“Who is like unto the beast?”
It has been said that the book of Daniel is a commentary on the book of Revelation, and that Revelation is a commentary on Daniel. Certainly these two books should be studied together when dealing with the prophetic Word. It is interesting, though, that in neither of these books is the word “antichrist” used. There is reference to him, the infamous character of the end-time, but that particular designation is not used. It is only in the epistles of John that we have the word used. This word “antichrist” could mean either of two things: 1) As being against Christ, or 2) taking the place of Christ. Both will be true of the Antichrist of the end-time, He will be against the true Christ, and also in demanding the worship of men will be attempting to take Christ’s place.
In thinking of the Antichrist it should be firmly fixed in our minds that we are considering a person. The prophet Daniel writes: “A king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many; he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (8:23-25). In these verses the personal pronoun is used eleven times, and we could look at other verses where it is used many more times. These descriptions and actions would not make sense if they were not attributed to a person. And Jesus was surely referring to a person when He said, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43).
As the seventieth week begins, this man will have already risen to a place of prominence in world affairs. He will be seen as a master statesman and a skilled negotiator and peacemaker. He will not come to the fore as a wild Hitler but will have charisma, be a great communicator, and popular with the masses. He will have the answer to many of the problems that plague the nations, and will have a solution for the Arab-Israeli dispute, posing as Israel’s benefactor and protector. By his political adroitness he will have so gained the confidence of men that certain nations, which have formed a federation, will make him their leader and give him power to act on their behalf. This federation is the revived Roman Empire. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image the legs of iron represent the Roman Empire. The feet with ten toes of iron and clay represent the revived Empire. Between the legs and the feet there has been a break during which God has brought in the dispensation of grace. After this break there will be a ten-toed kingdom, and Daniel 7:7-8 has reference to this very thing. Here we read: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast. … And it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Here we have the final form of Gentile power. Scofield says: “The vision is of the end of Gentile world-dominion. The former Roman empire will have ten horns (i.e. kings) corresponding to the ten toes of the image.” The ten horns are ten kings, or nations, mainly European, who will make him, the little horn, the veritable Emperor. He will be the iron while the federated nations, maintaining some semblance of autonomy, will be the clay. It would appear that three of the nations may have second thoughts, but will be put down in the Emperor’s rise to power. This Empire will encompass the territory occupied by ancient Rome and go even beyond. There will not only be political power behind the Antichrist, but religious power as well. Left behind at the Rapture will be an apostate church, or religious system, which he will use to solidify his position, and when it is of no further use he will turn and destroy it. Jennings, one of the Brethren writers, has this to say: “We are compelled to see that the boundaries of the Empire will be the boundaries of the professed, but utterly apostate Christianity, and it follows beyond all question, that the revived Roman Empire will include every country everywhere in which there is any claim to apostate Christianity at all, and so, will include North and South America.”
The first three and a half years of the week will certainly be most stressful. This time was foreseen when the Lord said there would be “upon the earth distress of nations … men’s hearts failing them for fear.” The four horsemen have been loosed with resultant war, famine, death, and earthquakes. Jesus predicted all this in His Olivet discourse when He said: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.” All this is frightening enough, but then He added, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” In other words, the worst is yet to come. This is true here, for the next three and a half years will be a time of trouble unparalleled in human history. Here in the middle of the week certain things happen that presage the storm that is to be visited upon mankind. This is the beginning of the Great Tribulation. First, the two witnesses are removed from the scene. For three and a half years they have been withstanding the Antichrist, though he has not yet been revealed as such, but now the two are gone and the world rejoices. Next, Satan, with his minions, is evicted from the heavens and cast down to earth. He comes down having great wrath and looks for an instrument through whom he may work in destroying Israel and defeating the purposes of God. In Revelation 13:1 a wild beast is seen coming up out of the sea. The sea in Scripture is descriptive of the restless nations and this one, rising up out of the nations, is a Gentile. He is the head of the federated nations, the revived empire. Satan sees in him the instrument he can use in carrying on his warfare against the hated Creator.
When our Lord Jesus, the Son of God, was here in the flesh He was tempted of the devil. “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (Luke 4:5-7). Satan offered Christ all the kingdoms of the world and Christ firmly refused. Now Satan makes the same offer to the Beast out of the sea and he accepts what Christ rejected. Satan gives him his power, and his throne, and great authority. Here also another person comes on stage. In the Olivet discourse the Lord not only spoke of the Antichrist who was to come but He also warned of false prophets. In Revelation 13:11 another beast is seen, this one coming up out of the earth. He is most likely a Jew and is the False Prophet. Satan always seeks to imitate God and here we have a trinity, a trinity of evil in contrast to the Holy Trinity. The Antichrist sets himself up in the temple, masquerading as God, and the False Prophet causes all the earthdwellers to worship him. This worship of the Antichrist is in reality the worship of Satan, which the old serpent has long desired.
Before continuing with the diabolical reign of the Antichrist we need to consider the question: Will he be a resurrected individual? Many expositors teach that he will gain a massive following after he has experienced death and then been resurrected by Satan. Some teach that he will be Judas Iscariot raised from the dead. Revelation 13:3 reads: “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast.” Also verse 12 speaks of the “first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” We cannot feel these verses have reference to the death and resurrection of an individual, for we cannot believe Satan has, or ever will have, the power to give life. Christ alone is the Prince of life, or Author of life. True, He did give the apostles the power, in His name, to raise the dead, but He would never delegate this authority to Satan. The references to death and resurrection refer to the Roman Empire, once dead, but now revived and once again with a head. The Beast is the Emperor and is the epitome, or embodiment, of the Empire. We quote a few prominent writers on the subject. Scofield says, “It was the imperial form of government which ceased; the one head wounded to death. What we have prophetically in Revelation 13:3 is the restoration of the imperial form as such, though over a federated empire of ten kingdoms; the `head’ is `healed,’ i.e. restored; there is an emperor again—the Beast.” William Pettingill says, “In the third verse we saw one of the Beast’s heads as healed after a mortal wound. The Roman Empire has been reckoned dead by the world for centuries. It will be revived, and it will have a head, that is an Emperor. His pomp and power will amaze the world, and the world will be called upon to worship him.” Dr. Pentecost writes, “The question arises then as to whether this is a resurrected individual in whom the miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection is imitated. Even though it is said that this one comes to power by satanic activity, and is said to have a deadly wound that was healed, and comes out of the abyss, it seems best not to understand this as death and resurrection for several reasons. In Revelation 13:3 and 17:8 the beast is explained as the composite kingdom. The reference to the healing seems to be the resurgence of power in the Gentile kingdom that had been dead for so long. … The Scriptures reveal that men are brought out of the grave by the voice of the Son of God. Satan does not have the power to give life. Since Christ alone has the power of resurrection, Satan could not bring one back to life.”
With Satan cast down to earth and going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, the world is in for the worst time of trouble ever experienced by mankind. The Antichrist is revealed, a man sold out to the devil, who now takes over Jerusalem and breaks the covenant he has made with Israel. He sets himself up in the temple, claiming to be deity, and all are forced to worship him. This is the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and of which the Lord warned. An image of the Beast is erected, perhaps in the temple in the place of the mercy seat, showing disdain for God. The False Prophet gives breath (pneuma) to this robotic image and by legerdemain or trickery, people are deceived into thinking it a living being. All are commanded to worship the image and those who refuse to do so are killed. It will be a time of great suffering under the despotic rule of the Antichrist, but in addition to this the vials of the wrath of God will be poured out, for God will no longer be speaking in grace but in wrath. Yet in spite of all the trouble and tribulation most are still unrepentant. Instead they “blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory” (Revelation 16:9). But God will have His own elect and they will be the objects of Antichrist’s hatred. “It was given unto him to make war with the saints.” These are not the saints of the present dispensation, members of Christ’s Body, for they will have long since been removed from earth by way of the Rapture.
At midpoint in the seventieth week, with the casting down of Satan and the emergence of Antichrist, the 144,000 are galvanized into action. Filled with the Spirit of God, they will do in forty-two months what the Church has failed to do in twenty centuries; that is to evangelize the world. The multitudes saved through their testimony will be the saints who bear the brunt of Antichrist’s persecution. The 144,000 witnesses will carry on their ministry for three and a half years in spite of all that may be done to stop them. They have the seal of God, His mark, in their foreheads. Satan is the great imitator so now the decree goes forth that everyone must take the mark of the Beast in their right hand or in their foreheads. Those without the mark will be unable to buy or sell, thus unable to deal in the necessities of life. This will add much more to the trials of the saints, but God will surely have ways to sustain them. It is then that the so-called Lord’s Prayer will have its proper place and the saints will pray with real meaning, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Then the Shepherd Psalm will be most pertinent as God prepares a table before them in the presence of their enemies. The epistles of John, like those of Peter and James, were not written to the saints of this present dispensation. They have in view and will be of particular value to the saints of the end-time during the Tribulation. In one of these epistles, 1st John, we read: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it” (5:16). Strange indeed are the comments of some expositors in explaining this verse. It has reference to one certain sin, a sin that is visible and recognizable. It is the sin of taking the mark of the Beast. Those who take his mark seal their doom and will spend eternity in the lake of fire with the Antichrist, the false prophet, and Satan.
For a brief season Satan will have his day as the people worship the Beast and worship the dragon which gave power unto the Beast. Millions will be deceived by demon spirits coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the Beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet (Revelation 16:13). What a trinity of evil. In 2nd Thessalonians we see why people can be deceived and deluded. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2:11). What is the reason for which they were given over to believe a (the) lie? “They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2:10). What a terrible thing to turn away from the truth. Light rejected brings darkness and the result is “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth” (2:12). The monstrous lie of the future will be the setting up of a man and the worship of that man as God. Sadly, we see the world preparing even now for such worship. The dethronement of God and the deification of man is the world’s intent. An eminent servant of the Lord wrote many years ago: “Religions are in the air in our own day; and in each there is less and less of God. In the new religion that is coming, God will be entirely left out, and man exalted.” Indeed, much of the preaching we hear today, even in fundamental circles, is about man rather than about our God and His Christ.
The trinity of evil will be at work during that time yet future. Satan, the liar from the beginning, will be carrying on his devilish work, the false Christ will be causing men to take his mark and to worship him, and just as the Holy Spirit of God directs the worship of men toward the true Christ, so the false prophet will be directing the worship of men toward Antichrist. This Antichrist, the beast out of the sea, though ruthless in suppressing the truth and making war with the saints, yet will be hailed by the masses as a savior and benefactor of mankind. His reign will be Satan’s brief millennium. It will be a time of peace and progress. Secrets of nature will be discovered and great inventions will be made and put to man’s account. But this rule of Antichrist will be of brief duration, for when they are saying peace and safety then sudden destruction will come upon them. His rule will be terminated by the personal return of the rightful Ruler, the Lord Jesus Christ, who comes to put all His foes under His feet. The unholy trinity will here be judged. Antichrist and the false prophet will meet their final end in the lake of fire. Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years and then will join them in the lake of fire.
At the close of the 13th chapter of Revelation we have these words so that the saints of the end-time may recognize the Beast for what he really is: “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Much has been written and there has been a great deal of speculation as to the meaning of this number 666. The verse explains itself for it states “it is the number of a man.” Seven is the number of perfection and associated with Deity. Here is a man who says he is God, but his number is six, the number of a man, and it will never be seven. String out as many sixes as you please and it always comes short, the number of man, a miserable creature of the dust. Archibald Wright, pastor of Newtownards Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said significantly: “It is ever short of the perfect seven, showing that however the Beast king may attempt to show himself as God he will fail to deceive the elect. It may seems strange that the world with all its wisdom and culture could be so deceived by the Man of Sin and be led to worship such a character but it all becomes clear when we remember that man by wisdom never knew God.”