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Bible Commentaries

William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation
Revelation 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-18

Chapter 11: The Beast And His Prophet

The Lord Jesus said, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." We now come to consider those who come not to save the world, but to damn the world, and whose fearful work, except for God's elect being preserved by His infinite power, would destroy all men!

And he stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.

Now, however we may regard these words as descriptive of the revival of the Fourth Empire in its last form (and we know it is so) yet it seems to me far better to take the last verse of the chapter as the key to its understanding. "The number of the beast … is the number of a man!" Just as it is the judgment of the great harlot of chapter 17 that is in view, rather than her history, so here in chapter 13 it is the man who heads up and becomes the exponent of this last phase of the fourth world power that is before the mind of the Spirit. That there are difficulties is freely acknowledged; nor is the claim made that all these difficulties are here dissolved or disappear as we study this great chapter-great in the depiction of the quintessence of evil!

We see at once, upon looking on the verses above, that this awesome being called the wild-beast (therion) [This word is used 46 times in the New Testament-38 of them in Revelation; and its first use, in Revelation 6:8, reveals its meaning, a beast of prey. Contrast ktenos (as Luke 10:34).] is the utmost production of him who is called "the great dragon… The Devil … Satan, the deceiver of the whole world," in his fury upon being cast from the heavenly regions down to this earth.

Not until now has God permitted His great adversary to bring forth this "man of sin." There has been hitherto "one that restraineth" (2 Thessalonians 2:7 R. V.) who we believe to be the Holy Spirit, by His presence on earth in the Church-a direct action of God (Psalms 76:10). [Remember that while 2 Thessalonians 2:6 reads, "That which (to, neuter) restraineth," the seventh verse, in detailing more particularly the fact, uses the masculine, "he who (ho) restraineth." The words, "ye know" of verse 6 (oidate) rather indicate, it seems to me, a knowledge arising from consciousness, as well as instruction on the apostle's part. The Greek word originally means "to see," "to know for one's self." Christians are all aware that their protection from the inrush of the enemy is the indwelling Spirit. "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."]

Now from Daniel 2:42; Daniel 2:44, we know that the ten toes were to be ten kings, in whose days "shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom." The ten horns of Revelation 13:1 correspond to those of 17:3, interpreted in Revelation 17:12, "The ten horns … are ten kings … receive authority with the Beast for one hour. These have one mind, and they give their power and authority unto the Beast."

The Beast, therefore, of Revelation 13:1-18 is a man who controls absolutely the royal authority of the ten kings at the time of the end, and this by their own united will. Thus we see on these horns in Revelation 13:1, ten diadems (R. V.). They are ten distinct powers; perhaps (according to the two feet of the image) five in the east and five in the west, although, knowing that "all that dwell on the earth" shall worship this last World emperor, we do not need to insist upon this. Moreover, the ten horns are kings, not kingdoms; and kings that do not become such till the Beast arises. Revelation 17:12.

The fact that the leopard of Greece, the bear of Medo-Persia, and the lion of old Babylon (Daniel 7:1-28) are all seen in this Beast, shows how all-inclusive of human things will be his character; he sums up all the brilliancy (Greece), all of the massive ponderousness of power (Persia), all of the absolute autocratic royal dominion (Babylon), that the Gentiles have ever known.

Satan, being the prince of this world and the god of this age, and being desperately set on ruling men and being worshipped by them, is now given his chance. Because men by trifling with the truth, and by utter impenitence have opened the way, God will now send them a strong delusion that they may believe the devil's lie ("the lie"- 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Greek).

The Beast, therefore, set before us in Revelation 13:1-18, is the dragon's masterpiece of delusion, leading to worship of himself (Revelation 13:4).

But, men being what they are, it will require a "Christ," or specially prepared man, to lead them to adore as their god, Satan, who sends forth his "Christ." In this, of course, Satan copies God's plan of salvation by the Lord Jesus. "No man hath seen God at any time," "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," our Lord told us. To God it was infinite condescension and love that "God (should be) manifest in the flesh." Christ humbled Himself by becoming "in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:1-30). It was also in Christ as man that the eternal counsels of God lay. The climax for the redeemed is, "They shall see His (God's) face." "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Now Satan imitates all this. Instead of revealing himself directly to the mass of humanity, he selects two men, one to be worshipped, and the other to be his "prophet," to secure such worship; for men are gross and crass generally, unable to perceive or appreciate the intellectual and spiritual marvels of the being who is called "the dragon." And so it would be contrary to the pride of Satan openly to reveal himself to them. But it is in direct conformation to man's nature to place before his eyes this Beast, a being who is the exponent and expression of the Satanic power behind him. Thus the superstitious awe and wonder of man would be drawn out; and the human imagination (which marvelous faculty man almost lives in, and which is fairly creative in its power) would be appealed to more powerfully than in any other way.

Even the Beast himself will retreat one step from man, in the same way, when an "image" is made of him by the second beast!

Thus will lie in the deluded world's inner consciousness "the likeness of an image" of man, a wonderful man, who has returned in a manner beyond their knowledge from the unseen realm of the dead. And all the while the worship of all men will really be retained by Satan himself; for it will be known by all that it is the dragon himself that has given "his authority unto the Beast."

We have, then, Satan worshipped through his chosen vessel, or "Christ," a worship carried on through a fearful, speaking, breathing image, that can kill non-conformists or cause their death!

This is "the lie," the inescapable damning lie, that the world in its dreamed of "progress" is about to enter into! And I saw one of his heads as though it had been slain unto death; and his death-stroke was healed: and the whole earth wondered after the beast.

Here then is Satan's permitted imitation of the death and resurrection of Christ! The Greek word for "slain" is the same as that of Revelation 5:6 : "a Lamb … as though it had been slain." It is because of His victory over death, after being publicly killed, that God's saints hold fast to Christ; and all the world has been put in awe of Him.

Death is the unconquerable tyrant, the universal terror, through fear of which men are "all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). But now, they are able to cast off their fears at last! One who has been slain with the death-stroke of a sword is "healed"; a killed body stands up! One who has been in the "abyss" repossesses this slain body. It is not resurrection like unto Christ's, who left the realm of the dead forever, in "newness of life." But neither is it mere resuscitation of a body in which life has not become extinct; for this "beast" will have gone down into "the abyss,"-will have left the body entirely. There will be, therefore, first, the killing by a sword-stroke of the body of one of these "heads"; and, second, the entrance into that body of that one of the seven kings whom God will suffer to be brought up from "the abyss" to be the "beast" to deceive men and to "war against the Lamb" (Revelation 19:19).

It is not merely the fourth world power (Rome) that is here (as in Daniel 2:1-49), but chiefly the history of the "little horn" of Daniel 7:1-28, which springs out of that empire. This must be kept in mind. It is a man that is before our eyes in Revelation 13:1-18, all through. God says he is a Man in Revelation 13:18.

Now as to the "heads," we must go to God's own interpretation of them in Revelation 17:1-18, where we find, as regards the woman, "the seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth"; but we note that this sentence reads right on, "and they are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a little while. And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition." Returning to Revelation 13:1-18, as to the empire, it is in Revelation 13:3 "one of his heads … slain unto death." But we see from Revelation 17:1-18, that this head was one of the seven Roman emperors, of which five had fallen when John wrote The Revelation. One, Domitian, was reigning, "the other" the seventh, not yet come. It might be such a man as Napoleon, for the Fourth Empire is still on until the stone strikes it; but it is more probably one who will rule after the more formal restoration of the Roman Empire. [Mussolini, with his ambitions for the restoration of old Rome, his Caesar-ideals, his inflexible will, his undiminishing energy, is a portent of what one of these emperors will be; and also proof how quickly such an one may rise into power! Of course Mussolini does not begin to fill the vast picture of the Beast of Revelation 13:1-18.]

Now from these seven, the Beast of Revelation 13:1-18 comes. He is an eighth (not the, as A. V.) but is, withal, one "of the seven." We remember that he was said in Revelation 11:7 to "come up out of the abyss." Now the abyss (Greek abussos) is a word used ten times in Scripture, seven of these in The Revelation. We found in Revelation 9:1 that there was a shaft leading down to it; that it was in the heart of the earth according to Romans 10:7, compared with Matthew 12:40; that it is, so far as the human race is concerned, the realm of departed spirits-those who have died (not of the saved, of course, for these are now "with Christ").

We are forced, therefore, to the conclusion that the Beast of Revelation 13:1-18 has been brought back by permitted Satanic agency from the realm of the dead, and that this fact is known to those on earth; to whom the fact that the Beast had had the death-stroke of the sword, and then afterwards lived (Revelation 13:14) was a well-known event of his history. Consequently the whole earth wonders after the Beast! How quickly now is swallowed up all the "wisdom of man" which God had long ago declared to be foolishness, as concerning divine things. Now it is shown to be futility itself also against the delusions God permits to come upon those who "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."[ Seiss well comments: "Did not men (at the French Revolution) sing halleluias to the busts of Marat and Lepelletier, and 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? Nay, at this very hour, there resides a man in the city of Rome, whom one-half of Christendom itself hails, honors and adores as the vicar of Jesus Christ, the vicegerent of God upon earth, infallible, the 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, while sacred incense fumes before him. 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 miracles, in the name of 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. The Saviour so anticipated, and says that if it were possible to break down Jehovah's promises the very elect would be deceived!"]

How frightful then the scene! Men have rejected the wounded, slain but risen Lamb of God. And now they are given over to bow in absolute helpless "wonder" before another wounded one "slain unto death," but who lives,-a fearsome lost creature from "the abyss," re-entered, for Satan's fell purposes, into a body that by its very death-scar compels the world's worship as the victor over death! (All, thank God, but those written in the book of life of the Lamb; and these are kept not by their own power, let us well remember!)

And they worshipped the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? and who is able to war with him?

Here we have the utter helplessness of the Christ-forsaking world falling into the very jaws of the Devil, most fearfully set forth! On the one hand their worshipping the dragon and his awful Christ; and on the other their shrinking impotence to resist him. The whole earth will have suddenly become a thousand-fold worse off than Russia today! For in Russia they are denying God; but the whole nation has not yet been given up consciously to worship the Devil himself, as Revelation 13:8 of Revelation 13:1-18 declares all on earth, but God's elect of that day, will do. Of course, no one is "like unto the beast."[ As to this solemn, divine characterization of this man, it is well to recall that one of Napoleon's marshals shouted in horror when he heard of the emperor's escape from Elba to rush back to his power in France: "What! is the wild beast loose again?"] They have back on their hands a "son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17), one they knew to have died, one whose history was universally known. Rome once was in anguish over the irresponsible hideousness of Nero. What if an individual of these seven emperors (of which Nero was one), should return to be "the man on horseback," the "superman," the great "world hero" that they have so long desired? And one will come!

And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given to him authority to continue (literally to do, or go ahead) forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell (are tabernacling) in the heaven. And it was given unto 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. And all that dwell on the earth shall 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. [Alford here remarks, "These last words are ambiguously placed. They may belong either to gegraptai (was written) or to sesphagmenou (was slain)." He connects them with the latter, adducing 1 Peter 1:19-20 : "That death of Christ which was fore-ordained from the foundation of the world, is said to have taken place in the counsels of Him with whom the end and the beginning are one."

But the habit of Scripture is to connect election with the writing rather than with the ground, of that election, the death of Christ. The passage from Peter is rather against, than for, Alford's contention: Christ was "foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake," etc. In Daniel 12:1, referring to the exact "time of trouble" with which Revelation 13:1-18 is concerned, we read of those being delivered who "shall be found written in the book; as also in Isaiah 4:3, the spared remnant are described as "every one that is written unto life in Jerusalem."

Hengstenberg says, "The expression ‘from the foundation of the world' (in Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8) must not be referred to the slaying of the Lamb"; and quotes Bengel: "The Apocalypse often speaks of the Lamb slain; it never adds from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 9:26). They who hold Him to have been slain in the divine decree from the foundation of the world, may with equal justice speak of Him as having been also born, raised from the dead, ascended to heaven."]

"There was given to him"-six times (the number of manifested evil) this phrase is used (Revelation 13:5 twice, Revelation 13:7 twice, Revelation 13:14-15), in connection with this dreadful man called the Beast (literally, Wild beast). It indicates judicial un-leasing of powers of incipient evil of which this world does not yet dream.

"A mouth speaking great things"-that is what the universities, the scientists, the wise ones of the earth throng, even rush, to listen to; and God will let them hear from the mouth of this man of sin, marvels beyond their utmost imaginings. Even today Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Spiritist, and "psychical" folks of all sorts, prate about the undiscovered, unused "powers" that lie in human nature; while science glories in its discoveries of the physical secrets of this universe. With such knowledge today human educationalism is captivated. What will happen when God permits Satan's super-man to tell them utterly unexpected marvels!

But connected with these marvels will be blasphemies. Such derision of God, of His Son, of His salvation, as has never been heard or permitted on this planet will then come forth. Especially those "tabernacling in the heaven" -probably referring to Christ and His Church lately caught up and known (despite all earth's hatred) to be above the earth, will come in for blasphemous execration. Satan, filled with disappointed hatred, will pour through this creature such words as will make Russian blasphemies seem trifling! He will deny that Jesus is, or ever was, the Christ of the Jews (1 John 2:22); and also deny the Father and the Son, as all Christians hold.

Forty-two months (three and one-half years, or 1260 days) the Beast is thus to continue on his way. The Lord Jesus said to the rabble who came to arrest him, "This is your hour, and the power (Greek exousia) of darkness." What a scene followed in the next few hours! But God will give up the whole earth, except His elect, for three and one-half years to this direful scene of Revelation 13:1-18.

The saints (for there will be saints then, although not the Church) will be "overcome," that is, over-powered, by this monster. Right will be trampled. Testimony will be stilled by the quick hand of martyrdom. "Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples." If any man hath an ear, let him hear. If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth: if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. This thrice-repeated word, "if any man" is addressed to any gracious ears then upon earth. First, let them hear God's words, for there is no other possible way of deliverance at any time for God's saints but through faith, and faith cometh by hearing.

Moreover, let them be warned against opposing this awful Satanic power by force. If any one undertakes to take captive this monster or his minions-into captivity such a one will go. If any one shall undertake to oppose him with the sword, by the sword he will fall; for God has given things over for the "hour" to Satan, whom the world has chosen.

We are emphasizing lastly words that we always need to lay to heart, "the patience and the faith of the saints." Patience means suffering on in steadfastness, through trial, and it takes faith thus to do. But God's grace of patience and the faith of His saints will triumph even in the darkest hour the earth has ever known or ever will know! The saints of those days (though not the Church) will find true "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."

Satan's Steel Trap: "Worship My Christ, or Starve!"

And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like unto a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he maketh the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death stroke was healed. And he doeth great signs that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men. And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived. And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should 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, that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead; and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.

Let us now look briefly at the rise of this second Beast, the third of the Satanic trinity. The first Beast was from "the sea," this one from "the earth." Of course John, in chapters 12 and 13, is speaking in sign language (Revelation 12:1-3); yet it must be remembered that both these "beasts" are human beings. The first is definitely called a man (Revelation 13:18). But the doom of both the first and second, as described in Revelation 19:1-21; Revelation 20:1-15, prove both to be human beings. Systems, forms of empires, etc., are dealt with by God on earth; but only persons are cast into the lake of fire.

It is generally taken that "the sea" from which the first Beast arises, denotes (as in Revelation 17:15) "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." Inasmuch as in Daniel 7:1-28, the rise of the four great world-powers, which are all expressed in the Beast of Revelation 13:1-18 is described (compare Daniel 7:1-8 with Revelation 13:1), this interpretation of Revelation 13:1-18 seems necessary. We may add, that while in Daniel it is "the great sea," the Mediterranean, around whose shores all four great earth-empires had their existence; it is "the sea" in Revelation 13:1-18. For here the Beast secures universal dominion, hence, perhaps, the more general expression. [To use the term ecclesiastical to describe the character and career of the second Beast of Revelation 13:1-18, seems to me both an inaccurate and a misleading thing. The Beast and his ten kings have destroyed from off the earth the harlot of Revelation 17:1-18, and in so doing, have annihilated all things "ecclesiastical" whether of apostate Christendom or of paganism. "All that is called God," or that is "an object of worship" (2 Thessalonians 2:4, Greek), has been banished. Therefore, to call the second Beast an "ecclesiastical power" is delusive. Just as well, might Jannes and Jambres with their God-opposing miracles in Egypt, or a Simon Magus with his "magic," or a Hermann the Great, be called "ecclesiastical."

The whole business of the second Beast is to support him "whose coming (parousia) is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The mere fact that he "doeth the great signs" of Revelation 13:13-15, gives him no claim to be called "ecclesiastical" in any sense, for that term carries with it the idea of human religion: whereas, this second Beast is wholly, directly, and openly Satanic.

To employ, therefore, the term "ecclesiastical" regarding him, as over against "the civil power" is to imagine the present religious constitution of society to have, at least in some measure subsisted, and consequently to destroy or render impossible a conception of the real situation in those dire days. The second Beast is merely the prophet, the willing but absolute tool, of the first Beast.

That he has "two horns like unto a lamb" does not necessarily imply that he is imitating the Lamb of God, for men will have then rejected the very thought of that meek and lowly One. What the world is looking for even today, is not a meek One, but "a man on horseback," one who will lord it over them. The "horns like unto a lamb" merely indicate that the second Beast instead of being "a king of fierce countenance" like the first, will have the relatively plausible and persuasive ways of a great deceiver of men. The "civil power" has become the "ecclesiastical,"-if by the latter term you mean that which engages the worshipping faculties of man; for it is the first Beast who is a god to men: and that before the second is on the scene!]

But it must be remembered, from Revelation 11:7, that it is the first Beast who is operating at Jerusalem at the close of the first half of Daniel's seventieth week (when he kills God's "two witnesses"); also, from Revelation 11:9, that Jerusalem is at that time crowded with peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations. Hardly a "settled state"!

Again, the second Beast is always close to the first-his Prophet, Premier, exponent, and nothing else but that, according to Scripture.

And it is the first Beast that he lauds and acclaims as the object of worship, and that chiefly on the ground that the first Beast had had a "death stroke," and has been "slain unto death" (Revelation 13:3 -Greek) and now lives!

We now quote the Endor witch's description of Samuel's appearance (and he did appear!); "I see gods coming up out of the earth." Many draw from that the inference that the second Beast is likewise a spirit from Hades. It may be so-(see Seiss). But it is the first Beast that the Scripture declares comes up from the abyss-and whom the whole world recognizes as having had a previous earth-history. Let us remember this carefully. Prophecy is full of this one man's career, both in type and direct prediction.

If Judas Iscariot (as some predict) were permitted to return and direct the Israelitish nation's apostasy to Satan-worship, as he once helped them to crucify their true Messiah, he would scarcely let himself be known as Judas! For he is despised as a traitor, even by godless Jews-was despised in his own day (Matthew 27:3-4). Judas went from apostleship to "his own place" for future judgment; the phrase "his own place" merely contrasting with that place of honor from which he "fell away."

Is the first beast "Antichrist"? That the first Beast is the Antichrist of Scripture, may appear from the following considerations:

1. In John 5:43, our Lord says, "I am come in my Father's name and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." (The Greek is "en to onomati to idio," which we almost might read, "in name peculiar to himself".) But the second beast of Revelation 13:1-18, comes to establish the name of the first. He (the second beast) "causeth all, … that there be given them a mark … that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the Beast (the first beast) or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:16-17).

2. In Revelation 16:13, the trinity of hell is named "the Dragon … the Beast … and the false Prophet"; as also in Revelation 19:20, "the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight." A prophet is one who speaks for another, coming in the name of another, as all know. How could this second beast of Revelation 13:1-18 fulfill John 5:43, if he comes in the name of the first Beast, and not in his own name?

Mr. Darby says (Coll. Writings, Prophetic Vol. 1, p. 306) "When the question as to power comes on, and Antichrist rises up in his full form against the Lamb, he is finally cast down, and put, with the false prophet, in the lake of fire, and his followers killed" (italics mine). Whatever question Mr. Darby ever had regarding the identity of Antichrist, his words here reveal that when he wrote them he counted Antichrist as the first Beast, and the second merely as his "prophet."

Proper interpretation must regard these two Beasts of Revelation 13:1-18 as two men. They are on the scene at the same time; both have fearful energies of evil; but the second does nothing independently of the first. We read, "he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight" (or presence). He also works wonderful "signs" which are done "in the sight" (presence) of the first Beast. The word means just what the same word (enopion) means in John 20:30, where our Lord's miracles are said to have been wrought "in the presence" of His disciples,-emphasizing that fact!

3. Practically common consent regards "the man of sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 as the Antichrist. But of him it is said, "he … opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God." But this is the exact contrary of the actings of the second beast in Revelation 13:12; Revelation 13:14, who "maketh the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed … saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived." The second beast is nothing but the "prophet" of the first Beast. Once admit (which we shall find we must do) that the first Beast is a man, and not any kind of a system, not even the Fourth Empire as such (Revelation 13:18) and we are driven to conclude that the first Beast of Revelation 13:1-18 is "the man of sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 -the "lawless one": for he owns no one but himself. He could not be described as leading the earth to worship another,-as does the false prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13:1-18. And exactly the same is true of "the king" of Daniel 11:36.

4. Some assert that the character of the second beast as the "false prophet" to the first Beast, is a later form of his evil energy; the first stage having been as an independent or at least distinct "king" rising in Palestine and fulfilling in that country such passages as Daniel 11:36 -the willful king; or 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, "the man of sin"; and later bringing by deceit the Jewish nation who have received him as Christ to subjection to and worship of the civil power, of the first Beast, etc. But such an interpretation cannot fill the picture drawn in Revelation 13:1-18, even if we could conceive of the second beast ever doing anything in his own name. For the first Beast is immediately set before us in Revelation 13:1-18 as himself the great and direct religious blasphemer of those days. "And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, them that dwell (tabernacle) in the heaven" (that is, especially, the Church which has at that time been raptured and is "tabernacling," after the first stage of Christ's coming, in the regions out of which Satan has been cast).

He makes also immediate and successful "war with the saints." Again, there is given him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation (including Palestine!); and still again, "all that dwell on the earth shall worship him"-except the elect of those days (Revelation 13:6-8).

Moreover, there is given him "authority to continue forty and two months," i.e., the whole duration of the tribulation, the last half of Daniel's seventieth week.

Now where is there room in this scene for more than one being to "set himself forth as God," in "the temple of God" or anywhere else on earth? All prophecy crowds down stupendous issues into this brief and terrible period!

5. We know from Daniel 9:26-27, that the last prince of the Roman Empire will make "a firm covenant" or treaty with the Jews in their land for seven years, and that "in the midst of the week," i.e., after half the seven years are passed, he (this Roman prince) will "cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." If there is at that time in Palestine an "Antichrist" setting himself forth as God, where does the fancied alliance between this king and this false Christ in Palestine come in, so that Revelation 13:1-18 can be fulfilled? There is no hint that the second beast of Revelation 13:1-18 ever has been anything other than subservient to, or "prophet" of, the first Beast! It is without question the first Beast, the last Roman emperor, who will fulfill Daniel 9:27, causing Jewish worship to cease, and becoming "the abomination that maketh desolate" by "standing where he ought not" (Mark 13:14), "in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15) i.e., in the rebuilt Jewish temple at Jerusalem as seen in Revelation 13:1-18, where, (although not yet owned of God) with respect to the Gentiles the place will be "holy."

It is reliably reported that Dr. Theodore Herzl, the great organizer of Zionism, in his zeal to secure a national home in Palestine for Israel, not only appealed to the Pope for help, but to the Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey ("Abdul the Damned"), even telling the latter that if he would let the Jews have Palestine, they would adopt him as their promised Messiah.

If we compare the history of the first Beast as seen in Revelation 13:1-18 with the career of the willful king of Daniel 11:36 and "the man of sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, we find complete simplicity and accord, the second beast of Revelation 13:1-18 coming in merely as what he is called-a prophet of the first. But if we undertake to name the second beast a mere Jewish Antichrist, deceiving that nation finally into worship of the "civil power," the Roman ruler, we cannot claim either 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 or Daniel 11:1-45 as referring to him, because these passages set forth one operating "in his own name," in resistless power, and in self-deification.

6. The condition of the Jewish nation in the last days must be considered. First, they will say, "we (will be) like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:20). Second, they will be possessed of tremendous treasure in which they are trusting to "redeem them,"-to buy them independent political status. Third, they will have established their own worship in their own temple, with daily sacrifices, offerings, etc. Fourth, there will be a godly remnant living in Jerusalem and Palestine-though the mass of the nation will be apostate-who will sustain the fear of Jehovah, and His worship. Fifth, this worship will be interrupted by intrusion from without (according to Daniel 9:27), by a power in which the majority of the nation have a frightful confidence, according to Isaiah 28:15 : "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol are we at agreement … We have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves." This can be nothing else than a conscious and intelligent recognition of the source and nature of the first Beast; for he is "the beast that cometh up out of the abyss." He will be a spirit from the lost world who will be allowed to come back on earth for Satan's purposes. Indeed, he will be one of the seven former emperors of Rome, according to Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:10-11. Here, then, is Jewish worship suddenly interrupted, not by a Christ who has arisen among them, but by the last prince of the Roman Empire (Daniel 9:27) who, as we shall find in studying Revelation 13:1-18; Revelation 17:1-18, is Satan's counterpart and counterfeit of the risen Christ, having been "slain (margin Greek) unto death" and his "death-stroke was healed" (Revelation 13:3) to the amazement of the world. It will not do to call this "death-stroke" the fall of the Roman Empire.

7. We should remember also that Satan offered Christ "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" (Matthew 4:8), if He would worship him. Our Lord refused, but another will accept, and receive these kingdoms (Revelation 13:7-8).

But this is the first Beast and not the second! Our Lord Jesus Christ, we know, will finally take over the kingdoms of this world. "All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him" (Psalms 72:11). What else but a king was Christ to be? "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king, then? Jesus answered; Thou sayest it, because I am a king (margin Greek). To this end have I been born."

Consequently, we see in Revelation 19:19, "the beast and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army." What is this but Antichrist? It is the awful climax of intelligent opposition to the Lamb: "These (the ten kings and the beast) shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14).

So that Mr. Darby's words quoted under point 2, express the exact truth!

To call the Antichrist merely an ecclesiastical deceiver of the Jewish nation, is not to fill the scripture account of this monstrous being, who sets himself above all that is called God,-to whom the second beast is merely the "false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight" (Revelation 19:20). This "prophet" is always at the Beast's side,-working in his presence.

8. The voice of history and tradition calls to us that the Antichrist and the last Roman emperor are to be identical. Victorinus, voicing an impression that was very common in early Christian centuries, says, "Nero will be raised from the dead, appear again at Rome and persecute the Church once more, and finally be destroyed by the Messiah." Augustine first mentioned this idea concerning Nero. Even Tacitus, the Roman historian, spoke of many believing rumors about Nero's possible return (Hist. II. 8; 1, 2). Sulpicius Severus said, "It is current opinion of many that he (Nero) is yet to come as Antichrist." Note carefully, we are not insisting at all that Nero will be the Antichrist, but that the early Christians believed that a Roman imperial persecutor, possibly Nero, would be the Antichrist.

9. We are distinctly told in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 that "the man of sin" will be brought to nought by "the forth-shining of our Lord's arrival" (Rotherham's Translation, 2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Greek words are,"te epiphaneia tes parousias autou" Our Lord's coming (parousia) opens with the rapture of the Church. [We believe this occurs in time at Revelation 4:1, where Church testimony ends. It is Christ, in connection with His ruling the nations, who is the man child of Revelation 12:5 and His ascension is viewed there only in connection with His rulership, and not as to its date in history.]

Note the exact meaning of the word in Philippians 2:12, "As ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence (parousia) only, but now much more in my absence (apousia)." Now, we know from Revelation 19:20-21, that it will be at our Lord's manifestation as described in Revelation 19:11-16, that this last World emperor will be brought to nought. Indeed, the lake of fire, long prepared, is at that time, according to Isaiah 30:33, to be "made ready" for him!

We are compelled, therefore, to view the future as filled with one great figure; although, as we shall see, the second beast will be "exercising all the authority of the first beast in his sight"; he is the active agent by means of Satanic signs and wonders, (done where the first Beast is,) in turning the worship of the earth to the man whose name is set forth by those numerals that express all that man in himself can be, or do, energized by Satan-"Six hundred and sixty and six." We feel that the first Beast must be called the Antichrist. [We desire to commend the three lectures of Joseph Seiss on Revelation 13:1-18, as found in the second volume of his, "Lectures on the Apocalypse."

On Revelation 12:1-17 we cannot agree with Seiss that the Woman, is "the Church of all the ages"; but his chapters on the Antichrist, Revelation 13:1-18, are spiritual, masterly, and very edifying indeed.]

In brief review, we find Revelation 13:1-18 to reveal:

1. As to Satan:

A. His hatred toward God and toward His saints.

B. His peculiar rage at being cast from heaven to earth.

C. His deadly ambition to be worshipped as God.

D. His copying God's plan: of a "Christ," or one fully empowered, under his control, through whom to work; and then of an agent or "prophet" of that false Christ, who will carry directly into effect the Satanic program; and of astonishing miraculous energy to accredit before the world his system and himself. (All this God calls "the lie" in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 -Greek.)

2. As to Man:

A. Man's willingness to lose his own soul to gain the whole world (as do these "beasts," who are human beings).

B. Man's desire, from the fall onward, to "be as gods."

C. The finale of man's refusing to "have God in his knowledge," and his turning to the "likeness of an image of corruptible man" (Romans 1:1-32).

D. The development by man to the full of that final form of economic life, godless international commercialism, by which man falls into Satan's steel-trap: they can "neither buy nor sell," except they have the beast's (that is, Satan's) Mark 3:1-35.

3. As to God:

A. The inexorable, inescapable, righteous operation of God that "gives up" such to believe an eternal damning falsehood (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17).

B. The bringing upon the earth of the "third woe," "The Great Tribulation"; because of which, except, for His elect's sake, God had "shortened the days," no flesh would be saved! (Mark 13:19-20).

C. God's infinite unconquerable grace, which preserves His saints, with "patience and faith" even in those frightful days (Revelation 13:8-10).

We must read and ponder these scenes of Revelation 13:1-18; as we hope to be protected from the last-day errors; as we hope to understand the prophetic Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments; as we desire to "escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).

For all the forces of hell that head up in Revelation 13:1-18 are marshalling in public or in secret today!

While it is most interesting to seek to identify this second beast, it will perhaps be better, to discover the general plan of Satan, in turning the world from the worship of God to the worship of himself-for this is what he seeks.

Satan's creed concerning man, and the way to manage man, is plainly seen in the first two chapters of Job, and may be summed up in Job 2:4 : "Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." And we all know this to be true, except concerning God's elect, in whom are the operations of the infinite power of divine grace. "They loved not their life even unto death" (Revelation 12:11).

Satan will take advantage of this "self-preservation law"; and, while on the one hand exhibiting vast miracles, and uttering unheard of blasphemy against God, through his great final agent (the first Beast), he will also, by the second, drive men into the desperate alternative of accepting his Christ, or being refused sustenance on the earth; no man shall be able to buy or sell without the mark of the Beast stamped upon him, upon his body.

We read from Revelation 14:9-11, this means eternal damnation! So that what takes place in Russia, of blasphemy, coercion, persecution and death, is but a small whisper, is but a feeble portent, of what will be worldwide under the fearful trinity of evil, Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet. [It is ever the plan of the great ones of earth to retire from direct gaze, and operate through representatives. This enhances the mystery and power of their names. It is hard to obtain readily an interview with the "big bosses" either of business or of politics! When the Dragon sets forth the Beast, men worship the Dragon all the more fatuously. When the Beast retires behind his Prophet working miracles in his name, and most especially when that Prophet causes an image of the first Beast to be made and to speak, to exercise even murderous powers for those refusing adoration-then Satan's steel-trap on mankind has been sprung indeed!]

Satan's own Prophet now springs the double jaws of the Great Dragon's awful steel-trap on the souls of men. Between the jaw of damning miracle-backed soul-delusion, and the jaw of bodily self-preservation, man is caught! He cannot escape if he would, for he must eat to live on this earth; and he would not escape if he could, for, like the flame-dazzled moth, he has fallen in blinded worship at the feet of his destroyer! No pen of any language can describe a doom so awful, a fate so fearful!

Human science and philosophy are in the dust: for here is a being returned from past history, from the unseen realm of the dead-and how can man's puny wisdom cope with this? And here is a breathing image-speaking, no one knows how! Men fall in worship. And to crown the terror, this fearsome image is able relentlessly to slay those who refuse it homage. Where, then, are man's boasted powers, his vaunted progress? Vanished, gone forever! The whole world has fallen below the level of the African fetish-worshipper. The whole world has fallen flat before mysteries it cannot even dare to seek to solve! Men will know they are worshipping the Devil; and, being given up to believe the lie, they will actually be content and confident to abandon their intelligence and all their natural God-given judgment, and have their consciences murdered. Nay, they will delight to do all this. There never will have been a day so certain of itself as the day that receives Satan's Christ! Reason confronted by Satanic miracle, will abdicate her throne to credulity. "All power and signs and lying wonders" said Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17. They "shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the very elect," says the Lord in Matthew 24:1-51.

And then "the mark of the beast" or "the number of his name," branded in the flesh of men, on forehead or right hand-what fearful tyranny!

Yet men dream they are free! While God says of them in 1 John 5:19, "The whole world lieth in the evil one." Men hate preachers who tell them this today, but they will shortly find whose slaves they are-all they who are not born of God, God's elect.

And then eternal doom follows! God will graciously and most solemnly and strikingly warn of this, by sending a loud-crying angel over all the lands (Revelation 14:9-11), announcing in every tongue that those who worship the Beast and receive this fatal mark of hell on the forehead or hand, shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and that "the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever."

The fearful guilt of this apostasy to Satan and his Christ, is seen in its punishment. No unwitting sin is this; but willful revolt to hell from all the love of heaven. It will be a world that has heard and rejected the Gospel that will fall into Satan's steel-trap. "A savor from death unto death; to the other a savor from life unto life," the Gospel of grace ever is. "Let us break their (God's and Christ's) bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us"-this is the cry of the raging nations of those terrible days. It is "against Jehovah and against his anointed" that they thus "set themselves" and "take counsel."

"Cease ye from man." His pride is folly; his wisdom is foolishness; his freedom is bondage; his "program" is rebellion; his "progress," delusion. All his thoughts are, "There is no God"!

As to the man whom the number "Six hundred and sixty and six" represents, God will give full "understanding" when it is needed, in those three and half years of horror and danger. He has never failed His saints. The Church saints will not be there (as we have seen), but many there will be who "worshipped not the beast … and received not the mark" (Revelation 20:4). And they will know and understand this man. His number will be plain then, for it is the number of a man. Those who "keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus" will all have divinely given wisdom in this matter.

Probably the marking out of this terrible Satan-Christ has been hinted at all through the Christian centuries; even as John says, "As ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists" (1 John 2:18). Irenaeus reminds us that the word Latin, spelled with Greek letters Lateinos (which Alford shows "would be the usual way of writing the long T by the Greeks of the time") makes Six hundred and sixty-six in their numerical value. Others have called attention to the same fact concerning Nero Caesar, spelled in Hebrew. Many other remarkable tracings have been made through the years, as if Satan were ever seeking to bring forth his "man of destiny"; but (as is actually true) ever being hindered by God's restraining action, as we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17. It is startling in our own days to see the number, Six hundred sixty-six used boldly for advertising commercial products! Godless commercialism will be the final flood which rushes down the Devil's sluiceway, to be dammed and governed by the Beast and his Prophet to control all men. The mathematical probability, that the number, Six hundred sixty-six should be selected by chance in such advertising, is too remote to consider.

Now, concerning the present state of preparation for that "universal monopoly" by which Satan, through his two terrible agents, will control the bodies and souls of men, much may be seen in our own day! Modern invention and industrialism has brought into being vast properties and holdings such as railroads, automobile companies, radio corporations, utilities of all sorts; which, finding competition unprofitable, have formed and are reforming combinations of ever greater extent. This enables private men of outstanding ability to manage and control more real power than many of the smaller governments! Plutocracy has come into its own! A world-bank and world-coinage are at hand.

We also see in our times the rapid and resistless accumulation of capital prophesied in James 5:1-20 (R. V.), "Ye (rich) have laid up your treasure in the last days." Communism will not succeed in crushing capitalism utterly, as it so fondly hopes. For Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar as to the final form of Gentile government, "There shall be in it of the strength of the iron," though "mixed" with "earthenware." [It is striking to note that the democratic principle (as over against the imperial iron) is first called in Daniel 2:1-49 merely "clay" (the masses of men), Daniel 2:33; then "potters' clay" (men moulded by orators and agitators), Daniel 2:41; and finally "earthenware" Daniel 2:41 (R. V. margin), and "brittle," Daniel 2:42 -after the fires of revolution have hardened them for action into solid blocs.]

"Internationalism" (Satan's own darling plan) is supposed even by many preachers, ignorant of God's Word, to be human large-mindedness. But God formed nations, and set "the bounds of their habitation," as well as "their appointed seasons" (Acts 17:26). And it was as a judgment upon earth-unification that nations came to be at Babel: "Jehovah, said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this (their self-idolatrous tower) is what they begin to do: and now nothing (in the way of rebellious pride and sin) will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do. Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (Genesis 11:6-7). Yet a "world-language" has been what men have been seeking to invent ever since! The idea is inspired of hell. Since Babel it is unnatural sin for a man to forget patriotism, and talk about world-stuff! Leave that to the atheists, the Communists. (The Christian rises above all earthly things, indeed, in Christ risen: but yet Paul said, "I am a Roman," and, "I am a citizen of Tarsus-no mean city." The loveliest Christians we have known were glad to reveal their God-given love for their own land!)

In Russia the tyranny of monopoly is in flower. One can hardly buy or sell, except he abjures God with the atheistic Soviets. In America, that capitalism (which the Soviets profess to hate) is none the less stealing the liberty of the poor man, or the small-business-man, quietly away. And no one but Christ (at His second coming) will ever deliver the oppressed (Isaiah 11:1-16; Psalms 72:14).

It is the story of history that man never, except by revolution, recovers lost freedom. And then it is only by selling something more precious than what is gained!

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Revelation 13:4". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wnc/revelation-13.html. 1938.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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