Dr. Richard L. Strauss
March 25, 1979
1. The False Father
(Revelation 13:1a, 2b, 4a)
When we left Satan at the conclusion of Revelation 12 in our last message, he was on the earth, to which he had been cast in judgment, and he was seething with wrath and passion against Israel. Chapter 13 opens in the most reliable manuscripts like this:
"And he stood upon the sand of the sea" (Revelation 13:1a).
The subject here is probably not John at all, but the dragon of chapter 12, "That old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). In fact, the NIV and NASB do say the dragon stood on the sand of the sea.
If the sand of the sea is symbolic in this context, it represents the multitudes of people on the earth (as it does in Revelation 20:8), the people he seeks to control. Recognizing that his time is short (Revelation 12:12), he is about to make his final thrust, an all-out effort to defeat God's program, establish himself as god, establish his kingdom as supreme on earth, and bring all the people of the earth (that is, all the sands of the sea, symbolically) into subjection to himself. This will be the culmination of the program he began in Isaiah 14:14 when he first said, "I will be like the Most High." It's a program of opposing God on one hand and imitating Him on the other. And this will be his most cunning, and crafty, and calculating move in human history.
Satan is about to introduce to the world his own imitation of the Godhead, the diabolical trinity. Satan himself is the false father. He empowers and exalts a false son, the Antichrist, and he does it by means of a false prophet whose ministry is a Satanic counterfeit of the work of the Holy Spirit.
The chapter before us is about two men whom John describes as beasts, which is symbolic. It probably eludes to their cruelty. Never forget who empowers these men, who is directing their activity. Concerning the first beast in Revelation 13:2b we read, "and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority." He's a man controlled by Satan. In Revelation 13:4a, the world "worships the dragon who gave power unto the beast." The power of the second beast is identical (Revelation 13:12).
Satan is going to completely control two men and use them in his final effort to subjugate the earth and glorify himself. They're mentioned together in Revelation 16. Look at hell's trinity mentioned together in Revelation 16:13-14, preparing the Kings of the earth to fight against Christ: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon"--there's Satan--"out of the mouth of the beast"--there's the Antichrist--"and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty."
They are motivating the kings of the earth to come together for that final battle. They are controlled by the false father, Satan. Now let's look at the two men: the false christ and the false prophet.
2. The False Christ
a. His Description
"And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name" (Revelation 13:1b).
Now remember, this beast is a man. In verse 18 where the number of the beast is mentioned we read, "for it is the number of a man." In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 this same person is called "the man of sin." In Revelation 17:10-11 he is specifically called a "king." He's called in Daniel 9 a "prince." As a dictator he also represents his state, his government, his empire, but we cannot deny that he himself is a man--and he comes out of the sea.
The symbolism of the sea is revealed by God Himself in Revelation 17:15: "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues." Not only do the sands represent people, but the waters themselves represent people. So he arises out of the peoples of the earth from the mass of the world's humanity.
For God's explanation of his seven heads and ten horns, turn to Revelation 17:9-13. The heads are seven mountains. Mountains in the Scripture often represent kingdoms or imperial powers (see Psalm 30:7; Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:35). Revelation 17:10 specifically says these are seven kings, five are fallen, and one is, and one is yet to come.
As we noted, kings represent their kingdoms, their imperial power. The world has seen only six great imperial powers: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. The one which existed in John's day was Rome. Five imperial powers have fallen, and one is--that was Rome. God said there was one more yet to come--a great imperial power to rise up in the last days, and from it, will come the empire of the beast (Revelation 13:11). The beast, the Antichrist, will be a great emperor whose power shall penetrate the ends of the earth, whose world-wide kingdom shall be established by the power of Satan in the Great Tribulation.
The seven heads in John's vision then represent the great imperial powers of the world which find their consummation in this political leader, the first beast of Revelation 13. Now, not everyone agrees with me. But it seems that if we follow the symbolisms through the book that this is what John is saying to us.
Notice the meaning of his ten horns and ten crowns as revealed in Revelation 17:12. "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast."
So it seems that the world kingdom of the Antichrist will begin as a confederation of ten nations. Daniel revealed a similar truth with the ten toes of his image in Daniel 2:40-42, and in the ten horns on his fourth beast in Daniel 7:23-24. Since the feet of the image and the fourth beast both picture Rome, the natural conclusion is that the confederated empire of the beast will be a revived Roman Empire.
Bible scholars look with great interest at the European common market where the seeds of this very empire may even now be taking root. I don't whether it is or not. It very well could be. Only God knows for sure.
Look back now at Revelation 13:1 and see that upon the heads of the beast are the names of blasphemy. Inspired by Satan, this man will be characterized by blasphemy against God. Paul describes him as the son of perdition. "Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
In Revelation 13:2 the appearance of the beast to John's eyes was as a leopard, with feet like a bear, and the mouth of a lion. These are the very same animals which Daniel saw symbolizing the empires of Babylonia, Persia and Greece in Daniel 7. John may be conveying to us that the world's last dictator will combine in himself the outstanding qualities of all three of these empires: the speed of the leopard-like Grecian conquest, the fierce tyrannical power of the bear-like Persian empire, and the strength and majesty of lion-like Babylonia. But his power, and his throne, and his authority come from Satan. He is in a league with the devil. As the Apostle Paul told us, his coming is "after the working of Satan" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). He is the Antichrist.
b. His Deadly Wound
A most unusual phenomenon will occur according to verse 3.
"And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast" (Revelation 13:3).
One of the heads of this beast will be wounded to death, and then the deadly wound will be healed, bringing astonishment to the whole world. There is disagreement among Bible expositors as to what this means. Some think it means that the beast will be a person from past history who will be resurrected. Judas is one of the most popular contenders for the honor. Others think that since the seven heads represent the world's great imperial powers, this is symbolic and this wounded head pictures the Roman Empire, once thought destroyed, but revived and resurrected in the last days. Still others think that this beast will be a man of the last days who is fatally wounded, but whom Satan raised from the dead, counterfeiting the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is difficult to decide upon which view is the correct one, but I lean toward the last. One thing we know. It is a very important fact that his deadly wound will be healed. It is mentioned twice more in this chapter (verses 12 and 14). And it is mentioned again in Revelation 17:8 where he is called the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. The same idea: that he was done away with and came back again. This, in addition to the two references of this beast as coming out of the abyss (Revelation 11:7; 17:8), seem to indicate that Satan's christ will be killed and raised from the dead. And what a tremendous impact it will have on the world of the Great Tribulation. Multitudes who denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ will believe Satan's lie and hail his christ as their deliverer.
c. His Devoted Worship
The world is so awed, that they give their total allegiance and worship to Satan and to his newly exalted political leader. And just as Jesus Christ was God in flesh, so this political leader is the god of this world in flesh. As we noted in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, he shall sit in the temple of God and claim that he himself is God. And the world shall believe the whole lie and God will let them (2 Thessalonians 2:11). "Who is like the beast?" No one on earth can compare with him. The world considers him worthy of worship. "Who is able to make war with him?" The whole world shall look on him as an invincible conqueror, and so they are ready to submit to his authority. When Satan said, "I will be like the Most High," he meant every word of it. And in the Great Tribulation he will become as much like God as possible.
d. His Desecrating Words
We read that there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.
"And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven" (Revelation 13:5-6).
Notice two things: He speaks great things, and he speaks blasphemies. Those two things are different. If you look at the revelation of this man in Daniel, he who is called a little horn growing up out of ten previous horns shall speak great things (Daniel 7:8, 20). It is entirely possible that Satan shall impart to him unusual wisdom and technical knowledge that he shall use to capture the fancy of a scientifically oriented world. The world will believe that he is a savior who can get them out of this great mess that the world is in.
But in addition to these great things, he shall speak blasphemies. These blasphemies are amplified in verse 6 as being against God, His name, His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. He shall appeal to the godlessness of the age, and ride the crest of blasphemy to heights of popularity and prestige. We're starting to see a rising tide against God in this day. Everything and everyone associated with God shall be the object of his vile vituperations. Daniel likewise warned us of this when he said, "And he shall speak great words against the most High" (Daniel 7:25). And "the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done" (Daniel 11:36).
God says his power shall last for 42 months, the same length of time the two witnesses prophesy (Revelation 11:3), and the same length of time Satan will persecute the nation Israel (Revelation 12:6, 14). That is the last half of Daniel's Seventieth Week, or three and a half years.
e. His Dominion
"It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:7-8).
When we see the extent of his rule, we see first of all that he will have power to overcome the saints (verse 7). While God is going to protect the 144,000 sealed servants of Israel, and certainly some others of His saints, the great majority of believers are going to be slain for their faith in Christ during this period. Daniel said it, too, in Daniel 7:25, "and shall wear out the saints of the Most High."
To Satan's way of thinking he will have overcome them. But to God's way of thinking, they are the true victors. They are seen standing before God in Revelation 15:2 and called "them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name." It's a victory for the overcomer.
But not only is his power exerted against the saints of God, his dominion is extended over the whole earth. "And power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues and nations" (verse 7). Verse 8 goes on to explain that every earth dweller, except true believers, shall worship him. Never before in human history has Satan's dream of one universal kingdom under his rule been possible. But under his personally-appointed and empowered ruler, it shall be accomplished. Every unbeliever on earth will submit to one political rule and one religion. It looks as though Satan has succeeded in defeating the purposes of God.
f. His Downfall
Ah, but wait just a moment. We have already read that his power to continue is limited to 42 months. "If anyone has an ear, let him hear" (Revelation 13:9).
"He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:10).
The hope for downtrodden saints in the Great Tribulation will not be personal retaliation and revenge; it will be to wait for the righteous judgment of God. He will destroy the power of this destroyer in His own time. "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."
3. The False Spirit
a. His Description
When we reach verse 11 a second beast comes into view, another of the same kind, says John, except that this one arises out of the earth.
"Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth"--not the sea this time, but the earth--"and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon" (Revelation 13:11).
The meaning in this is uncertain. The word can be translated "earth" or "land." Some feel it refers to the land of Palestine--the word land can sometimes mean that--and that this false prophet will be a Jew. This usage of the word cannot be indisputably proven however. The very same word is used 75 times in the book of Revelation to refer to the earth generally. It seems that it would be stretching a point to say that it means the land of Palestine on this one isolated occasion. John may be simply emphasizing that this is a creature of earth, not of heaven.
The fact that he has horns like a lamb may indicate his religious significance and intentions. In fact, three other times in the book of Revelation he is called a prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; and 20:10), so we know there is something religious about him. But the fact that he speaks like a dragon identifies him with Satan's godless religious system.
b. His Demonic Wonders
"And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed" (Revelation 13:12).
Will you notice first of all that this false prophet does not call attention to himself, but to the first beast before him. He is not asking the people of earth to worship him, but to worship the first beast whose deadly wound was healed. Does not this remind you of what the Lord Jesus said about the ministry of the Holy Spirit? "He shall testify of me" (John 15:26). "He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13). "He shall glorify me" (John 16:14).
Here is Satan's counterfeit spirit, bearing witness to Satan's counterfeit christ. And look at how he will convince the people of earth that they need to submit themselves to the Antichrist. "He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men" (Revelation 13:13).
By doing great wonders (the Greek word signs used by John of Christ's miracles). Just as the Holy Spirit used miracles to testify the truthfulness of the message of salvation through Christ in the early days of the church, so in the Great Tribulation the false prophet will use miracles to delude the earth into submitting to the Antichrist.
"Whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of this same thing in Matthew 24:24; "For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Of course, it's not possible to deceive the elect, but that's how great the signs and wonders will be.
One of his favorite tricks will be to make fire come down from heaven (verse 13). Elijah used this very sign in 2 Kings 1 to prove to King Ahasiah that he was a man of God. The same sign was used a number of other times in the Scripture to testify that God was at work. Now Satan steals it to prove to the world his power and authority.
Through the use of these miracles, the false prophet is going to talk the people of the earth into building an image of the Antichrist. And after its construction he pulls off the greatest hoax of all. "He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed" (Revelation 13:15).
Just how he does this is not clear. Some think it will be by mechanical means, kind of like the Lincoln show at Disneyland, but I don't think so. I have the idea he may use demons which Satan puts at his disposal. The King James says he gave life to the image, but this is not the normal word for "life;" it's really the Greek word spirit, which is sometimes translated as breath. The false prophet can't actually give life to this dumb idol life, but he can put spirit in it, that is, animate it through the use of evil spirits.
Unbelievable? No. Back in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 we read, "And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie." Most of the folks on earth who have already rejected God and His Christ are going to fall for this Satanic chicanery and fall down and worship the image. It's amazing to us, but they're going to do it.
Listen, friend, you have a choice today. You can bow your knee to Jesus Christ and own Him as your Savior and Lord. Or you can wait until the Great Tribulation, when God is going to let Satan delude your eyes, and you are going to worship his counterfeit. I choose God's Christ. Some will choose Him in the Great Tribulation also, but when they refuse to bow to the image of the Antichrist, they will be killed.
c. His Despotic Ways
Some may be wondering how the Antichrist will keep the whole world in subjection, even for three and a half years. It seems like an impossible task. But not only does he have the political, and military, and religious systems of the world in his control, he has the economy of the world in his control. Every person who wants to buy or sell will have to show his credentials, the mark of the beast.
We know this is possible by observing our own rationing stamp program in World War II, or the preferential treatment and pressures brought to bear through our labor union movement. And it's already being talked about in our day that there will no longer be cash purchases, but that everything will be purchased with a number that is tattooed on us or implanted in us in some way, making it impossible to accomplish fraud.
One day, only those who bow to the Antichrist will be able to purchase food. Others who have escaped death by his sword will experience slow starvation--except for those few whom God will preserve and protect as His witnesses.
And then we read, "Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666" (Revelation 13:18).
I have no idea what that means. A lot of people have made suggestions. Only God knows the meaning of this number, 666. He only tells us that it is the number of a man. Six is one short of the number of divine perfection: seven. Any further speculation is vain.
If you look at my car out there in the handicap parking place today, you'll see an Emmanuel Faith Community Church handicap sticker, and the number is 666--and I promise you I'm not the Antichrist! I don't know who's responsible for that, but I'm going to find out!! Really, it doesn't mean a thing. Every time you see that number, it's not significant. You can't say, "Whoa, there's the Antichrist!"
If there's one thing that strikes me in studying Revelation 13 today, it's the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ could be near. Our world is shrinking through technology. The many nations of the world seem to be polarizing into a few great power blocs. We see for the first time in human history the capability of worldwide communications on a scale we've never seen before. We see creeping socialism, which is putting more and more power into the hands of government. We see a "one world" philosophy permeating politics, and religion, and commerce.
The day is close! All we lack is Satan's savior: Satan's counterfeit christ. A man powerful enough and personable enough to convince the world that he is the deliverer. That's all we lack. And that man could be alive in the world today. Only God knows. Somewhere in this world, this man could be in preparation for his public unveiling and his avowed declaration that he can save the world. He'll begin to speak those great things and the world will begin to follow him. It could happen soon.
If it's as soon as we think it is, then the coming of Jesus Christ for His own could be today. Are you ready to meet Him? If not, trust Him as your Savior from sin. He died for your sins; He rose for your justification and your acceptance by God. He offers you everlasting life.
Christian, let's take advantage of every opportunity to unselfishly share Jesus Christ. Let's work while it is day because the night comes, Jesus said, when no man shall work (John 9:4).
Continue to RV-10B: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory