REVELATION 13 & 14
Chapter 13 introduces two beasts: one coming out from the sea and one coming out of the earth.
The sea has been associated with chaos and evil (cf. Isaiah 57:20). When reference is made subsequently to the new heaven and the new earth, the sea is no longer present there (Revelation 21:1). Notice that the first beast has its power source from the dragon, the evil one, and it is an incarnation of Satan as he wages war against God and His people. In the time of the apostle John, this beast can be identified with the imperial power of Rome and her emperor, with her military might. This was the antichrist in that context. But John was not just focusing on the antichrist during his time and the Roman empire but he wrote of the beast having authority over every tribe, people, language and nation and all inhabitants of the earth and this beast will make his final appearance not just on a national scale but on a world-wide stage before the second coming of our Lord Jesus. In 1 John 4:3, John wrote,
This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
The apostle Paul, in 2 Thessalonians referred to the antichrist,
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come, until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
This beast had a fatal wound and yet he recovered. In Revelation 17:8, it was written,
The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.
This antichrist keeps appearing at various points of the history of the world. When various ones thought that he was gone, he reappeared again. And he will make his final grand appearance before the second coming of our Lord, only to be destroyed forever. Antichrist may refer to a political, military or civil power with its head, an individual or individuals, given authority by the evil one to war against God and His people. But realize that it is God Himself who allows the evil one to have such power for a limited period of time (1260 days, 42 months or three and a half years) according to His own wisdom and sovereignty (Revelation 13:7). During this time, the calling is for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
The antichrist will blaspheme God and slander His name and he will be given power to war against the saints and to conquer them. From the world’s perspective, the antichrist is the conqueror but from the heavenly perspective, it is the people of God, including the martyrs, who conquer as they would not allow the deception and lies of the evil one to distort or reject the truth of the gospel and the words of God, even to the point of death (Revelation 12:11). It is a battle between good and evil, between the evil one and God, between truth and falsehood and those who stand by the truth with the enabling of God’s Spirit are the real conquerors (remember again the letters to the seven churches who were exhorted to overcome).
The second beast came out of the earth. The earth is supposedly stable and is not a context of chaos. It seems to indicate that this beast has a relatively benign origin; perhaps he comes out from the midst of the people, even the so-called people of God. He also appears as a lamb, seemingly unthreatening, but he speaks like a dragon, revealing his evil origin. This beast represents the false prophet, the false religious institutions and set-ups, appearing as relatively harmless but capable of causing serious damage and injury to God’s people. He was given power to act on behalf of the first beast and certainly his origin and authority was from Satan himself. In the battle between truth and deceit, the false prophet is a dangerous foe, for he comes dressed as an angel of light. He can quote the scriptures according to his own interpretation and he can put the people of God in a precarious situation by leading them onto the wrong and perilous path by claiming to represent God. Notice that he was given power to do miracles, even causing fire to come down from heaven in full view of men and he deceived the people of the world and ordered them and compelled them to worship the first beast (Revelation 13:12). All who complied were given the mark of the beast on their forehead; without this mark, no one could buy or sell. This would mean economic hardship for God’s people on a world-wide scale and perhaps even starvation and severe deprivation.
We should remember the temptation scene of the Lord Jesus when He was on earth. After forty days and forty nights of fasting in the desert, he was hungry. The devil tempted Him to change the stones into bread. Jesus replied, Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). The Lord Jesus as the perfect man on earth demonstrated what it means to put God and His Word above His own physical needs. He is our perfect example when such a temptation comes our way. In the same temptation scene, Satan, the prince of the world offered the world to Jesus if He would bow down to him and worship him. Jesus said to him, Away from me, Satan! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. The people of God will face such a temptation when the antichrist and the false prophet exerted their influence on the world. It is either worship the true God or worship Satan and his henchmen. The Lord Jesus as the perfect man made it clear to us what our choice should be.
We need to be aware that signs and wonders demonstrated by those who claim to represent God might have their origin from the evil one. We should not be naive to think that all signs and miracles must be from God as the devil and his angels can masquerade as the servants of God.
Notice the parody; there is the false imitation of the Holy Trinity. The evil one, the antichrist and the false prophet will try to put themselves forward as the true trinity but the number of the beast is 666, short of the perfect and complete number 777 with reference to the holy triune God.
Chapter 14 revealed the redeemed of the Lord in its complete number, 144,000; none is missing. Note that they were before the throne of God singing a new song that no one could learn except those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. They were described as faithful to God, and they followed the Lamb in His example and pattern of obedience to the Father and they were purchased as an offering and sacrifice to God. As the Israelites sang the song of Moses after the exodus, Gods people will sing a new song in the eschatological exodus of Gods people. No lie was found in their mouth, signifying their stand for the truth of God in the gospel and scriptures as opposed to the lie presented by the evil one and his accomplices. Here we realize the great need for God’s people to know well the totality of the Bible, Gods revelation and truth, if we do not wish to be deceived and led astray by subtle emphasis on only part of the truth with manipulations and deceit in the background. It is also a call for the church of God to defend the complete truth of God revealed through the written Word and taught by the Holy Spirit of God. It must be noted that false teaching creeps in rather subtly and inconspicuously and it may begin with just a slight distortion of the truth. The people of God must be vigilant to defend the truth and to propagate the truth.
The rest of the chapter sounded out the warnings and pointed out two outcomes: those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark on their forehead will drink of the wine of God’s wrath and their end will be tormenting with burning sulfur in the eternal fire of hell but those who worship God and are faithful to Him will be the bride of Christ collectively and the new Jerusalem. The stakes are high: it is heaven or hell; it is sharing the joy and life of God or eternal damnation and separation from His presence. God will harvest the chosen ones in his reaping but the unrepentant and persistently rebellious will be gathered and thrown into the great winepress of Gods wrath, trampled and destroyed. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).