Wednesday, July 16, 2014

REVELATION 13: 1 - 10 : “THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA“

Chapter 13 introduces us to the picture of the anti-Christian power and   its anti-christian kingdom with  its anti-christian king in  our world ! These  are important words. Hear  the  exhortation from Jesus  through John : " If anyone  has an ear , let him hear" ! ( v.9) The Holy Spirit says  that it is of greatest importance ,  therefore let us hear  so that we may understand and receive strength to stand in the evil day.

A Word of Clarification:

I have just used the word “anti-christ”. But John in this Revelation never actually uses the term "anti-Christ". He only uses  this term in his  epistles  (1 Jn. 2:18,22; 4:3 ; 2 Jn. 7). "Anti"  actually means  not  so much ‘against‘  as    "in the place of (Christ)",  thus introducing  the element of deception. [1]   Why are  we  then making  reference  to the  anti-christ? 

In Chapter  13  we  are  introduced  to  two  beasts. The first beast (13: 1 - 10) is said to come out of the sea, and the second beast (13:11- 18) is said to come out of the earth.
It is to that first beast  that  I now want to draw your attention, for that beast closely resembles what the prophet Daniel speaks about in Daniel  7 - the 4th beast – “terrifying and dreadful  and exceedingly strong”(Dan 7:7) who  “shall  speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High… and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times and half a time.” (Dan 7:25). This beast also resembles  what the apostle Paul speaks about  in 2 Thess. 2:3 when he speaks about the "man of lawlessness, the son of destruction , who opposes and exalts himself  against every so-called god or object of worship, so that  he takes his seat  in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" . This same one is also what the apostle John refers to in His letters  when he speaks about the anti-Christ, as indicated earlier.
That first beast out of the sea bears the marks of the anti-christ, and that is why I am using this term here.

THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA : A DESCRIPTION
What does this picture  of the beast  tell us ? I remind you once again  that this  is  highly symbolic language.
a. The sea is said to be the source out of which the beast arises. What does this mean?
This refers to the sea of people and  of nations  as they live on the earth and under the power and principle of sin. The sea is symbolic of restlessness .  We read of the sea in that sense more than once in scripture:

i.                Isa. 57:20 :  “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet,            and its waters toss up mire and dirt.”
ii.               Dan. 7:2,3  : “Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.”  The entire context here shows us that the troubled sea of nations  is meant here.
iii.              Rev. 17:15,16  gives us perhaps  the clearest  clear picture of this fact : “And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the  10 horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute…” .

These texts help us to see  that  this beast finds its origin, source, birthplace among the peoples, the  nations and languages  of this world -   all  which  are under the principle and power of sin.

b.   A description of the  beast : This grotesque creature bears a close resemblance to its father - the dragon (the devil) who is described in 12:3 . The beast,  like his father  the devil,  has  10 horns and seven heads -  and seven  diadems on each head.  Each head has a blasphemous name. The general appearance is like a leopard.  The  feet resemble that of a bear and  the  mouth that of a lion. ( Note: it combines a all the features of the  4 beasts in Daniel 7:1-8) . The beast is said to  have received  “his (the  dragon’s)  power and his throne and great authority”  (12:2)." 
There is another interesting detail :  “one of its  heads seemed to have  a  mortal  wound, but its mortal  wound  was  healed.”   (13:3). As we look at this beast with similar features to the dragon, we might  therefore  say that this "anti-christ" is the 'devil  - incarnate’ – the son of the devil!  The devil  is  an evil imitator  of all that our God is  and does. He tries to stand  in the place of Christ!

What  about  these symbolic details?  Once again we must depend on the rest of Scripture to help us:
1.     Take note once again of  Daniel 7 and the  four beasts.  What is the meaning of the beasts  there? The angel  who reveals this prophecy to Daniel also gives him the key. He interprets the beasts as both,  kings and kingdoms  (cf. Dan 7:15ff).    "The 4 great beasts are four kings /kingdoms… v.17". In v.19  Daniel desired to know the truth about the 4th beast which was different from all the rest (v.23). It is evident that this  4th  beast represents a great political world power , headed by a great leader. There has always been a controversy as to whether the anti-Christ is a person   or a political system.  It is obviously both!
2.      Take note that the  10 horns are, as always in Scripture, symbols of power - finite power - only 10 - man's number.  The  7 heads (7 -  number of perfection) must not fool us. They are Satan's imitations. The names of blasphemy are written upon them.  This beast  will be the culmination of Satanic  beastliness  and control  when compared to other historical world powers, kings and kingdoms. This time, it is clear that this anti -christian king and his kingdom are not limited to one nation as was the case  in Daniel's time, where the 4 kingdoms would have referred to the Babylonians, Medo- Persians ,  the  Greek and Roman empires.  Rev 13:7 indicates that the beast was “allowed  to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given  it over  every tribe and  people and  language and nation…".   This beast is the sum-total of all incarnate evil powers and has  a world wide influence!
3.      We note that one of the heads had been  mortally  wounded - but is  now healed (13:3) . What does this mean?  One of the  most obvious connections  is  Genesis  3:15, where  the Lord God says  to Satan as  he has  tempted  the man towards  sin and disobedience: “He (Messiah) shall  bruise your head, and  you shall  bruise his heel”. There is however  in the immediate context  an immediate application . This   head must be one of the kingdoms that had suffered a fatal blow , but from which it had miraculously recovered.  Some commentators say that this refers to the Roman empire.[2]  If so, this  would have made particular sense to John's readers . In AD 68 , the cruel  Roman emperor Nero, a noted persecutor of the Christians  had committed suicide .  It was  then rumoured  that Nero had actually revived -   but there is no proven substance to this.  Others say, that although Nero's death  was a deep blow to the Roman empire (for their Caesars were treated and considered  as  gods) , the  next emperor Domitian  continued to  persecute Christians as vehemently as did Nero. It  almost seemed as if the  Roman empire and their ‘heads’ were invincible. Rome seemed invincible  until  476 AD when the barbarian king Odoacer  overthrew  the city of Rome .  
We might also observe that in the time  of the anti-christ (that is   for 42 months (v.5)  - the gospel/ church  age)  he  has received  numerous  death blows  through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Think of it this way : the gospel plunders and wounds the kingdom of the anti-Christ. All over the world the gospel is flourishing among the nations, and people from every tribe, tongue and nations  are being redeemed , plundered from Satan's kingdom by the power of the gospel,  and they will find their names written in the Lamb's book of life. However, we also read  (and have read in Ch. 11:1-10 ), that there will be a time, when the gospel witness will be virtually non - existent, because the 2 witnesses (i.e. true preachers of the gospel and the true church) will lie slain in the street. Verse 7 affirms this again .  It will seem as if the head fatally wounded would be healed.  It seems as if  anti-christ appears to be whole , flourishing and advancing !

THE POWER OF THE BEAST:

 His power  is derived from Satan. "and to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.(13:2);  "He is given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies"  (13:5). "It was allowed to make war against the saints, and to conquer them (note there will be Christians on earth at this time of tribulation !). He was given authority over every tribe, people , language and nation." (13:7).

Why does the dragon do this? You see, the devil is also a spirit. He cannot  establish an  earthly throne in person.  He needs a human agent. At one time he  tried  to get the Lord Jesus Christ to become his spokesman , by offering Him to have dominion over all the kingdoms of this world , if only He would bow down to Satan. But the Lord  Jesus rebuked  Satan (Matt 4:9-11).   Now as we consider  chapter 13: 1,  the incarnation of this evil son of Satan  arrives – probably  in the form of  a very powerful political systems and rulers. One's imagination may be tempted to run away at this time. I am simply asking as we consider this  in our own time , which is a part of the end times? What is that organisation ,  or political power at this time that would most fulfil the criterion of being a global power? And isn't globalisation a key word today? "New world order?"  The Human rights movement is fast becoming a world- wide cover - up for evil minority groups to spread their anti-Christian bias , as seen is  a number of current hot potatoes such as  homosexuality , feminism and abortion and euthanasia etc. . What about the new age religions which are an attempt to make all religions one ?
The one thing which is very clear about this beast is this : it is anti-God (v. 6) and anti-saints (v.7)
 Furthermore , it is quite clear  that the beast  enjoys  tremendous popularity! (vv. 3b, 4,8). It seems  as if the whole world will be going after this anti-Christ. 

THE RESPONSE OF THE SAINTS

Almost all  will worship the beast! All , except those whose name has been  written before the foundation  of the world  in the book of life of the  Lamb who was slain ! (v.8)  What a wonderful text  with which to come to the Communion table this morning .

It seems that the time of the anti-christ  is unbearably hard for Christians . Many of us would be asking: “ How then  can I stand in my faith?” The answer is  simple and plain :  “ you will stand!”  Why  can we be so  sure of this ?  Because of what the Scriptures says here:
Your name is in that book of Life ( which is not an afterthought , but a forethought of God  - see also Eph.  1:4!).  God foreknows all His elect people. And from the creation of the world , God  has known you  and has  written  your name in that wonderful book of life, and in time He sealed  it   through the precious blood of the Lamb shed on the cross . It is recorded there  and sealed with the blood of the lamb. And so we  read Romans 8:35 - 39  to confirm this !

What then is left for us to consider?
Just these closing words : vv. 9,10 ,11 !
Yes, these  times in which we are living,  in which Satan has been thrown down to the earth ( Rev. 12)   are  difficult. Some will go into captivity. The restlessness of the world  has caused untold millions of people to become displaced ;  many have been  killed in that process .  But we must not be unsettled . Patient endurance and faithfulness  are  called for.  All this must be. But  so is the coming day of our Lord Jesus.  Look  to Him !
Amen!




[1] Note : In so doing the anti-Christ portrays the nature of the devil , who is a deceiver and a murderer.
[2] The Roman Empire began whenAugustus Caesar became the first emperor of Rome (31 BC) and ended, in the west, when the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (476 AD). 

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