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THE TWO BEASTS
THE DRAGON AND THE TWO BEASTS
The victory of Michael over the dragon resulted in the complete overthrow of Satan’s power and influence in the heavens. The dragon and his host were cast down to earth, an event of unusual importance, and one of grave significance. The earth is now to become the scene of satanic operation, and God-fearing Jews and Gentiles the special objects of Satan’s murderous hatred. He also blinds and darkens the peoples and countries in which once shone so brilliantly the light of Christianity. Although Satan is a spirit, and therefore unseen by mortal eyes, he is nevertheless actually in person on the earth during the last half prophetic week of Daniel, three years and a half. His two principal ministers are before us in this chapter, two men . These instrumentalities are also spoken of as beasts, wild, fierce beasts. *Beasts are powers or kingdoms, but the expression is used ofttimes for the personal head of the kingdom, as the ruler gives his own character to it. Thus in this very chapter masculine and personal pronouns are applied to the Beast, denoting, of course, the actual personal ruler (see Revelation 20:10 in confirmation). Hence the term Beast may be used interchangeably for the empire or its personal and energetic head. The beasts of chapters 4-6 are living creatures (see Revised Version). As men they are, of course, responsible to God, but they are here viewed as the tools and instruments of Satan, who gives them their power and wields it. Satan is the master mind which acts in and by those two apostates. The first Beast is a Gentile , characterised by brute force (vv. 1-10); the second Beast is a Jew , characterised by subtle influence (vv. 11-18). These, then, are the two chief ministers of Satan on earth, in and by whom he works to accomplish the destruction of Israel, and, failing that, “the remnant of her seed” (Revelation 12:17 ). At a later period he urges on his blind dupes to stand in battle array against Christ Himself and His heavenly army (Revelation 19:11 ; Revelation 20:3 ). How utter the rout! How complete the overthrow!
THE FIRST BEAST
(Revelation 13:1-10 )
HISTORICAL REVIVAL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
1. “ And I stood upon the sand of the sea. ” Some read: “ he stood.” If the former reading be adopted, then the reference is to the Seer, but if the latter, then the dragon is meant. Hengstenberg remarks, “One cannot decide on external grounds between the two readings.” Authorities are divided. But a careful study of the context shows conclusively that it is the Seer and not the dragon that “stood upon the sand of the sea.” *The Revised Version reads, the dragon “ went away to make war.” How inconsistent with the next notice of him, “ he stood upon the sand of the sea!” Just as the Hebrew prophet by the river Ulai beheld the rise of the Persian and Grecian empires their conflicts and history (Daniel 8:1-27 ), so the christian seer on the sand of the sea beheld the reappearance of the fourth Beast Rome in imperial splendour emerging out of the wild and tumultuous forces of a revolutionary crisis. The apocalyptic prophet always takes his place or stand as a point of observation in keeping with the subject on hand. Thus Heaven (Revelation 4:1-11 . l), the sand of the sea (Revelation 13:1 ), the wilderness (Revelation 17:3 ), and a high mountain (Revelation 21:10 ) are respective points of view from which he can contemplate the various panoramic visions as they pass before his gaze.
1. “ The sand of the sea ” on which the Seer stood denotes vast multitudes of people (Revelation 20:8 ). The symbol is common enough as thus employed in all literature. The sand directs attention to the countless masses of mankind, while the sea as a symbol speaks of the wild and revolutionary forces and principles at work amongst them. In other words, the mass of the human race is here indicated as in a state of unrest and turmoil. In this state of things the Seer takes his stand, and “saw a beast rising out of the sea.”
This Beast is without doubt the ancient Roman empire reappearing upon the prophetic scene. It arose in a similar way to the three preceding empires. “Four great beasts came up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3 ); that is, out of the unsettled, restless masses of mankind. The four universal empires, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome are represented both as metals (Daniel 2:1-49 ) and beasts (Daniel 7:1-28 ), and not only in the rise and initial stages of their history but at the end they are there when the Lord comes. *The prophet takes no account of the break up and non-existent Roman power for many centuries. John shows its revival. The first three powers, *The first will not exist territorially, but will be found merged in her characteristics in the fourth. Babylon is doomed never to rise as a temporal power (Jeremiah 51:63-64 ). shorn of their strength, are at the end merely existing, but the fourth (the Roman) will be, as in the past, the dominant power on earth. Rome originally rose out of the throes of revolution and anarchy. The city was built shortly before the ten tribes were taken captive to Assyria. The many omens and legends connected with the birth of Rome all pointed to its future greatness. But while Daniel 7:3 ; Daniel 7:7 refers to the historical rise of the empire, 753 B.C., the Seer in Revelation 13:1 points to its future reappearance. For more than fourteen hundred years the western Roman empire has ceased to exist, * Rome fell A.D. 476. The last who bore the imperial crown was named Romulus Augustus, a young and feeble ruler. The former name recalled to memory the founder of the empire, whilst the latter that of the first of the imperial line but its future revival is unquestionable, and it is to this that the first verse of our chapter refers. Whether the empire is in existence or only being formed during the time of the Seal-judgments we have no means of ascertaining. It may be that out of the general collapse of all governing authority under the sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12-17 ) the Beast emerges. The earlier martyrs (Revelation 6:9-11 ) are not slain under the persecution of the Beast, but are to wait until they were joined by those subsequently slain, showing that the Beast is not on the scene, at least not active, during the time covered by the Seals.
THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA, AND OUT OF THE ABYSS.
The Beast then is here first viewed in its historical revival “out of the sea .” But it is said also “to come up out of the abyss ” (Revelation 17:8 , R.V.). Both are future. The empire is to exist for seven years, but when it comes up at first it will do so out of a political and social chaos, while in its last and final stage its diabolic origin and character are intimated. The sea refers to its future historical rise, the abyss to its state under satanic power. This latter aspect of the empire dates from the casting down of Satan in “the midst of the week.” Satanic character and action characterise it during the last period of its existence, three years and a half.
THE HORNS AND HEADS OF THE BEAST.
1. Then the Beast is described as having “ ten horns and seven heads, and upon his horns ten diadems .” The mention of the horns precedes that of the heads (see R.V.). In the Authorised Version they are named in inverse order. But in Revelation 12:3 ; Revelation 17:3 we find the heads first, then the horns. Probably the reason why the horns in our text are named before the heads is that the Beast’s historical appearance when revived is in a ten-kingdom form. Attention is thus called to this new and hitherto unknown feature of the empire. The diadems are on the heads of the dragon (Revelation 12:3 ); here they are seen on the horns of the Beast. In the former seven diadems; in the latter ten. We should read diadems, not crowns. The former denotes despotic power, the latter constitutional monarchy. Now these ten crowned horns are ten kings (Revelation 17:12 ). There will be witnessed soon ten distinct kingdoms in western Europe. It would be the merest guess-work to enumerate them or allocate exactly their territorial limits, but their identification will be simple enough when God in His providential arrangements brings them into view. In the history of the empire it never had this character. When it ceased to exist, then numerous kingdoms and petty states were formed, fragments of the one vast colossal empire with its one despotic head. But when revived ten kingdoms will be formed within its territorial limits. These ten kings, tired, we suppose, of continued international jealousies and quarrels, “have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the Beast” (Revelation 17:13 ). There shall then be but one ruler over the empire, the “little horn” of Daniel 7:1-28 , the Roman prince who makes a covenant with the apostate nation for seven years (Daniel 9:27 ), breaks it in the midst of the period, and finally perishes at the Coming of the Lord in judgment (Revelation 19:20 ).
NAMES OF BLASPHEMY.
l. Another and more awful feature is added, “ upon his heads names of blasphemy .” To a careless observer the empire in its vast strength and territorial extent would be most striking, but to a reflecting mind its blasphemous character as displayed in its heads, its governing authority, is an awful sight to contemplate. The seven heads on the Beast represent, not successive forms of rule, as in Revelation 17:10 , but the fulness and completeness of government with which the Beast is invested in its latter-day history. It is not simply the concentration of power signified by “seven horns ” (Revelation 5:6 ), but “seven heads ,” the fulness of intelligent government (Revelation 12:3 ).
“Upon his heads names of blasphemy.” *On the historical application the “names of blasphemy” would be those impiously borne by the emperors, several of whom insisted that divine honours and worship should be paid them. Nero was saluted as “the eternal one.” Caligula commanded that his image should be placed in the temple to be worshipped side by side with Jehovah. In fact the deification of the emperors was a standing law in Roman life. This awful feature was introduced on the accession of the Caesars to imperial dominion. The profession of Christianity having been abandoned (2 Thessalonians 2:3 ), public, open blasphemy of God is the sad result. The Beast will openly defy God, and set himself in determined opposition to all who are His (v. 6). This is an entirely new feature of the empire, and one characterising the last stage of its existence. Ancient Rome was heathen in character. We might reasonably have looked for those names (not name as in the A.V.) on the heads of the dragon, but no, they are on the Beast, for he it is who is to be the public witness of direct and flagrant opposition to God and His Anointed, and to all Heaven as well. Every form and character in which God could be dishonoured in the eyes of men are referred to in “ names of blasphemy.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EMPIRE.
Revelation 13:2 . But the Beast is further represented as “ like to a leopard, and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as a lion’s mouth .” That is, the Beast, or imperial Rome, besides being marked by features peculiar to itself, combines and concentrates the main characteristics of the three preceding empires, “absorbs them” as another has said. *“All the ferocious and powerful beasts which Daniel (Daniel 7:3 , seq .) has successively brought upon the scene of action as the representatives of different empires John has here combined in one monster. There is much of significancy in this. The Roman empire combined in itself all the elements of the terrible and the oppressive which had existed in the aggregate in the other great empires that preceded it; its extension too was equal to them all united. Hence the propriety of the composite symbol which unites the symbols of other empires in that of Rome, and thus makes the complex unity of the latter a most significant index of power and cruelty and extent of imperial dominion.” Stuart on “The Apocalypse,” page 638. We turn to the Hebrew prophet for needful explanation as to these empires. The chapter is one connected prophecy given in vision to Daniel (Daniel 7:1-28 ), stretching from the advent of the conqueror of Judah to the seat of universal sovereignty, and on through the ages till the star of Judah is again in the ascendant; in other words, from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to that of Christ as Son of Man. Now the first three empires are briefly described (Daniel 7:1-28 ); the Babylonian in verse four, the Medo-Persian in verse five, and the Grecian in verse six. The rest of the chapter is devoted in the main to the consideration of the fourth Beast, characterised but not named (v. 7). It will be observed that the Seer mentions the wild animals in the inverse order to that of the prophet. In Daniel the historical succession of the empires necessitates the mention first of the lion, the chosen symbol of Babylonian greatness. In Revelation 13:2 is first mentioned the leopard or third empire. Celerity of movement and sudden spring, so characteristic of the mighty Grecian, Alexander, are denoted by the leopard; the grasping, crushing tyranny of the Persians on their conquered provinces (on Judah perhaps excepted) is likened to the feet of a bear; while the terror inspired by the lion’s roar, as also its ferocity in tearing to pieces its prey, are next spoken of. These characteristics of a bestial nature are here seen combined and embodied in the fourth Beast of Daniel 7:1-28 , the revived Roman dominion.
THE DRAGON AND THE BEAST.
2. “ And the dragon gave to him his power, and his throne and great authority. ” The Beast, in whom are combined the distinguishing features and characteristics of its predecessors, as well as their sovereignty, is thus a fitting instrument through which the dragon can work. Thus not only is the Beast the inheritor of the worldwide dominion directly bestowed upon Nebuchadnezzar, but he also represents the dragon in cruelty and brute force in the world. The subtlety of the serpent is expressed in the second Beast (v. 11). Satanic power from the abyss, Satan’s own throne *“ Seat ” read throne ; also In Revelation 4:1-11 read thrones, not “ seats .” Royal position is in view in both passages. Seats suppose a private station in life, thrones a royal one. in the midst of a God-defying scene, and unlimited authority on the earth make up the awful picture here presented. Christ refused the sovereignty of the world from Satan (Luke 4:5 ; Luke 4:8 ); here is one who accepts it. It only remains to add that the period referred to when the dragon gives his throne and authority to the Beast is the time and occasion when the Beast ascends out of the abyss (Revelation 17:8 ), consequent upon Satan’s expulsion from Heaven.
The satanic character and history of the empire covers the most interesting and solemn crisis in the world’s future the three years and a half preceding the Lord’s Advent in glory. At the close of this period, the seventieth week of Daniel, the Beast and his coadjutor in evil go “into perdition,” i.e. , the lake of fire. The two Beasts of our chapter are in the end seen to be two devil-inspired men. These chiefs of the apostasies in the closing days are consigned alive to their eternal doom (Revelation 19:20 ).
THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF THE BEAST A UNIVERSAL WONDER.
Revelation 13:3 . “ And one of his heads (was) as slain to death, and his wound of death had been healed; and the whole earth wondered after the beast.” Here we have the political death and resurrection of the Beast. The wounded head and the Beast are evidently identified. It was the Beast in its imperial head that was slain. The empire ceased to exist A.D. 476. The world-wide dominion of the Caesars has lain in the iron grip of political death from that date till now. But God in His providence will call the empire again into being, out of a scene of revolutionary passion and conflict, like that out of which the empire of the first Napoleon arose out of the sea (v. 1). “His wound of death had been healed.” The Seer views it as an accomplished fact, referring, we take it, to the statement in verse 1. But his resurrection, as also his presentation to the world, is connected with his satanic revival in the midst of the week (Daniel 9:27 ). The historical rise and continuance of the Beast precedes, or at least is coincident with, the seven years’ treaty with Judah. The satanic revival (Revelation 13:2 ; Revelation 17:8 ) is in the last half of that prophetic week of seven years. “The whole earth wondered after the beast.” The Beast will present a picture hitherto unknown and unseen, one unexampled in the history of the race. A human power endowed with satanic energy, openly defying God, and invested with the royal power and world-wide authority of Satan will engage the rapt gaze of the whole earth. It will marvel at the sight. We see no reason to limit the phrase “the whole earth.” The revival of the empire must be a matter of interest to all embraced within its range and influence. The authority of the dragon and his far-reaching influence go beyond the geographical limits of the ten kingdoms. The Beast to whom Satan delegates his authority exercises a commanding influence all over the earth, reaching even to the limits of heathendom.
WORSHIP OF THE DRAGON AND THE BEAST.
Revelation 13:4 . “ And they worshipped the dragon, because he gave the authority to the Beast; and they worshipped the Beast, saying, Who (is) like the Beast? and who can war with him? ” Here God is set aside, and the dragon usurps His place. Not the Creator, but Satan becomes the object of universal worship. Mere profession is worthless in that awful day. Reality alone can avail in a scene wholly given up to Satan. Only those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book, or, in other words, the elect (v. 8), can confront Satan in the hour of his apparent triumph. In the eyes of men the dragon has just done what it was supposed God alone could do, given supreme authority to the Beast; on that account divine honours are paid to him. But the Beast also is worshipped. The wonder which, with super-human features added, his reappearance in the scene of history arouses is succeeded by worship . Both the astonishment and the worship are universal, the latter in character and extent exceeding anything ever before witnessed in Rome. Spiritualism, which has been making gigantic strides of late years, is working for one definite object, the worship of the devil. In Europe and America devil-worship is largely practised. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 we learn that the man of sin, who is identical with the second Beast of our chapter, is also worshipped. What horrible blasphemy! What a mockery and parody of Christianity! Not the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but triune devil-worship: the dragon, the Beast, and the man of sin. And is this what christian (?) England is coming to? The higher critics are doing their best under the influence of Satan to hand over Christendom to the devil, and they are making rapid progress in that direction. “Who is like the Beast? and who can make war with him?” *In this proud and defiant challenge the claim of omnipotence is advanced. Beyond all power which has ever appeared on earth the Beast stands forth as acting directly in the super-human power of the dragon a power which spares not and knows no pity. intimate that his power and war-like prowess are the dazzling qualities which win the admiration of the world, and hence the homage due to his exalted position, but not worship is the special point here. We think, however, more is implied, and that divine honours shall be paid to the personal head of the restored empire; to effect which is the work of the second Beast (vv. 12-15).
THE BLASPHEMY, PERSECUTION, AND WORLD-WIDE AUTHORITY OF THE BEAST.
Revelation 13:5-7 . “ And there was given him a mouth, speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given him authority to pursue his career forty-two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His Name and His tabernacle, and those who have their tabernacle in the Heaven. And there was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and there was given to him authority over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. ” Interwoven in the very texture of the dark account here furnished of satanic wickedness and human arrogance is a ray of consolation to God’s beloved saints (now and then) in the frequency of the expression “given him.” Behind the Beast there lies the hidden yet omnipotent power of Jehovah. Satan has no power in himself. All power is of God. Its individual and governmental exercise is another matter, and for that all are responsible, even the devil himself. The power which lashed the Sea of Galilee into fury and tempest in order to sink the vessel which contained the richest freight that ever sailed, Christ and His disciples, had its source in the divine Sleeper reposing in the hinder part of the ship. Satan for the moment was granted authority over the elements of nature to demonstrate to us that his power, as also its continuance, is controlled and checked by God at His will and pleasure (Matthew 8:23-27 ). In the pride of his heart the Beast boasts and blasphemes. Who he is and what he has done constitute, no doubt, the sum of the “great things” spoken, and added to this are the significant words “and blasphemes.” God, and all His in earth and Heaven, are openly railed upon, and spoken against in words not recorded, but bitter enough surely, as the expression of an apostate heart inspired by the devil.
Once again we meet with the duration of incarnate satanic power on the earth. “There was given him authority to pursue his career forty-two months.” Observe that it is not the existence of the Beast or empire simply as such that is affirmed in our text, but that great crisis in its history when Satan takes possession of it forty-two months, or three years and a half previous to its final destruction. It is during this time that the Beast pursues his career of blasphemy and violence under the direct influence of the dragon. The continuance of the empire from its rise (v. 1) till its final destruction by the Lord in Person at His Advent in glory (Revelation 19:19-21 ) covers at least the whole of the last week of prophecy (Daniel 9:1-27 ). Its revival out of the abyss is in the midst of the week, and from thence we date its satanic career of forty-two months.
Then God and His tabernacle and the dwellers in Heaven are the subjects of satanic blasphemy. Words, bold and bad, are uttered. What is said we know not, but we may be sure that the utmost of undying hatred to God which the malice of the dragon can suggest is publicly and loudly expressed. Probably, too, the blasphemy may take the additional character of contempt and mockery in image and representation of divine subjects. Then the saints on earth standing for the rights of God against the dragon and his satellites are given over to the power of the Beast. The saints in these times are not of the character of the seven thousand negative witnesses in the time of the prophet. They are all Elijahs, bold and uncompromising in their testimony. The Beast is allowed to wreak his vengeance on the saints “to overcome them.” See also Revelation 11:7-8 , which, however, is confined to Jerusalem. Whatever may be the territorial extent of the empire in the future, the authority of the Beast seems unlimited in its range and extent, as it embraces “every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation” the four divisions of the human race. Thus we find a gathering to Jerusalem of people from all parts of the earth in association with the Beast in the murder of Jewish saints (Revelation 11:9 ). Countries and peoples outside the Roman empire will yet be found under its powerful influence and authority. The Beast and the woman (Babylon) are in closest connection, but, besides, there are other nations in external relation to the Beast over whom he exercises authority (Revelation 17:1-18 ).
WORSHIPPERS OF THE BEAST.
Revelation 13:8 . “ And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (every one) whose name had not been written from (the) foundation of (the) world in the book of life of the slain Lamb. ” We have more than once remarked upon the moral significance of the expression “dwell on the earth” *See remarks on Revelation 2:13 ; and on Revelation 11:8-10 . as signifying a class of persons who had deliberately rejected the heavenly calling, who, in fact, were apostates from Christianity. They are distinct from nations, peoples, tongues, and tribes (Revelation 11:10 ). Here, however! “the dwellers on the earth” can have no special moral significance, as all save the elect are referred to. All then dwelling on the prophetic earth are contrasted with those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life, hence the spiritual meaning of the phrase earth-dwellers cannot apply in this case. In the passage before us all worship the Beast save the elect. The slain Lamb who had redeemed them by His Blood takes special account of these sufferers. The book of life in which their names are recorded belongs to Him. In its pages their names were written from the foundation of the world, hence there can be no erasure, as undoubtedly there shall be from the book or register of profession (Revelation 3:5 ). Names, true and false, are found in this latter book, as God takes account of all Christian profession. But the Lamb’s book of life can only contain the names of the redeemed, as these were written from the foundation of the world, i.e. , from time’s commencement. It is the same book and the same class that are referred to in Revelation 17:8 , only there the Name of the Lamb is omitted. The Beast conquers and kills, but eternal life is the portion of those martyrs. The Lamb by His death redeemed them, and thus made good in time, and revealed at the fitting moment the strengthening and consoling fact of their names having been written in His book of life. Our blessing as Christians dates further back than that of the elect here and those of Matthew 25:34 . We are foreknown, chosen, and predestinated from before the foundation of the world, before time began, hence in eternity (Ephesians 1:4-5 ; Romans 8:29 ). We may remark that the elect of Matthew 24:22 constitute a company of God-fearing Jews, whereas those of our chapter and the sheep of Matthew 25:34 are chosen out of the world at large.
A CALL AND WARNING.
Revelation 13:9-10 . “ If any one has an ear, let him hear. If any one (leads) into captivity, he goes into captivity. If any one shall kill with (the) sword, he must with (the) sword be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints. ” The formula, “If any one has an ear, let him hear,” is one frequently employed in the ministry of our Lord (Matthew 11:15 ; Matthew 13:9 ; Matthew 13:43 ; Luke 8:8 , etc.). It is substantially the same, too, but shortened from that found in each of the addresses to the seven churches (Revelation 2:1-29 ; Revelation 3:1-22 ). The added clause, “what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” could have no application here, as churches are no longer in existence during the course of the apocalyptic judgments. The call to hear supposes the exercise of spiritual understanding, as distinct from the natural hearing common to men.
Then a principle is stated applicable to the Beast as to God’s saints in all ages to enemies and friends alike. However much grace and the power of the Spirit may work in saints, and modify the application of the principle, it yet abides. But what is the truth here so strongly inculcated? It is the certainty of retributive justice, or in the words of Scripture, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2 ). Whoever leads into captivity must himself go into it. Whoever kills must himself be killed. What a word of warning, and how seasonable to saints then crushed under the iron rule of the Beast! They must not resist. Their weapons are not carnal, but spiritual. “Here is the patience (endurance) and the faith of the saints.” In this way only can they triumph. Their victories are moral and spiritual, not physical. Helpless and hopeless, their resource is in God Himself. The Beast they would not worship, but on the other hand they must not resist, hence captivity and death would be their sad lot. Well, be it so; they had a life beyond the utmost power of the enemy. Their names were written in the Lamb’s book of life, and no power in hell or earth could erase the writing or rob them of their eternal portion founded on the death of the Lamb of God.
We may remark that both in Revelation 13:1-18 and Daniel 7:1-28 the revived empire is the prominent subject. But in the former the general character of the world power is the prominent feature, whereas in the latter it is more especially the personal head of the empire that is in view. The blasphemy and persecution of the Beast (Revelation 13:5-7 ) are in terms nearly identical with those employed in connection with the little horn (Daniel 7:8 ; Daniel 7:25 ). Both the Hebrew prophet and the christian Seer vitally connect the empire with its personal head, the last emperor. The character of the empire is embodied in its last great chief. There are other features of the fourth Beast and its relation to the whore which are taken up in Revelation 17:1-18 , the consideration of which must be reserved till we reach that chapter. “ The beast,” i.e. , the empire, is characteristically apocalyptic as being the great civil power in the last days.
THE SECOND BEAST
(Revelation 13:11-18 ).
THE TWO BEASTS CONTRASTED.
The two beasts of our chapter present a series of strikingly marked contrasts. The first came out of an unsettled state of things the sea ; the second arises out of a settled and established condition of civil and political government the earth . The former is a secular power; the latter a religious one. The first Beast had ten horns; the second has two. In subtle soul-destroying influence the second is the more dangerous of the two executive ministers of Satan, but the first is paramount in civil and military authority. The second Beast is clearly subordinate to the first, and, in fact, uses the military and other forces of the empire to accomplish his purpose the deification of the first Beast. The second is the lieutenant of the first. The first is a Gentile; the second a Jew. Chronologically, too, the second Beast succeeds the rise of the first. There is considerable confusion in the minds of many as to the respective spheres of action of these two beasts. The first is a vast political and military system, and as such perishes at the Coming of the Lord. While the territorial extent of the empire is more limited than it was in its past imperial character, its authority and influence extend throughout the civilised and christianised parts of the earth, embracing numerous nations and peoples. To it Satan gives his throne and authority, that which Christ refused from Satan (Luke 4:6-7 ). He receives it from His Father (Psalms 2:8 ). No power can withstand the Beast. It is the dominant power on earth.
The second Beast rules in Palestine, but his political power soon wanes, as the first Beast, in the person of its prince, meddles in Jewish political and religious matters, and is for the time the virtual master of Palestine. The Antichrist is viewed as a Beast at the beginning of his history, but at the end perishes as the false prophet, having lost his temporal sovereignty. Princely and kingly authority on earth are merged in the first Beast, who remains sovereign all along and perishes as such. The second becomes the minister of the first. But it is the second Beast who deceives the world, who labours to put Judaism and Christendom into the arms of Satan. The most abject slavery of all to the first Beast is another awful feature of these times. Liberty and freedom there shall be none. Both beasts share the same doom at the same time, in or near Jerusalem, at the Coming in power (Revelation 19:20 ).
A VILE IMITATION OF CHRIST.
11. “ And I saw another Beast rising out of the earth; and he had two horns like to a lamb; and spake as a dragon. ” Who is the Beast here referred to as “another?” His lamb-like appearance points him out at once as the false Messiah. He has “two horns.” The Lamb has “seven horns.” The horn is an emblem of power , physical, moral, or kingly. We gather that the two horns on the Beast are a travesty of the seven horns on the Lamb (Revelation 5:6 ). Fulness of power is with the Lamb; limited power is with this Beast. The two horns of power signify the dual office of king and prophet assumed by the Antichrist. As king he reigns in Jerusalem, but in subordination to his great chief, “ the Beast” (Daniel 11:36 ). Under this apocalyptic title, “the false prophet” (Revelation 16:13 ; Revelation 19:20 ; Revelation 20:10 ), he exercises great spiritual authority amongst the Jews and the peoples of Christendom generally.
He “spake as a dragon.” In spite of a certain outward resemblance to the Lamb in the assumption of official power to which he has no right he is at once exposed when he speaks. His draconic voice and speech betray him, and mark him off as Satan’s minister. He is the instrument by which Satan works in ruining Judaism and Christendom, spiritually and morally, as his great coadjutor, the first Beast, is instrumental in the prophetic spheres of political and civil government. Ruin, physical and moral, is the great aim of the dragon, and in seeking to accomplish his purpose he is ably supported by His two chief lieutenants, the beasts of our chapter.
We may remark that Rome and Jerusalem are the respective centres of influence from which Satan acts in Europe and Judea and all over the earth.
THE SECOND BEAST THE MINISTER OF THE FIRST.
Revelation 13:12-15 . “ And he exerciseth all the authority of the first Beast before him, and causeth the earth and those that dwell therein to worship the first Beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great signs, that he should cause even fire to come down from Heaven to the earth before men. And he deceiveth those that dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to do before the Beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth that they should make an image to the Beast, who hath the wound of the sword, and lived. And it was given him to give breath to the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should also speak, and should cause that as many as would not worship the image of the Beast should be killed. ” These beasts are political organisations, whoever their respective chiefs may be. The second is a subordinate power, and its royal head the active minister of the first Beast. One might at first sight almost gather that the first Beast is a mere passive machine, and that the energy and force of character are alone found concentrated in the second Beast, as “he exerciseth all the authority of the first Beast before him,” i.e. , in his presence. But that is not so. The first Beast is a powerful federation of ten kingdoms, harmoniously welded into one vast colossal power (Revelation 17:13 ) under an imperial leader, active, bold, persecuting, and blaspheming. Now the religious Beast has no royal authority outside Palestine, hence he employs the authority of the first Beast, its force and prestige, to accomplish his truly diabolical design to get Christendom to bow down in worship before the revived Roman empire. The second Beast has no great force or military power of its own; that has been given by the dragon to the first Beast. The second influences men religiously and spiritually, and is the worst of the two. Bad as the first undoubtedly is, the second Beast surpasses him. He arrogates to himself divine worship; sits in the literal temple built by the restored nation in unbelief; sets himself above all authority, divine and human; and, in fact, takes God’s place so far as he can, but all this in the land of Palestine. *He is publicly worshipped, yet, strange to say, he himself worships a god of his own creation, one hitherto unknown in the history of Israel. This idol-god he loads with honours (Daniel 11:38 ). “The king,” whose abrupt introduction into the history of the contests between the Syrian and Egyptian monarchs (Daniel 11:1-45 ), and who is of Jewish descent (v. 37), is without doubt the false Messiah: the same, too, as the man of sin and lawless one (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 ), the Antichrist of John, the false prophet of the Apocalypse, and the second Beast of our chapter. He claims exclusive worship in Palestine, and associates worship with his great confederate, and with the dragon in the world outside. There he reigns, having set up his throne in Jerusalem, and there , too, he fully occupies the temple as God. This Beast is a combination of religious and secular power, the former predominating. Unlike Christ, Who came in His Father’s Name (John 5:43 ), this awful personage pushes his own claims as the Messiah to Israel, too, as king and prophet amongst the people then restored in unbelief. The nation (save the godly remnant), judicially blinded, own the pretension and claim of the Antichrist who will head up in himself Jewish and christian apostasy (1 John 2:22 ). Within the limits of the Holy Land he is impiously deified. Outside the bounds of Palestine, in the wider scene of Christendom, he forces upon the nations and peoples the worship of the first Beast, “whose deadly wound was healed,” then satanically revived.
Revelation 13:13 . “ He doeth great signs ” which are not specified, but one pre-eminent sign is expressly named, he causes “even fire to come down from Heaven,” and that publicly “before men.” It is the character of miracle by which Elijah accredited the claims of Jehovah over those of Baal (1 Kings 18:38-39 ). In this manner, then, the second Beast supports the claim of the first to be universally worshipped; similarly the second Beast is accredited by Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9 ). It is the time when God in retributive judgment gives up the guilty scene of Christendom, which had already given Him up. Their punishment begins here. Judicially God hands Christendom over to “a working of error, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11 , R.V.). The consequence is that Satan takes his seat in the professing house of God, and so absolutely sets God aside that devil-worship in a triune form is the terrible result. This, then, is the end of our boasted civilisation and material and moral progress. It must either be God and Christianity, or the devil and Christendom. Reality is alone connected with the former; mere profession, which is worthless, is preparing the way for the latter.
The public intimation to “make an image to the Beast who hath the wound of the sword, and lived,” is an advance upon what we have hitherto had. It is remarkable that at the beginning of Gentile supremacy men were compelled under pain of death to worship an image representing the greatness and majesty of the first empire (Daniel 3:1-30 ). Now at the close of Gentile dominion it is repeated. How incorrigible is human nature! Likeness and image are distinguished in Scripture. Man has lost the likeness (moral) to God (Genesis 1:26 ), but fallen as he is he is yet God’s image or representative in power (Genesis 9:6 ). An image is something that represents another, not necessarily like one. We are satisfied that the “image to the Beast” will be an actual, literal, vast representation set up in the centre of Christendom by means of which the Beast will be worshipped. It was an actual image that was set up in the plains of Dura, and by which Nebuchadnezzar, was worshipped.
The death wound of the Beast is three times stated (vv. 3, 12, 14). In the third notice of it the wound is said to have been given by the sword, implying not a natural break-up of the empire, but a violent one. The hordes of barbarian savages from the north swept down upon the decaying empire and quickly brought it to a political end.
IMAGE OF THE BEAST WORSHIPPED UNDER PAIN OF DEATH.
Revelation 13:15 . “ It was given to him to give breath (not life) to the image of the Beast. ” The Antichrist has no power in himself. He could not of himself energise the image or give it a real or even spurious vitality. The power behind is Satan. It is he who acts through the beasts. It is breath that is given, not life, for this latter God ever keeps in His own hand. It is an image “ to the Beast,” that is, to his glorification; but it is also an image “ of the Beast,” that is, it represents him, calls the attention of the world to him, and keeps the thought of the Beast before the eyes and minds of men. Hengstenberg remarks, “It is not images that are spoken of, but an image. But in regard to the sense a multitude of images is meant.” Whether the image here spoken of is to be multiplied and scattered throughout the length and breadth of Christendom is a point on which we cannot pronounce with certainty. The object, however, whether the image is one or many, is to bring the world down to the feet of the Beast in worship. The image is made to speak. What it says shall only be known to those who hear it. Death is the appointed portion of those who refuse divine honours to the Beast, or to its distinguished chief, “the prince (Roman) that shall come” (Daniel 9:26 ). Thus by signs and wonders of a miraculous kind, wrought by the second Beast, he deceives the guilty and apostate Christian mass, so that not only is all true conception of Christianity lost, but idolatry of the rankest character is openly and unblushingly practised. What a future lies before these lands!
UNIVERSAL SUBJECTION TO THE BEAST
COMMERCE AND TRADE CONTROLLED.
Revelation 13:16-17 . “ And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bondmen, that they should give them a mark *“Literally, ‘that they should give them,’ i.e. , that a mark should be given them. Compare Revelation 10:11 , ‘they say to me,’ i.e. , it is said. (See Luke 6:38 ; Luke 12:20 ; Luke 16:9 , for a similar usage, the first and especially the last of which are often misunderstood).” “Lectures on the Book of Revelation,” by William Kelly, page 413, footnote. upon their right hand or upon their forehead; and that no one should be able to buy or sell save he that had the mark, the name of the Beast, or the number of his name. ” In those awful days individual thought and action are crushed out. The most abject submission to the vilest tyranny ever witnessed is demanded, and none dare refuse. The various classes named are a comprehensive designation of all within the range of the influence of the Beast, and are mentioned in pairs. None, however insignificant in station, none, however exalted, can escape. Neither riches nor poverty can buy nor find exemption from the iron rule of the Beast. The free and the bond are alike on one dead level absolute submission to the Beast. All, from the least to the highest, are equally his slaves. To resist his will is to be deprived of the right to live (for he effectually controls all commerce), and to court certain death. A certain mystic mark is put either upon the right hand or upon the forehead * The Brahmins of India bear a mark upon their foreheads in honour of the god they worship, by which every one can readily distinguish them. of all, save the martyrs who lay down their lives in stern and faithful protest against satanic assumption. The mark upon the “hand” would denote that the person so branded was an active slave of the Beast; stamped upon the “forehead” would serve as a public acknowledgment of slavery. In either case all must own the absolute supremacy of the Beast and worship him. It was usual to brand slaves with the name or special mark of their owner. Paul (Galatians 6:17 ), Israel in her tribes (Revelation 7:3 ), the preserved of Judah (Revelation 14:1 ), the glorified and heavenly saints (Revelation 22:4 ) are marked by God as belonging to Him, and that publicly (see also Ezekiel 9:4 ).
Let it be carefully noted that Satan gives unity and strength to this vast political and social organisation termed “the Beast,” hence all must belong to it under the pains and penalties of a relentless ostracism. The necessaries of life, obtained by legitimate trading, will be denied those who, in faithfulness to God and fidelity to the truth, refuse allegiance to the Beast and to his powerful and wily supporter and satellite, the Antichrist. Social ostracism and death are the appointed portion of all faithful to God in this most awful crisis in human history. Combination is the order of the day. Religion demands it, the political world demands it, wealth and capital demand it, labour, skilled and unskilled, demands it. All are working for the one great end, Satan’s fusion of all religious parties under the Antichrist, and of all political and social parties under the Beast. Out of the seething masses of democracy, out of the wild forces of revolution and of anarchy which know no law, out of the struggles and conflicts between capital and labour, out of the crashing of crowns and overturning of kingdoms, a strong and imperial power will emerge by direct satanic influence, and will crush all standing in its way or bars its progress, and to this power all without exception must submit or pay the penalty death .
Revelation 13:17 . “ The mark, the name of the Beast, or the number of his name. ” *“The Number of the Beast. The various attempts made in recent years to solve this famous apocalyptic riddle seem to show that students are so far as ever from agreement. Weyland finds the number in the phrase, ‘Caesar of the Romans,’ written in Hebrew characters: Schmidt and Vischer recognise it in the name ‘Nero,’ so written; Pfleiderer in the phrase ‘Nero Caesar;’ and Voelter in ‘Trajan Adrianus.’ Erbes, Spitta, and Zahn, who follow Irenaeus in reading 616 instead of 666, identity the Beast with Caligula, that is, ‘Gaius Caesar;’ but this result is obtained by the use of Greek, not Hebrew, letters. After eighteen centuries it is still uncertain whether any one has yet arisen with sufficient understanding to count the number of the Beast.” “The Thinker,” vol. 5 page 98. We have not three specific items. The “mark,” the “name,” and the “number” are not independent things. The mark is general, and consists of either the name or number of the Beast. The two latter are embraced in the first, and are explanatory of the mark. The name of the Beast is withheld from us, as also that of the personal ruler of Russia in the last days destined to play such an important part in connection with Israel (Ezekiel 38:1-23 ; Ezekiel 39:1-29 ). We do not hold that it is impossible to know who and what are meant by the name and number of the Beast; but no doubt God will give full light and intelligence on these points to saints then in the scene, to whom such knowledge will be most useful and even necessary in order that the true character of the Beast may be known. We leave it where God leaves it, till He makes it plain, as undoubtedly He will; if not to us, at least to those who will be in a position to profit by it. Those who receive the mark of the Beast in either its name or number are doomed to eternal misery. The words in which their awful fate is recorded are unequalled for horror. We know of nothing in the Word to exceed in dread solemnity the utter, irrevocable, and everlasting ruin of the adherents of the Beast. God alone could describe it, and He has done so in words and terms which express unspeakable anguish (Revelation 14:9-11 ). The door of hope is closed to the Beast, his fellow-associate in evil, and his numerous worshippers. The rejection of Christ by Christendom is most surely followed by the acceptance of the false Messiah, and that crowning act of guilt and human folly, when fully consummated, can have but one end, the lake of fire.
THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST.
Revelation 13:18 . “ Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding let him count the number of the Beast; for it is a man’s number; and its number (is) six hundred (and) sixty-six. ” Expositors have brought skill, learning, and in some instances great research to the elucidation of the question: What is meant by the number 666?
There is divine wisdom wrapped up in this symbolic numeral the only instance of its occurrence and it requires spiritual understanding to unlock the mystery therein. No doubt its full, precise, and final solution will be apparent to the wise or godly in the near crisis when the Beast power under the craft of Satan will exhibit the highest human development in pride, impiety, and in combined religious and political opposition to God and to His Anointed, for such, in general, is the moral significance of 666. The meaning being obvious to the saints to whom it immediately concerns will call for prompt repudiation of the Beast and his claims, who will be the political minister of Satan in blasphemous opposition to God.
Six hundred and sixty-six (666) is man’s number; the unit six being impressed upon him at his creation and on his subsequent history. Man was created on the sixth day. His appointed days of labour and toil are six . The Hebrew slave was to serve six years. For six years the land was to be sown. Under the sixth Seal an appalling and universal catastrophe upon mankind ensues. As the numeral seven denotes what is perfect or complete , six being short of that signifies human imperfection and toil . But in the growing development of man’s history he goes from bad to worse, hence six combined with six increases in moral significance, till man is witnessed in open and direct opposition to God. Goliath and his brother giant were men of abnormal strength and height, and open enemies of God and of Israel. The numeral six is stamped upon both (1 Samuel 17:4-7 ; 1 Chronicles 20:6 ).
In the yet further development of man in his progressive evil history the culmination is reached in the ominous signification of 666, the number of the Beast. There is an obvious connection between the first and the last of the world powers. In character they are identical, save that the last is the worst . The image of gold set up by Nebuchadnezzar for his own glorification was sixty cubits high and six cubits broad (Daniel 3:1-30 ). No doubt the image on the plain of Dura was meant to consolidate and unify the numerous and diversified religions of the mighty Babylonian empire, Under threats of an awful death the image of gold must be worshipped. Surely Daniel 3:1-30 points forward to the yet even deeper and truly satanic evil of Revelation 13:1-18 . The one foreshadows the other. In both Scriptures the pride, self-will, and haughty independence of God by men placed above human law is the sad picture. It only remains to ask: What is the signification of this trinity of six? It is the fullest, highest development of man under direct satanic control. It is the combination of civil, religious, and political power satanically inspired. It is, so far as man can do it, the complete setting aside of God as the Supreme Ruler and a man taking His place, not in heathendom, but in Palestine itself, and in the wider range of Christendom. Beyond what is signified in this trinity of evil 666 man cannot go. We here reach the height of human folly, of human pride, of human arrogance, of human unbridled will. Such, we believe, is the meaning of this mystic numeral 666. It is not a conundrum to be solved by ingenious minds, but it contains a wisdom which the spiritual in that day, as now, may understand and profit by the knowledge thereof.
THE PROPHETIC SITUATION REVIEWED.
In Revelation 11:1-19 the Jews and Jerusalem, but in captivity to the Gentiles, are in the forefront of the vision, at least down to verse 13. The rest of the chapter is general, and joyously anticipates the end. In Revelation 12:1-17 we have the light of Heaven thrown upon the unseen sources of good and evil, which are respectively the Man-Child and the dragon; then Israel’s relation to both, especially during the last half week of coming sorrow. Satan having been cast down from the heavens, and his angels with him, seeks to wreak his vengeance on Judah, persecutes God’s saints Jewish and Gentile and blasphemes God, Heaven, and all therein. His activity is incessant, his energies are boundless, as he knows that his career is but a brief one. It is marvellous how events are crowded into so short a time as three years and a half. What in other circumstances would take hundreds of years to bring about by the force and application of ordinary causes are here rapidly brought to fruition under the skilful generalship of Satan. It must also be remembered that the many providential and governmental checks now in operation to hinder the last outburst of evil will then be removed. The Church will have been caught up to Heaven, and the Spirit, too, have left the earth. “He who hinders (or letteth) will let till He (the Holy Ghost) be taken out of the way, and then shall that wicked (one) be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 ). There is a double hindrance: “ what withholdeth ” and “ He who now letteth” a thing (the Church) and a person (the Holy Spirit).
Then in Revelation 13:1-18 we have the two Beasts through whom Satan seeks to accomplish his purposes in Christendom and in corrupt Judaism. The first Beast is without doubt Rome, civil and political, the great world power to whom Satan gives his seat, throne, and authority. The second Beast acts in almost supreme power religiously in Palestine, but in the larger field outside the Holy Land his services are required by Satan, and there he acts in subordination to the imperial power. It is not enough that the latter end of Judah exceeds in idolatry anything ever witnessed in the past (Matthew 12:45 ), beyond even that horrible picture so graphically drawn by the prophet of the captivity (Ezekiel 8:1-18 ), but Christendom, too, must be reduced to a corrupt and loathsome mass of idolatry and wickedness. This the second Beast accomplishes in the presence of his superior in power.
Then as to the external enemies of Israel *See separate article, “The Chief Actors in the Coming Crisis.” at this time, not noted in the Apocalypse, the chief is the Assyrian, or king of the north, the political scourge of the restored nation. The king of the south, or Egypt, is the ally of the Beast, and is opposed to his great northern neighbour, the Assyrian, who is the bitter opponent both of the antichristian king in the land (the second Beast of Revelation 13:1-18 ) and of the king of the south. Palestine lying between those two opposing powers is made, as in the past, their battleground. The past (Daniel 11:1-35 ) and future (vv. 36-43) of these respective monarchies in their relation to the Jews form a study of exceeding interest. We may remark that chapter 11 of Daniel is an enlargement, with fuller detail, of Daniel 8:1-27 . The prophets Isaiah, Micah, and Daniel especially should be read to understand the great external enemies of Israel in the last days. Gog, or Russia, the master of the king of the north, falls ingloriously on the mountains of Israel after the destruction of the Assyrian, and after the Lord has come, thus completing the sum of judgments ere the Lord’s reign in its Solomon or peaceful character, and establishes the earth in its long-expected and ardently-desired jubilee of one thousand years. Gog heads the north-eastern nations and peoples in opposition to the Beast the power in the west. The former is politically hostile to the Jews, the latter is politically friendly to the restored nation. The Jews restored to the land previous to the Lord’s Return in power is the occasion of quarrel and hostility between Gog and the Beast. The political aims of these latter are different, and this brings them into conflict. Events in Europe and Asia are fast ripening for the closing struggle. May our souls be kept in peace!
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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19