There is a scene we are familiar with … a person who knows they are beat, suddenly acts out in anger.
Parents of toddlers have seen this. You are playing “Chutes and Ladders” when your child hits the long slide … assuring their competitor will beat them to the top. Knowing defeat is certain, the ranting tot flips over the game board in disgust. If they can’t win, they certainly don’t want YOU to enjoy the moment.
Sports fans know this also. The basketball coach or player who has been beaten to submission by the opposing team, gets a double technical and ejected from the game prematurely … not about to go quietly.
Not all toddlers and not all athletes act this way when their defeat is certain, but it has happened enough times that we are familiar with the pattern.
In Revelation 12-13, the defeat of our adversary (Satan) is detailed. He loses in heaven (to the angels – see 12:7-8). He loses on earth during the life of Jesus (unable to derail Jesus from His rescue mission – see 12:5). He loses on earth during this age (Christians overcoming the devil’s accusations by the blood of the Lamb and overcoming persecution by not “loving their own lives” – see 12:10-11). He loses in the age to come (unable to kill off the nation of Israel as God protects their remnant during the reign of the anti-christ upon the earth – see 12:13-16). Knowing his defeat, and knowing his time is short, Satan flips over the board game … he gets “T’d” up. He throws a fit … and tries to deceive as many people as possible before Christ actually comes back.
His efforts to deceive, lie, kill, and destroy are executed through the work of two humans who are alive during these final 7 years before Jesus returns. One of the people Satan uses in the last days will be a political leader … the anti-christ (his actions are described in 13:1-10). Another person he uses will be a religious leader … the false prophet (his actions are described in 13:11-18). In this morning’s message, I talked some about these two men’s blasphemous actions, but in the space below, I want to talk a bit more about one item related to each (anti-christ and false prophet).
The physical description of the anti-christ: The anti-christ is described in 13:1-4. That physical description goes like this, “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’” What do these details suggest about the anti-christ’s identity? The 10 horns with 7 heads indicate a confederacy of 10 nations, with 7 key leaders, who ultimately are led and ruled by the one anti-christ. He builds credibility through a back story of a hoax resurrection (“seemed to have a mortal wound”). Then begins to dominate the world, bringing the entire earth under one government (led by the anti-christ) where the anti-christ is also encouraged to be worshipped as god. While the anti-christ is leading the earth, he is also doing so while hating the nation of Israel and attempting to persecute the Jews every chance he gets (see 12:17). Many have speculated on the identity of the nations represented by the “group of 10 horns” from which the anti-christ will come. The best guess is that he will emerge as the leader of a “revived version” of the Roman Empire … or at least come from a consortium of nations that are made up of descendants of the old Roman Empire of John’s day. This belief is derived from an understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 that describes this 7 year period as “kicking off” when a peace treaty is signed “by the leader of the people” who destroy Jerusalem in 70AD. Since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in John’s day, it is largely suspected that the anti-christ will come from European descent. Since many Americans are also from this same ethnic line, however, we cannot rule out the identity of this “one world leader” being from America. The animals used in description of the anti-christ (in 13:2) draw comparison with the animals mentioned in Daniel 7, and highlight world powers of days past. The anti-christ sits in the stream of a series of world leaders who have done some blasphemous things in the past (Nebudchanezzer, Nero, and others).
The false prophet’s “mark of the beast”: Though many people would struggle to walk through the entire book of Revelation, most have at least heard of the false prophet’s “mark of the beast” from Revelation 13:16-18. The “666” required on the hand or forehead is a means for the false prophet to enforce the requirement to worship the anti-christ as god. For those who worship the anti-christ as god, they receive a “mark” that enables them to work, and survive in the “anti-christ’s world.” Those who do not worship the anti-christ as god will not get the mark, and will be kept from buying and selling goods and be subject to intense persecution. Though this “mark” is anchored inside half of the last 7 years before Christ returns, and though it is clearly described as a part of a counterfeit system of the worship of the anti-christ, many try to identify this mark as many things today. In the past couple of years I have heard this mark tied to credit cards, vaccines, medical records, bio-chips, iPhones, and more. While the technology is certainly available today for worldwide financial identification and monetization … and while the trend today is certainly more tolerant of a “one world” system, the utilization of the “mark of the beast” is not something that is active in the world today. From my humble perspective … when the church is raptured to heaven, AND God begins to pour out His wrath upon the earth, AND a single human leader establishes one world control, then demands the entire world worship him … THEN we should look for the mark of the beast. Until then, we need not fear the use of electronic funds, digital ids, or medical care … at least not for Revelation 13’s “mark of the beast” reasons. People may have convictions against these items for other reasons, but leave Revelation 13 out of it, unless you can demonstrate the rest of what is spoken of here in context.
And one last thought … throughout chapters 12-13, we see more references to “1,260 days” (12:6), “time, times, and half a time” – also a 3.5 year period (12:14), and “forty-two months” (13:5). These 3 references to the same length of time all communicate about the same period referenced in Revelation 11:2-3 … and all fit inside half of the 70th week of Daniel 9:24-27 … the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” – the Great Tribulation. During this time Satan is raging against Israel and trying to destroy her. In each of these references to time in Revelation 12-13, God’s provision for His people is emphasized. God is seen as sustaining Israel while hiding them and providing for them in the desert regions of the Tribulation era in 12:6 and 12:14. Ultimately, the timeframe of Revelation 13:5 for anti-christ’s rule is seen as being LIMITED by a sovereign God to a relatively short period of time (NOTE: the anti-christ is “ALLOWED” to lead only for this long.) The short era of anti-christ rule is a reminder of the ultimate defeat of Satan and his cohort.
OK … one more “last thing.” Notice Satan’s evil “trinity” in these chapters. The dragon, beast, and false prophet are roughly analogous in a twisted way to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – though WORSE IN EVERY WAY!
Be encouraged friends. Though Satan may seem to be winning for a short time, the victory of Christ is certain. Stay faithful to Him!