Summary: Without Jesus Christ, we are incomplete.
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THE TWO BEASTS
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea.... (v. 1).
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth.... (v. 11).
In Revelation 13, there are two beasts. These two beasts can be interpreted three ways (and perhaps all three can be seen as valid):
• The beasts symbolize the ROMAN EMPEROR and the IMPERIAL CULT during the first century.
• The beasts symbolize OPPOSITION to God and His people during this present age.
• The beasts symbolize two individuals, the ANTICHRIST and the FALSE PROPHET (cf. 19:20), who will rise to power before the second coming.
There are several allusions to Daniel 7 in Revelation 13. In Daniel 7, there are four beasts: one that looked like a lion, one that looked like a bear, one that looked like a leopard, and one that had ten horns. In Revelation 13, the beast out of the sea looks like a leopard, has feet like a bear, has a mouth like a lion, and has ten horns. The four beasts of Daniel 7 symbolized four kingdoms (probably Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome). So the beast out of the sea probably symbolizes human power—human power that Satan uses in his attempts to oppose God and the saints.
The word “antichrist” is only found in John’s epistles. John writes that the “spirit of the antichrist” was already in the world in his day—in the form of false teachers. “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 4:3; cf. 2:22; 2 John 7).
The dragon (Satan), the Antichrist, and the false prophet form an unholy trinity. “As Christ received authority from the Father (Matt. 11:27), so Antichrist receives authority from the dragon (Rev. 13:14), and as the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ (John 16:14), so the false prophet glorifies the Antichrist (Rev. 13:12)” (Robert H. Mounce).
God’s sovereignty is seen throughout this chapter in the world “allowed” (vv. 5, 7, 14, 15). Though Satan and the beasts may seem to be in control of this world, their actions are only permitted by God. In the end, God will defeat and judge them and prove His sovereignty.
Also [the first beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (v. 7).
And by the signs that [the second beast] is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth (v. 14).
What strategies does Satan use to try to get us to conform to his ways?
• Strategy #1: DECEPTION. How can you detect deception? By knowing God’s word. If Satan’s first strategy is unsuccessful, he moves on to his second strategy.
• Strategy #2: PERSECUTION. All who do not conform are persecuted. In North America, this persecution usually comes in the form of ridicule. For example, when a person declares, “I believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God,” he is instantly mocked—even by many who call themselves “Christians.”
The false prophet “caused all...to be marked on the right hand or the forehead” (v. 16). What is the mark of the beast? Is this a literal mark or a symbolic mark?
In Deuteronomy 6:8, Moses told the people of Israel, “You shall bind [the words of the law] as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Though many Jews have obeyed this command literally with phylacteries, it was intended to have a symbolic meaning: follow God with your head (what you think) and your hands (what you do).
In Revelation, there are two marks: the mark of the beast and “the seal of the living God” (the 144,000 are sealed “on their foreheads,” Revelation 7:1-8). These marks symbolize a person’s loyalty: either to the beast or to God.
Those who do not worship the image of the beast are “slain” (v. 15). Whose wrath would you most want to avoid: God’s or Satan’s? Of course, God’s wrath (holy) and Satan’s wrath (evil) are two very different kinds of wrath! Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him [God] who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666 (v. 18).
In Revelation, 7 is the number of completion.