Scripture reading – Revelation 13
Our Scripture reading places us prophetically in the latter times described in the Bible as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) and the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14). A scroll with seven seals was opened by Christ, and each seal announced a great judgment that would follow (Revelation 6). Breaking the first four of the seven seals, four horsemen of the Apocalypse went forth from the Lord leaving in their way paths of judgment, destruction and death (Revelation 6:1-8). Then, the fifth and sixth seals were opened, and each heralded a new season of suffering and sorrow (Revelation 6:9-17).
The seventh and final seal was opened in Revelation 8, and the judgments that followed were announced by seven trumpets. The troubles and trials of the first four trumpets were described in Revelation 8:7-12. Before the fifth trumpet was sounded, John observed “and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth” (8:13). Then, the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets sounded, and announced a season of “woe” that would afflict the earth and its inhabitants during the great tribulation (Revelation 9:1-11:19).
Revelation 12 introduced the presence of the devil who was portrayed as a “great red dragon,” and described the war he has waged against God since his fall (12:3-4, 7-9). Revelation 13 introduced two other characters and the role they will have when they join forces under the devil, and wage war against the Lord and mankind.
The Antichrist: The Beast of Revelation (13:1-10)
To put the introduction of the Antichrist in context, consider the preceding verse where his master, “the dragon,” was described as making war against Israel (portrayed as “the woman,” 12:1-2, 13-17), and “the remnant” of believers who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” during the tribulation (12:17).
Briefly, Revelation 13:1-10 gives a spiritual portrait of the Antichrist (the “beast”) and the power imparted to him by the dragon (the devil, 13:1-2). With the exception of a few who refused to take the mark of the beast, the world will worship the antichrist, even while he wages war against those who will be saved during the tribulation (13:3-11).
The False Prophet of the Tribulation (13:11-14)
John observed another who arose after the Antichrist (the first beast, 13:1-3), and described him as “another beast coming up out of the earth” (13:11a). Though portrayed as beasts, we must remember these are real men, given over to serve Satan and empowered by demon spirits. While the Antichrist was determined to be the supreme ruler of the nations of the earth (13:1-2, 8), the second man, portrayed as a beast, sought to persuade men to worship the Antichrist (13:12). He manifested demonic power like the Antichrist (13:12), performed miracles (calling fire down from heaven, 13:13), and persuaded men to worship the image of the antichrist (13:14).
The Mark of the Beast and His Reign of Terror (13:15-18)
Revelation 13 closed with verses that should resonate with some living in a society that is becoming more oppressive and restrictive. Recent advancements in “Artificial Intelligence” (AI), and robotics has made what we read in verse 15 not only convincing, but plausible. For instance, John observed the second beast (13:11), whom scholars identify as the “false prophet,” and it was said to have “power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (13:15).
The sign of those who worshipped the beast was a “mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (13:16). Again, modern technology has instituted small devices that can be implanted in the body, and serve as digital conduits of every detail of a man’s life, private information, and movements. There are politicians and maniacal authoritarians who would have government control every aspect of our lives, finances, and freedoms. The ground work and means for this phase of the tribulation is already present, for the ”false teacher” will control the economy, and “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:17).
Closing thoughts (13:18) – The closing verse stated, “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (13:18). The meaning of that statement is uncertain, but we can deduce some meaning in this: the number seven is the number associated with God, and His perfection (for He created six days, and on the seventh rested); the number six is the number of man (for man was created on the sixth day, and by sin is imperfect). So, we read, “the number of the beast…is Six hundred threescore and six (666)” (13:18).
What does it mean? I don’t know, but I know this…the days of the Antichrist are numbered, and his judgment is determined. John observes in Revelation 19:20 – “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
By the way, do you know your days are also numbered? David exhorted believers, “12So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
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