Revelation 13–the Antichrist
I think I have seen at least ten Hollywood movies about the Antichrist, including the movie and recent TV version of “Rosemary’s Baby”. But where does this notion of this evil and powerful man who is basically the son of Satan come from? Like most things with any truth to them, it comes from the Bible, but naturally the humanistic sources from Hollywood get it all wrong. Whatever scholars or movies believe about this person we call Antichrist, the Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles taught that Antichrist will be real. Daniel 7:25; 8:23-25; 9:25-27, Matt. 24:15, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9, all talk about this “one who is in accord with the activity of Satan”.
According to Jesus in Matt. 24 and John in Rev. 13, during chaotic times of unrest and severe economic problems, the world will long for a great leader. They will respond to someone who can bring full employment and make the trains run on time like Hitler did before WW II. People have a longing for a strong leader who is charismatic, appealing, and can promise them the moon. I believe that the judgments of Revelation 6, which we call the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, will cause a great war like a WW3 which could bring destruction, famine, shortages, and economic disaster like Germany had after WW I. After this Great War, the adversary of God, who is detailed in Rev. 12, will raise up a powerful speaker and leader who will appear to bring about peace and prosperity, but in the end he will be a cruel dictator like Hitler.
Most people think the name Antichrist comes from the book of Revelation, but actually 1 John is the only book in the Bible that uses that name. Nevertheless, Daniel calls him “one who makes desolate”, Jesus called him “the Abomination of Desolation”, and Paul called him “the man of lawlessness who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship”. In Revelation 13, the author calls him “the beast…and Satan gave him his power”. In 1 John 2:18, and 4:3, John says that the Antichrist is coming and he will oppose Christ and deny Christ.
Revelation 13:1-10, the Beast
In chapter12, we saw behind the scenes in the spiritual realm concerning the rebellion of Satan against God, and now in chapter 13 we see the human drama played out on earth. With 42 months left (13:5) before God sets up His true kingdom, Satan must destroy the people of God and dominate the rest of the world in order to prevent God’s will and Satan’s doom to hell. We are introduced to an evil ruler who will get his power from the “dragon” (Satan). This great leader is called the beast, which represents the Antichrist. Satan will fight his war against God in these last 42 months through the Antichrist. This beast is likened to ferocious beasts like a lion, a bear, and a leopard. The lion was the symbol for the empire of Babylon, the bear was the symbol for Persia, and the leopard was used for Alexander the Great. Perhaps the Antichrist’s rule will be like a composite of all the great ruthless Empires.
In Rev.13:3, a miraculous event similar to a resurrection will solidify the beast’s power. The beast will appear to be killed (see v.14), but his miraculous recovery will be like a counterfeit resurrection so that the world will see and be amazed. People will actually worship this guy much like the emperor worship of the kings of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. By worshipping the beast, they will actually be worshipping Satan. How will he have such power, and why would God not stop it? Rev.13:5-6 tells us that it was “given to him”. God will lift His restraint of evil and allow the beast a full expression of vanity, ambition, and wickedness. But God will only give him 42 months. During that time, the verbal assault against God will become a physical assault against Gods people. In v. 7 we read that God will also allow him to persecute the saints (believers in Christ). In Daniel 7:25, the prophet predicted that for a short time Gods people will be given into the beast’s hands.
In Rev.13:8 we read that “all who dwell on earth” will worship the beast, with the limitation that only those who are not in “the book of life of the Lamb” will worship the beast. I take it that this is the registry in which God has written the names of the redeemed in Christ. The believers in Christ alive at that time will refuse to worship or submit to the Antichrist which will be taken as a threat to his power, and he will persecute and martyr them. John gives us a proverbial saying in verse 10 which means, let him do his worst because God controls the future and God will bring justice to all.
The False Prophet
In Rev. 13:11-18, we are introduced to another major player on Satan’s team during those last 42 months of Satan’s freedom(13:5). This man is also called a beast whose job is to promote and magnify the first beast (Antichrist). In Rev. 19:20, this man is identified as “the false prophet”. Satan’s major weapon is deception, and his agents deceive, so a religious leader who is a false prophet will help the Antichrist lead people astray. He will be given the power to do miracles and even bring fire down. He will design a new religion with images of the Antichrist to be worshipped. Again, this is just like the Roman Emperor cult worship that the author’s audience was subjected to in the first century, and just like Hitler putting up images of himself everywhere that people were to give the Nazi salute. This will be a rejoining of religion and politics with the Antichrist the head of each. It looks like to me this whole situation is a counterfeit religion with a counterfeit God, a counterfeit Christ, and a counterfeit Holy Spirit. There is even a counterfeit resurrection in v.3 and 14. The adversary of God will make an attempt to userp God’s rightful rule, making himself god, the Antichrist as the counterfeit Christ, and the false prophet in the role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26 that God was going to send His Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name in order to teach them about Christ and bring back to their remembrance all things that Jesus had said. In John 15:26, Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s function will be to ” bear witness” of Jesus, and in John 16:14 we read that the Holy Spirit will come in order to glorify Christ and reveal Jesus to the world. Therefore the adversary of God will try to copy the Holy Spirit’s true ministry by providing a counterfeit–the false prophet who will try to promote the Antichrist. He will be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and have a humble and appealing presence, but he will be the religious mouthpiece for the beast and the dragon.
Somehow, the false prophet will animate the main image of the Antichrist so as to amaze people and validate the deceptive message. The consequences of not worshipping the beast will be severe–death. Nevertheless, you may wonder how they keep track of everybody and keep them in line. The enforcement plan given in Rev. 13:15-18 is impressive. Everyone must be marked, and given a number in order to be employed or do business of any kind. Do you want credit? Do you want to keep your job and feed your family? Do you want to run your business? Then take a number. Therefore, everyone will come to them for the mark, out of economic necessity. Just think how hard it would be even now to get a good job without a social security number, but this future number will be carried on your person like a bar code or a microchip embedded in your skin. This mark will signify them as followers of the beast and subject to Strict Economic Control. The bar code or microchip will easily be scanned and identified to a central computer so that no matter where you go or what you do, they can keep track of you. I can think of no more effective means to control people than economic necessity. But there will be one large group of people who will decline the number and refuse to worship in the new idolatrous religion. These will be those who have believed in Christ as their Savior during the end times.
In Rev.13:18, the last verse of chapter 13, there is an interesting side note by the author. He says “let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast…his number is 666”. Speculation about what this means has been going on for 2000 years without any success. Theologians have come up with many ways to assign this number to world leaders of their time as the Antichrist, but they were always proven wrong. Several recently found New Testament Greek manuscripts compound the confusion because the number in these ancient manuscripts is 616. In fact, a well respected ancient author and theologian, Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons, wrote around 160 AD that the number is 616. The fact is no one knows what this number means, and my guess is that it is meant for the generation who will experience the Tribulation and the Antichrist. All the speculation about 666 has been human ingenuity expended in vain.
The point of Revelation 13 is that the adversary of God will oppose the Kingdom of God by setting up his own counterfeit trinity to run his own kingdom on earth. God will allow this to go on for 42 months, even allowing the Christians of that future time to be persecuted and martyred. But don’t mourn for them because they are later seen in Revelation rejoicing and praising God in heaven. During the 42 months, Satan will operate through his agents, the two “beasts” of Rev.13. They will use miraculous wonders and economic necessity to make the unbelieving people on earth make the bad decisions of following and worshipping the Antichrist. Some of us might think that this could never happen, but historically it already has. In many of the great kingdoms like Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Rome, the Emperors claimed to be deity and forced the people to worship them and their images. In the 20th century, Hitler exemplified all the traits of the Antichrist. Ever since then people have always said “How could all those people have followed such an evil person?” The simple answer is that he brought full employment and made the trains run on time after 15 years of unemployment, rampant inflation, shortages, and chaos resulting from WW I. But we know the message for us now as believers in Christ is that in spite of appearances, God controls the future and believers belong to Him, and as Paul said in Romans 8:37, “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us”, and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God.
P.S. We will meet this coming Wednesday, Feb.17 at 6:00 in Ellis Parlor to study Revelation 12 & 13