Thoughts on Revelation 13

Revelation 13  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In this chapter we have the history of these two beasts, and they are something distinct from Babylon. One point must be remembered, that beasts are great temporal powers or empires; instead of being in subjection to God's authority, they are ravenous and exacting.
Nebuchadnezzar was the first and Babylonish power; and all the four great empires have taken the same character. They rose out of the sea, unformed peoples, and became great corporate powers, ruling the world.
Notice that it is not only the ravenous character of the beast, but here the dragon gives it its power.
Being cast out of heaven, Satan rouses the earthly people in rebellion against the Lord and His saints in heaven. This character of the beast exclusively belongs to him for the last half-week. In speaking of this beast or empire, the beginning of its history is given. Its origin we have in verse 1. The form of the boast is the same as the dragon in many respects. It has seven heads and ten horns. Chapter 12:3 and 13:1 compare together.
The Roman Empire is divided into ten kingdoms—the world acknowledges it as the rightful power. The crowns are on the horns, and on the heads the names of blasphemy. The heads are characterized by blasphemy, not power. Dan. 7:77After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7) is identical with this in Rev. 13.
Satanic power characterizes this last empire. Satan resists Christ, and the Roman world in the beginning, by the power which was vested in the person of Pilate was that which rejected, condemned and crucified God's king, the King of the Jews, and stamped its own condemnation upon the act, by writing over them, “This is the king of the Jews.” Thus it was not done in ignorance, but “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews, was written there distinctly and with authority.” As soon as Satan is cast out of heaven, he gives his power to the beast which had the character of beast before—he is the open opponent of a Christ in power as he had been of a Christ in weakness. Seven heads imply Satanic wisdom, and the expression is blasphemy. All the characters of power are associated with the beast here. He is wounded to death and healed. The same power, imperial power, revived. This power had been lost, but it revives and gathers up to itself all that the ten horns wield. They worship the dragon. There is direct thorough adoration of this power which is opposed to Christ; the giving up, the earnestness, and the energy of the soul to all this, not actual bowing down to Satan.
He boasts as man and blasphemes God. The tongue is a little member and boasts great things, a world of iniquity, as James says. Men are just preparing for this great wondering after the beast. Society is worn out; and wants something new—some energizing center, something they can follow, for old things are broken up. All the old things were broken up at the old French Revolution, and they have never been repaired. Whatever has been set up has been only breaking and breaking ever since, but this great power that is to come will just supply the lack. He blasphemes the name of God and His tabernacle and theirs that dwell in heaven. Satan can blaspheme the saints in heaven, but he cannot hurt them, they are in the heavenly Jerusalem of which the Lord God is the temple. Satan can never get back to heaven when once cast out; when loosed from the bottomless pit, he will not get beyond the earth. He will make war with those on the earth, but he cannot touch those in heaven; and we are associated with Christ there, and can sit in as much composure and peace above the devil's blasphemy, for we are with God, as while the “lightnings and thunderings and voices” were proceeding from the throne. It is a blessed thing to be so identified with God in being thus the objects of Satan's blasphemies.
We want to get our hearts filled with the sense of this connection with God in the heavenlies, and it is this which is always in contrast with the dwellers upon earth; but just as far as we are mixed up with the dwellers upon earth, we lose the sense of our identification with Him.
“It was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” There are some killed, for example, the two witnesses. This could never have been before—God never allowed them to be overcome.
All that dwell on the earth are swayed by this power except those who were elected from before the foundation of the world. These do not worship the beast, the vessel of Satan's authority. There are four things specially to be remembered: let, the dragon is worshipped; 2nd, those are blasphemed who dwell in heaven; 3rd; those on earth are overcome; 4th, all the characteristics of the four beasts are to be found in this one. “If any man have an ear to hear, let him hear.”
Now we find ourselves, as in chapter 11:19, in Jewish circumstances. Verse 11 of this chapter introduces us to a sovereign power in his way, and he assumes to have Christ's power. He has horns like a lamb, and yet if you really hear what he says, you find it is a power in opposition to Christ; though pretending to be Christ, he has a mouth like a dragon, he has the devil's energy against Christ, and pretends to be the Messiah. Christ was a prophet when down here, and He will be a king when He comes again, and both these this second beast takes to himself, so that he is the antichrist (Herod being a figure of him). We find in him the pretension to Christ's royalty, and His prophetical character, but the priesthood of Christ he cannot claim.
In the three great powers in action at this time, the dragon, the first beast and the second beast, we find a mimicry of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit. “He maketh fire come down out of heaven.” This miracle resembles that of Elijah's with Baal. The very thing that was done to prove Jehovah God is done here to prove Satan's power. He mimics that which proved Jehovah to be God, and he will also mimic those which proved Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ of God. Thus we see that idolatry will be again set up in the earth, for man after all, infidel as he may be, cannot get on without religion, because he must have something that is above and greater than himself, for his thoughts to rest on. Man by nature in every act is infamous, and he is not only blasphemous in heart, but idolatrous in ways. The character of idolatry is to consecrate what is in man's heart already will or lust absolute subjection—as much will as you please—may be allowed, provided it be consecrated to this beast.
Chapter 19:20 refers to these two beasts of this chapter. It becomes quite Jewish at the end; but the character of evil working now we see from 2 Thess. 2. The expressions used in verse 9 of that chapter in reference to Satan's powers are just the same as those applied to Christ in Acts 2; 22. The words in Greek are identical—miracles, wonders and signs. All the pride now rolling around, and the intellect setting itself up, wasting itself for want of an object, will here find its focus. All the pride of man will be as a mere puppet show for Satan to stand behind and pull the strings.
What painstaking care was given the apostle to warn us of these buddings of evil! We have more than buddings now—Judaism attached to Christianity, ordinances added to the work of Christ, instead of the Holy Ghost recognized as uniting the members to the Head in heaven, with nothing between. They who hold such things deny that the members on earth are Himself; but He says of them “I am Jesus.” They have begun in the Spirit and end in the flesh. The stamp and character of apostasy is upon it—denying the Master that bought them, going back to days and months, and times and years, and this with the Galatians was going back to the heathenism they had given up. The flesh makes an effort to accredit itself with what God accredits Christ with. But if we take Heb. 10 as our stay, we shall be glad to part with all this as a mere lie—believing God's word from verse 19-23, it will all be gone like a mere fog (the mere form of godliness). The energy of Satan is now being exercised in the mystery of “iniquity,” and this will continue so long as Satan is in heaven, from whence he corrupts all the truth God has ever given the church. Therefore in 2 Thess. 2 we get the link between the mystery of iniquity which is now working, and the man of sin; before the false Christianity which now exists, and the false Christ which will then appear. False Christianity is now deceiving the Gentiles; but when it takes its ripened form under a false Christ, then it will be connected with the Jews. Those who have not the love of the truth, God says, shall love a lie. There are even now plenty of lovers of religion, and but few who love the truth. This is a sad and solemn truth, to believe and witness. May the Lord give us to be very plain in our testimony, and to have our souls entirely separated from a form of godliness without the power thereof, for when it becomes a mere form it is the direct power of Satan. Do not let us be violent in our efforts; for if we are convinced of the truth of it, we can be quiet, and let God work in His own way; and as to persons, treat them graciously, taking all things quietly. May we so experimentally know what a saint is, as united to Him, as to be following Him, and not denying His name, for the contrary would be blaspheming it.