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The First Beast

Revelation

Jul 2, 2023


by: Jack Lash Series: Revelation | Category: Persecution | Scripture: Revelation 12:17– 13:10

I. Introduction
A. Revelation 12:17b-13:10 And he stood on the sand of the sea. 1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear: 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
II. Explanation
A. The vision begins with the last sentence of Rev.12:17, “And he (the red dragon) stood on the sand of the sea.” Here we see the dragon positioning himself on the sand of the seashore to call up his helpers out of the sea to help him in his efforts to make war on the people of God.
B. 1-2 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.
1. Here we’re introduced to a new character. We’ve met the great red dragon, who is Satan (12:9).
a. Now we have this beast. But wait. We got a glimpse of this beast earlier.
b. He was the one who was said to kill the two witnesses in ch.11.
c. “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them.” Revelation 11:7
d. Remember that the two witnesses represented the witnessing church, which faithfully witnessed to the world until they were conquered and killed by the beast.
e. But we weren’t really introduced to the beast – until now in ch.13.
2. Here are five things we learn here about the beast:
a. He comes out of the sea. The dragon positions himself by the sea, and then the beast comes up out of the sea. Now 11:7 says the beast rises from the bottomless pit, but it’s really no difference. The Greek word here is different, but there’s a lot of overlap between the two words. They both can mean the depths, the abyss, the netherworld. So, they’re really saying the same thing. This beast rises up from the underworld, the dwelling/swelling place of evil.
b. He is hideous, monstrous, grotesque, with ten horns and seven heads.
c. He is against God. We can see this from the blasphemous names on its heads.
d. He is given power from the devil. “And to it [the beast] the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.” The number of seven heads and ten horns emphasizes the completeness of his oppressive power and worldwide influence.
e. He has beastly characteristics. It was “like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.” In Dan.7 there are four beasts who represent four empires. And this beast seems to be a composite of those four beasts, for the beasts in Daniel 7 each had one of these four faces. So it seems like this beast represents some kind of worldly power. Let’s read on...
C. 3a One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed,
1. The Greek word here for “wound” is translated “plague” eleven times elsewhere in Revelation, always speaking of something God brought upon someone. So, this wound is from God.
2. It is the wound predicted by Gen.3:15: the seed of the woman “will wound you on the head.”
3. This is the wound inflicted by Christ on Satan’s forces at His crucifixion and resurrection.
4. So, how could it have been healed? Well, the wound was very real and even fatal, but it appears to have been healed because the beast is allowed to continue his activity for a while after he’s wounded. After the resurrection, the power of the evil one was restricted and his days numbered, but he was still allowed to attack during the period before Christ’s return, even to the point of killing the two witnesses.
5. In the meantime, of course, God safeguards the spiritual security of His people.
D. 3b-4 and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
1. The devil is a great actor. The epitome of darkness, he disguises himself as an angel of light.
2. He is so convincing that the whole world buys his act of apparent triumph.
3. They worship him and give him their allegiance. “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” they say, mocking the many passages in the OT which say this same thing about the Lord (Exod.8:10; 15:11; Ps.35:10; 71:19; 86:8; 89:8; 113:5; Is.40:18; Mic.7:18).
E. 5-6 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
1. Satan has the power to persecute the church during the entire church age. But notice that the power is not his own. It’s given to him.
2. And it’s given to him only for 42 months, 3½ years, the symbolic time period of this era – between the two advents of Christ.
3. But in doing so, he also has a big mouth, uttering haughty and blasphemous words against God.
a. This reminds us of his deceptions in Eden: “What God said is wrong! You will not die! In fact, you’ll really live if you eat this fruit. For I can give you what He cannot.” And they swallowed it.
4. V.6 makes explicit that God’s dwelling means those who dwell in heaven.
a. And we’ve seen how this includes the saints, who, though they still live on earth, also dwell in heaven, for Eph.2:6 tells us that God “raised us up with him & seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (See also Col.3:1.)
F. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8a and all who dwell on earth will worship it.
1. Here is repeated what we learned of the beast in 11:7 “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them & conquer them & kill them.”
2. But when we read this, we must also remember Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
3. When Christians are not persecuted, they are living in an exceptional situation. All around the world believers are living in the normal situation of regularly being persecuted for their faith.
4. Woe to us if all we do is complain about how bad things are. As Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” – 1Peter 4:12-13
G. 8b (and all who dwell on earth will worship it), everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
1. Everyone on earth will be infatuated with this beast – with one exception: those whose names have been written since “before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
2. The fact is, there are two humanities: those of the world, and those of Christ.
3. It’s not always clear now who is in which group. But increasing persecution exposes the falseness of the faith of many. As the end draws near, the distinction will be much more clear.
4. Those of the world will give their allegiance to the beast, and those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be preserved by God’s grace through every satanic storm.
H. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
1. This common expression in the NT calls us to stop and let the point sink in.
2. Here it is purposely placed between two important points, so we have to assume it refers to both.
3. Verses 3-8 tells us that believers and nonbelievers are always at odds, on two separate paths. Christians can’t go along with the world around them. We must be prepared to remain loyal to Christ even if it means acting contrary to our earthly citizenship, even if we are punished for it.
4. The second point follows in v.10...
I. 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
1. Here God’s people are called to be resolved toward the reality of persecution. If a Christian is arrested and put in prison, or even if he slain with the sword, so be it. That then is God’s will.
2. The Christian life is serious business. It can even be fatal. It is very possible that someone here this morning will be called to be imprisoned or even killed for their faith.
3. That’s why it concludes like this: “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”
4. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. It’s going to be hard, but Christians must not give in. They must keep holding on to Jesus in the midst of the storm.
III. But the question which rings out from reading all this is, Who is this beast? And how is it different from the red dragon in ch.12? How is this beast different than the second beast in the second half of ch.13? Is it something which existed in the past, or exists now, or which will exist in the future?
A. Well, let me tell you who I think this is and then explain why.
B. Like most Bible students, I think this first beast is the antichrist.
C. Now, this is the first time we’ve talked about the antichrist in this series on Revelation. Some of you, I’m sure, grew up hearing about the antichrist often in church. Probably others the opposite.
D. The Bible only mentions the antichrist explicitly four times, all in John’s letters (1John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2John 1:7). John, you remember, is also the author of this book of Revelation.
E. But there are other places which talk about him without using the name.
1. In fact, the first time we hear about the antichrist in the NT is in 2Thes.2:1-4, where Paul writes to the Thessalonians to correct their misunderstanding that the Day of the Lord has already occurred, explaining that certain events must occur prior to the Day of the Lord, namely, a great rebellion and the coming of one he calls “the man of lawlessness” and “the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
F. So, let me start by explaining a little about the antichrist. In the Greek, antichrist means either against Christ or in place of Christ. And the antichrist is both. The antichrist is a Biblical figure who is both the earthly archenemy of Jesus and also one who seeks to usurp Christ’s position.
G. In fact, the many parallels between the description of this beast and things said elsewhere about Christ that have led most to the conclusion that this is the antichrist. It can’t be a coincidence.
a. Both have horns (5:6 and 13:1),
b. Both were slain but then rose to new life (5:6 and 13:3),
(1) There’s a big difference, of course, between the healing of the beast’s wound and the Lamb’s resurrection. The Lamb really did overcome death by resurrection, and His triumph is eternal, whereas the beast’s resurgence is short-lived and will ultimately end in destruction.
c. Both have followers who have their names written on their foreheads (13:16 and 14:1),
d. Both receive over-the-top worldwide worship (5:8-14 and 13:4, 8),
e. Both have authority over every “tribe, tongue, people, and nation” (5:9; 7:9 and 13:7; 17:12, 15),
f. Both are expected to have a future and final coming or manifestation, though one is to destruction and the other to eternal victory (17:7-18).
H. So, Rev.13:1-10 presents the beast as a demonic counterpart to Christ.
1. His career is kind of a parody of Christ’s death and resurrection.
2. He even derives his authority from the dragon, even as Christ derives His from the Father.
I. But several verses lead us to the conclusion that antichrist is not only an individual who comes at the end of history as the incarnation of evil, but also has many smaller, more preliminary manifestations beforehand:
1. 1John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.
2. 1John 4:3 Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, (and) is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
3. 2John 7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
4. In other words, though there is an antichrist tyrant coming at the end of history, there are many lesser antichrists who will appear down through history. And since this beast is said to do his thing for forty-two months (Rev.13:5), the time period we’re in now before Christ returns, it seems like the beast is not just the future Antichrist with a capital A, but the spirit of antichrist through this time period.
IV. Conclusion
A. The chapter before this told us about the triumph of Christ: There was war in heaven, Satan the dragon was defeated and thrown down to the earth, along with his cohorts. And a loud voice in heaven said, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” – Revelation 12:7-11
1. And we were really getting into the triumph when suddenly we were hearing about this devil coming down to the earth in great wrath, and furiously making war against the children of God.
2. And then in ch.13 it gets even worse. Not only is he attacking God’s people, but he’s allowed to conquer them. Right after Christ’s authority over the whole world is declared, the beast is given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation. How can we make sense of this?
3. It almost seems like two conflicted scenarios are painted here, doesn’t it?
4. Here’s the point: Christ has triumphed, but His triumph has been hidden from the world. And Satan has been defeated, but His defeat is being hidden from the world. So, from an earthly perspective, it looks like the forces of evil are the big winners ans Christ & His people are losers.
5. But the reality is the opposite. Though God’s people look last, they shall be first. Though they look like losers, they are actually the winners. Though they look like the lowest of victims, they are more than conquerors. And, my friends, this is what the book of Revelation is all about!!
B. On the one hand, you have a mortal enemy who hates you. He hates your marriage, he hates your family, he hates your church. There is nothing he wants more than your demise.
1. Satan and his sidekicks will boast over you, they’ll threaten you, they’ll scream right in your face, they’ll get you fired from your job, they may even hold a gun to your head.
2. They’ll mock you for your insignificance, your weaknesses, your failures, your lack of success. “You’re a loser!” they’ll say. They’re just trying to get you to let go of Jesus.
3. They know that if you hold onto Jesus, you will conquer, you’ll be one of the overcomers who will be richly blessed by God. The fact is, the only way you can lose is to forfeit. As long as you keep fighting and trying, you will inevitably succeed. As with Job, Satan is just trying to get us to give up on Jesus, to walk away and say, “This doesn’t work!,” to curse God to His face -Job 1:11.
4. So, you can’t relax. You have to be alert, like an on-duty Secret Service agent. Our enemy can fire his flaming darts at any time. And it seems like it’s only going to get worse as the day approaches.
5. Suppose things do get much worse during our lifetimes. Instead of just hoping it doesn’t happen, don’t you think we should be preparing ourselves? Isn’t that the wise thing to do?
C. And what can we do to be ready for much worse persecution? Five brief things:
1. One thing we need is a community of people who would be willing to pray for one another and even risk their lives for one another.
a. Peter had a praying community to go back to after he was sprung from prison (Acts 12:6-12).
b. Paul didn’t lower himself over the city wall to escape (Acts 9:23-25).
2. Another thing we need is stronger faith. The struggles we are facing right now may be preparation for bigger things to come. As Jesus said, let’s learn to be faithful in the little things so that we will be faithful in the big things of the future (Luke 16:10).
3. This also means helping one another to grow in faith. When severe hardship comes, it’s not just us who needs to stand strong. It’s the body of Christ around us. So, right now we should be involved in strengthening one another, in being discipled and discipling others. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” – 1Thes.5:11
4. We should also be seeking to understand the Bible and what it teaches. One of the ways our faith is being attacked is by deception. And if we don’t know what God has told us, how will we be able to discern what is true and what is a deception?
5. When you raise children, you have no idea what their lives are going to be like. And it would be foolish to raise our children with the presumption that their lives are going to be easy. They need to be prepared for hardships, suffering, persecution. This shouldn’t come as a shock to them.
D. You can’t relax, Beloved, but you can rest – if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, because through it all, Christ is on His throne and He’s put His seal of protection upon you. And the day is coming when Christ will come out of hiding. And He will appear in glory, and He will throw all the powers of evil into the lake of fire once and for all. And it will all be over. Hallelujah!!
1. But for now, we must not live by what appears to be true, but by what God tells us in His word. We must hold onto the testimony of Jesus, though it gets us persecuted, even if it gets us killed.