We are now introduced to two of the most infamous characters of the Book of Revelation, the two beasts.
Many Bible scholars will tie Chapter 13 closely with Daniel 7, 9, and 11. But I urge caution here and suggest we keep an open mind. While Daniel is certainly one of the great books of prophecy, in my view all of Daniel’s end time prophecy does not apply to the end of mankind. History clearly shows us that much on Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled in the last days of the Prophets of Israel and during that period of time that lies between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament.
However, some of Daniel does appear to be relevant in our study. We will explore these options and viewpoints as we proceed.
“Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”
Who was it that was standing on the sand of the sea? At least some scholars claim that the better manuscripts read “he stood” instead of “I stood”. The New American Standard Bible reads, “And the dragon stood…..”
Their view is that the dragon, Satan, stands on the sand of the sea to calls forth or possibly motivates the beast to rise. The sea is said to represent a multitude on nations that are turmoil.
Some hold that the beast is the Anti-Christ while others see the second beast as holding that title. Let look briefly at these two viewpoints.
Beast of the sea as Anti-Christ:
1. He is a political leader --- “having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns.” He is the leader of a group of nations. (v. 1)
2. The dragon, Satan gives authority to him. (vs. 2, 3)
3. There is no other like him and no one can stand against him. (v. 4)
4. He is a great orator and deceives with his blasphemies against God, His tabernacle and those who dwell in heaven. (v. 5)
5. He was given authority for 42 months. (v. 5)
6. He has authority over all nations and makes war against the saints. (v. 7)
7. Everyone worships him, except for those whose names are written in the Book of Life. (v. 8)
Beast of the earth as the Anti-Christ:
1. He had horns like a lamb but spoke like a dragon. (v. 11)
2. He posses all the authority of the first beast. (v. 12)
3. He calls fire down from heaven. (v. 13)
4. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast. (v. 15)
5. He causes people to receive the mark of the beast. (v. 16)
As you can see there is a case to be made for each as the Anti-Christ. In order to determine which is the Anti-Christ, we need to consider which is the False Prophet.
The role of a prophet is to make representations about the present and future. In the Old Testament three key terms are used in conjunction with the word “prophet”. Two of them, Ro’eh and hozeh, are translated “seer”. The third and apparently the most important, nabi, is taken to mean “one who is called to speak”, or prophet.
The Beast of the sea is the one “given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies”. He blasphemed “against God, His name, His tabernacle and those who dwell in heaven.” (See vs. 5 & 6)
Therefore, I see the beast of the earth as the Anti-Christ and the beast of the sea as the false prophet. In any case the demonic trio, Satan and the two beast, serve as the anti-godhead that wars against the true Godhead; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.”
There is indeed much in common with the beast of Daniel 7:1-12. And many scholars are quick to point to these similarities in defense of their viewpoint that this beast’s description leads us to a political leader of a revived Roman Empire.
Daniel 7 speaks for four beasts; a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a forth beast that is not associated with any particular animal. Each animal is a separate entity. The lion is recognized by scholars to be Babylon; the bear as Medo-Persia; leopard as Greece. Many scholars see the forth as the revived Roman Empire.
A study of history clearly shows that Daniels vision came to be fulfilled during the end of the time of the prophets and during the Intertestamental History of Israel. That does not mean that it can not be repeated at some other time.
Consider the following ideas. This is a single beast, not four separate ones. Therefore, even if they are indeed separate political entities they are working as one. The main body is the leopard, Greece. Its mobility or driving force is Medo-Persia and its mouthpiece, the lion, is Babylon.
Could it be that the false prophet is a political leader that unites the Middle East and the world against Israel and those “whose names are written in the Book of Life”? It reminds me of the struggle between the sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. I believe this struggles continues today.
We must be careful not to be dogmatic about things which we are uncertain. We do not know the hour or the time of these events. God knows it would not be good for us to know. We are to be on watch and be ready whenever the time might be.
“3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”
Many scholars see this as future proof that the beast represents a leader of the new Roman Empire. Rome fell in 476 A.D. Their viewpoint is that Rome will rise again.
Some point to the emergence of the Common Market countries as a precursor of a new European Empire.
Others see this as some act that kills or disables the beast, but the beast is resurrected by the dragon or the Anti-Christ; a demonic reflection of our resurrected Christ.
“4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
The world understands that it is Satan who has preformed this godlike act for the beast. So, they turn to satanic worship. Satan and the beast are now not just political leaders but religious leaders as well.
“5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.”
“6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.”
The church of the church age is not present to stand against them. Only the 144,000 witness who are sealed by God and those who have been convert, new Christians are present during this last part of the Tribulation Period.
Blaspheme is defined as irreverent speech against God. Empowered by his growing popularity and the worship of the masses, the false prophet openly attacks God and all that represents Him.
Just as there are people in the world today who portray Christians and their God as false and evil, so it will be during the Great Tribulation.
“7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue and nation.”
“8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain form the foundation of the world.”
Those who hold the view that the church will be present during Tribulation point to verse 8 in support of their viewpoint. They see this as evidence that the church is present and protected by God during Tribulation.
Throughout history man has given himself divine titles, honor and authority. Man-worship is not a new concept.
He is granted absolute power over the earth. Not only does he make war against the remaining saints, we see in verse 15 he kills them.
He kills them because they refuse to worship the unholy beast and the dragon.
“9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”
Are you paying attention? Do you (we) understand the severity of what is happening? Or do we see and hear and not take it in.
“10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
This is considered by most to be a general statement and warning. The beast and the governmental power that supports him are notified that those who conquer and kill will suffer a similar fate. It also speaks to us today and is a call to us to understand that nations and peoples whose goal is conquest and the murder of those who stand in their way are not without retribution. As we look back through history, we see time and time again that conquerors of the world become the conquered.
Here is a difficult call to believers to not be drawn into battle with the sword. Instead it is a time for them to have patience and trust in God to bring about a righteous conclusion. What a terrible and challenging time it will be! I believe that is why there is the special mention of the saints who are martyred.
“11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.”
We now see the second to the two beasts. I believe this to be the Anti-Christ. (See notes following verse 1)
He is a false image of the true Lamb. He plays the role of a meek and humble servant but his speech reveals him to be “like the dragon”.
He hides behind the power of the false prophet. The unholy trinity is now complete.
“12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”
“13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”
The Anti-Christ begins to step forward and to take an active role in the presence of men. He calls the world to worship the false prophet. He performs great signs and even convinces the world of his power on earth and in heaven by calling fire down from heaven. The world does not see him as evil or good but as powerful. How true is it of us today that we are quick to follow the powerful rather than the righteous! We conclude somehow that power is a parallel with truth. In our minds, those who seek power automatically become righteous because of their success in obtaining power.
“14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived”.
His deceit now moves to the next level. Having convinced the world of his power and authority, he commits yet another transgression as he continues to attack the Ten Commandments of God.
“15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
The idol now is given powers that have never been recorded before. It is like a scene from any number of movies we have all seen. The image takes on human characteristics. It is hard for us to imagine people believing in such a thing as this. But, the two beasts have demonstrated power and the ability to deceive.
Could this be symbolic of something other than an actual idol or image? I think not. The power of the delusion comes from an inanimate object speaking. And not only does it speak but it has power of its own, to kill those who fail to worship it.
Once again the Anti-Christ is hiding --- he used the image of the beast to accomplish his purposes.
“16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,”
“17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
“18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; His number is 666.”
Satan and his two beasts exercise their power and control to bring about a demonic coup; more than combining church and state, they lock a human’s right to existence to idol worship and the worship of false God. This is the ultimate insult to the true God.
We could fill page after page with the various ideas and viewpoints of the number 666. People who know nothing of Scripture know about the mark of the beast, 666.
It is the number of a man. I am drawn to the statements, “here is wisdom” and “let him who has understanding calculate….”
It seems that only those who possess a certain understanding will be able to discern the number of the beast. Yet its number will be in full view, in plain sight. So, it seems the identity of the man requires and brings wisdom, not his number.
One of the more popular thoughts is that the number is representative of man falling short of perfection, seven being the number of perfection. Thereby, the number of the holy trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit is 777 and the number of the unholy trinity is thereby 666. Any dogmatic claim would be conjecture and therefore unwise and maybe even dangerous.
Recall the Chapters 12-14 are a break between the trumpet and vial judgments. Their purpose is to give us information about the characters of end time events and the role that they play.
In Chapter 13 Satan and the two beasts are revealed. We are also given some information about their roles in end time events. Chapter 14 gives us God answer to the evil of Chapter 13.
This chapter contains three visions; one of the Lamb on Mount Zion, another of the three angels preaching against Babylon, and the third of the harvest and vintage.
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
We are now looking forward to the time that Jesus will return to Jerusalem with the 144,000 Jews from Chapter 7. The city of David will be the location of most of the activity of end time events.
“2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps”
“3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”
“4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These are redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
“5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
We move from Jesus being present in Jerusalem to heaven. There is music playing and no doubt rejoicing going on.
Many scholars do not see the choir as the 144,000. Frankly, I have never understood why they take that position.
The song is being sung before the throne, the four living creatures and the elders. It is also reasonable to believe the saints and the souls that are at the altar are there.
Who was singing? Clearly verse 3 tells us it was the “144,000 who were redeemed from the earth.” Only they could learn the song. To be fair, a majority of commentaries say otherwise. They see them as redeemed of the church age.
Verse 4 gives us a symbolic characteristic of a virgin, meaning that they are pure not that they have not known a woman. This is a Biblical reference to a pure life that is pleasing to God.
They are the firstfruits to God; they are the redeemed of Israel that we have seen before. They are not like the deceitful demons we saw in Chapter 13, but true witnesses for God.
“6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people – “
“7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
Three angels give their respective announcements in the next seven verses. God does not abandon earth to Satan, but calls for repentance just as John the Baptist did prior to the first coming of our Lord.
In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said,“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
The angel is symbolic of the witness of believers during the Tribulation Period, including the 144,000 and the two witnesses. There will be converts during Tribulation that will also be powerful witnesses for God and against Satan.
The text of their message is given in verse 7. Like John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles and millions of true believers, their message is one of both fear and celebration. The Creator is a jealous God, and He requires us to recognize and submit to His authority. From His mercy, grace and love, He sent us Jesus to provide us a path by which we can reconcile our sinful lives.
“8 And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she had made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
Some say that this is an announcement of the fall of the revived Roman Empire, while others see it as the fall of Israel old enemy Babylon.
Verse 8 anticipates or is associated with Chapters 17 and 18. The world, all nations, has made themselves drunk with their fornication, their total disregard for God and His commandments. Now they must drink of God’s wrath.
For me Babylon is symbolic of all that is evil and ungodly in the world. Evil governments, corrupt political leadership, demon controlled religious leaders and all those who follow them are Babylon.
“9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and received his mark on his forehead or on his hand,”
“10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
“11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
The angel gives us a clear understanding, “You can’t serve two masters.” For those who hold to the idea that unrepented sinners will somehow be restored, find no support here.
We have already seen the great reward for those overcomers who come out of the Tribulation Period. Here we see the future of those who do not overcome.
One of the most difficult challenges for the church today is overcoming the world view of some middle ground. Even among some who profess to be Christians there is a growing attitude that just maybe a loving forgiving God will blink or by some other last minute act forgive and forget all those who have rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord.
What a terrible challenge for those who are on earth during Tribulation! Serve Satan or die a terrible death! But they need to understand that Satan’s power and thus the death he brings is limited. God judgment is forever and ever!
The overcomers have victory in a righteous death. To die for Christ is to live with Him forever and ever.
“12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
“13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes”, says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them.”
As we saw in 13:10 there will be a time for the saints to suffer and endure with patience. They must hold fast to the commandments and their faith in Jesus.
God promises us that we will be blessed if we die in the Lord and that we will rest and be blessed by our faithful works.
“14 Then I looked, and beheld, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.”
“15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
“16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”
Is this a harvest of overcomers or is it a harvest of judgment? Both views have supporters. Is it a harvest of Jew or gentile?
There is no doubt about who carry out the harvest, Jesus holds the sickle. As we first saw in the throne room, only the Lamb that was slain was worthy of open the sealed judgments.
Some say that this harvest is a gathering of tribulation believers who will enter the Millennium. They equate this with the good seeds of Matthew 13.
Notice is verse 15 where the angel came from, the temple. There is no mention of the temple in the first part of this chapter. Could it be that this indicates that verse 15 and following deal with Israel? The first part of the chapter speaks of “all nations”.
Let’s explore the remaining verses of Chapter 14 before we make any conclusions.
“17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.”
“18 And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.”
“19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”
“20 And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”
It is obvious that verse 17-20 portray a harvest of judgment. The question becomes, “who is the vine of the earth?”
There is no general agreement here. Many scholars say in one way or another that there is no clear answer to the question.
We know that Jesus is the true vine, Israel is the vine brought out of Egypt, the church is the branches of the vine and on and on.
Let’s look at what we do know. Verse 15 tells us the time is right for harvest. There is no need to delay any longer --- it is now time for Jesus to deal with “the crop”.
I grew up in rural Missouri and like my peers worked on the farm during harvest time. When we went into the field we harvested the entire crop, not a select part of it. There were times when some parts of the field were of very poor quality or overgrown with weeds. And indeed, we would harvest those areas separate from the good crop of the field.
In verses 14-16, Jesus is the one swinging the sickle. In verse 17 – 20 an angel is used to do the work. Jesus is wearing a crown, He comes as King, the ultimate authority. His coming on a cloud ties this event with His second coming.
This is that time that Jesus is preparing for His reign on earth. This is not the judgment of the Great White throne. I believe it to be the judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 and the tribunal at the end of Israel’s age referred to in Matthew 13:38-40.