Chapter 13

Introduction

Chapter 13 continues the lengthy Introduction to the Bowls section that precedes the bowl events and spans chapters 12 through 15.

Whereas chapter 12 discussed the long career of Satan, chapter 13 will move on to discuss the much shorter careers of Satan’s human cohorts in the end times. Specifically, Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their followers.

Commentary

The Summation of Antichrist’s Career

1And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

v1 And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast… – Some translations (e.g. KJV) say “I stood on the sand”, which would mean that John is placing himself within the vision. I believe there are reasons to prefer the translations that depict the dragon standing on the shore:

  1. It is unusual and apparently purposeless for John himself to be part of the vision given to him.
  2. It flows better out of the previous chapter to see this as a continuation of the dragon’s activities.
  3. It flows better into this chapter to see the dragon taking part in the raising of these two beasts, because the context will show that these beasts serve Satan’s purposes.

In either case, the first sentence makes it clear that the beast, while closely aligned with the dragon, is distinct from the dragon.

v1 coming up out of the sea – Recall that back in Rev 11:7, Antichrist is described as the beast who came out of the “abyss“. Evidently in this context, the “abyss” and the “sea” refer to the same place. The term “beast” encompasses more than just the man who becomes the future king, it also includes his kingdom and the demonic influence upon that king.

Side note: As I suggested in Demonic Activity in the End Times, the demonic force influencing Antichrist may be the same “angel of the abyss“, described as a king over demons in Rev 9:11.

v1 having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems – Ten horns and seven heads, just as the dragon itself (Rev 12:3), indicating that this beast is in unity with the Satan. There is a subtle difference, however.

  • For the beast in chapter 13, the ten horns are mentioned first and the horns each have diadems.
  • For the dragon in chapter 12, the seven heads are mentioned first and the heads each had diadems.

This difference indicates a change of emphasis pertaining to the different times. In chapter 12, the emphasis is on the seven Satanic kingdoms that dominated Israel at various times in history, and those kingdoms are represented by the crowned heads. Here in chapter 13, the emphasis is on the ten future and coexistent kingdoms, and they are represented by the crowned horns. The kingdoms represented by the heads and horns are discussed further in Seven Heads and Ten Horns.

These ten future kingdoms will usher in the kingdom of the eighth and final Satanic king, Antichrist, who is represented by the “beast” (Rev 17:11).

v1 and on his heads were blasphemous names – This describes the character of the beast, showing that he has much in common with Satan.

2And 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. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;

v2 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 – This strange imagery is may be understood only by recognizing that it relates back to a vision given to the Old Testament prophet Daniel. The three animals referenced in this verse are the first three animals referenced in Daniel’s vision of four beasts in Dan 7:1-14.

In Daniel’s vision, he saw four beasts representing four successive kingdoms, of which the first three are Babylon (the lion), Persia (the bear) and Greece (the leopard). What these kingdoms have in common is that they all, for some duration, dominated and persecuted God’s people, the nation Israel.

Taking this meaning into the context of Revelation 13, we see these three beasts merged into a single beast. This suggests that the single beast introduced in Rev 13:1 is a future kingdom that resembles (in some sense) the composite of those three earlier kingdoms. It’s clear that all of these kingdoms are inspired by Satan (the dragon). This new composite kingdom will be Satan’s greatest achievement, since it has all the strengths of those older kingdoms combined. We can expect that this future kingdom shall also dominate and persecute God’s people.

v2 And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority – Antichrist is the anointed king of Satan’s future kingdom, and he shall reign over Satan’s most powerful kingdom ever.

v3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed – This verse indicates some sort of “resurrection”, and it is one of the more challenging parts of this chapter. As we saw in Daniel’s vision, the heads represent both kings and their kingdoms, and I believe this dual understanding comes into play in the interpretation of this verse.

Please see The Seven Heads and Ten Horns for more information about this beast, and the meaning of its fatal wound.

v3 And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast – Antichrist, already a renowned political figure with great authority as seen in the first seal (Rev 6:1-2), will now become the object of worldwide worship, partly because of his amazing “resurrection”.

We should understand that the phrase “the whole earth” is qualified (discussed in verse 8 below). Revelation is about two kingdoms:

  1. The kingdom of this world, which (prior to Christ’s return) is under Satan’s rule. He is the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) who has his own kingdom (Matt 12:26).
  2. The kingdom of God, which is shortly going to defeat the kingdom of this world, resulting in the kingdom of God coming the earth in which Christ shall reign (which is the Great Promise).

The broad references to the “whole earth” refers to the first kingdom above, which consists of all unbelievers. True believers will not follow after Antichrist, as they are part of Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world (John 18:36).

Antichrist Reigns for 42 Months

4they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 5There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

v4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast – People in the end times who worship Antichrist will (most likely unwittingly) be worshiping Satan, because Antichrist is Satan’s human agent who does Satan’s will on earth. Similarly, people who worship Christ also worship God.

v4 and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” – This statement seems to be a challenge to God, who Himself asked, “Who is like me, and who can challenge me?(Jer 50:44 NIV). The expected and correct answer is “no one can challenge God”. And yet, we’re seeing that in the end times, Antichrist will challenge God, and it appears that the unbelieving world is going to place their bets on Antichrist.

v5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him – Antichrist receives his power and authority from Satan at the midpoint, and he shall reign as such on earth for 42 months, which is the duration of the great tribulation.

v6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven – It is doubtful that Antichrist’s arrogant words and blasphemies will be overt. Another way to blaspheme God is to pose as one who speaks on behalf of God, but speaks falsely. Antichrist will most likely come across to most of humanity as brilliant, magnanimous, and well-intentioned. He may even speak as if he represents God. Even so, his arrogant true nature and his deceptions are blasphemies of the worst kind.

Antichrist Makes War Against the Saints

7It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, 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.

v7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them – As foretold in Dan 7:25. This brief statement summarizes the terrors of the great tribulation during Antichrist’s 42 month reign. Many saints will be martyred in accordance with the fifth seal in chapter 6.

v7 and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him – There will still be leaders of other nations, but those leaders will voluntarily fall into step with Antichrist’s agenda. Most prominent among the other world leaders will be the ten kings represented by the ten horns (see The Seven Heads and Ten Horns). It seems that Antichrist may himself have been one of the ten kings, but he will emerge as ruler over them all (Dan 7:24).

v8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, 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 – The broad phrases such as “the whole world” (verse 3) or “the inhabitants of the earth” (verse 8) are thus qualified to mean the worldly, unredeemed people, as evidenced by the added phrase, “everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb“.

Side note:There are two different thoughts regarding what extends from the foundation of the world. Some translations (e.g. NASB, ESV, NLT, HOL, ASV) say it is the names written in the book of life, while others (e.g. NIV, KJV, ISV, YLT) say it is the lamb who has been slain.

Those who say that the “lamb was slain from the foundation of the world” argue that this is the grammatically the most natural rendering of the text, and it is making the point that God had planned Christ’s sacrifice long before it occurred (which is true).

Personally, I agree with those who say that “the names were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world“, because besides being grammatically acceptable, it is more consistent and sensible within the context of Revelation. It is more consistent because Rev 17:8 is speaking about these same things, and there it clearly indicates the book of life. It is more sensible because the point of the sentence is to identify the people who worship the beast as those who are not in the Lamb’s book of life. As such, this would be a weird place to inject some doctrine (oddly worded at that) about how God planned Christ’s sacrifice long before it happened. Consistency and sense should trump grammatical simplicity when there’s a choice.

Message to the Saints

9If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.

v9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear – This phrase was often used by Jesus to emphasize the importance of what he was about to say. In verses 9 and 10, the narration is paused in order for God to tell the saints how they should to respond to the persecution.

v10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints – He is telling the saints bluntly that these things will happen. This is a call for saints to understand what is taking place and to accept it. We cannot change these things, but we can decide how we handle it.

  1. If you exhibit the “perseverance and the faith of the saints” like verse 10 describes, then you can handle the persecution in a victorious way that honors God. Recall this from 12:11, where it described this victorious way: “they [believers] overcame him [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death”.
  2. On the other hand, if you lack perseverance and faith, then you’ll compromise your testimony by acting in a defeated way. You will shrink from death as if you’re unsure of the promises of God. You may still go into captivity or be killed, but you will do so having regrettably missed your last chance to honor God.

Verse 10 echoes Jer 15:2, which was given to Israel in view of the coming attack from the kingdom of Babylon. In the context of Jeremiah, it is clearly an expression of God’s anger against His people Israel. Metaphorically, it is given to the church in view of the coming attack from the kingdom of Antichrist, and it also conveys God’s displeasure with the churches. Still, just as there were some Jews who remained faithful during the Babylonian captivity, there shall be Christians who will faithfully endure this final persecution.

These are tough verses, but it’s where the rubber meets the road for Christians in the end times. The saints will have an opportunity to be Christ-like in the deepest way. Our prayer must be like that of Christ himself in the Garden of Gethsemane: Luke 22:42 “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done”, and our love for Christ may reflect His love for us: John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends“.

The Summation of the False Prophet’s Career

11Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

v11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth – We are introduced to a second beast, who is also known as the False Prophet (as he is called in Rev 16:13 and Rev 19:20).

This second beast is described as “coming out of the earth” as opposed to the first beast which was described as “coming out of the sea”. Some commentators see this as an indication that this false prophet is Jewish. This idea comes by assuming that John’s vision is seen from the perspective of one standing in Israel. From that perspective, “coming out of the sea” suggests a foreigner coming from overseas, whereas “coming out of the earth” suggests someone coming up from within Israel. Of course, someone who comes up from within Israel figures to be Jewish.

While possible, I believe that the support for this idea is too stretchy to be reliable. I have four objections:

  1. I don’t see why we should assume that John’s perspective is that of someone standing in Israel. There’s nothing in this whole vision (which started in chapter 12) to suggest that John is in Israel. On the contrary, he has a very broad perspective whereby he sees things in heaven and on earth and affecting all nations.
  2. Although Rev 13:1 said that the first beast (Antichrist) rose from the sea, its doubtful that this should be literally understood to be a sea (i.e. a large body of water), because Rev 11:7 describes Antichrist as “the beast that comes up out of the abyss”, and so this “sea” refers to the same place as the “abyss“, which refers to a prison for demons. Therefore, the contrast between the sea and the earth doesn’t really support this Jewish False Prophet idea.
  3. Even though it uses the word “sea” for the first beast and “earth” for the second beast, it doesn’t necessarily imply that there is some deep meaning behind those terms. For example, in Daniel’s vision of four beasts, the beasts are said to be coming out of the sea in Dan 7:3, but later it explains that they will come up from the earth in Dan 7:17.
  4. The False Prophet will be recognized around the world as the preeminent Christian leader, and it’s unlikely that such a person would be Jewish. (Of course, his form of Christianity will be false).

So, it’s probably best to not let this contrast between sea and earth be the foundation of any important conclusions (such as a conclusion that the False Prophet must be Jewish).

v11 he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon – This may be where we get the idea that the devil has two horns. There are two things to say about this:

  1. When it says he “spoke as a dragon”, it means he spoke words befitting Satan (the dragon is the standing symbol for Satan throughout Revelation).
  2. The contrast between “like a lamb” and “as a dragon” implies a deception perpetrated by the False Prophet. Resembling a lamb suggests that the False Prophet will appear to be meek and harmless. However, in speaking as a dragon, we see that his words (however meekly delivered) are laced with very dangerous deceptions. This brings to mind the warning Jesus gave us about false prophets in Matt 7:15 = “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. It’s also possible that “like a lamb” refers to the Lamb who depicts Christ in Revelation (e.g. Rev 5:6). That is, the False Prophet will speak as if he represents Christ.

v12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed – Now we see the connection between the first and second beast. The second beast speaks with the same authority as the first beast (and that authority was given to the first beast by Satan according to verse 2). The role of the second beast is to lead people in worship of the first beast, Antichrist. Verse 8 said that the world will worship Antichrist, and this worship is orchestrated by the False Prophet.

While the first beast representing Antichrist is the political leader (effectively the “king”), this second beast representing the False Prophet shall be the religious leader. These two work hand in hand by Satan’s authority and for Satan’s purposes.

v13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men – Here is more information about why people will be so astonished and willing to worship Antichrist. They are witnessing miracles! People (including many professing Christians) shall be enamored by miracles, and those who care more about miracles than they do about sound doctrine shall be deceived. However Jesus warned us about them in Matt 24: “24For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25“Behold, I have told you in advance.”

v14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast – The effect of the miracles will be a profound deception, and many will be deluded  (2 Thes 2:9-12).

v14 telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life – The prophecy elaborates on the greatest deception of all, which involves Antichrist and the fact that he will appear to have been fatally wounded, and yet come to life. What greater counterfeit Christ could there be than one who has a resurrection?

v15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak – It’s hard to be very confident about the nature of this deception, except that by all appearances, Antichrist shall be resurrected by means of an image created by the False Prophet. Perhaps he will be resurrected to some (apparently) “glorified” body, which is here called the “image of the beast“.

v15 and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed – There will be relatively few who resist the deception and refuse to worship the image of Antichrist. Among those who do refuse will be the true Christians who were expecting this deception. The False Prophet will likely convince the world that these true Christians are the ones rebelling against God’s servant, Antichrist, causing Antichrist’s worshipers to develop a murderous hatred of true Christians. This is the great tribulation, and it parallels Israel’s experience under Babylonian captivity, where they too were ordered to worship the image of the king or die (Dan 3:5-6).

The Mark of the Beast

16And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

v16-17 16And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name – The true worshipers of Antichrist shall receive a mark on their bodies. This seems to be Satan’s answer to the mark given to the 144,000 Jewish servants of God introduced in chapter 7. For more discussion about this mark, see The Mark of the Beast.

18Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

v18 number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six – Here’s another verse for which there are many different opinions. The number of the beast is 666. Perhaps this is the mark of the beast or part of it. Some think that Antichrist’s actual name will somehow be numerically equated to the number 666.

Others take a more symbolic view, saying that since 7 is the number of completeness or perfection, then 6 represents falling short of perfection. Thus, 666 is a kind of trinity of imperfection.

Whatever the true significance of 666 is, I believe the key point being made in this verse is that his number is that of a man — a mere man. Antichrist will join an elite list of individuals who have each occupied a position of enormous world-changing power and influence. Other such people include Nimrod (Gen 10:8-12), Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, various Roman emperors, and Hitler. And yet, they were all mortal men who lived for a moment and passed away. Some of them, like the Pharaoh of the Exodus, were expressly created to be vessels of wrath (Rom 9:17,22-23), and this will also be the case for Antichrist. Despite his reign of terror, he too shall pass away, and he is not the one we should fear (Matt 10:28).

Even if we don’t confidently know the meaning of this number, we should at least be careful not to misuse it. For example, Christians shouldn’t become superstitious about this number, nor should they become fearful or suspicious of anyone or anything that can somehow be connected with 666.

Share Button