Friday, October 5, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 34 - Revelation 13:1-10

And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.

And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?"

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. (NIV)

The First Beast

His Identity

To understand the identity of the beast, we must look at other visions, expressly, those recorded in Daniel. Daniel recorded a dream that Nebuchadnezzar had and its interpretation. It is needed to understand visions given to Daniel later in his life as well as those in Revelation. God doesn’t fool around giving a person one vision and another person a conflicting vision. There is truth in each and one sheds light on another.  

In your vision, Your Majesty, you saw standing before you a huge, shining statue of a man. It was a frightening sight. The head of the statue was made of fine gold. Its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were a combination of iron and baked clay. (Dan 2:31-33NLT)

You are the head of gold. But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world. Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes. The feet and toes you saw were a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some of the strength of iron. But while some parts of it will be as strong as iron, other parts will be as weak as clay. This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage. But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix. (Dan 2:38b-43 NLT) 

What countries are represented by the beasts in this vision? 

We see four kingdoms in this vision, with Babylon as the current one. We can look back at history and see that the second kingdom was the joined force of Media and Persia. The next forceful nation was Greece, followed by Rome. After Alexander the Great of Greece died, his empire was divided into four parts, one to each of his generals. After that, two major factions emerged which could be represented by two legs.

Then the Roman Empire came. It was unstable at all times as represented by the feet of iron and clay even though it exercised power over a vast area. The toes of the statue can be related to the ten kings in later visions. Based on these visions, many believe that the ten kings will represent countries that are part of a revived Roman Empire.

The first time I did this study, the European Common Market was just forming and had eight members. There was great speculation that when the tenth member was added, we would see the fulfillment of this prophecy and possibly usher in the tribulation. The name was changed to the European Union when it had fifteen members. Negotiations then added twelve more members for a total of 27 as it is in 2012. There are other nations that still do not belong and another is schedule for 2013.

It has expanded beyond ten counties that have had Roman influence to include countries that were never under Roman rule. With this as an example, it is rather foolhardy to predict what countries will be represented by the ten kings. All we can do is wait and see where they come from. 

Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. (Dan 7:2-8 KJV)

These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. (Dan 7:17-18 KJV)

I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time [3 1/2 years]. (Dan 7:21-25 KJV)

And the rough goat is the king of Grecia [Greece]: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. (Dan 8:21-22 KJV) 

How are the beasts or nations in Daniel related to the beast in Revelation? 

The beast that John saw is a remarkable composite of the four beasts that Daniel saw. With the interpretation of Daniel’s vision, it becomes clear that the last beast is the same as the beast that John sees. They both slander God and both have power to war against the saints and conquer them. Fortunately, Daniel’s vision also concludes the matter by assuring us that the saints will obtain the final victory. The beast has a limited time – three and a half years. An important thing to remember is that the fourth beast and the ten kingdoms are in Daniel’s future as well as ours (at the time of this writing).

The kingdom of Greece is clearly explained with the four generals taking over after its prominence. But out of the four nations comes another ruler that can only be the final beast that we have encountered in the earlier visions and in Revelation. As is done in other visions, time is compressed. It starts with the known kingdoms of Media and Persia, goes into Daniel’s future with Greece, and finishes with a huge jump in time to the very end with a description of the Anti-Christ. He is taking his stand against the Prince of princes, Jesus. Also he will be destroyed, but not by human power. The Lord is clearly in charge and will deal with him.

His Origin

What is the origin of this beast represented by the sea?

Many scholars have said that the sea represents mankind. The churning sea would represent the constant unrest and changing nature of sinful man. This is in contrast to the calm sea in front of the throne of God that we saw in Revelation 4. In the presence of God there is peace. Apart from Him there is unrest.  

Is the beast a nation or a person?

 Since these beasts come from the sea, they represent the human side of the nations, their leaders, and the conflicts. Sometimes the beast represents a nation and other times the beast represents a person. While the beasts in Daniel’s visions were identified as nations, the beast in Revelation is personalized. Even though it starts out sounding just like Daniel’s beasts, he later receives a throne and authority from the dragon. The beast or the Anti-Christ will be of human origin.

The heads and horns match the description of the dragon. This is probably because the dragon gives his power to the beast.  

And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (Dan 11:36 KJV)  

The king described in Daniel 11, while at first describes one of the four kings that came out of Greece, eventually is identified as the Anti-Christ as well. This description relates to the heads of the beast in Revelation that have blasphemous names written on them. Up to this time, the Anti-Christ was simply a man who had incredible charisma to gain control of most of the world (with Satanic backing to be sure). But now, the Anti-Christ utters blasphemies in which he tries to exalt himself above God. This indicates that the Anti-Christ is now either possessed by Satan or under his direct control. The gloves are off and the fight has begun. Satan’s war is in the open and he attacks those who follow his Archenemy, Jesus.

His Wound

Does the beast actually die and come back to life? What are the implications if he did or did not die?

In Daniel we saw a time when one horn is broken off and another takes its place. This always represented the replacement of a ruler of a kingdom. In Revelation, we see that heads also represent rulers. One of these rulers receives a wound that several translations say is fatal but is healed. It’s interesting to note that most translations leave the possibility that the wound didn’t actually result in death. Several versions use the word “seemed” and another “as if.” Verse 14 doesn’t help. The NASB has taken the stance that the wound caused his death and he came back to life. However the ESV makes no definitive statement about the beast dying. 

telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. (Rev 13:14 NASB)

telling them to make an image for the beast  that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. (Rev 13:14 ESV)
The Greek simply says he was wounded and did live. It is apparent from the reaction of people that he certainly appears to have died. However, we don’t have the world’s perspective we have God’s. His Word leads us to understand that death doesn’t occur but is only a deception.  

It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men; and by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth … (Rev 13:23-14 RSV)  

The second beast has the job of doing deceptive work. I don’t think the wound actually kills this ruler. There are two additional reasons. The first is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life as He has stated. 

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. (John 5:21 NASB) 

Life comes from the Father and Jesus, the Son. I don’t think that God would give this power to Satan. Secondly, unless God raises a person, once he is dead, he stays dead.  

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Heb 9:27 KJV)  

We all only have one chance at life. If this ruler did die, he would then face judgment. His judgment doesn’t come until chapter 19.

If this were truly a death and resurrection, then it would prove that the person was indeed Christ. It would mean that Jesus was the fake and that we have been following an imposter for thousands of years.

The healed wound happens right after the dragon gives him his power. Many think that Satan is going to produce an actual resurrection so that the Anti-Christ can claim that he is the Christ. But it is only a counterfeit. Satan has been trying to convince people for two thousand years that Jesus’ resurrection was a hoax and now he is going to pull off a fake to try to grab the glory for himself. 

How do people react to this fake resurrection? Why do you think they react this way? 

Look at what the people of the world do as a result. They are astonished, and follow the beast. They can’t determine if the wound is fatal or not and are ready to believe the deception. They don’t see a beast in the way John does. They see what appears to be a miraculous resurrection or healing of a world leader that they already respected and followed. As a result they end up worshiping Satan.

They are also overwhelmed by his power. Make no mistake about it. Even though this is a fake, it has to be something special, dramatic, and public. If he simply went to the hospital and recovered, nobody would get this excited. When we take a look at the second beast, I think we will be able to see that it is the second beast that pulls off the healing or resurrection, which makes him a counterfeit holy spirit. The wound of the first beast is very important. As we look over the whole chapter, it is mentioned three times.

His Authority

How will the beast gain and exercise his authority?

He will utter proud words and blasphemies. Much of his authority is going to be based upon his oral abilities, including his blasphemies. You don’t think it can be done? We’ve already mentioned how Hitler took control. Some people thought he was the Anti-Christ because he was able to rise to power in such a short time based on his oratory skills. He was given the authority to rule in Germany. He didn’t fight for it. His persecution of the Jews also helped fit the bill as the Anti-Christ.  

Compare Jesus’ demonstrations of authority to the beast’s. How are they the same or different and what is the result? 

The Anti-Christ will appear, as Jesus did, to have authority in his teaching. People could tell by the way Jesus taught that He had authority.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matt 7:28-29 KJV)

And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming."

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he then said to the paralytic—"Rise, pick up your bed and go home." 

When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matt 9:2-3, 6, 8 ESV)  

Jesus followed up His words with actions to show that He had authority. When He exercised His authority on earth, people were amazed, but the religious leaders accused Him of blaspheming. The Anti-Christ will blaspheme because he doesn’t have the true authority to forgive sins, but he will demonstrate miracles to deceive the multitudes and the people will praise him. His blasphemies will not seem as such because of the signs and wonders he works. They will be blasphemies because he will try to impersonate Jesus in every way.  

How will Christians be able to determine that the beast is not representing God? 

 The only way a believer could see this happening and know that it was not of God would be to be well versed in the Word, know these predictions, and know what Jesus told us in Matt 24:23  

Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. (KJV) 

This is why many do not believe the gifts of tongues and prophecy are for today. They believe that these are manifestations of Satan to prepare us to welcome the Anti-Christ. They miss out on the fact that people of God heal or speak in tongues by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, and therefore give glory to God.

We should look out for miracles, signs, and wonders that don’t give glory to God. A good example is the amount of glory given angels today. Many people are ready to credit angels with saving their lives and other miracles, but they aren’t ready to admit that Jesus is Lord and that angels only do His bidding. They won’t give one bit of credit to Jesus. Like some TV preachers of today, the Anti-Christ will be taking the glory for himself.

Eventually, the beast will remove any pretences of being Christ and directly slander God. 

Why will people put up with the beast’s slandering God?

It isn’t hard to imagine someone speaking directly against God. The Humanists and Atheists do that already. They say He is the one who keeps us shackled in myths. Marx called religion the opiate of the people.[1] Even some churches that call themselves Christian do the same thing by allowing any belief to be part of their system. Psychiatry has long blamed mental illness on Christianity. The Anti-Christ will only be voicing what millions of people have wanted to hear anyway. People want to get out from under the authority of God. They only want to answer to the authority they see standing before them in the mirror. The irony in this is that they end up worshiping both the dragon and the beast. Not only do they submit to a higher authority, but also one who doesn’t have their best interests in mind. 

What will the beast be doing when he slanders God’s name, dwelling place, and those who live in heaven? 

Since the Anti-Christ is going to slander God’s name, His dwelling place (Christians) and those who live in heaven, it could be that the Anti-Christ is going to spread a gospel in which the dragon is the father, the Anti-Christ is the son and the next beast is the spirit. He can only do that if he maligns and discredits the true Trinity. He may do this by maligning Christians once he gains power to fight us. It will be like the times of Nero. Rumors will spread about what the Christians do in their services such as drinking blood and eating flesh. Today, we are already called subversive and dangerous. (You can read Frank Schaeffer lashing out at Christians in the Huffington Post.[2])

By this time the Church will have to meet in secret. That will also add to suspicions against Christians. The right of freedom of religion will be taken away even where it is now granted. The Anti-Christ will be like Saul was before his conversion. He will be legally enabled to jail and/or kill Christians.  

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18 KJV)  

We know that the gates of hell will never overcome the Church, but just as in the times of Nero and in many places in the world today, it will not be able to function openly.

To complete the counterfeiting of Jesus, the Anti-Christ will assume authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. But only counterfeit Christians will worship him.

His Opposition

Who will be able to oppose the beast, what will happen to them, and what is their hope?

From all outward appearances there will be no opposition to the beast. In verse 7, he is allowed to wage war on Christians and even conquer them. We tend to miss this as we continue reading to see that he has authority over all peoples. Even worse, it says that all who live on the earth will worship the beast.

I’ve heard preachers ask what does the word all mean and then they say it means all, implying that there are no exceptions. However, the Bible often uses the word all and it isn’t always completely inclusive. For instance in Ex 9:6, it says that all the livestock of the Egyptians died. In Ex 9:19 Moses tells the Egyptians to bring their livestock into shelter or they will be killed by hail. Obviously, not all the livestock died from the plague.

The same can be applied to these verses in Revelation because the exceptions to those who worship the beast are those whose names have been written in the book of life. However, it will be a time of intense persecution signified by the fact that the beast will be able to conquer them. 

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt 24:24 KJV)

I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt 28:20 KJV)

Jesus warned us that the deception would be so great that it will almost deceive Christians. But we have His promise of spiritual protection. The only resistance will be Christians who have the protection of the real Christ, the Lamb that was slain from the beginning of the world. This points out that the true Christ and His plan of redemption outdates Satan. Jesus is the original. The only way to tell the counterfeit from the original is to become very familiar with the original. The counterfeit will then be obvious. Those who resist the beast have done that. They know that to live for Jesus is to suffer with Him.

Verse 10 could make those who have to go through this despair of all hope.

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. (Matt 24:22 KJV)  

Fortunately, that time will be limited to 42 months. What they will need to remember, as well as anyone who is going through trials, is that we belong to the Lamb. He bought us with His blood; we do not belong to any other. If the Lamb bought us, and He is God, what makes anyone think that He is going to let somebody else take His possession? However, there is a certainty of persecution described in verse 10. This is directed toward Christians and applies to us at any time. We are to have patient endurance and faithfulness. We may moan and ask God why, but He is telling us that it is inevitable. There is not going to be an escape just because we are Christians. Some will die and some will be imprisoned. 

What will happen to those who persecute Christians? 
How long has persecution been going on? 

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.” (Matt 23:33-36 NIV)  

Jesus was warning the religious leaders of His time; however this warning is for any who mistreat His servants. Persecution of righteous people isn’t something new, but goes back even before His prophets. It goes back to Abel. There have always been godly people and the ungodly have shed their blood. Persecuting a Christian brings upon the persecutor the guilt of every persecution from the beginning of time. Thank God even that can be forgiven. 

What things stand out to you in this lesson? What do we need to do? 

Two things stand out to me in this part of the chapter.

We need to be able to spot counterfeits. We could spend a lot of time examining other religions to see why they are wrong or we could spend our time getting to know Jesus. The most profitable time is spent knowing Jesus and the counterfeits will become obvious.

Persecution is a normal part of Christianity. Political situations can change in a few short years. Rights can be lost almost overnight. We should be prepared to be persecuted and continue as an underground church. We should also pray that it doesn’t happen.

[1] "Opium of the People." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 03 Oct. 2012.
[2] (Frank Schaeffer, Posted: September 12, 2009 04:37 PM)

No comments:

Post a Comment