breaking forth and overflow of astounded popular feeling. But it was evidence of an impression in a direction of which the Devil could well avail himself for the better accomplishment of his ends. The second Beast accordingly appears as a sacred prophet to direct it, reduces it to a system, and enters upon the organization of a new religion, an infernal religion, of which he is the sublime oracle, and the Antichrist the supreme god.
The attempt proves a grand success. "The earth and those that dwell in it worship the first Beast, whose stroke of death was healed." It seems like a fable from the land of dreams-like the wild story in Southey's Thalaba, in which the sorcerers
Hasten to the inner cave,
And all fall fearfully around the giant idol's feet,
Seeking salvation from the power they served.
For here, almost, if not quite, as there, the picture is, that
Where the sceptre in the idol's hand
Touched the round altar, in its answering realm,
Earth felt the stroke, and ocean rose in storms;
And ruining cities, shaken from their seats,
Crushed all their inhabitants.
His other arm was raised, and its spread palm
Upbore the ocean weight,
Whose naked waters arched the sanctuary,
Sole prop and pillar he.
But, with all the weird strangeness of the record, the literal realization of it is neither impossible nor improbable. The consideration of the arguments and influences by which it is brought about we must reserve for another occasion, but we have only to recur to what has been to satisfy ourselves that there is nothing in it to which depraved human nature is not competent, and even predisposed and prone. Alexander was but a young man when he died, and never was more than a natural man; yet he claimed and received divine honours as a god. Reading in Homer that the ancient heroes were sons of gods, he did not see that they were any better than himself, and hence began to think himself the son of Jupiter, and so announced to the priests, who oracularly proclaimed him such, and exhorted all inquirers to render to their victorious king the honours of a deity. The vile and infamous Antiochus Epiphanes was awarded an apotheosis, and assigned a place among the holy gods in the worship of Egypt. Herod, with all his baseness and his crimes, was hailed as a god, and took it as his due. (Acts 12:21-23.) Julius Caesar was honoured as a god, and after his death many temples were raised and frequented for his worship. Statues, temples, altars, and trophies were consecrated to Augustus Caesar. Tiberius rendered sacred homage to his statues, and also accepted similar honours to himself and his favourite, Sejanus. Trajan worshipped Nerva, and honoured him with a chief priest, with altars, and with sacred gifts. The younger Pliny proclaimed it as Trajan's due, that his statue should be cut in ivory, or cast in gold, and that the choicest victims should be sacrificed to his divinity. Caligula claimed to be a god, clothed himself with the acknowledged names of deity, assumed the attributes and ornaments of all the divinities, accepted temples, prayers, offerings, and sacrifices as pertaining to him, appointed a college of priests, consisting of all the richest men in Rome, to superintend the ceremonies of honour and worship to his sacred majesty. He even boasted that every nation of the earth, except the Jews, adored and worshipped him. The King of Parthia, kneeling before Nero, said to him: "You are my God, and I am come to adore you as I adore the sun. My destiny is to be determined by your supreme Will;" to which Nero replied: "I make you King of Armenia, that the whole universe may know it belongs to me to give or to take away crowns." Domitian filled the world with his statues, to which sacrifices were continually offered, and required that all letters written or published in his name should always begin, "Our Lord and God commands." And so common, universal, and stoutly demanded was this worship of the successors of the Caesars, that the chief reason for the martyrdom of the Christians of their day was, that they would not sacrifice to the emperor as God.
It may be said that these were ancient, pagan, and benighted times, and that such abominations can never again be palmed upon mankind. But they were the times which produced our classics. The same has also occurred in later days, with far less reason or apology, and among those who claimed to be the most advanced and enlightened of mortals. How was it in the comparatively recent period of the French Revolution? How was it with those world-renowned savants, whose boast was to dethrone the King of heaven as well as the monarchs of the earth? Did they not sing halleluias to the busts of Marat and Lepelletier, not only in the streets of Paris and Brest, but in many of the churches all over France? How came it that Robespierre was named and celebrated as a divinity, a superhuman being, "The New Messiah!" Can we blot out what Alison, and Lacretelle, and Thiers have written, that "Marat was universally deified," that the churches received his statues as objects of sacred regard, and that a new worship was everywhere set up in their honour? Is it to be ignored how the foremost men of the nation, in state ceremony, conveyed a woman in grand procession to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, unveiled and kissed her before the high altar as the Goddess of Reason, and exhorted the multitude to cease trembling before the powerless thunders of the God of their fears, and "sacrifice only to such as this?" Nay, at this very hour, there resides a man in the city of Rome, whom one-half of Christendom itself hails, honours, and adores as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, the Vicegerent of God upon earth, Infallible, and sole possessor of the Keys of heaven,-a man whom the greater festivals exhibit as a Divinity, borne along in solemn procession on the shoulders of consecrated priests, whilst sacred incense fumes before him, and blest peacocks' feathers full of eyes wave beside his moving throne, and every mortal on the street where he passes, uncovers, kneels, and silently adores;-a man who, once a year, takes his seat upon the high altar of the sublimest church in Christendom, in the broad light of this favoured century, and there receives the adoration of the whole college of his most exalted subjects, who reverently bow amid chants, music, and burning lights to kiss the toe of "His Holiness!"
Let there come, then, a man from among the distinguished dead; let him prove by signs evident that he is verily a great emperor returned to life again; let him show the intelligence, the energy, the invincible power, and whatever else has made and marked the glory of the mighty, and let there come with him a great prophet to exercise all this power in the one direction of a new universal religion, advising and urging with eloquence and miracle, in the name of the absolute Wisdom, the worship and adoration of that man, as the only right worship in the universe; and what is there in humanity to withstand the appeal! As surely as man is man, the same that he has hitherto been, it will and must be a grand success. As certain fact, the Saviour so anticipated, and says, that if it were possible to break Jehovah's promises, the very elect would be deceived.
There is, then, to be a new religion for our world, as scientists and reformers already claim and proclaim. It will also be a powerful and universal religion. It will ground itself in pretensions to the profoundest wisdom, intelligence, reason, truth, and progress. It will sway the earth, and carry with it all who are not written in the Lamb's book of life. It will be the final coronation of the progressivism of human perfectibility. But it will be a religion whose God is Antichrist, and whose sacraments are the seals of damnation, inevitable and eternal. God save us from unfaithfulness to His Gospel, that the "strong delusion" which leaves no hope may never touch any one who hears this warning of what is to come!
THE FALSE PROPHET CONTINUED--THE CONDITION OF THINGS WHEN HE COMES--HOW HE IMPOSES ON THE WORLD--MIRACLES TRUE AND FALSE--MAKING FIRE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN--HIS ARGUMENT FROM THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF THE BEAST--THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST--ARGUMENTS FOR IT-THE CAUSING OF IT TO SPEAK--THE ADMINISTRATION COMPLETE--THE BLOODY TYRANNY--THE MARKING--THE HELPLESSNESS AND HOPELESSNESS OF MEN UNDER THE BEAST--WISDOM CONCERNING HIS NAME.
Revelation 13:13-18. (Revised Text.) And he doeth great miracles, so that he even maketh fire come down from the heaven to the earth in the presence of men, and he deceiveth those that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to work in the presence of the beast, saying to those who dwell on the earth they should make an image to the beast, which had the stroke of the sword, and lived.
And it was given him to give spirit to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should even speak, and should cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond to receive a mark [χἀραγμα, stamp or brand] on their right hand, or on their forehead, that no one shall be able to buy or sell except he who has the mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Here is the wisdom. Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast; for it is a number of a man, and the number of him is 666.
In the last Lecture we were engaged in considering the Beast from the earth, the False Prophet, the consociate and prime minister of the final Antichrist. We then saw something of his origin, his character, the sphere of his operations, the nature of his pretensions, and his success in introducing a new universal worship, or religion. But we did not then get through with him. It remains to be considered how he imposes on the world, and what oppressive and murderous use he makes of his power. The Lord help us to understand the matter truly!
Before proceeding directly to the subject it may be well to glance first at the antecedent state of things, by which the way is paved for his operations. No great movements or revolutions in human affairs ever come without preparative conditions and causes, some preliminary plantings which gradually mature until they ripen into the great ultimate results. It was so with the reformation wrought by Christ. It was so in the reformation which culminated in connection with the labours of Martin Luther. It has been so in science and philosophy. It has been so in every great political revolution. And when such gigantic changes and disasters come as foreshown in this chapter, they necessarily have had their roots in something which has gone before, of which they are the fruits, and which the nature of the times has served to favour and develop. Nor have the Scriptures failed to indicate various preliminary conditions and forerunners which serve to introduce the final false Christ and his abominations.
Speaking of the Man of Sin and his doings, Paul writes that that day shall not come, "except there come a falling away first." There is then to be a general sinking from the true faith, and the substitution of human conceits, philosophies, and "science falsely so called," in the place of the divine verities, eating away the substance of true religion, and dissolving its hold on the hearts and minds of men. Such a terrible deceit could not be unless all society were first thoroughly corrupted. And so it will be. The Apostle says: "Know this, that in the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof;"--times "when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 3:1-6; 2 Timothy 4:3-4.) Among the active causes of all this we are forewarned of a certain boastful and blatant scientism and naturalism which does not hesitate dogmatically to negative the doctrines of faith, and likewise of a demonic spiritualism, which denies that Jesus Christ has come, or is to come, in any literal sense, and sets up quite other revelations as the hope and dependence of the world. In so many words, it is affirmed "there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying [as a matter of doctrine and science], Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation;" and furthermore, "that in the latter times some [certain men] shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." (2 Peter 3:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:1-3.) As a necessary concomitant and result, we are further told of a perturbed, restless, and disabled condition in political affairs, a weakening of the laws, an unmanageableness of things of state and social order, making all the old formulae and codes of none effect, and engulfing the whole world in a quagmire of confusion, from which there is no retreat, and whence the only prospect is of worse disaster ahead. The Saviour assures us that as before the flood "the earth was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence," justice and law having been supplanted by the base will of the corrupt multitude, so it shall be when the present world nears its end. (Matthew 24:37-39.) Besides, it is a time when the patience of God is about wearied out with the perverseness and inventions of the wicked,--when judgment has commenced,--when the One who hinders the revelation of the Man of Sin is taken away,--when the Holy Ghost, so long grieved and insulted, begins to withdraw from the world then approaching its doom,--when the holiest and best of earth's population is taken away, caught up to the heavenly pavilion,-when the very candlestick of sacred illumination is removed,--when they that love not the truth are given over, judically blinded, and allowed a loose rein to believe lies and hasten their own damnation,--when the doors of the abyss are unlocked, and the powers of perdition are given wider liberties,-and when Satan is angered to the intensest degree, because he knows that "he hath but a short time." And in this crisis and condition of things, when evil is ready to bloom forth in final maturity, and every form of it is confluent, and all that impeded it has wellnigh disappeared, the great embodiment of Hell's subtlety and deceit begins his ministry. The world, having rejected the Evangely of God, is therefore ripe and ready for the Gospel of the Devil, and his great Apostle comes.
Observe, then, in the next place, by what means this Prophet brings the world to his unholy cause.
We have seen what his pretensions are. We have seen that he has the two horns, i.e., all the powers by which a religion, as such, makes its way upon the minds and hearts of men. We have seen that he presents himself as the bearer and interpreter of the absolute truth, the master and prophet of all that can rightfully demand the attention and obedience of any being. And what he thus professes and claims, he also proposes to prove and demonstrate, by exhibiting a supernatural control of all the forces and powers of Nature. "And he doeth great miracles.... And he deceiveth those that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to work in the presence of the Beast." Miracles have ever been the chief evidence of the presence of what is worshipful and divine. It is by these especially that men's faith is begotten and controlled. It is by seeing and experiencing what is manifestly above and beyond all natural human power, and what cannot be accounted for on natural principles, that the human mind is forced to a conviction of the presence of some great and worshipful potency superior to Nature. It was by such demonstrations that Moses evidenced Jehovah's almightiness and his own legation as Jehovah's prophet, till the most inveterate unbelief was compelled to admit and confess that here was "the finger of God." It was one of the ways in which Jesus proved His Messiahship, and established for all ages that He is a teacher sent from God; for, as Nicodemus said, no man could do the miracles which he did, except God were with him. Paul, in enumerating the powers by which he persuaded the Gentiles to faith in the Gospel, says, that it was in very deed the power of signs and wonders which Christ did by him in the power of the Holy Ghost, that he made his conquests. (Romans 15:18.) And this arch-prophet of falsehood knows well how needful and mighty is the force of miracles to establish his credit, and to secure belief in his claims. The religion of God is a religion of miracles, and to make his infernal deception appear the only true and rightful religion, he needs to mimic and counterfeit all that supernaturalism on which the true faith reposes. To this, therefore, he sets himself, and becomes one of the greatest workers of signs and wonders the earth has ever seen.
Nor need we be surprised at this. There is a supernatural power which is against God and truth, as well as one for God and truth. A miracle, simply as a work of wonder, is not necessarily of God. There has always been a devilish supernaturalism in the world, running alongside of the supernaturalism of divine grace and salvation. "Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent." Here was divine miracle. But Pharaoh went and called his wise men and sorcerers, and "the magicians of Egypt also did in like manner with their enchantments; for they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents." Here was devil miracle, in imitation of the divine. In the same way the turning of the waters to blood was counterfeited, as also the plague of frogs. Only when it came to the creation of swarms of insect life, did the magicians give up, and admit that this was beyond their power. (See Exodus 7:1-25; Exodus 8:1-32; Exodus 9:1-35.) So, again (in Deuteronomy 13:1-5). God assumes and asserts that there may be supernatural revelations in behalf of idol worship; for He gives it as a law for His people: "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spoke unto thee, saying. Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." So the Saviour tells us that many will come up in the day of judgment, saying, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works (all manner of miracles)? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 7:23.) Of the "false Christs and false prophets" whom he foretold, he says they "shall show great signs and wonders." (Matthew 24:24.) Paul says of Antichrist, and the doings in connection with him, that his "coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders." (2 Thessalonians 2:9.) "Lying wonders" does not mean unreal wonders, mere trick, jugglery, and legerdemain; but wonders wrought for the support of lies, that is, devil miracles. Mere pretended miracles have nothing of miraculous power; but in this case the worker comes "with all power." There is no emptiness or unreality about them. They are genuine miracles, wrought in the interests of Hell's falsehoods. The test of a miracle is its supernaturalness; the test of its source, is the doctrine, end, or interest for which it is wrought. If in support of anything contrary to God and His revealed will and law, it is no less a miracle; but in that case it is a work of the Devil; for God cannot contradict himself. (See 1 John 4:1-3.) It is also plainly intimated in the Divine Word, that, in judgment upon the wicked world for its refusal of Christ, and its setting at naught of all the divine miracles, the present bonds and limitations of Satanic power will be relaxed, the Devil and his demons allowed freer range upon this planet, and those in love with falsehood and unrighteousness given over to delusions then so much stronger than ever before. (See 1 Kings 22:18; 1 Kings 22:22; 2 Chronicles 18:18; 2 Chronicles 18:22; Isaiah 6:9-10; Ezekiel 14:9; Romans 1:21; Romans 1:25; Romans 1:28; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.) It is therefore in strict accord with all history and revelation, that the consummate False Prophet "doeth great miracles, and deceiveth those that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him [permitted him of God] to work."
An example of these great miracles is described. The power of the False Prophet extends so far, "that he even maketh fire come down from the heaven to the earth in the presence of men." It is useless to talk of trickery and mere sham in this case. Of the rebels, in chapter 20, it is said: "Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them;" and of the Two Witnesses it is said: "If any one willeth to injure them, fire issueth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies." (Revelation 11:5.) In both these instances we have literal fire; for it consumes men; and the same terms in this case must mean the same thing. Nor is it the first time Satan shows his power over the fire and lightnings of heaven. When God allowed him to assail and tempt Job, the report came: "The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them." (Job 1:16.) It was Satan who directed and brought down that fire; so then he is able to do again for his own great Prophet. There is also special reason why this particular miracle should be wrought at this time. The Two Witnesses showed this command over fire, and it was necessary to offset it by something of the same character. Besides, it was the test by which Elijah proposed to decide between the Godhead of Baal and Jehovah, insisting that "the God that answereth by fire" is to be accepted as the true God. And "the fire of the Lord fell" at the call of Elijah, and thus settled the question of Jehovah's Deity and majesty over against the impotent Baal. (1 Kings 18:1-46.) There needs therefore to be a meeting of that test on the part of this new Prophet, in order to make out his claim, as over against the God of the Bible. And as men refuse to abide by the Jehovah-answer by fire, this man is permitted to imitate that test, that it may appear how very ready and facile wicked people are to believe the Devil's miracles in preference to those of God.
Whether the fire in this case is allowed to be used for destruction, as it was in the ministry of Elijah, is not said; but it certainly comes, and it comes "in the presence of men"-men, not babes, not idiots, not imbeciles. The subtle performer anticipates all suspicions of imposture, and provides against the possibility of having it said that it is nothing but a cheat, a mere piece of cunningly-devised pyrotechnics. When it comes to supernaturalism and miracle, people call for an open field, a fair test, the exclusion of every chance for collusion, and thorough care against deception by mechanical contrivances or a better knowledge than they have of nature's laws. The sceptical heart of man is jealous of miracles. But here every demand is met; for the whole world is convinced, and all its science satisfied. Out of the open sky, on the broad plain, in the clear light of day, under the keen scrutiny of the keenest adepts of science, before the most competent of witnesses, this agent of perdition calls, and the fire comes and descends to the earth, attested as an unmistakable reality!
Every year, at Easter time, the Greek patriarch at Jerusalem goes through the farce of calling down fire from heaven, by which all the lamps of the Greek churches and shrines are lit for that year. Dean Stanley, from having been an eye-witness, has given a graphic account of the proceeding, and the terrific furore which attends it. But there, the one who gets the fire is locked up alone in the darkness of a ceiled and covered vault, and no one sees the fire until it is put forth through an aperture at the top of the cell. No sensible person is deceived by it. It stands acknowledged a poor and disgraceful trick. It is not so in this case, for here every one's scruples are satisfied. The closest investigators and observers see and confess that the miracle is genuine, and are persuaded that the god of this man is divine, even on Elijah's test, though without doing full justice to Elijah's case.
 Sinai and Palestine, pp. 464-470.
Thus substantiating his own professions, this infernal Prophet points next to the supernatural character of the man whom he seeks to have adored. Hengstenberg agrees that the reason or ground on which the worship of the ten-horned Beast is solicited and urged, is the continually repeated and tremendously emphasized fact, that he was wounded to death, and that the stroke of his death was healed. With all his wonderful power, wisdom, and greatness, this is his sublimest personal characteristic; and on this account the adoration of him is chiefly founded.
It is on account of Christ's obedience unto death and resurrection from the dead, that He has His place and glory, as the head of all power, and the object of worship, honour, and blessing. The songs of heaven are to "the Lamb that was slain." The Antichrist is the mimic Christ; and he must have honour too, because he died and is alive again. Though "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures," and "showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs," and after forty days was visibly taken up into heaven, whence also He shed forth a regenerating and miraculous power, proving that He is forever exalted at the right hand of the Father almighty, worthy of the everlasting adoration of all creatures; still the wicked world will not believe in Him, nor award Him the honour that is His due. But when the Antichrist comes, because he died of a sword-wound, and went to his fitting perdition, and reappears from out the abyss, it will be preached, and taught, and argued that he above all is worthy of the homage, credit, and worship of mankind! And because a miracle-working prophet says so, and because they have the infernal Beast in his grand administrations before their eyes, they who could see no reason for hearkening to the miracle-working Apostles, listen, and are persuaded in favour of this new gospel, and agree that the foul monster shall be their Lord and only Deity!
And to make the infamous delusion the more easy and effective, this False Prophet avails himself further of the abomination which has been the besetting sin of the race, the great defilement of the ages. I cannot explain exactly what it is, but there has always been a peculiar witchery in the worship of idols. Even Aaron himself was persuaded to make a golden calf, and within hearing of the thunder of God's almightiness the people gathered themselves together, and paid willing homage to the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. This infernal messenger knows the advantage to be gained from this strange proneness of mankind, and therefore he counsels and directs, as the chosen method for giving due homage to the god, that "they should make an image to the Beast which had the stroke of the sword, and lived." A statue was to be constructed; and it was to be at once a statue "to the Beast," and "of the Beast,"--a material likeness of himself, set up in sacred honour of his majesty. Hengstenberg observes that one image is spoken of, "but in regard to the sense a multitude of images is meant." If so, this would give a sort of ubiquitous presence to the Beast, and would greatly facilitate his worship in all parts of his dominion. The vision, however, without excluding the idea of multiplication, contemplates but one original, which, according to other passages bearing on the subject, has its location at Jerusalem, and finds its way into the temple built for Jehovah, and is there set up as "the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet." (Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:45; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4.)
The worship of such a statue would be the worship of the Man himself, for this was the understanding and meaning of all image-worship. It is on this idea that Rome sanctions the veneration of images of Christ, the Virgin, and other saints. Chrysostom says: "When the images of the emperor are sent down and brought into a city, its rulers and multitude go out to meet them with carefulness and reverence, not honouring the tablet or the representation moulded in wax, but the standing of the emperor." Hence Basil says: "The image of the emperor is also called the emperor, because honour paid to the image passes to the original." "He that honours not the image, honours not the person represented." So also Athanasius says: "He who worshippeth the image, in it worshippeth the emperor; for the image is his form and likeness." And so in all the history of ancient Rome, whatsoever was done to the statue of a god or man, was construed as done to him whose statue it was. The making of this image of and to the Beast is therefore a formulation of the worship of the Beast.
Nor is it difficult to trace what sort of arguments will be brought to bear for the making of this image. In the ages of great worldly glory and dominion statues were raised to the honour of the great of every class, but who of all the great ones of the earth is so great as the Antichrist! Statues have ever been common for the commemoration of great events; but what greater event and marvel has ever occurred than that in the history of this man, in that he was wounded to death, and yet is restored to life and activity, with far sublimer qualities than he possessed in his first life? How much more worthy of memorialization this than the scar of Scipio, or the appearance of a star supposed to be miraculous which Octavianus commemorated on the consecrated image of his imperial foster-father? If the grand old Romans thus honoured their human emperors and benefactors, why withhold this veneration from one so evidently and eminently superhuman? And who will there be among the proud sons of earth to stand out against such arguments? The leaders of the apostate world will cheerfully acquiesce in the preeminent propriety of such a memorial, and an image of the beast, and to his sacred honour, is made and set up, particularly emphasizing his great characteristic, that he once was wounded to death, and that he has come back to life again with his death-wound healed.
But with the image constructed and in its place, another hellish wonder is wrought, perhaps the most marvellous of all the doings of this minister of perdition. "The idols of the heathen are silver and gold; they have mouths, but they speak not." (Psalms 135:15-16.) But the powers of falsehood have by this time become mightier than of old. To the False Prophet it is given "to give spirit to the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should even speak." The unbelieving may laugh, and sneer, and say, "It is nonsense and impossibility." And so, indeed, it may be to them and their power. But, of old, it was written, "Woe to him that saith to the wood, Awake! to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach." (Habakkuk 2:19.) And here is the man who does it. For thus it stands recorded in the Revelation of God. And when it comes to pass, men will be only the more carried away by it, because of their previous unbelief of the possibility of anything of the sort. As God's word is true, and heaven and earth will sooner pass away than one jot or tittle of it go unfulfilled, this thing will be done. As the power of God restores breath and life to the Two Witnesses, so shall this arch magician have power to give animation and speech to this dead statue. And why not? The infernal power which brings up a dead man from the abyss, and reinstates him in all the activities of a new life of wonder and greatness, certainly can be at no loss to make an image speak, and through its metallic mouth to give forth his oracles. Old Pagan and Christian writers have recorded instances in which the idols spake, and gave forth oracles. The papists affirm the same veritable truth concerning some of their images. The Hindoos to this day hold and maintain that a degree of life and supernatural power takes possession of their images when solemnly consecrated according to the prescribed ceremonies. And we are hardly warranted in declaring that it is all falsehood and misbelief. But if there be no truth or reality in these affirmations and beliefs, the thing will become literal fact under the ministrations of this son of perdition. This image speaks; and the closest observation of all the science, wisdom, and scepticism of the time is satisfied of the fact. There will be no machinery, no collusion, no make-believe, no trick or deceit about it; for the whole world is convinced. The image speaks. Oracles and commands come out of the dead metal. People may institute and apply what tests they please, and scrutinize with all the science the earth affords, but the result of all is the universal admission, that the image does speak. The Scriptures cannot be broken; and John, in the spirit saw, and has written it down by command of God, that "it was given the False Prophet to give spirit to the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should even speak." The Beast is supernatural; the False Prophet is supernatural; and the image, though made by man, likewise takes on of the supernatural; and all the savants of the time agree and maintain that it is even so. They cannot help it. They cannot hold out against absolute demonstration.
Thus it is, then, that the False Prophet imposes on the world, wins credence to his professions and claims, and sways the public sentiment to the acknowledgment of a new divinity, demanding a new religion, whose vulgar abominations are thought but right and reasonable.
But with the grand machinery thus organized and completed in a Devil church united with a Devil state, the consummated Devil-rule goes into full effect. With the Beast systematically deified, an image set up and consecrated to his adoration, and the testimony, argument, and eloquence of a great miracle-working Prophet ringing through the world in his behalf, the Oracle speaks and the edicts issuer-edicts from which we would think Pandemonium itself would recoil with horror. Behold, and see, the "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" which the unbelieving world so much adores, when once fully matured and put into universal command.
There be some in those days who cannot accept the new worship,--elect ones whom God has written in the Lamb's book of life, who cannot be deceived. There be Jews, with whose being it is ingrained never to accept the worship of an idol, and Christian believers, whom nothing can buy over to an abomination so foul and blasphemous. The voice of God's Two Witnesses is heard over against the grand speeches and miracles of the False Prophet, and some there be who take heed to its warnings, and keep themselves aloof from the terrible idolatry. But how do these fare at the hands of this sublimated embodiment of the supreme Reason and finished Progress of which it prates? Where is the "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" for them? From the mouth of the image, by the sanction of the great Prophet, and by the authority of the idolized Beast, the demand is, "hat as many as will not worship the image of the Beast shall be killed."
Abbé Barruel has told us about the worshippers of Liberty and Equality in France, how that on a great civic occasion at Brest, while the municipal officers, the justices of the peace, the tribunal, and the National Guards, were lying self-prostrated before a carved image of Mirabeau, some one whose conscience pricked him exclaimed: "Wretches, you are guilty of idolatry!" but his voice being heard above the noise of drums and trumpets, the adorers of the idol at once cried out: "Kneel down, or you shall die!" But what was only mad impulse and sudden fury then, is finally framed into a great imperial enactment, into a sacred universal law, which admits of no exceptions and no exemptions. No one, of any class or race, is allowed to live under the dominion of these Beasts, if unwilling to conform to the worship they set up.
Hence the flight of the Woman into the wilderness, her miraculous help and defence, where the Beast endeavors in vain to overwhelm her.
Thus, in the name of Democracy and popular rights, comes absolute Dictatorship and Imperialism; in the name of Freedom, comes complete and universal enslavement; in the name of the better Reason, which tramples on religion and Revelation, comes a great consolidated system of gross idolatry; in the name of a charitable Liberalism, which disdains allegiance to any creed, comes a bloody Despotism, which compels men to worship the base image of a baser man, or die! Here is one star in the crown of this world's boasted Progress.
But the religion of Christ has its holy Sacraments;-its mark of baptismal consecration on the forehead, and its pledges of sacred fellowship and communion given into the hands. This god of the godless also travesties these. The subjects of Antichrist must show their allegiance and wear the badge of their infernal Lord. The False Prophet "causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, to receive a χἀραγμα, a stamp or brand, on their right hand, or on their forehead." As masters in old time branded their slaves, and as owners of stock brand and mark their cattle, so are the people branded under the Antichrist. Declining the Baptism of Christ, they must take upon their bodies the sign and seal that they are sold and held as the goods and chattels of hell! Money and place cannot buy them off. The rich and great are not exempted any more than the poor. The master must submit the same as the veriest slave. The ten kings themselves lie under the inexorable requirement.
The "mark" itself is at once a number and a name. The Apostle tells us what it is. As he gives it, it is made up of two Greek characters which stand for the name of Christ, with a third, the figure of a crooked serpent, put between them, χξς, the name of God's Messiah transformed into a Devil sacrament. This horrid sign must every one receive on one of the most conspicuous parts of the body, cut, stamped, or branded in, there to abide indelibly. No one may either "buy or sell" without this "mark," and all who do receive it take upon their bodies the token and seal of their damnation!
To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be baptized into His name, for the washing away of sin, and the securemnt of eternal life, is too much for some people. It is to them an humiliating nonsense, to which their superior dignity cannot stoop. But when the Devil-Messiah comes, in him they will believe and trust; to him they will sell themselves, and to his branding-irons they will submit as helpless slaves and cattle, with no choice but to yield or die; and yielding, to perish everlastingly. I say, perish everlastingly, for there is no more salvation for any one upon whom is this "mark." From heaven the clear, distinct, and awful sentence is: "If any man worship the Beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture 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; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the Beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11.) This also proves that this Beast is not the Pope; for not all under the Pope are lost. And it is just for the eternal ruin of such as will not accept the true and only Christ that this monster is permitted. People dislike the truth and refuse to obey the holy Gospel, and this minister of hell is allowed to make them the victims of his awful delusions that they may reap the fruits of their unbelief. And all is thus mercifully foreshown, that they may see and know to what a consummation their antichristian philosophies, beliefs, philanthropies, reforms, and proud self-will in sacred things is tending, and so learn righteousness before it is too late. God's Christ rejected is the opening of the soul to the Devil's Messiah, to the great impersonated lie of the universe, whose meretricious good is but the lure to infinite degradation and eternal death. And when men's dissatisfaction with the Lord's Christ and His institutes has worked itself out, and the seeds which it generates have come to their ripened fruits, they will find themselves in the position of slaves and cattle of a mighty tyrant, against whom they can do nothing but hold still, and receive upon their flesh the indelible seal of inevitable damnation.
Hence the peroration with which the vision closes. If men wish light, they can find it in these showings. If they wish to be wise, "here is wisdom." And if any one hath understanding, let him learn the number of the Beast and stand aloof. The arithmetic of it, and the hidden indication which it carries of the precise man who is to be the final Antichrist, need not concern us much. The endless guesses and experiments with which expositors have occupied themselves and their readers on this point can be of very little practical worth to us. When the monster comes, "the righteous shall understand." Our business is rather to reckon up the number of the Beast as to his moral identification. It is here that the chief stress falls, and where the greatest exposure lies. The figures 666 may spell Nero Caesar in Hebrew, and "the Latin," in Greek; but whether this is certainly what the Spirit meant, no one can now tell; neither would it help us if we knew. The wisdom here, as required by us, is the wisdom to detect and discern the antichristian badness, the ill principles which lay men open to Antichrist's power, the subtle atheism and unfaith by which people are betrayed into his hands. Six is the bad number, and when multiplied by tens and hundreds, it denotes evil in its greatest intensity and most disastrous manifestation. This number of the Beast's name thus gives his standing in the estimate of heaven, and fixes attention on that rather than on the numerical spelling of the name he bears on earth. If we can only know the principles pertaining to his badness; if we can only have understanding to detect his spirit which already works so powerfully in so many specious forms about us, we shall have accomplished the most needful reckoning of the number of his name. And without this, we may be carrying his damning "mark" upon our souls, even whilst we think ourselves forearmed against his power by what we have discovered of the word by which his contemporaries designate him. The moral insight into his nature is the wisdom we require, rather than the orthography of the name by which he is called. In this, therefore, let us try to skill our souls, cleaving ever to our only Lord God, and His Son Jesus Christ our Saviour, in the meekness of a confiding faith and obedience, that no marks or stains of the Beast, or his abominations, even in spirit, may ever be found upon our souls.
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 13". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany