Sunday, March 27, 2016


Revelation 13
Beast 1 and Beast 2

Revelation 12 showed us Satan’s expulsion from heaven and his failure to destroy the Messiah. In his anger and frustration, he turned on the church. He stood on the sand of the sea (12:17) as if to claim the whole world for himself in opposition to God.  To attack the church, Satan will use two powerful entities. In chapter 13, these entities are referred to as beasts.

Beast 1: The Beast From The Sea
As John watched the vision, he saw a great and terrifying beast arise from the sea. This is John’s description of the beast:
-10 horns
-7 heads
-10 diadems on its horns
-blasphemous names on its heads
-it looked like a leopard with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion.

This is the beast mentioned in Revelation 11:7, making war on the saints.

The first thing we notice is the beast seems to be a combination of the beasts seen by Daniel in his vision recorded in Daniel 7. Daniel saw 4 beasts come out of the sea. (Dan. 7:3) One was like a lion, one like a bear, one like a leopard. Then he saw a 4th, terrifying beast with four heads. Dominion given to it. (Dan, 7:7) It also had 10 horns. It destroyed everything in its path. This beast was destroyed by the Lord at the end of the age. (Dan. 7:11) It was the Roman empire, but a type of something worse to come.

We see the beast in Revelation 13 looks a lot like the 4th beast seen by Daniel. But the Beast from the Sea also has characteristics of the prior beasts, having parts of a leopard, bear and lion.  This beast is a culmination of all of the others and more powerful than them all.

One interpretive clue we have here is that the beasts of Daniel 7 were kingdoms. We saw Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. On this basis, we can see that the beast of Revelation 13 is also a kingdom.

The 4th beast of Daniel 7 was different than the others, though. (Dan. 7:7) It was terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong. It devoured and broke into pieces everything in its path. It had 10 horns, signifying great power. In the interpretation of Daniel’s dream, he was told that this beast, which is a kingdom, would speak words against the Most High, or blaspheme, and wear out the saints, the church. (Dan. 7:25) He would do all this for 42 months. Then he would be destroyed.

The beast from the sea appears to be the 4th beast of Daniel 7, or at least based on it. It appears to be a culmination of all the previous powerful kingdoms, because it has parts like a leopard, a lion and a bear. (13:2) Like the 4th beast of Daniel 7, it is more powerful that any preceding kingdom. We see this in the 10 horns, symbolic of complete power. It had great authority to rule, symbolized by 10 diadems on the horns. It had great ability to deceive, shown by the 7 heads.

The beast blasphemes like the beast in Daniel. It has blasphemous names on its head. (13:1) This means it takes names applicable only to God and applies them to the kingdom or its ruler. These might be “Lord God”, “King of KIngs” or “Savior”.

The Beast in Revelation is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (13:7), as the Beast in Daniel was allowed to “wear out the saints”. He will also have 42 months to act. Again, this period is the church age.

How did the beast obtain such great power?John tells us in verse 3. Satan, the dragon, gave the beast his power, his throne and great authority. John also shows us this symbolically: both the dragon and the beast have ten horns and seven heads. All of the great power Satan wields to persecute God’s people is concentrated in this kingdom. The power to rule the earth in opposition to God is also given. And so this great and powerful kingdom, no doubt with a dominant ruler, will dominate the world through strength of arms and powerful deception.

Remember that Paul warned us that our battles are ultimately all spiritual battles. He told us to put on the whole armor of God so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil”. (Ephesians 6:11) He said we wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil. (Eph. 6:12) John shows us what Paul told us: persecutors receive their power from the devil.

Verse 3 adds an interesting dimension to the beast. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal would, but was healed. This caused the whole world to follow the beast and even worship him.

The original audience for this book was the church in Asia, what is now Turkey. They certainly would have seen the beast as the Roman Empire. And it was. The empire persecuted Christianity and, at times, seem to almost destroy it. The Empire deified its emperors. They were declared to be gods, temples were built for their worship and offerings were made to them. Eventually, emperor worship was required. Those who did not worship the emperor faced economic difficulties, being excluded from certain jobs and trades. They were sent into exile, they were tortured, imprisoned and killed.

There was also a belief in Rome that Nero came to life again after his suicide. This may be the history behind this story. And, the Roman Empire itself went into decline, the came back into dominance.  One thing is certain, it is Satan’s counterfeiting of Christ’s resurrection. Indeed we will see Satan and his beasts counterfeit the persons and work of the Trinity.

But the Beast works over the entire church age. We know this because both Daniel 7 and Revelation shows the Beast destroyed by Jesus at the end of this age. The Roman Empire was the first type. But there have been others. At the end of this age, it will be a government that has power to persecute the church all over the world.

There is one group that stands against the world and against the Beast. These people refuse to worship the Beast or the Dragon. They were, and are, those whose names were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. In other words, those who believe in Jesus and commit their lives to him will not worship the Beast. They will accept the consequences, no matter how terrible, rather than recant their faith.

Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna in 155 A.D., not that long after the writing of Revelation. Smyrna is one of the 7 churches to whom the letter of Revelation is written. He refused to offer an incense offering to the emperor and said “Caesar is Lord”. He was publicly executed. Two thousand years later, an Islamic group has executed may Christians who refused to deny Christ. The Beast goes on.

Notice the last words of verse 10: “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints”. This is the theme of the book. It is not “do not worry, we will be taken away before it gets bad”. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

REVELATION 12 - The Battle Between Christ & Satan

Revelation 12
Two Visions of the Battle between Christ & Satan

We have now finished our study of two cycles of 7 judgments. Shown from different perspectives, the seal judgments and trumpet judgments showed the suffering of the church and God’s partial judgments on the earth during the church age, both leading up to Christ’s return and judgment of his enemies. Both series had the same structure.

Now, the Revelation goes deeper. It will show us the battle behind the battle, the battle between Satan and his followers and Christ. These visions are not numbered, but there are seven of them just like the first two sets. In these visions, Christ shows us, through John, the characters, or players in the drama of this war. The characters are shown to us symbolically, so we will need to study and ascertain the meaning of the symbols. The characters are: a woman and child and their enemies: dragon, beast out of the sea, beast out of the earth\land, Babylon, people with mark of the beast.

Chapters 12-14 covers the church age again, ending with Jesus ruling & judging
introduces the main characters in opposition to Jesus. In the larger picture, chapters 12-22 are a unit, the second half of the book. It shows the characters against Christ & what happens to them.

This deeper vision begins with the appearance of two signs in heaven, told to us in chapter 12.

John tells us that these visions are “signs” in verses 1 and 3. The two visions revealed in the chapter tell the same story, the conflict between the woman and the dragon. The first vision is organized in the following way:
1-4 description of the protagonists (or characters);
5     earthly description of the battle; and
6     the finale, the woman’s flight to the wilderness for protection for 1,260 days.

The structure of the second vision is:
7-9     heavenly perspective of the battle;
10-12  heavenly commentary on the significance of the battle; and
13-17  woman’s flight for protection for 3.5 years.

Both visions show the dragon’s defeat in battle and his taking out his frustration at losing by attempting to destroy the woman.

The Woman and the Dragon
So, who are these characters. First, we see that the child is Jesus, the Messiah, Christ. (5) We know this because he “is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”. These words are from Psalm 2, the Messianic Psalm we looked at last week and other times. Psalm 2:2 speak of the kings of earth opposing God’s “Anointed”. The Hebrew word “M’shiach is transliterated into English as “Messiah”. The Greek word is “Christos” which we transliterate as “Christ”.  In Psalm 2:9, God says to his Son, the Anointed or Messiah,  “You shall break them (the nations raging against him) with a rod of iron…” Revelation 11 ended with the fulfillment of Psalm 2 as the elders said the nations raged, but the time for judgment had come. (11:16) Loud voices in heaven said God’s Anointed, his Christ, shall reign forever. (11:15)

If the child is Christ\Messiah, then the woman is the mother of Messiah, for she gives birth to him symbolically. She is portrayed gloriously: clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, wearing a crown of 12 stars. There is imagery here from the dream of Joseph when, as a type of the Messiah, he said the sun and moon would bow to him, meaning his father and mother.

She, then, is Israel. But she is Israel in the sense of the believing people of all times, beginning with Old Testament Israel and continuing through the church age. Her crown of 12 stars identify her with God’s covenant people, 12 tribes of ethnic Israel and 12 apostles whose names will appear on the wall of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, that will descend from heaven to the New Earth. (Rev. 21:14)

But there is also a reference to the original mother, Eve. For Eve was deceived by the Serpent, beginning a battle between her seed and the seed of the serpent. That battle was part of God’s curse of the serpent. God said ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel”. (Gen. 3:15) The battle begins before Israel came into being. It is the battle between God’s people and Satan’s people. Satan initiated the battle, trying to destroy the line of Jesus before he became flesh. The battle between the seeds is Cain vs. Abel, Esau vs. Jacob; Edom vs. Israel, Saul vs. David.

God’s people from the time of the fall have been an expectant mother, waiting for the seed to be born who would defeat Satan and restore God’s followers to Eden.

The red dragon is Satan. As the serpent, he was the deceiver. But here he is envisioned as having 7 heads of cunning wisdom, 12 horns showing great power, and 7 diadems to show authority to influence and deceive. A diadem is a jeweled headband worn to show authority. He is so powerful he swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to earth. (4) This image may refer to Daniel’s vision of a goat with a great horn in Daniel (8:10). It grew so powerful and large it threw down some of the stars of heaven. There it symbolized Antiochus Epiphanies of Syria. But the power of Antiochus was the power of Satan.

In John’s vision, the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth so he could destroy the child, the Messiah. (4) What more could Satan want than to destroy Jesus before he ever was able to fulfill his mission of salvation? Satan tried hard. He motivated Herod to try and kill the Messiah. He killed all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the region around it trying to kill the Messiah. (Matthew 2:16) But God had already sent the baby and his parents to Egypt for protection.

Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, but Jesus prevailed against him. (Matthew 4) Satan motivated the Jewish leaders to oppose Jesus, arrest him and kill him. But God intended all along to use the suffering and death of Jesus to accomplish atonement for believers.

And when it truly appeared that Satan had won and all was lost as Jesus was killed and buried, God raised him from the dead and Jesus ascended to heaven. That is the picture of verse 5, “her child was caught up to God and to his throne”.

In the aftermath of the ascension of Christ, Satan knows he has failed to destroy him. The only thing left to him is to fight against the church. But God protects the church. Those who believe in Jesus cannot be taken from the Savior’s hand. Their salvation cannot be taken away. This same John recorded Jesus saying “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-29) Jesus is greater than all, including Satan, and holds us and our salvation in his mighty hand.

And so the woman fled into the wilderness where she was nourished for 1,260 days. (6) The is the same time period as 3.5 years or 42 months. It is the limited time of persecution of the church. It is the church age.

Why did she go to the wilderness? Because in the wilderness she is totally dependent on God. Remember Elijah going to the wilderness and God feeding him, nourishing him, through ravens? (1 Kings 17:1-6) The wording there is interesting. Elijah went and did “according to the word of the Lord”. Jesus also went into the wilderness. He needed nourishment as he did not eat for 40 days. When Satan tempted him to create food, Jesus said man must live by the word of God. It is the bread that ultimately sustained him. So, the church, symbolized by the woman, is dependent on God for nourishment. He nourishes us in many ways, but primarily through his Word. God’s Word sustains us in trial, builds us up to resist temptation and gives us discernment to avoid deception.

Michael and the Dragon

This vision shows us the same conflict, but from a different perspective. Michael and his angels attack Satan and his angels and cast them out of heaven. Daniel referred to Michael as a great prince and guardian of God’s people. Jude 9 calls him an archangel.

Verse 10 tells us the meaning of this as a loud voice declares that the kingdom and authority of Christ has come and the accuser has been thrown down. It is the picture of Satan losing the power to accuse God’s people. Remember the story of Job? Satan appeared before God and accused Job of not being a real follower of God. Satan also later appeared and accused Joshua the priest in Zechariah 3. Interestingly, in contrast to Job, Joshua was shown as guilty. He wore filthy garments. But God removed them and gave him pure garments while the angel of the Lord stood by. It is a picture of redemption to come in Christ.

And that is why Satan can no longer accuse us. Jesus has taken away our sins. In him, we stand before God. We stand in his righteousness imputed to us. Satan’s power to accuse is forever removed. Hallelujah!

The coming of Christ’s kingdom is tied to the casting down of Satan. This caused rejoicing in heaven. Jesus referred to this with his disciples. They returned from their fist mission trip saying that demons were subject to them. Jesus said “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven”. (Luke 10:18)

It is not all good news, however. Verse 12 shows us that Satan in defeat is on earth in “great wrath” knowing his time is short. He expresses his wrath in persecution of the church. This is the consequence of his fall. It is parallel to verse 6, a much shorter description.

The Continuing Battle: Woman and Dragon

Having lost his chance to destroy the child (Messiah), Satan pursued the woman (the church). She was delivered by a great eagle. This reminds us of God’s description of his redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt. He said “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself”. (Exodus 19:4)

Since Satan cannot destroy the church and take away salvation by accusation, he resorts to his oldest weapon, deception. The flood from his mouth is a symbol of deceiving words pouring out like a river. (15) Just as he deceived Eve, he will deceive many with a torrent of lies and deception.

The early church saw part of that river. Jesus warned the churches of Asia against the Nicolaitans. He warned them against a Jezebel who promised deep knowledge of secret things. John, in 1 John 4:1-6, warned of false prophets. Paul warned of false teachers.

We see part of that river today. There is a flood of false teaching today in print, television, Internet, and preaching. We are constantly bombarded with religions from the east and Middle East. We are told to let go of important teachings of Jesus. We are told we all worship the same God. It goes on and on.

As Satan fails, he become even more furious. (17) He makes war on those who hold to Jesus and his teaching. And, from here, we transition to looking at the Beast who comes from the sea.