THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
THE BEAST FROM THE SEA
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. 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. 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. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 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. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 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.
The stage has been set for the conflict of the ages. The conquering Lamb has dealt so thoroughly with sin that there is no longer a basis for accusing the saints before God. Thus, Satan has been cast out of heaven-hurled, as it were, into the lower realms. Unlike debilitated humanity, Satan does not give up. Realizing he has been decidedly lost the skirmish with the Son of God, he now turns his attention to the people of God. He makes war with them-aggressive and consistent war. As it is written, "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 12:17). This war, as we will find, is to be taken seriously by the saints
Satan Is to be Taken Seriously
The offensive of the powers of darkness is to be taken seriously by every child of God. I fear the modern church, particularly the Western segment of it, has not taken this assault seriously. The casualness, and even indifference, that characterizes Christianity betrays its condition. As David was caught off-guard on the roof time in the time of war, so the modern church is falling to the devices of the wicked one. How well the Holy Spirit speaks to this matter. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Pet 5:8-9).
An Intelligent Aggression
Although Satan has great wrath, he is not like a raging bull. His attack is shrewd, calculated, and marked by wicked strategy. He has an objective he seeks to fulfill, and he has marshaled all of his corrupted powers to fulfill it. When he makes war, it is not without intelligence. The flood he spewed out after the woman was a strategic one, marked by deception as well as violence, and craftiness that will snare the unexpected.
A Shrewd Adversary
A decadent society, immersed in immorality and fleshly indulgences, is one dominated by Satan. However, do not think for a moment that this is the only manifestation of Satan. With serpentine craftiness he attacks believers with corrupt thought patterns. He does not confine his initiatives to sins of passion and fleshly outbursts. He also employs philosophy, religious reasoning-strong appeals to the mind.
Because of this situation, an unintelligent religion is most foolish. An approach to God that is based upon emotion is destined to fail. Neither an individual nor a church can face the scheming devil with nothing in their head, and charged by frail emotion. Religious hype, so popular in our day, may be impressive to men, but it is impotent when it comes to resisting the devil. Only faith, which employs heart, soul, mind, and strength can empower the individual to effectively resist the devil.
The Nature of Satan's Attack
The Lord Jesus now reveals to us the nature of Satan's attack against the saints. He will use two strategies to overthrow the people of God. Remember, he is making war with those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus." These are his target. He is not attacking the heathen nations-they are already within his grasp. He is not targeting unbelievers who have access to the truth, but have failed to embrace it. They also are already dominated by his power. Those who have escaped his domain are his targets.
Focusing on the saints
For this very reason, the focus of every kingdom-laborer must be the building up of the saints. If they are the objective of Satan's attack, they had best be the object of our ministry. These are the ones for whom Jesus intercedes. These are the ones to whom the angels minister. These are the ones the Father has given to the Son. I realize this does not mean those in darkness are not to be reached, and the Gospel preached to every creature. The thrust of ministry, however, must be on the edifying side, else Satan will have the advantage in the war he has made.
The Absence of this Perspective
There is a near-total absence of this emphasis within the institutional church. It thinks little of the saints, who are the target of Satan's virulent attack. Recruitment is its emphasis, and it speaks as though believers were so safe and secure they required no edification-as though their strength never dissipated, and they were in no danger.
There are theologies that aggressively oppose a "once-saved-always-saved," yet approach their entire work as though the heresy were true. They train their leaders, organize their programs, and develop their strategies as though Satan had forgotten about the saints. Jesus will have none of such folly! He reveals to John that the focus of the devil is the church! He sends a message to the churches, telling them of the enemy they are facing. He even announces their enemy will have measured success against them. It requires an extraordinarily dull conscience and hard heart to miss the gravity of the message.
Those who are not mindful of the saints of God cannot effectively minister to them. Their activities will only give the advantage to Satan. While that is a strong word, it is a true one. Jesus affirmed those who were not "for" Him were "against" Him (Mk 9:10; Lk 11:23). Never is that more true than in the matter of building up the people of God! To assist us in having the correct perspective, I remind you of the words uttered by Jesus in His high priestly prayer. As He approached the time when he would lay down His life, submitting to the curse of God, His mind was immersed in the will of His Father. He is not thinking of the world, the poor, the oppressed, or the condition of Jerusalem-not then. His prayer assists us in obtaining clear spiritual vision. "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them" (John 17:9-10).
Let no one suppose Jesus had no heart for lost humanity - He died for them all! However, the saints were at the heart of his consideration, not on the periphery. This is the perspective to which we are now subjected. Let those with an ear, hear what is said.THE SOURCE AND NATURE OF THE BEAST
Here John's own trial recedes into the background, grievous though it was. He was exiled on Patmos, surrounded by the sea, but that is of little importance now. He is elevated to a position where his own world shrinks, and the purpose of God is enlarged.
There is a fellowship with Christ that transcends self-interests. It is an affiliation where we are given to see things as the Lord sees them. In that broader picture our own hardships and dangers are reduced.
Standing "upon the sand of the sea" John does not behold his own dilemma, but that of the body of Christ. His attention is not drawn to the jeopardy of people oppressed by the godless Roman government, but to the saints of God who are being attacked by the devil. Precious few are the people who have occupied such lofty heights. Yet, this is an area to which we must aspire if we are to be used by God.
"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" (Verse 1). My heart stands at attention and my ears tingle at this word! The Lord Jesus brings a most vivid characterization of spiritual warfare before the aged Apostle. It is awesome in appearance, and more imposing still in significance. He beholds in Divine imagery Satan's fierce aggression.
From the Sea-A Cursed Realm
The second beast will come from the earth (13:11)-this one comes from the sea. Both the earth and the sea are realms of the curse. God has promised he will "shake" them both, bringing them to a swift conclusion (Hag 2:6). While the Savior came "from heaven" (John 3:13,31; 6:38), our opposition comes from the lower realm. Satan raises up antagonists from the cursed domain. Those who minister edification do so from "heavenly places." Without dwelling upon this, those who chose to focus on the lower realms are not wise. That is Satan's territory.
From the Sea-A Troubled Realm
The sea is a picture of trouble and turmoil, of unrest and turbulence. It is depicted in Scripture as the aggregation of the wicked. "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, Says my God, for the wicked" (Isa 57:20-21, NKJV).
A beast rising from the sea speaks of an oppressor springing out of political unrest and social agitation and disturbance. National trouble and community discord prove to be the cauldron from which Satan brings spiritual opponents. The wrestless condition of the globe produces enemies for God's people! While the fruits of righteousness are "sown in peace," initiatives against the saints are sown in the realm of trouble and commotion.
For this reason, we are admonished to pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim 2:1-2). It is not for the salvation of those in authority that we are to pray-although there is surely no sin in that. Rather, we pray God will provide us with a "quiet and peaceable life," in which the fruits of righteousness are more readily sown. Also, such a atmosphere is less likely to produce aggressors against the body of Christ.
I understand this first beast to be a portrayal of earthly government. God has appointed such to be the suppressor of evil and the rewarder of good (Rom 13:3-4). However, Satan has consistently used governments to oppress the church-particularly when they departed from their God-ordained role. History confirms that all governments have eventually oppressed the saints, whether in suppressing their expression or in bloody persecution.
Parallel to Daniel's Vision
In this vision, then, we shall see Satan employing social organization-in particular, political power-to oppress the people of God. It parallels the vision given to Daniel (Dan 7). In his vision, four fierce beats were seen coming "up from the sea" (7:3). They were devouring and oppressing beasts associated with kings and dominions (i.e., governments).
Do Not Trust In Govenment!
It is no wonder God's people are strictly charged not to rely upon the governments of men! "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the LORD!" (Isa 31:1; 30:1-7). During the supremacy of the Egyptian government the Lord said, "Look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him" (Isa 36:6). Like Egypt, all earthly government is like a broken reed, ready to fall. It is unworthy of our trust. Those who depend upon such institutions are debasing themselves, and descending into the pit (Isa 57:9).
Those who immerse themselves in political activism, whatever their justification, do well to remember these things. We should not be surprised when we are opposed by the government.
Seven heads and Ten Horns
These are later defined as "seven mountains" and "ten kings" (17:9-12). Throughout history, Rome has been known as "the seven-hilled-city." Both poets and historians have so referred to the ancient municipality. The seven mountains upon which the city was situated are Mt. Aventin, Mt. Capitaline, Mt. Palatine, Mt. Esquiline, the Caelian Mount, Mt. Quirinal, and Mt. Viminal. Jerome once wrote to a Christian lady (in 342 A.D.), "Read what is written in the Apocalypse of the seven hills." The "kings," in this case, relate to the government of ancient Rome, then ruler of the world. In chapter seventeen, I will pursue this subject more fully.
While I am inclined to this view (the seven mountains are those upon which ancient Rome was built), it is a speculative view. In my judgment, we must not allow our minds to stop with that consideration. There is a larger picture to be seen-one of Kingdom principles.
The Greater Picture
While the historical fulfillment of this vision has merit, and can be justified to a decided degree, the strength of the vision is not found there. The immediate thing that should strike our attention is this: the first beast has precisely the same characteristics as the dragon. Remember, it was said of the dragon, "a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns" (12:3). Just as all blessing comes from God, all evil comes from Satan. It is Satan that is attacking the church through earthly government!
The governments of this world are more readily available to Satan. They are built upon pride, and have themselves as their focus. With Divine certitude we are told, "For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28). With remarkable consistency, however, this has not been the recognition of earthly governments. Even in our own nation, where once God was honored, there is significant opposition to His Sovereignty, Laws, and direction. It is the tendency of all worldly government to deteriorate, and to finally reject the King of kings, and oppose His people.
What our text is revealing is a Satanic strategy to capitalize on the governments of this world-to use them in a determined effort to remove the people of God from the face of the earth.
A Blasphemous Name
Here we are introduced to the religious approach our adversary employs. All seven of the heads of this formidable beast have a "blasphemous name." It is a single name, and not seven different names. Later, we are told the mouth of this beast belched out "blasphemies" (13:5). Blasphemy is a mark of Satan's aggression against the church (Dan 7:25; 11:36; 2 Thess 2:3-4; Rev 13:5-6; 17:3,5).
The word "blasphemy" means vilification (especially against God): evil speaking, railing, slander, and insulting talk. Such speech is a challenge to the Person and power of God, the rejection of His authority, and the questioning of His Word and deeds. Blasphemy is involved in the third commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Ex 20:7). This type of speaking seeks to justify self at the expense of the Living God.
This arch foe denies the Godhood of God, and rejects His authority. He will not submit to the King of kings, but chooses to exalt himself above the most high. This is precisely what Satan himself did (Isa 14:13). It also is a trait of the religious foe of whom Paul spoke (2 Thess 2:4).
Some contemporary examples of blasphemy are the contention that religion has no part in public life, being angry with God when things to not go well, and questioning His Word. While these things are not considered serious by religious sophists, they are actually evidence of the influence of the wicked one.
The "beast" will challenge the people of God much like David's enemies challenged him. "Where is your God?" (Psa 42:3,10). It chides the saints like Sennacherib taunted the Israelites, "Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?" (2 Kgs 19:10-11). We will see that circumstances will seem to justify the blasphemy proceeding from this beast. However, that seeming support will be overthrown by the conquering Lamb.
A Brief Summary
Briefly stated, the dominating governments of this world will appear to prevail as they are used by Satan to oppose the saints of God. They will play a significant role in the spewing of a flood from the dragon's mouth, designed to drown the people of God.
Ravenous and Ferocious
"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" (Verse 2a). This is a spiritual depiction of the opponent raised up and empowered by Satan. The description reminds us of the beasts seen by Daniel. That prophet saw "four beasts" rise out of the sea. They bore the same traits as this single beast. How awesome was the scene. "The first was like a lion . . . and a man's heart was given to it . . .
And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear . . . 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 . . . lo another, like a leopard . . . and dominion was given to it . . . " (Dan 7:1-7).
Here the creatures are combined in a single foe. The foe is lordly and intelligent as a stalking lion. It is fierce and ruthless like a bear. It is also swift and dominating like leopard.
Jesus is telling the church it will face a foe for which no human gifts and abilities will be adequate. The arm of flesh will yield no benefits against this foe. Lifeless and stilted religion will not equip the people of God to stand against such a calculating and merciless attack. Whatever one may think of Satan, he has greater power than any person, or all combined persons, outside of Christ. The wisdom of the world is impotent against such a assailant! Oh, that those who sit complacently within the walls of religious institutionalism knew this!
Empowered by Satan
"The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority" (Verse 2b). Satan has been cast out of heaven, but he remains in the earth, into which he has been hurled. He once offered the kingdoms of this world to Jesus, together with all of their pomp and splendor (Matt 4:8-9; Lk 4:5-7). Our Lord refused the offer, knowing they would all eventually succumb to His Kingdom. The beast, however, accepts the offer. This "beast" is quite willing to forfeit the blessing of God for the glory of this world. It has no difficulty subordinating any inclination to worship and serve the Living God, in order to gain temporary advantage.
Notice, the devil grants earthly government three things: His power, his throne, and great authority. Although the powers of this world imagine they have gained their position by themselves, they are deluded. First, it has been "given to them" from God Almighty to be seemingly successful. However, God has only done this in order that He might be justified in casting them down. Too, their effectiveness does not come from their evil schemes. It is the devil himself that has orchestrated and empowered their position!
Let no man wonder at the success of wicked rulers, or stand in amazement as though everything were out of control! The Lord is still the "Governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28). These insurrections will "proceed no further" than is required to fulfill the will of the Lord.
In the meantime, their achievements are owing to Satanic power. It is not the result of election campaigns, senate caucuses, and shrewd political wisdom. All of that is but the underside of the coin. Satan is the compelling force behind them! It is the devil that we really fight.RESURRECTED EVIL
"And I saw one of his heads as if it
had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed . . . " (Verse 3a). Here
the Holy Spirit strikes spiritual naivety to the ground! This dreaded opponent had already
received a mortal wound. This was administered by the "heel" of Jesus
as he crushed, or bruised, the serpent's head (Gen 3:15; Eph 4:7; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; 1
John 3:8). However, do not allow carnal simplicity to cause you to imagine Satan is
powerless in all realms, or that you have nothing to fear from him! Do not think that
"spoiled" and plundered principalities and powers have no more ability, and pose
no further threat! If you still have trouble with your flesh, which has been crucified
with Christ (Gal 5:24), what do you suppose you will encounter from the devil?
Later, this beast is referred to as "the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed" (13:12). In this text, it states "one of his heads" was wounded. The beast, then, had been partially disabled, but not thoroughly removed. Notice the language of the text. The wounded part "seemed to have had a fatal wound" (NIV). The wound itself had been healed, yet a gruesome scar remained, as it were, testifying to the severity of the blow delivered.
Ordinarily, "fatal," 'deadly," or "mortal" means that recovery is not possible. The expression "deadly wound" means a wound that consummated in death. Thus it is translated "wounded to death" (KJV), "fatal wound" (NIV, NASB), "mortal wound" (RSV), and "slain to death" (Darby's). Here, however, a wound that is "mortal" is healed.
The Wound Is A Mortal One
We will see later that "the beast" is finally destroyed from his wound. His recovery is only temporary. It is written, "Then the beast was captured [and] . . . cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone . . . The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast [is] . . . " (19:20; 20:10). The recovery we are witnessing, therefore, is only temporary-something like a death reflex, although more significant. In this case, the "reflex" is accompanied with intelligence, diabolical objective, and focused energy. The power of darkness recovered from the blow dealt to it at the cross, and Satan recuperated temporarily from the vicious blow given to Him in Christ's death.
An Example in Christ's Temptation
If all of this seems beyond reason, think back to the temptation of our Lord. In that temptation, Satan was thoroughly frustrated. He could not lure the Savior into forbidden territory. At the conclusion of that skirmish, it is written, "And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season" (Lk 4;13). The wicked one, as it were, retreated and regrouped after the wilderness defeat.
A Different Kind of Opposition
Satan has been "destroyed," but has not ceased to be active. To put it another way, he has once and for all lost in His conflict with the "Seed" of the woman. He has, therefore, been cast out of heaven, never to fight with the Lamb again. Jesus will never again do battle with the devil!
Chapter twelve informs us this does not mean the end of Satan. He has now taken up the battle against "the woman"-the people of God. Lest we be distracted by carnal reasoning, the ones with whom the wicked one now does battle are defined as those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (12:17). As these saints confront the devil, he looks as though he is not mortally wounded. Judging from his activity, the "deadly wound" has been "healed." Understand, however, this is referring to his activity in the earth. The martyrs under the altar, for example, are experiencing no attacks from the devil. But for "the remnant" who remain in the world, it is quite another matter.
With Divine initiative Satan was frustrated in his attempts to stop the Messiah from being born. Again, he was stymied in his efforts to keep Him from growing up. In the wilderness temptation, the devil was once again foiled, as well as throughout the earthly ministry of our Lord. Even in Christ's death, Satan was mortally wounded. Finally, when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to enthronement on High, the mortal bruise began its festering work. Even when he fomented a persecution against the early church, scattering them to the four winds, they went "everywhere, preaching the Word" (Acts 8:4).
The First Roman Persecution
Yet, his deadly wound appears healed, as he regroups his energies for an unparalleled assault against the church. His activity now in a different realm-the "earth." Now, through the governments of the world, to whom he has given power, thrones, and authority, Satan takes up a ferocious battle against the saints of the Most High God. It is first seen in Rome, by whom Paul, Peter, and millions of saints, were slaughtered. In 67 A.D., Nero unleashed a vicious persecution against the saints. To Peter and Paul were added such notables as Erastus, Aristarchus, Trophimus, Joseph, and Ananias of Damascus.
The Second Roman Persecution
In 81 A.D., Domitian instituted the second great Roman persecution. He commanded all of the lineage of David to be exterminated. During this persecution, John the beloved was boiled in oil, but survived. It was then that he was banished to Patmos, where he received the vision of Revelation. Even Timothy was killed in this persecution.
The Third Roman Persecution
In 108 A.D., Trajan began the third Roman persecution. Great numbers of believers were crucified in this persecution, some crowned with thorns, and others thrust through their sides with spears.
The Fourth Roman Persecution
The fourth Roman persecution was inaugurated by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in A.D. 162. Such cruelties were inflicted upon believers, we are told, that many of the spectators shuddered at the sight. The venerable Polycarp was martyred in this persecution, together with Justin.
The Fifth Roman Persecution
Rome instituted yet a fifth persecution in A.D. 192. In this oppression Origen was beheaded, with the persecution extending into Africa.
The Sixth Roman Persecution
In A.D. 235, the sixth Roman persecution was launched under Maximus. Great numbers of believers were slain without trial and buried in mass graves without the least expression of decency.
The Seventh Roman Persecution
The seventh Roman persecution was started in A.D. 249 under Decius. During this persecution, as though weakened by the bloody onslaughts, certain errors crept into the church. It was during this time that human reasoning was placed in competition with revelation, being elevated to a position nearly equal with Scripture. Fortunately, under the capable ministry of able teachers, these errors were dashed to the ground. Oh, that we had more of such men among us today!
The Eighth Roman Persecution
The eighth Roman persecution took place in 257 under Valerian. It continued uninterrupted for three years and ten months. Thousands in Africa were martyred during this persecution.
The Ninth Roman Persecution
In A.D. 274, the ninth persecution began under Aurelian. Several notable believers were slain during this persecution.
The Tenth Roman Persecution
Under the Roman emperors, the tenth persecution was started under Diocletian in A.D. 303. In this persecution, the buildings and books of believers were also burned in an effort to stamp our Christianity. This persecution even reached into Spain.
Some Relief for the Saints
These bloody persecutions finally ended around A.D. 313, after nearly 250 years of continual persecution. It was Constantine who was used of God to ease the carnage against the saints. He passed laws that favored Christians, establishing peace for the church. That peace continued for nearly 1,000 years, until the time of John Wickliffe.
Many have traced the rise of superficial and institutional Christianity to the time of Constantine. I look at his time as one of relief for the saints, and extended mercy. It is true that the church did not do the best with this period of respite. But that is no fault of those used by God to induct a time of peace.
The Beast Still Exists
Rome was, for over nearly two and one-half centuries, the opponent of the church. But it did not end when she was brought down. Germany, and Russia were noted for their opposition to believers after the turn of the twentieth century.
Contemporary governments persecuting believers include Sudan, North Korea, China, Cuba, Laos, Iran, Pakistan, Mexico, and more. Even our own country has outlawed prayer, public displays of some Christian materials, and a certain public espousals of the Lord Jesus. The Bible has been thrust from our public schools, and especially reprehensible sins treated as though they were diseases. The beast lives on, with its deadly wound healed.
What Can We Learn From This?
The world is no friend to those in Christ Jesus. When given leave to do so, it will oppress the people of God. At its loftiest and most organized state, it has consistently become the enemy of the truth.
We must not take lightly the Divine injunction to pray for rulers and those in authority, that we might lead "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim 2:1-2). Such times are to be used to "grow up into Christ in all things" (Eph 4:15).
Periods of quietness are not to be interpreted as times when "pure religion" is popular. Rather, it is a time of rest, given by the Lord Himself (Josh 21:44; 2 Chron 15:15; Acts 9:31). Use them for the strengthening of your soul, and count them to be precious, indeed!
Expect Evil to Recuperate
Too, we must learn to expect the powers of darkness to regain strength after we have experienced some degree of victory over them. Jesus triumphed over them once, never again to contend with them. However, until He receives you unto Himself in the glory, you will face renewed initiatives from Satan and his hosts.
THE WORLD MARVELS AND FOLLOWS
The World and the Beast
"And all the world marveled and followed the beast.'" (Verse 3b). Remember, the "beast" is worldly government-humanity organized into a confederacy based upon earthly wisdom and devoid of Divine power. No person is to recoil from such a thought. After all, all of the kingdoms of this world are going to become "the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ" (Rev 11:15). The Kingdom of God is going to decimate all of the kingdoms of men-without exception. As it is written, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan 2:44).
It must once and for all be settled in our hearts that the kingdoms of this world are inferior in every way to the Kingdom of God. They are not going to be allowed to continue! The principles under which they operate contradict those of the heavenly Kingdom. Jesus stated the principle in this way. "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant" (Lk 22:25-26). The Kingdom of God operates with ethics that differ from those of worldly governments. They are standards that are compatible with eternity.
All of this is confirmed by the response of the world to "the beast." Enamored of its fading luster, the world "marvels" at the beast. Unduly impressed with its glory, it admires such a form of administration. Mind you, it cares nothing for the bureaucracy of heaven-but it loves that of "the beast."
This is "the world" that is dominated by the devil. As it is written, "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19, NASB). Of course, the world marvels at, or admires, "the beast" because they are both of the same order. They are also both ruled by Satan. While a despot could never become a Prophet or an Apostle, one can become a king, governor, or president! Wicked men are forbidden to be elders, or deacons, or have any role whatsoever in the body of Christ. But they can be a senator, representative, or government official. The world will vaunt its own! As Jesus said, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15;19).
This does not mean we owe no allegiance to those who bear political rule over us. In good conscience, we "submit to ever ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (1 Pet 2:13). For "conscience sake," we are subject to them without fear, paying taxes and giving tribute where it is due (Rom 13:5-6). But we will not give God's glory to them! At the very best, we are second-class citizens in this world, having been crucified to it (Gal 6:14).
They Worshiped the Dragon
Now comes the Divine assessment of the world's admiration of the beast. "So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?'" (Verse 4). Those so described might object vehemently to the charge that they worshiped "the dragon," who is Satan (Rev 20:2). If someone from ancient Rome were granted to explain their allegiance, they would say they were worshiping the Emperor according to the laws of the land. They would see themselves much like the subjects of Nebuchadnezzar, who demanded them to bow before an image of his making (Dan 3:1-10).
The Lord, however, provides us with the real circumstance. They are worshiping the devil! He is the one who "gave authority to the beast," and those worshiping that "beast" actually worship him! It is the same type of situation that is seen in our attitude toward the Son. Our view of the Son reflects our view of the Father. How often our Lord affirmed this to be the case. "He that hateth me hateth my Father also" (John 15:23). "All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him" (John 5:23). John adds this testimony: "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also" (1 John 2:23). Our view of the Son is our view of the Father.
The "beast" is to Satan what Jesus is to the Father. Just as our relationship to Jesus precisely defines our relation to the Father, so the world's association with the "beast" reveals its allegiance to the devil. This situation is not apparent to the world, for it has been deceived by the wicked one. Nevertheless, it is a precise statement of the case.
Elsewhere Declared in Scripture
We are not left to conjecture on this point. Of old time, the Lord revealed that the worship of images, whether of lifeless material or in an organization, is the worship of the power of darkness. In assessing Israel's past, the Lord told Moses they had sacrificed to demons. "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot" (Lev 17;7, NKJV). In a stern rebuke of the nation, Moses said in his valedictory address, "They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God" (Deut 32:16-17, NKJV).
Through Paul, the Spirit adds this word on the matter. "Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons." Showing the relevance of this situation to the Corinthians, He continues, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons" (1 Cor 10:20-21). Let it be clear, those who give their hearts and souls to "the beast" have given them to the devil.
One further word is necessary on this matter. Satan works through means to gain the hearts of men. In this text, he works through the governments of this world. He also works through the doctrines of men, drawing worship and allegiance to himself. The Holy Spirit alerts us to this circumstance in First Timothy. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving [seducing, KJV] spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (2 Tim 3:1-2, NKJV).
The Solicitation of Worship
Satan is soliciting worship, adoration, and service. He draws men by causing them to esteem his power, might, and rule. He causes them to overestimate power and external force, bowing at its shrine. He has raised up a competitive government-a "beast" that is ruthless, even though it at first appears admirable. He first raised up this beast on a plain in the land of Shinar. There they thought to build a tower that reached into heaven. In their own words, they sought to "make a name" for themselves (Gen 11:2-5).
That was the first expression of "the beast." In succeeding years, the devil refined the presentation, imparting a certain "glory" to earthly kingdoms that made them appealing. However, behind it all is his solicitation of worship, whether at Babel, in Babylon, Egypt, Rome, Germany, or a government of our time.
Something to Ponder
Legion is the name of those who have offered more to their country than they have to their God. Who would dare to number the people who have fought more zealously for a nation than for their Redeemer. Countless millions have been more conscientious about paying tribute to the government than of bringing all the tithes into the storehouse. Indeed, the worship of the beast has not ceased! We will render to Caesar what is His. But we belong to God, and we will render to Him what belongs to Him.
We must be wise
It is imperative that the church be aware of the battle arena in which it is found. It is disastrous to be drawn into the snare of assessing things after the flesh, and judging according to appearance! We are confronted with an angry foe. He is subtle, and has developed strategies that cannot be detected or overcome by worldly wisdom. If we do not walk in the light, and in blessed fellowship with the Son, there is no hope of surviving. In the Son, however, God "which always causeth us to triumph" (2 Cor 2:14). Our faith in Christ guarantees our victory (1 John 5:4-5)! In Him, God CAUSES us always to triumph-even though we sometimes must wait! Furthermore, "victory" presumes fierce and relentless battle.
While, on the surface, it appears as though Satan's competing purpose is being served, it is actually the will of God that is being fulfilled. The vision given by Jesus to John is confirming this to be the case: i.e., that the vicious attack against those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus is within the Divine agenda. It will ultimately turn to the glory of God and the advantage of His people. We must not stagger at this manner of Divine working.
The case of Joseph
Remember the case of Joseph. He was opposed and sold into slavery by his brothers. His tenure in Egypt was marked by imprisonment brought on by a lie. He was also forgotten in prison by those who said they would mention his case to the Pharaoh.
After the passing of his trial, Joseph assessed the time during which he was oppressed. "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive" (Gen 50:20, NKJV). Approximately 700 years later, David was inspired to also speak of Joseph's trial. "Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him" (Psa 105:16-19).
An Imminent Lord
The Lord is imminent in the trials and testings of His people. This has always been true. Whether we consider Joseph, Israel in Egyptian bondage, Jeremiah in a pit, Daniel in a lion's den, or the three Hebrew children in a furnace, the trials of the faithful have never been out of control.
Satan Never wins
Satan has never realized his full intention. He did not in the garden of Eden, in the slaying of Abel, or the sin that provoked the sending of the ancient flood. The purpose ultimately served has always been that of the Lord. Satan, though allowed to work, has always been frustrated. This principle is seen in its fullest application in the arrest, trial, and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The powers of darkness did, indeed, have their "hour," and they seized it with zeal (Lk 22:53). But in the end, the will of the Lord was fulfilled, not the will of Satan.
Our text is to be understood within the greater context of Divine purpose. The occasion described is not the point. It is but a part of the whole. God is working His will in a hostile arena. Not only is His revealed purpose opposed, it is resisted by the prince of the power of the air himself. The conspiracy against the ministry of reconciliation is an organized one, operating under a seemingly invincible banner. If men think the organization of Babel was significant, it is nothing when compared with the evil complicity seen in the beast from the sea. This is Satan's effort to stamp out the people of God. But it is all under heaven's strict Government.
A Mouth Is Given
"And he was GIVEN a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies . . . " Among other things, it should be noted that wicked words cannot even be uttered without Divine approval-not approval of the words themselves, but approval to speak them. The reigning Lamb can silence the blasphemous words of men in an instant, as He did with Herod (Acts 12:23).
Daniel also referred to an arch-foe of God's people. He said the foe had "a mouth speaking great [pompous] things . . . great words" (Dan 7:8,11). The Prophet further described these words as "great words against the most High" (Dan 7:25). In a remarkable statement that parallels our text, Daniel said of a wicked potentate, "And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation [wrath] be accomplished: for that is determined shall be done" (Dan 11;36).
Daniel's words are germane to our text. They speak of the execution of Divine wrath through a wicked instrument. They also affirm the continuance of blasphemous oppression for a determined period of time. The nature of the opposition is also defined as ultimately against God Himself, although directed toward His people.
The Spirit revealed to Paul the coming of a controlled adversary. He would oppose the people of God, and assume Divine prerogatives. This impostor is called "the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false" (2 Thess 2:8-12, NASB).
While this word extends beyond our present text, we will find it has a great deal to do with the remaining events of the thirteenth chapter of Revelation. The following observations will suffice. Satan does empower forces upon earth. Decisive power is given to those under Satanic influence. The effectiveness of the foe is realized among those who are perishing. The influence of such wickedness is traced back to Divine judgment. The failure of men to receive a love of the truth was the impetus behind the surfacing of dominating wickedness.
The role now delineated was assigned from heaven, but implemented from hell.
Great Things and Blasphemies
The words spoken by this spiritual opponent are "great" in appearance, but not in content. Peter and Jude referred to such speech as "great swelling words of vanity" (2 Pet 2:18). Such words draw attention to the speaker, and not to the Lord. They compete with the Word of God, pulling the minds of men downward, and blotting out the consideration of the truth. They are delusions, and tend to be of a religious nature. They are also words that solicit the admiration of men, being impressive to the flesh.
Blasphemies are intentional indignities toward God. Such speech involves "contradicting" the Word of the Lord (Acts 13;45). Blasphemy is not confined to the denigration of the Person of God alone, but also to His doctrine, or teaching (1 Tim 6:1; Tit 2:5). The Spirit will now elaborate on the nature of this blasphemy. Remember, we are dealing with a phenomenon that is under strict Divine control. The will of the Lord is being served, and Satan will lose. The saints will overcome every assault of the wicked one, while everyone else will be caught in the maelstrom.
THE NATURE OF THE BLASPHEMY
The aggressiveness of this wanton attack is seen in the words, "Then he opened his mouth." This is not a spontaneous, or reflexive, response. It is deliberate, calculating, and objective. What Satan can no longer do in heavenly realms, he is now doing in the earth. Removed from an angelic society, he now works among men. Remember, he is targeting those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
This beast, earthly government, has oppressed many unbelievers. However, Satan has empowered it to attack believers. The description of his poisonous speech will confirm this to be the case.
Blasphemy Against God
This describes speech against the Person of God-His very being. Remember, Satan's aspiration was to elevate himself. His ancient thoughts are give to us through Isaiah. "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isa 14:14). Satan's nature remains unchanged. Now he expresses himself through the words of alienated humanity. In the text before us, it is through government. This is an "official" word, so to speak.
All world governments have challenged the notion of a Sovereign God in heaven. Whether Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, or Rome-all have spoken blasphemies "against God." They have invented unto themselves other gods, rejecting the one true God. Atheism and idolatry have consistently been promoted by the governments of this world.
Hezekiah described this kind of speech in his prayer concerning the threats of Sennacherib. "And they spoke against the God of Jerusalem" (2 Chron 32:19). To blaspheme against God is to deny His existence-to scoff as though He was the product of human imagination.
One of the things provoking "the beast" from the sea to blaspheme the God of heaven is the apparent weakness of His people. Not realizing his power has been given to him by God, he speaks derisively of His Person, as though He did not exist.
Blasphemy Against His Name
This is blasphemy against the character of God-His ways. In this case, there is not a denial that God exists. Rather, His manners are repudiated, and His Word rejected. Such blasphemies may begin with words like this, "If there is a God, why does He . . . . " Or, "If God is so good, why does He . . . "
The seriousness of such intemperate speech is seen in the Law of God. "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death" (Lev 24:16, NASB). The name of the Lord is to be feared (Rev 11:18). Blaspheming His name is the exact opposite of fearing it.
The boldness of such charges are evident in the very society in which we live. The Divine Nature requires that we live for Him, and imbibe His Word, depending upon Him. But earthly government challenges this, and refuses to do so. It considers such conditions unwarranted, and summarily rejects them with official edicts and proclamations.
Such blasphemies were expressed by Israel as they were delivered from Egypt and began their trek to Canaan. "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? . . . Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food" (Ex 14:11; Num 21:5, NASB). These expressions were blasphemies against the Name of God. They were a verbalization of discontent with His ways. It was God that brought them out of Egypt and fed them with bread from heaven. But they objected to that manner, and thus blasphemed His name.
Now, Satan raises an official organ, or mouthpiece, of blasphemy. He, as it were, institutionalizes blasphemy. He constrains men to shout in the face of God, "Why hast Thou made me thus?" (Rom 9:20). Under the government of this "beast," men think nothing of questioning the holiness and Sovereignty of God.
Blasphemy Against His Tabernacle
This is blasphemy against the dwelling place of God-the church of the Living God. The church thus becomes a "sect . . . that . . . is spoken against everywhere" (Acts 28:22). Politicians, whether emperors or subordinates, think nothing of speaking against the body of the redeemed. Those who blaspheme the tabernacle of God, like former opponents of the church, charge it with troubling their cities, and throwing them into confusion (Acts 16:20-21).
Charges like "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also" (Acts 17:6) are blasphemy against the tabernacle of God. They are a charge that the church is the source of the difficulty, and not the devil.
Blasphemy Against Those Who Dwell in Heaven
This is blasphemy against those who are citizens of heaven-the individuals themselves. While it may involve saints who have been removed from the earth (as Moses, target of Satan's disputation with Michael-Jude 9), it is more likely those "who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus." The more one is aligned with this world, the more the people of God are despised.
Examples of Blaspheming
Examples of blasphemy against "those who dwell in heaven" can be found throughout Scripture. Satan blasphemed against Job when he said, "But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face" (John 1:11). David endured indignities from his enemies. As he wrote, "My enemies speak evil of me: When will he die, and his name perish?" (Psa 41:5). The Scribes and Pharisees cast aspersions at Jesus when they said, "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils" (Matt 12:24), and "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" (John 8:48, NASB). Paul endured the same indignities when they said of him, "this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5).
A Word from Jesus
While such blasphemies are often grievous to be born, Jesus reminds us, "Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets" (Luke 6:22-23, NKJV).
Our text, however, does not speak of the normal indignities to which believers are subjected. These are official stances against the saints. During such blasphemy, it is unlawful to be a Christian, and wearing the name of Christ is illegal. Such things have already begun in our country. It is illegal to pray under many circumstances and in many places. The closer one is to the Lord, the more likely it is that reproaches and blasphemies will be hurled against him. Isaiah spoke of such times when he wrote, "Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey" (Isa 59:15).
Satan Is Behind It All
This beast arose from agitated peoples who had rejected the truth. It represents a system that has no respect for God, His name, His dwelling, or His people. Every head of this beast bears a single name-"the name of blasphemy." The harsh words spoken against God and His people will appear to justify the harsh treatment of the saints.
But we must not forget the source of this opposition. The devil-the "old serpent"-is behind it all. The attack belongs to him as he shuffles godless men and institutions about to serve his own purpose. Those who have not received the love of the truth are "taken captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim 2:26). Oh, that men were more mindful of this situation. In this case, it is a whole political system, focused against God-in particular, against the people of God. Satan's hatred for Christ is thus turned against saints.
AUTHORITY TO WAGE WAR
"It was granted to him to make war with the saints . . . "(Verse 7). Again, the reign of the Lamb is confirmed with remarkable clarity. The beast from the sea (which I have identified as political government) proceeded with haste against the people of God. However, he can only "make war with the saints" when he is allowed to do so by God. Our Lord, Who is faithful, will not allow the saints to be tempted above their ability (1 Cor 10:13). While the devil empowers this "beast," the devil's purpose will not be fulfilled.
War With the Saints
Faith does put us into a hostile worldly amphitheater. It does appear as though this circumstance has eluded many believers in our country. They conduct their lives as though there were no real dangers.
Remember, the "war" is made by a formidable opponent. The term "beast" appropriately describes the foe: barbaric, fierce, savage, and sadistic. Lordly and awesome like a lion, swift like a leopard, and powerfully ruthless like a bear! Such an entity was given power "to make war with the saints." Why is such a war allowed? I believe I can adduce at least three plausible answers.
To make known to principalities and powers in heavenly places the inferiority of Satan and the entire worldly order. He is impotent to fulfill his purpose, even though granted temporary power against the saints.
To confirm to saints that the most aggressive initiative of the devil, although ending in the seeming defeat of the saints, will eventually be hurled to the ground. All of this would be meaningless, of course, if this world were the only world.
The transient effectiveness of the beast corroborates that our home is not in this world. As Jesus affirmed, "In the world" we "will have tribulation" (John 16:33). Believers have always encountered opposition from the world. Sodom opposed Lot, Egypt opposed Israel, and Syria and Babylon fought against God's people. But in each case, as with our text, they made war ONLY as they were "given" to make war.
I again want to emphasize that Satan focuses his energies against those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus." In view of the "war" leveled against the people of God, it is imperative that we are mindful of them. This is why the edification of believers is necessary. It is why we are to "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). The current practice of withholding nourishment from the people of God is so serious it cannot be overlooked or overstated.
Overcoming the Saints
" . . . and to overcome them. Here is the part that is difficult for many, and pleasant for none. The overcoming of saints, or apparent triumphing over them, was granted to the beast.
Daniel referred to this situation also. "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them" (Dan 7:21). This overpowering, however, was not permanent in Daniel, nor is it in the Revelation. Daniel was told the overpowering he witnessed was "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" (Dan 7:22).
The remarkable turn of events found the very ones that were overcome taking charge of the kingdom. This was no small matter. The extent of the reign of the saints far exceeds that of their momentary enemy. Of their reign, Daniel said, "And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them" (Dan 7:27, RSV).
In this world Abel can be slain by Cain, Joseph imprisoned because of Potiphars's wife, and Israelite babies slain by Pharaoh. Herod can behead John the Baptist and have James killed. Saintly Stephen can be stoned to death, and the saints can be dispersed by persecution.
The Example of our Lord
The supreme example is the Lord Jesus Christ. The inferior rulers of this world "gathered together" against Him. In a monumental prayer, early believers referred to this wicked gathering. "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together" (Acts 4:26-27).
It looked as though the enemies of Jesus triumphed. Jesus was, from this perspective "crucified through weakness" (2 Cor 13:4). They arrested Him, beat Him, mocked Him, and crucified Him-all in apparent triumph.
But that is not the total picture. The early church knew the will of God was fulfilled in all of this, and not the will of the devil. In their prayer concerning the gathering of the earth's rulers against Jesus, they said, "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts 4:28, NKJV). Jesus told those who arrested Him, "But this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Lk 22:53). He also told Pilate, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11).
Look what a blessing God brought from the death of His Son! In it, the world was reconciled (Rom 5:10), peace made with God (Col 1:20), and the sins of the world taken away (John 1:29). The devil was destroyed (Heb 2:14), principalities and powers spoiled (Col 2:15), and the handwriting of ordinances that was against us blotted out (Col 2:14).
We will see that a blessing will come from this momentary triumph of the wicked also. Only unbelief stands aghast at this spectacle, unable to accept it as allowed by God. But this is not the end of the matter. God will be fully justified in allowing this to happen, and the saints will be exonerated and rewarded in an unusual way. The point is that this is not a strange thing.
" . . .And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation." Here is a move against the righteous that is world-wide. It is not local, as it was in Jerusalem when the church first began. This should not be a strange thought to us. God also gave Cyrus "all the kingdoms of the earth" (Ezra 1:2). It was God Who gave Nebuchadnezzar a universal dominion--"a kingdom, power, strength, and glory" (Dan 2:37).
God Gives Political Power
God has always been represented as giving rulers what they appear to have taken unto themselves. He gave Seir to Esau (Deut 2:5), Ar to the children of Lot (Deut 2:9), and Canaan to Israel (Josh 24:13). The Lord gave Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek 29:20), Gilead to Machir (Deut 3:15), and Ethiopia and Seba for Israel (Isa 43:3). He gave Jericho, its king, and all of its mighty men of valor to Israel (Josh 6:2). He gave the inhabitants of the land into the hand of David (1 Chron 22:18).
It is ever true, "For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another" (Psa 75:6-7). God took the kingdom from Saul, and gave it to David (1 Sam 15:28).
Why Dominion Was Given
As to why this dominion was given, the Lord provides us with an excellent example in Nebuchadnezzar. Israel had not been faithful, so God empowered her enemies to triumph over her. His words are arresting. "I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand" (Jer 27:5-8, NKJV).
What About the Innocent?
Some might ask why innocent people suffer, as they did in the war made by the beast against the saints. Although the judgment was against Israel for her unfaithfulness, there were many who had not been unfaithful. We know the names of several of them-people who suffered in the judgment involving Nebuchadnezzar and succeeding kings, even though they themselves had not sinned. There were Daniel and the three Hebrew children. There were also Ezra and Nehemiah, and others with them. What about the prophets that lived in that period? Habakkuk, Joel, Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah.
God always triumphs, and Satan always loses. Our faith must take hold on this.
THE WORLD IS THE BEAST'S REALM
Remember, Satan and his angels have been cast down "to the earth" (Rev 12:13). Now we read of a "beast" with universal dominion, empowered by Satan, who is also in the earth. It simply is not possible for those who "love the world" to escape the dominion of Satan and his beast. They are, as it were, invincible in the worldly realm. Mark well what is declared in this text. "All who dwell on the earth will worship him." Not a selective few, but "ALL." Not just the weak, but "ALL." Not the uneducated and underprivileged, but "ALL."
Who Are Those Who Dwell Upon the Earth?
Some have concocted doctrines that provide convenient explanations for this text. They declare this refers to those who are left in the world AFTER the rapture has taken place. Mind you, no such doctrine is ever the point Apostolic elaboration. That is left for the purveyors of contemporary religious literature. I want to say emphatically that this is NOT the case.
First, the beast makes war "with the saints," who are defined as those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus." Were the saints removed from the earth, this would not be possible, for Satan and his hosts have no further access to heavenly realms from which they have been expelled.
Second, this is a letter written "to the churches." It relates to the good fight of faith, and requires the attentiveness of all believers. Anyone who has an "ear to hear" is to give consideration to what is being said. It is an utter absurdity to think our hearts are to be enraptured by the contemplation of something wholly unrelated to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Those who "dwell upon the earth" are defined for us. There is no need for speculation, even though the remainder of Scripture clearly defines these people also. These are individuals "whose names are not written in the book of life" (Verse 8b). They are unrelated to "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." They are not born again, and remain "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1-2).
These are not "alive unto God," do not have "ears to hear," and are not a "new creation in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11; Deut 29:4; 2 Cor 5:17). They are dominated by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). The love of the Father is not in them, and they have not been "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor 6:17).
Just as God gave Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar, He has given all who have rejected His Son to the beast. They will be unduly impressed by this worldly power, and give their allegiance to it. Their purported wisdom will not deliver them from the tyranny of this despotic power.
A Brief Commentary
History is strewn with the record of despots that have risen to rule over peoples who have rejected the King of kings. Those dominated by worldly wisdom theorize on how people should be able to come away from such dictators. They speak of how they should be overthrown, voted out, or displaced by some other means. Such people do not take a Sovereign God into consideration, who gives rebellious sinners into the hand of vicious rulers.
Our Own Country
Our very own country is a case in point. With a noble beginning, good focus, and a prominent place for faith, this nation had its genesis. But over the years, it has veered from the course it once established. Overtaken by a quest for wealth, pleasure, and prominence, it is now dominated by the spirit of the wicked one. Politicians, entertainers, business men, philosophers, and purported scholars join forces to direct the affairs of men. But they all have something in common. They "dwell upon the earth." Their minds are too small and their hearts too hard to rise into the heavenlies. Thus, they have been given over to the "beast" of worldly government. It is quite possible that what we are experiencing is Divine judgment, not merely a miscarriage of justice.
The Saints Have Nothing to Fear
Those who do not "worship" the beast have nothing to fear from him. He will not be able to sever their connection with the Lord. Just as Egypt could not sever Joseph from his faith, nor Babylon destroy the faith of Daniel and the three Hebrew children, so the beast is powerless to cast the saints down. He cannot take their inheritance, destroy their faith, mitigate their joy, or cause them to be cut off from their God.
Some Will Suffer
Do not suppose this means no believer will be subject to difficulty. Jesus warned His disciples of antagonism-opposition from high places. "You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls" (Lk 21:16-19). The Lamb will sustain His people in the severest of times, as well as in the best of them. He does not say He will lift us out of trouble, but sustain us in it.
Let us have done with naive views of the Kingdom of God! We are living in a world in which Satan, his angels, and his organizations are granted power! Those who dwell upon the earth will give their hearts and lives to "the beast." They will shape their conduct by its demands, and subscribe to its edicts. But they only do so because their names are "not written in the book of life."
The Lamb Slain
The "book of life" belongs to the Lamb! But notice what is said of this Lamb. He was "slain from the foundation of the world." Some versions ascribe "from the foundation of the world" to the writing of the names in the book of life (NASB, RSV, NRSV). While this does not appear to be the intent of this verse, the teaching itself is not false. Elsewhere we are told believers were "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4), and that they will receive a kingdom prepared for them "from the foundation of the world" (Matt 25:34).
The point of the text is that when our Savior was in the world, He was "slain" - "slain," as it were, by the very spirit that empowered this beast. His death was in strict accord with Divine intent, and fulfilled an eternal purpose. Yet, in Christ's death, we catch a glimpse of the spirit of the world. Hear the Spirit as he fairly shouts to us. "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2:7-8, NKJV).
Those who "dwell upon the earth" do not consider what it did to Jesus! They are ignorant of the fact that this is Satan's realm, and that he is its "god" and "prince" (2 Cor 4:4; John 14:30). These are the people who "worship the beast." These are the ones who "give their kingdom unto the beast" (Rev 17:17), and agree with its godless edicts. They gravitate to it because they rejected the Lord. No person disbelieves with umpunity.
THE MESSAGE IS TO BE HEEDED
"If anyone has an ear, let him hear"(Verse 9). We have heard a somber message-but we are to listen to it! We presently occupy a hostile and dangerous realm. Satan is moving to and fro throughout the world. His principalities and powers are exercising influence in this realm. His demons concoct and perpetrate doctrines among men. As he is given authority by God, he empowers beast-like organizations that oppress saints and solicit the worship and adoration of sinners.
This is equivalent to saying, "If anyone has an ear, let him hear!" Get your mind up out of the earth, setting it on things above! Separate your affection from the temporal, and seek the things that are above. Your only hope of survival is to have a heart for what is eternal! Be alert! Tune your spirit to the heavenly frequency! Stir up yourself to take hold of God (Isa 64:7). Resist the devil, and do not be a partaker of the spirit of this world.
That is what it means to "hear!" It is not simply listening, but taking appropriate action. It is to bring these considerations into our thinking processes, where they are continually within the reach of our meditations.
The Ultimate Outcome
"He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword . . . " (Verse 10a). The beast, though he appears invincible, and even overcomes the saints, will realize utter defeat. In him God will demonstrate before an assembled universe that everyone reaps what they sow. Violence will be met with violence, and death with death. Thus it is written, "Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity" (Jer 15:2). Jesus also said, "for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt 26:52). Those with a propensity to violence do well to ponder these words!
The very means employed by worldly government to subdue others will be the means of its own demise. There really is no need to comment extensively on this. History confirms this to be the case. Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians fell to Greece. Greece fell to Rome. Rome fell to its enemies . . . etc., etc., etc.
The Patience and Faithof the Saints
" . . . Here is the patience and the faith of the saints" (Verse 10b). How is it that this phrase is found in this text? For one thing, it confirms the saints have not been removed from the earth, for both "patience and faith" are spiritual qualities experienced in this world.
The idea is that even though the saints are oppressed by this despotical power (to the point of being overcome), they do not retaliate! They refuse to avenge themselves, knowing that vengeance belongs to the lord alone. As it is written, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:19-21).
Throughout the ages, the heavenly gallery has beheld the saints of God blessing their enemies, and submitting to such atrocities as boggle the minds of men. They saw Abel fall beneath the blows of his own brother, who was dominated by the one who animates the beast. They beheld Stephen stoned to death by those who worshiped the beast, while he prayed for their forgiveness. Above all, they beheld as the Son of Man was taken by "the beast," beaten beyond recognition, and crucified in hatred and cruelty. Even then, He prayed for His oppressors. There is "patience and faith" exemplified in its fulness! It has proved superior to every assault of the devil, and the future will be no exception. Therefore, we do not worship the beast, but our Lord. We are equal to Satan's venomous attack!
We have considered an awesome text! In it are
found a number of Kingdom principles-things that are consistently taught throughout
Scripture. While we have been "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly
places," we remain in a war zone. Satan has been empowered to exercise
unspeakable influence in the world, and there are times when he is given to have
remarkable influence. Saints will not always ride on the crest of the wave in this world,
and those who imagine that is the case have been deceived. Unless they recover from this
deception, their erroneous persuasion will be the means of their spiritual downfall.
It is time to declare war on naive and simplistic views of the life of faith. There are complexities related to our life in Christ that simply cannot be explained on an earthly level. The wisdom of men cannot account for the saints being overcome by an adversary by Divine permission. It cannot explain the rise of oppressive power, and the seeming invincibility of evil. All of man's purported expertise cannot rid the world of violence or oppression. It withers and dies in the blazing heat of human experience. Those who resort to men, whether by books, political process, or earthly counsel, have stumbled over the Stumbling Stone.
We are not to be unduly impressed by appearances - like a powerful beast to whom is given global authority. Sometimes, might may appear more powerful than right. But that is only a temporary condition. Do not expect that your commitment to Christ will yield continuous apparent triumph. We are still in the time of testing and trial-the 1,260 days, as it were. Too, the fact that we are surrounded by a turbulent sea is not to cause us to tremble. There is grace to be in the Spirit on the Lord's day, even when you are exiled on Patmos! The saints can have faith and patience, even in oppression and seeming defeat.
There is really only One who is the ultimate Conqueror, the Lord Jesus Christ. His triumph has been declared as already accomplished. Ours is promised, and is based upon His victory. Just as surely as Jesus was tried, so will you be tried. Even as He faced things that forced "strong cryings and tears" from Him, so you will face tests that cause you to cry out. Satan opposed and tempted Jesus, and he will do the same to you! Jesus was "crucified through weakness," and you will also suffer setbacks through your weakness. The disciple is not above his Master.
But the end is not yet! The church will ultimately triumph over all its enemies-the devil, the beast, and the false prophet! As God brought the faithful Israelites through the wilderness to Canaan, so He will bring you through the earth to the world to come and your inheritance. Hold on, child of God! Hold on! Have faith and patience! They both come from God, and in abundant supplies! You can stand against the wiles of the devil! Required resources belong to you!