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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-18

THESE prophetical scenes not only run parallel, but frequently interlap. As Chapter 9 is all on Mohammedanism, it gave us quite a send-off into the Eastern hemisphere. On that side of the prophetic drama we have reached the seventh trumpet. This chapter drops back to the rise of the Roman Empire, long before John’s day. Hence, like many things in Chapter 12, it is retrospective. In Daniel’s panorama of the 7th chapter, to which we must now for a time carry the reader, he begins with the Gentile Age in the days of Belshazzar. The entire panorama of human government, in contradiction to the Divine, is represented by a succession of wild beasts. The world might have enjoyed the benignant reign of righteousness and love, shedding a heavenly luster and shining away all of her sorrows, if she had only acquiesced in the government of Jehovah. These wild beasts are the personification of that supreme selfishness and bloodthirsty cruelty which have left their indelible histories legibly superscribed on every political escutcheon. The lion is the Chaldean monarchy, the bear the Medio-Persian, and the leopard the Grecian. John describes the Roman power (Revelation 13:2) as a combination of all these beasts, to which the dragon — i.e., the devil — gave his power and throne.

Daniel 7:8 : Here we have the rise of

THE PAPACY

Out of the fourth beast; i.e., the Roman power. Why is the pope called the little horn? Because horn, in the Bible, constantly means political power; and the pope’s temporal dominions were always small. The three horns “plucked up by the roots” were the kingdoms of the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, and the Ravennas, which, at an early day, fell before the pope, and were added to his dominions. Consequently, to the present day, the pope wears the triple crown. The eyes and mouth in this little horn simply describe the pope. As in the Eastern hemisphere Mahomet is called a little horn (Daniel 8:9), and rises out of the Greek Empire, so in the Western hemisphere the pope is called a little horn (Daniel 7:8), and rises out of the Roman Empire. These two little horns, by Satanic power, became the greatest horns in the world, encompassing the whole earth.

Revelation 12:3 : Here we find that the dragon — i.e., the devil — gave this Roman beast his own power and throne. In the lamentable supersession of the theocracy by human government, Satan ascended the throne of the world. Beginning in the universal Chaldean Empire, developing and consolidating his autocratic sovereignty through the Medo- Persian and the Grecian, he finally culminates in the great worldwide iron empire of heathen Rome. Seven hundred and fifty years the Roman conquest swept the globe, assiduously gathering up the idols of all nations as she conquered them, carrying them into Rome, and there legalizing universal idolatry. Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, Minerva, Mercury, Diana, and myriads of Roman divinities, were all simple personifications of Satanic attributes. Hence the Roman religion, which filled the world with its magnificent temples and pompous ceremonies and sacrifices, was nothing but devil-worship. This problem furnishes its own solution in the fact that all of the Roman gods were personifications of Satanic attributes. Hence the adoration of the Roman gods was nothing but devil-worship from beginning to end. (1 Corinthians 10:20.)

You must not forget that all of these heathen empires were always pre- eminently religious. As theocracy is the government of both Church and State, providing fully for soul and body, so Satan’s counterfeit world governments, which superseded and supplanted God’s government, are all politico-ecclesiastical. After four thousand years of war, blood, and slaughter, Satan succeeded in the consolidation of all nations in the apparently invincible iron empire of Rome.

3. Here we find that one of the seven heads of Satan’s politico- ecclesiastical beast was wounded unto death. Which head was this? Rome was ruled first by kings; then by consuls; thirdly, by dictators; fourthly, by triumvirs; then by tribunes; and, finally, by emperors. So you see the imperial government which ruled the Roman world at the time of the barbarian invasion was the sixth head. When the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, A.D. 476, captured Rome, dethroned Caesar, and destroyed the imperial government, then this monstrous beast received a deadly wound in the head. But to the unutterable astonishment of the whole world, this deadly wound was healed. How was it healed? In the rise of the papacy, which is the seventh head of the Roman beast.

So now you have the complements of heads; i.e., the kingdom, the consulate, the dictatorship, the triumvirate, the tribuneships, the empire, and the papacy. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 : “And now you know that which hindereth that he should be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh, only he hindereth till he may be taken out of the midst, and then the lawless one will be revealed.” This wicked, lawless one is the pope. The one which hindered him from being revealed was the Roman emperor. The world could not have a Caesar and a pope at the same time, for Caesar would have killed the pope. The Greek word anomos means the lawless one. The same word means Antinomian — i.e., sinning religion — as all such ignores the law of God, which says: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Sad to see the Protestant Churches at the present day full of this sinning religion, which is Satan’s doctrine, manufactured in the bottomless pit and incarnated in the pope. History abundantly corroborates Scripture in the perpetuity of the Roman power in the papacy. When the empire was destroyed and the barbarians captured and pillaged Rome, the world’s metropolis would have gone the way of Nineveh and Babylon into hopeless dilapidation and ruin if the pope had not succeeded Caesar. When dilapidation gets the run on such a city as Rome, falling ruins, malaria, and robbers would soon render it utterly uninhabitable, till, like Babylon, it would be abandoned to ferocious beasts and doleful creatures. Hence the whole world, to its unutterable astonishment, finds the pope encumbering Caesar’s throne, and wielding the imperial scepter. So Rome takes new life in the seventh head, and lives right on, as if the barbarians had not inflicted a fatal wound on the empire; i.e., the sixth head.

4. This verse describes the perpetuity of devil-worship in the supersession of Caesar by the pope. When all nations see this wonderful miracle wrought by Satan in the unbroken perpetuity of the Roman power in the papacy after the fall of the empire, they give way to ejaculations of wonder: “Who is like unto the beast, and who is able to make war with him!” The barbarians fought three hundred years to destroy the Roman beast, finally, as they thought, consummating the victory by mortally wounding him in the head. But, behold! Satan just lets the imperial head drop off the beast and immediately puts on the papal head. which proved more congenial to his stygian administration than any of the preceding six.

5. And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given unto him, and power was given unto him to prevail forty-two months; i.e., 1260 prophetic years. Immediately the pope’s mouth spoke great things, claiming autocratic power over all the kings of the earth, than whom none of his imperial predecessors ever spoke more arrogantly. He is certainly the most blasphemous man on the face of the earth, even throwing Satan into eclipse, as he unblushingly proclaims himself the vicar of Christ and the vicegerent of God in all the earth, holding the keys of heaven, opening the gates to whom he will, and closing them nolens volens against all who dare contemn his pompous pretensions. When I was at his palace in 1895, while exploring St. Peter’s Cathedral, the guide showed me the “Door of Universal Absolution.” He said it had no fastening; but the pope, at the end of every twenty-five years, breaks it open with a silver hammer, walks out of the cathedral, stands in the marble verandah, prays for, and forgives the sins of the whole world. He permits the people to salute him as “Our Lord God, the Pope!”

Caesar fell A.D. 476, and the pope ascended the throne. He is to continue 1260 years. 476 plus 1260 equals 1736. This was a notable epoch in the Lutheran Reformation, which shook the papal power from center to circumference, and from which it has never recovered. Though the Bishop of Rome actually assumed the politico-ecclesiastical supremacy over the Roman world when Caesar fell, — [when I was in St. Peter’s Church, I saw, in gigantic bronze statuary, Leo, the first Bishop of Rome, going out to meet Attila, the leader of the Huns, to beg him to spare the city] — yet the papistical claims ere never formally recognized till A.D. 606, when Boniface III, Bishop of Rome, was publicly crowned universal bishop by Procas, the king of Italy. Hence, A.D. 606 is the proper date of the papacy. Now 1260 plus 606 equals 1866, the time for the papal throne to fall. This was the very date when Pope Pius IX convened the Ecumenical Council of five hundred and thirty-five bishops, from all parts of the world, to vote his infallibility. This they did A.D. 1870. Scarcely was the ink dry when Victor Immanuel, the king of Sardinia, came with his army and shook him down from his temporal throne, which he has never regained, and never will. Hence you see the signal fulfillments of prophecy. When I was in Rome in 1895, they were busily rearing up a magnificent monument to perpetuate the memory of Victor Immanuel, who shook the pope from his temporal throne. They were also building a similar monument to Garibaldi, who defended the city against the French army when they came to reinstate the pope. Both of these monuments are in full view of the pope as he sits in his palace — sad mementos of his signal and final dethronement from temporal power. For one thousand two hundred and sixty years he had worn the tiara of universal empire, put his foot on the neck of kings, and dictated law to the time-honored empires.

7-8. These verses recognize that dark and bloody period of one thousand two hundred and sixty years, during which the pope so maneuvered as to manipulate all the rulers of the earth to acquiesce in his pompous pretensions. Meanwhile the Inquisition and autodafe were the order of the day, and one hundred millions of Christians sealed their faith with their blood.

9. Unless the Holy Spirit open the ear of our spirit, we will never hear and never know.

10. This verse is on Divine retribution. Rest assured, God has heard every groan and seen every tear shed and uttered by His suffering martyrs. The terrible retributions of the last days, when tribulation such as the world has never known shall come upon the earth, will be the great harvest of calamity, death, destruction, and damnation reaped by Satan because of the terrible iniquities perpetrated against God’s people in bygone centuries. The saints of all ages have committed these grievous outrages and diabolical persecutions of their enemies to Him who says, “Vengeance is Mine, and I will repay.” Multiplied millions of saints have suffered out their miserable lives in dismal, dark dungeons, and died unheard of. They all patiently waited God’s time for retribution, feeling assured that he heard every sigh and saw every tear.

11. I saw another beast come up out of the earth, and had two horns like a lamb, and spake as a dragon.” We have again that significant Greek word theerion, which means a ferocious, bloodthirsty wild beast. It designates the human governments of all ages, independent and defiant of God — the very personification of selfishness and cruelty, in contradistinction to the benignant and pacific reign of the Prince of Peace.

In this verse it denotes the ecclesiastical hemisphere of the papacy, in contrast with the political above mentioned. Away with the charitable concession that the Roman Catholic Church is a Divine institution. Here you see it came up out of the earth. The Bible reveals that hell is beneath the earth. Science teaches us that the interior of the earth is all on fire, forcibly corroborating the Bible location and description of hell. Hence you see the origin of the popish religion. The two horns are the Greek and Latin Churches. Though it looks like a lamb, it speaks of blood and persecution, like the dragon. Therefore, you see, from the Scripture, Romanism is the devil with a sheepskin on.

12. Here we find that the ecclesiastical beast is in perfect harmony with the political, and perpetuates the idolatries of bygone ages, practiced by the Roman beast.

13. Here is an allusion to the pretensions of Romanism to miraculous power, and the popish anathemas which are called down on the heads of heretics.

14. The papacy adopted and perpetuated the idolatry and sorcery of heathen Rome.

15. Here we find that the image of the beast speaks. Then ventriloquism solves this problem, or perhaps Dr. Clarke is correct in explaining the image of the beast as the pope himself.

16. This verse tells us that the pope marks his people in their faces and in their hands. The hands and face are the communicative members of the body, as they alone are unclothed. Aside from the signs of crosses, crucifixes, veils, and regalia, designating papistical allegiance, we must concede that the very countenance is an index of the heart. Dissipations of all sorts mark the physiognomy of their victims. Beside all is, there is an indefinable somber expression peculiar to the face of the Romish devotee which strikingly contrasts with the serenity, benignity, glory, and victory radiating from the faces of those who know the Lord.

17. All countries and ages bear witness to the verification of this prophecy that Romanism is notorious for boycotting the Protestant semper et ubique.

18. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.” Here we have the key which unlocks the mystery and solves the problem. No one is adequate to this task unless the Holy Ghost gives him wisdom; otherwise, he never will count up and ascertain this number. It is purposely wrapped in mystery, to keep the votaries of Romanism from finding it out, in which case they would have evaded the verification by using other names. It is a recognized fact that Romanism is called the Latin Church in every nation under heaven. That is properly her name. As she belts the entire globe, regardless of the multitudinous languages and dialects spoken by all the nations of the earth, she everywhere uses the Latin language. Hence, Latin is her name. The New Testament, in which we have these prophecies, is written in Greek. Therefore, we can only find this name in the Greek language, from which we must translate it into Latin. The Greek adjective Lateinos is the hypothetical name, which is easily verified

Lambda L 30

Alpha A 1

Tau T 300

Epsilon E 5

Iota I 10

Nu N 50

Omicron O 70

Sigma S 200

666

Hence you see the Greek word Lateinos is the name of the beast so wonderfully described in this book of prophecy. This mystic name saddles this awful prophecy, with its withering and blighting woes, on the Roman Catholic Church, beyond the possibility of controversy.

Hence you must not conclude that prophetical interpretation is mere speculation. We write these pages in Nashville, Tennessee. We may go by different routes to Cincinnati, Ohio; yet we will know with certainty when we get there. It is equally true in prophetical interpretation. Different lines deflect intermediately, but converge to the same focus; and whether you traverse the Oriental hemisphere through Mohammedanism, or the Occidental through Romanism, you arrive at the great salient epochs.

Since the pope lost his temporal kingdom in 1870, is not his political career at an end? By no means. Like ancient Proteus, he is competent to assume all sorts of attitudes, forms, and phases, pursuant to the chameleon-like political revolutions of the world. The pope is this day the greatest political trickster on the globe, working the wires through a thousand subterranean cables to get possession of the democracies of Europe and America, and the colonies of Africa, Australia, and the islands of the sea. When the Turkish Empire falls, for which we are on the constant lookout, the political power of Mahomet will go down throughout the world. Yet the false prophet, like the beast, will continue to wield a powerful political influence to the end.

2 Thessalonians 2:8 :

“Then that wicked one shall be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy by the breath of His mouth, and exterminate by the brightness of His presence.”

The Bible is the breath of His mouth. From the epoch of prophetical fulfillment, A.D. 1736, the Bible received a wonderful impetus in economy and rapidity of its publication, and the wonderful facilities of its circulation throughout the world. The Bible is the breath of God’s mouth, and has been consuming the pope the last two hundred years. Leo XIII, the present incumbent of the papal throne, whose palace I visited last summer, recently gave utterance to his sad wailing over the universal circulation of the Scriptures, observing: “Two hundred years ago the people in Europe were much more religious than now. Then they could not read; consequently, they followed their leaders; i.e., the priests. Now they can read, and they are not so obedient to their leaders.” The Roman Catholic Church, in all ages and countries, has shown her hand as the irreconcilable enemy of the Bible, doing her utmost to prevent its promiscuous circulation among the people. Thus the Bible, the breath of God, with wonderful velocity is circulating throughout the world, burning the Roman beast to death. Yet we find (Revelation 9:20) that this beast, with the false prophet, will survive all these terrible judgments, and stand upon the earth after all their kingdoms, allies, and votaries, political and ecclesiastical, shall have been swept from the earth; and in the grand finale they will both be cast alive into the lake of fire.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Revelation 13:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/revelation-13.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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