Pastor Scott Andrews | January 8, 2023
We’ve just come through the annual New Year’s celebrations. No doubt, some of you stayed up to watch the New Year arrive. I can remember as a boy thinking how great it would be to watch the clock strike midnight and know we had just gone from one year to the next. But, that’s when I was a boy. Now – not so much. Maybe you like to stay up, don the party hats, watch the ball drop, blow the party blowers, sing Auld Lang Syne, light some fireworks, sneak a kiss from your spouse, or someone you want to be your spouse, and finally go to bed.
Not me. I can’t remember the last time I was up at midnight to see the New Year arrive. Well, actually, I can. It was Y2K. For you kids, you may have read about that in history books. That’s when the year changed from 1999 to 2000. There was a lot of hype – many doomsday prognostications. So, we stayed up till midnight and the lights stayed on, the water still flowed, and we went to bed reminding ourselves we always wanted that generator anyway.
Of course, in the days and weeks immediately following January 1, there was also lots of backpedaling. Not so much those who were saying Y2K could be the end of the world as we know it, but those who were saying it would be the end of the world. Especially people in our own Christian circles who had to make some public admissions – to include the authors of the Left Behind series who, a year before Y2K, made some pretty bold and errant predictions.
Yes, I was concerned about people making those bold, end-times prognostications. Concerned that some of them were laughing all the way to the bank, concerned they were detracting from the credibility of the gospel, concerned some were setting dates when the Scripture clearly warns against doing so.
But let me tell you another concern I had, and continue to have, that may hit a bit closer to home. And that is the opposite extreme – that the promise of the return of Christ rarely crosses our minds at all. The only dates we’re setting are vacation, or graduation, or wedding, or retirement, or due dates. Because we don’t really expect Jesus to come in our lifetimes. Just as there were those in Christian circles saying that January 1 would bring the end of the world, there were also those just as confidently saying it would not bring the end. You see, when you come right down to it, most of us don’t really believe Jesus will return soon. The question is, do we really want Him to?
Think about that: when do we hit the age, that magic number, when we go from secretly or subconsciously not wanting Him to return, to wanting Him to? You know what I mean. Early on, we have so much to live for, don’t we? Don’t come until I graduate from middle school and get out of that mess and make it to high school, the apex of life. Don’t come till after I graduate from college. Don’t come until I get a good job and start to experience the good things of life. The American dream. Don’t come until I get married, have kids, have grandkids, retire, enjoy my retirement. I saved my whole life to travel, see the world, take it easy, chase a little white ball around the field. Yeah, that’s it, You can come right before I die, so I don’t have to. That would be grand. But other than that, I like my life. So, is the magic number the year before you die?
My concern is that we are living like the Jews of first century Palestine who were supposed to be awaiting the first coming of the Messiah. The wise men arrived from the East saying, where is He who has been born king of the Jews, for we have seen His star? And the Jews respond, “Well, He’s supposed to be born in Bethlehem.” But no one went to see. They were more concerned about how far they could walk on Saturday than the fulfillment of the ages, the climax of history. Their faith called them to wait for the Christ, to long for His coming, but their superficial, surface religion blinded them when it came to pass.
Are we looking for the star? Meaning, are we eagerly anticipating the return of Jesus, looking for the signs of His coming? Do we have the attitude of the Apostle John, even so, come quickly Lord Jesus? Or the attitude of the Apostle Peter, it’s all gonna go up in smoke? Or the attitude of the Apostle Paul, to be absent from the body and present with the Lord is better by far? Or do we live our lives like many religious Jews, with a superficial religion that has no life-changing effects at all?
It’s been two thousand years since Jesus left, promising to return. And Peter told us in his second letter that in the last days, mockers would come, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” Are the scoffers in these last days in the church? Are we the ones saying, where is the promise of His coming? Again, maybe not verbally, maybe not even consciously – but when is the last time you looked at the Eastern sky and thought, is it soon, Lord? When is the last time you ordered your life as if you expected Him to return?
As we read through the New Testament, I see an excited anticipation. Sure, I see an early church confused about the return of Christ, not unlike today. But I also see a church that seemed consumed with the return of Christ. Does that describe us? You see, there will soon come a day when the excitement of His return will actually become the necessity, the pleading for His return.
What do I mean? We are finding in the book of Revelation things will get worse and worse – but stay faithful. Persevere to the end, because while you will suffer, in the end, our God wins. So wait for, long for His return. Now, I’m not suggesting we start creating charts that are more complicated to understand than the book of Revelation itself. I’m not suggesting we start setting dates. I am suggesting we start living like New Testament believers who expected and longed for the return of our Savior. And if we did, I believe it would change the way we live. We wouldn’t put off talking to people about the claims of Christ – after all, there’s no time to waste, we must redeem the time. We wouldn’t put off serving His church, because we want to be found faithful stewards when He comes. And we wouldn’t put off pursuing a deeper, more abiding relationship with Jesus – because we might just see Him soon. If we go through the book of Revelation, and it does not change us, we’ve wasted our time.
As I suggested last week, we are in the slog of the judgments. We’ve finished the first and second series of judgments – the seven seals and the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet has sounded, but instead of moving right to the seven bowl judgments and the glorious return of Christ, we have another interlude or two. And in these, we find John is introducing the principal players for the final stage in this unfolding drama. Better, God is sovereignly putting the pieces into place to bring to completion this age-old plan and an end to this age-long conflict, of which you’ve been a part. You may not realize it, but you’re on one side, or the other.
We covered Revelation 12 the last couple of sermons. The woman – the nation of Israel – has produced the Christ, all according to plan. The dragon, who is Satan, sought to devour the child but failed. At some point, post-cross and ascension – Satan and his fallen angels are cast out of heaven. That either happened at the ascension, or it will happen in the future, right before the end. When he is thrown out of heaven, Satan knows his time is short – the book seems to indicate it’s the last half of the Tribulation. It’s a period of three and a half years, forty-two months, 1260 days, a time, times and half a time.
During that time, frustrated by his failure to destroy the woman, the dragon turns his attention to her children – who are they? Those who keep God’s commandments and who hold to the testimony of Jesus. These are believers in Jesus – Jew and Gentile – who become the target of Satan’s destructive efforts. I personally believe it’s the church which is still here. And so now, Satan marshals his forces – led by two henchmen – beasts through whom he will seek to wreak havoc through worldwide domination. They are the beast that rises out of the sea, and the beast that rises out of the earth. You may know them as the Antichrist and the False Prophet. And we read about them in Revelation 13 – today, the beast from the sea, the Antichrist in verses 1-10.
That all sounds a little challenging. (If visiting) I believe what we have here – in apocalyptic imagery – is Satan’s game plan at the end of time – his final desperate attempt to win the cosmic war in which he has been engaged since the beginning of creation. Remember, he knows his time is short, so he pulls out all the stops. This is how he will make war on rest of her children – that is, those who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
So today, we meet a rather important player in the final conflict. By comparing this passage with several others – Daniel, Matthew, II Thessalonians, the letters of John – we arrive at the conclusion this is what many call the Antichrist
To be clear, he is not Satan, but he is a man empowered by Satan. He seems to be the embodiment/incarnation of evil. Further, don’t miss the intentional ways the dragon, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet together form the unholy trinity. The biblical Trinity, of course, is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Here, the dragon will imitate the Father – as he has always wanted to be God, to set himself up as God. The Antichrist will imitate the Son – Jesus – attempting to emulate His works and receive the adoration of those who dwell on the earth. And the False Prophet, who seeks to point people to the Antichrist, will imitate the Holy Spirit, whose role it is to point people to Jesus.
This is all a woeful attempt to imitate the Trinity – a parody – and yet incredibly, they will successfully deceive the nations and gain their worship. The outline of the text goes like this:
- The Beast Rises from the Sea (1-4)
- The Beast’s Works Permitted by God (5-8) (or I could title this, the sovereignty of God even over the Beast)
- The Believers’ Response to the Beast (9-10) – that will honestly be a hard one.
The last verse of chapter 12 said the dragon was enraged because he couldn’t get to the woman, so he went off to make war with her children. He stands on the sand of the seashore, implying he calls forth the beast. Now, we’ve met the beast before – back in chapter 11 where we learned about the two witnesses. In verse 7 we read, “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.”
So there, we see the beast came out of the abyss – but here, we see he arises from the sea – probably symbolically the same place. And we remember throughout Scripture the sea is a place of chaos and evil. For example, it is there that Leviathan, the great sea monster, dwells – which is likely another name for the dragon. Again, this description is all apocalyptic imagery – don’t try to figure out the components – just see the hideous and evil nature of the picture.
Let’s look at the description of this beast. He seems to rise slowly from the sea, so that you get the picture a little at a time. First, we see his horns and his heads. He has ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns are ten diadems or crowns, which is a curious placement – on the horns, not the heads.
Now, you may remember, when we were first introduced to the dragon back in chapter 12, he was also described as having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. So, while there is some similarity, it is a little different. With the beast, the horns are mentioned first, and the diadems are on the horns. Why? Throughout the Bible, horns are a symbol of strength. His horns being mentioned first, with those ten diadems speaks of his great strength, perhaps as a military or political ruler, some surmise.
Some have suggested this beast is an empire, which makes some sense, but we notice the masculine pronouns, and further when we compare this with the other important passages on the Antichrist, he’s clearly a man – an evil man, empowered by Satan, with great power. Now, the only place the Antichrist is mentioned by that name is in the letters of John, who also wrote Revelation. In those letters, antichrists usually refer to false teachers – they are anti-Christ. But there is one reference in I John 2:18 which says, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
Here’s what I want you to notice: there was apparently an understood or developed teaching that there was the Antichrist who was coming. John doesn’t deny that – he is coming – but right now, there are many with the spirit of antichrist in the world – but the Antichrist will come.
Paul also mentions this coming wicked leader in II Thessalonians. The context of that book is very interesting. It’s fairly early in Paul’s ministry. He started the church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey and wrote this letter to them in the early 50s. He wanted to encourage these persecuted believers to remain faithful. But he also has to correct some misunderstandings about the return of Christ. Apparently, there was some message or letter they had received suggesting the Day of the Lord had already come. So he writes in chapter 2:
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,
2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,
That’s a long passage, and I won’t take the teach it – I just want you to notice a few thoughts. Most everyone agrees this is the one John is talking about in Revelation 13. It’s interesting to note Paul says, the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ has not yet happened because the man of lawlessness – the Antichrist – must be revealed first. And he hasn’t – so he tells the Thessalonian church – you haven’t missed anything – the man of lawlessness must be revealed.
By the way, notice what this man of lawlessness does – he opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship so that he takes a seat in the temple – whatever that is – and displays himself as being God. This is Satan’s goal – to be worshiped as God. And so, when Jesus returns in Revelation 19 – after Revelation 13 – the man of lawlessness empowered by Satan will be destroyed. Now, don’t miss Paul said, don’t you remember I taught you these things? The point is, this was a widespread, developed teaching – the Antichrist is coming – and Revelation 13, prophetically, now describes it.
But where did Paul and John get this? Well certainly from divine inspiration, but are there OT passages that speak of this? Glad you asked – absolutely. In the second half of the book of Daniel – the prophetic sections – we hear a lot about this evil one to come. Consider Daniel 7:
2 Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.
3 “And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another.
4 “The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it.
5 “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’
6 “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
7 “After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
8 “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.
Again, a long, weird passage that I won’t take time to teach. What I want you to notice at this point is verse 8 which speaks of a little horn coming up and displacing three of the ten horns on the fourth beast – and this horn uttered great boasts. Further, later in the chapter, we find this horn waging war with the saints and overpowering them. Most agree this, too, is referring to the coming Antichrist at the end of time. Look at Daniel 7 again:
25 ‘He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.
26 ‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.
27 ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’
All that to say this – these ideas of which John writes through these visions are not new. They were spoken of in Daniel over 500 years before the birth of Christ. Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 24, Paul wrote about it, John wrote about it in his letters. This was widely held in the earliest days of the church. This apocalyptic literature is strange to us – it was not to them – and it is entirely consistent.
Very quickly then, look at the rest of the description of the beast coming from the sea. On his heads were blasphemous names. He is the embodiment of evil, the incarnation of the dragon in a sense, setting himself up as God with great boasts, and so, on his heads were names of blasphemy. This undoubtedly references the Roman emperors at this time who took on themselves divine names, belonging only to God. Especially Domitian, who took on the title, our lord and god.
Look at the description in verse 2 – it should sound familiar. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. A leopard, a bear and a lion. In Daniel, the first three of four kingdoms he saw in his vision – Babylon, Medo-Persian, Grecian were represented by these animals. But here, the beast looks like all these animals combined. Plus, he has the horns of the fourth kingdom, Rome. The point is, the worldwide empire he commands will be the culmination and combination of all the empires which came before – specifically, in their evil opposition to God. And we notice, the dragon will give him his power and his throne and great authority to rule the world – again a parody of God giving His Son His throne and authority to rule the world.
In verses 3 and 4, we see another horrible imitation, this time of Jesus. John looks and sees one of the seven heads of the beast as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. The wording is quite similar to chapter 5 when John turned to look at the Lion of the tribe of Judah and saw a Lamb standing as if slain. This of course was the crucified and resurrected Christ. Here, Satan through the Antichrist imitates the death and resurrection of Jesus. Don’t miss it.
Jesus is the true Son of God, the true Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world and resurrected. But most don’t believe that – they reject the truth of the gospel. But here, incredibly, when the unbelieving world sees this, they are amazed and follow the beast. They worship the dragon because he gives his authority to the beast, and they worship the beast. Further, they proclaim of the beast words in Scripture reserved for God alone, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” The world is about to find out.
Which brings us quickly to our second point, The Beasts’ Works are Permitted by God. Four times in these verses we see what most call divine passives – that is, it was given by God to the beast to do these things, namely:
- A mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies. In other words, he was permitted by God for a time to do these things. And we find in verse 6 these blasphemies were directed against God, to blaspheme His name (that is, all that He is), His tabernacle, that is, His heaven and all who live in heaven. Or, it could be, they blaspheme God and all in whom God dwells as His tabernacle.
- He is given authority to act for forty-two months (the last half of the tribulation). Please notice, his time is limited – because God grants it, and it is for a short time.
- Further, verse 7, a troubling verse. He is given the ability to make war with the saints and to overcome them. Remember, in Daniel 7, the Antichrist speaks out against God and overcomes the saints. Here, he makes war and overcomes them, presumably by killing them. And as a result, he gains authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. We’ve seen that list before, speaking of believers coming from every quarter of the world. Now, the worshipers of the beast will come from the same.
And who will those worshipers be? Verse 8 – all who dwell on the earth, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. God has a book – and written in the book of life are the names of His people – those who have trusted in the Lamb of God – the true one slain for sin. There is some question about “from the foundation of the world” – does it refer to names written from the foundation of the world, or the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It’s probably the latter – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. In other words, it was God’s plan from before creation that His Son would die for His people.
Very quickly, our third point and conclusion, the Response of Believers to the Beast in verses 9 and 10. So what do we do about this, Scott? If you’re right, and the church is present during this time, what do we do? It seems clear there are at least some believers present in chapter 13. What do they do? He who has an ear, let him hear. It’s going to be hard to hear – are you ready?
If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes. God’s plan will be carried out. Remember the divine passives of the previous verses – God gives to the beast the ability to do what he does. This is all according to God’s plan. So if you are destined for captivity, for persecution, for oppression, for death – to these you will go. You see, if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.
Do you see? God’s plan, from the beginning of time, is unfolding. It will be carried out. But remember, we overcome the evil one just like our Savior did – by the blood of the Lamb. We do not love our lives even to the point of death. Why? Because the beast does not win in this war. And so, ours is to submit to the plan of God. Ours is not to oppose God’s plan. Ours is to be faithful to live and share the gospel, and let come what may. Here, you see, is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.
Ours is not a mere passivity – meaning, we are not simply passive. But we don’t take up the sword of violence, we take up the gospel of Jesus Christ, and thereby, paint a target on our chests. Let come what may.