|By: Dr. Robert Thomas; ©2001|
|This month Dr. Thomas shows us the accomplishments of the counterfeit Christ, the consequences for saints, and the assistance rendered by the beast’s helper, all from Revelation 13.|
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET: THE SEVEN BOWLS PENDING—EXPLOITS OF THE COUNTERFEIT CHRIST AND HIS HELPER
Last month we learned about the persecution of Israel by Satan’s chief agent in Revelation 12:13–13:4. This was part of the revelation God gave to John on the island of Patmos to lay groundwork for a better understanding of the seventh trumpet’s judgmental consequences that will come in Revelation 16. As we continue to await the earthly outworking of the seventh trumpet, we want to continue with a study of Revelation 13:5-18, verses that will tell of some of the exploits of the counterfeit Christ—whose characteristics we reviewed last month—and his helper. In this lesson we will see the accomplishments of the beast from the sea (i.e., the counterfeit Christ) in 13:5-8, the consequences for the saints (13:9- 10), and assistance rendered by the beast from the earth, the beast’s helper (13:11-18).
The Accomplishments of the Beast from the Sea (13:5-8)
We learned some characteristics of the beast from the sea in 13:1-4: his origin, his humanity, his imitation of Christ, his determined opposition to God, and his combined strength and brutality. In addition, we now learn that he will be a gifted speaker, but will use his gift to blaspheme God by claiming the name and attributes of God for himself: “a mouth speaking great things, even blasphemies against God, was given to him” (13:5a). In this he is fulfilling the words of Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, 25 regarding the “little horn.” God will grant him authority to continue his world dominance for forty-two months: “authority to continue forty-two months was given to him” (Rev. 13:5b). His forty-two-month tenure will coincide with the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week that we have encountered several times already in this study of Revelation (see 11:2-3; 12:6, 13). This will be the period just before Jesus Christ returns to deal directly with him and all others who have rebelled against God.
Verse 6 gives more specifics about his blasphemies. The counterfeit Christ will blaspheme the name of God by demeaning God’s name directly or else by appropriating it for himself. He will also blaspheme God’s tabernacle, in other words, His heavenly dwelling place. He will do the same to those who dwell in heaven, most probably members of the angelic army who joined their leader Michael in expelling the dragon from heaven (see 12:7-9, 12). The satanic powers that energize this beast are quite evident.
The beast also will receive power to wage war against the saints and overcome them (13:7a). In this he will carry out the purposes of the dragon mentioned in 12:17. Among the saints against whom he will do battle will be the two witnesses of Revelation 11 (see 11:7). The concept of waging war against and overcoming the saints comes from Daniel 7:21, but in Daniel the defeat of the saints is balanced with a picture of their ultimate victory in Daniel 7:22. In the end, the martyred saints will be the victors in Revelation too, of course (see Rev. 12:11; 14:1-5; 17:14).
Before the beast’s time has run its course, however, he will be given “authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation” (Rev. 13:7b). This last world ruler before Christ returns and take His throne will have what every ruler has dreamed about: total world domination. At his disposal will be every lineage, nation, language group, and racial group. No human ruler in history has had the sweeping authority he will have.
Not only will he have governmental control, however. He will be the willing recipient of worship by “all who dwell upon the earth” (13:8a). This group’s opposition to God has been evident each time they have appeared earlier in the book (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10), but here their allegiance to and worship of the counterfeit Christ is affirmed. The beast will enjoy almost universal success in attracting worshipers, the only exception being the elect who will refuse to comply with his mandated worship. Universal worship of the beast will be the ultimate achievement of one worldwide religion as the “earth-dwellers” withhold from the true God His central place. The text further characterizes the worshipers of the beast as those “whose names are not written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain” (13:8b). By choosing to worship the beast rather than the Lamb, they will eventually find themselves in the lake of fire. Their names will not appear in the Book of Life (see Rev. 20:15). The beast will lead them to perdition.
The Consequences for the Saints (13:9-10)
In the middle of his description of the beast, the writer John issues a call for the receptive to hear about what their response should be to the awful treatment by the beast (13:9). It is a call to endure in their faithfulness and not to yield to the oppressor.
Several manuscript differences complicate the understanding of verse 10, but the most probable readings result in the following translation: “If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he departs; if anyone is to be killed by the sword, [it is necessary for] him to be killed by the sword.” In essence, the words address the faithful followers of the Lamb, warning them of impending persecution by the beast and urging them to submit themselves to divine providence. The verse expresses the inevitability of persecution and death for the faithful who come under the regime of the beast. Verse 10 alludes to Jeremiah 15:2 and 43:11, passages that emphasize the divine providence to which Jeremiah submitted during Israel’s dark days before the captivity. The beast will enjoy a temporary victory over the saints just as did the Babylonians over Israel in Jeremiah’s day, but beyond that he will himself be doomed to the lake of fire.
The endurance and faithfulness of the saints referred to at the end of verse 10 are personal qualities that will sustain believers during the days of their harsh treatment. Remembering that God is sovereign over all that happens and that the dragon and the beast have only a short time, will provide fuel to sustain the saints in their endurance and faithfulness.
The Beast’s Helper (13:11-18)
The next section introduces another beast, this one coming up from the earth. This is the same individual whom later passages in Revelation identify as “the false prophet” (see 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). This second beast will support the cause of the first beast in the following ways:
- He exercises all the authority of the first beast and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the beast (13:12). At this point, the text again refers to the rising of the first beast from his death-wound (see 13:3).
- He performs great signs, including the calling of fire down from heaven to earth in the sight of men (13:13).
- Because of the signs he is able to deceive the “earth-dwellers” and prompt them to construct an image to the first beast who was killed and came back to life (13:14).
- He is able to give breath to the image and to put to death those who refuse to worship the image (13:15).
- He is able to place a mark on the right hand or on the forehead of all people, including every category of mankind (13:16).
- He is able to deny buying and selling privileges to anyone who refuses to receive the mark of the beast (13:17).
Verse 18 gives the number of the first beast, the counterfeit Christ, as 666. Only thepeople alive in that future day of his reign will recognize him by this number. No amount ofspeculation before that day arrives will be able to specify his identity. The identification willprobably come through the calculation technique called gematria, according to which eachletter of the alphabet in his name has a numerical value. Totaling up all the letters will yieldthe number 666, but a knowledge of which name results in that total awaits a future day.
As the world awaits the future, worldwide, forty-two-month reign of the counterfeit Christ, Christians of the present day have plenty of opportunities to display the endurance and faithfulness that Revelation 13:9-10 calls upon the saints of the future to display. Our obstacles may be of a different kind and may not be as severe as those for future followers of the Lamb, but they are just as real. We need to take seriously the admonition of James: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Remembering that God is sovereign and in control, we need to be faithful, no matter what comes our way.
Note: For more details about the counterfeit Christ and his helper, see my discussion in Revelation 8–22 (Moody Press, 1995), pages 160-188. To order this volume, you may contact Grace Books International at (800) GRACE15 or www.gbibooks.com.