LESSON XXXI (Revelation 13: 1-3a) The Beast
1. Vs. 1.
a) “And I stood upon the sand of the sea.” The R.V. is more correct: he stood upon the sand of the sea.
1) The reference is to the dragon.
2) He went to arise, in order that he may give his power to make war with the remnant of the seed of the woman. 12:17.
3) Now he stands on the seashore from the which the beast will to it.
b) “And I saw a beast rise up out of the sea.”
1) The sea in Scripture is symbol of the world of nations in their historical development, as they are swept by wars and revolutions. Dan. 7:2, 3, 17: Rev. 17:15.
2) The beast is a wild beast, and besides, a monster, indicative of its true character. It symbolizes the secular power of the world, a kingdom or empire together with its head. Dan. 7:17, 23; 8:20, 21; Rev. 17:10.
c) “Having seven heads and ten horns”;
1) In the R.V. the order is given as “ten horns and seven heads.” This is correct. Rising up out of the sea the horns of the beast would appear first. This may also account for the fact that here the crowns are described as being on the horns, while in the description of the dragon (12:3) they appear on the heads. We must conceive of seven of the crowned horns as being on the seven heads (so that the heads are also crowned though actually the crowns are on the horns); while three of the horns are between the heads. Both, heads and horns, are crowned.
2) The heads represent seven world-powers appearing consecutively in history (see 17:10); and that, too, in such a way that five of the heads represent so many world-kingdoms of the past, one represents the world power that existed at the time of John (Roman empire), and one is still to come as the final manifestation of the antichristian power. Hence, figuring backward from the sixth head (Rome, the fourth beast of Dan. 7), we have:
a) The Greek-Macedonian empire (the leopard of Dan. 7:6; the rough goat of Dan. 8:5, 23;
b) The Medio-Persian empire (the bear of Dan. 7:5; the ram of Dan. 8:3, 4, 20);
c) The Babylonian empire (the lion of Dan. 7:4,
d) Before Daniel’s time there was the Assyrian empire with Nineveh as its capital; and
e) Babel, the original world power that ended in the confusion of tongues and the separation of the nations. The 7th head is Rom. The 7th is world-empire of the future, which is also the eighth, ch. 17:11, that is, it will be the consummation and combination of all the world-powers of the past.
3) The ten horns represent ten kings or kingdoms that shall exist simultaneously at the time of the final manifestation of the antichristian beast, and they shall give their power to the beast (confederate with him) for a short time, ch. 17:12. The horn is a symbol of royal power. Ps. 89:17.
d) “And upon its head names of blasphemy.”
1) Blasphemy is properly the reviling of that which is sacred, especially God.
2) These names express, therefore, the anti-godly character of the whole beast, i.e. of all the great world-powers.
2. Vs. 2.
a)“And the beast which I saw,” etc. We may notice here:
1) That in general the description of the beast here reminds of the beasts in Dan. 7.
2) That here the various beasts of Daniel 7 appear not separately, but combined into one monstrous beast, denoting that the final world empire will be a combination of all the world powers that went before.
3) That the threefold description of the beast (leopard, bear, lion) describes the world power in its swiftness, strength, and rapacity.
b) “And the dragon gave him his power,” etc.
1) The dragon, we remember, is the devil.
2) That he gave to the beast his power signifies, in general, that he uses the political world power (which, of course, as such has its power, throne, and authority from God) as his antichristian instrument and representative.
3) Particularly it means that the devil so influences the world power that
a) Its power becomes an evil power
b) Its throne an antichristian throne
c) Its authority an antichristian rule, used in the service of the “god of this world.”
3. Vs. 3
A) “And I saw one of its heads as it were wounded to death; and the deadly wound was healed.” The meaning is, of course, that
1) Once in the past the world-power had been fatally wounded.
2) But that now, at the time of the final realization of the antichristian empire the fatal wound was healed.
B) Many interpretations have been offered of this significant detail: the Roman world-power fatally wounded in the death of Christ, the wound inflicted on the Roman empire by the invasion of the barbarous hordes from the North, the death of Nero, etc.
C) We prefer to think here of the confusion of tongues at the building of the tower of Babel,
1) That was the first attempt to establish a universal world-power.
2) The confusion of tongues was much more than that: it was the severing of the one race into several nations that would henceforth war against one another. As long as they do this there can be no universal power.
3) This will be healed in the future. The nations will unite.
LESSON XXXII (Revelation 13:3b-10) The Beast (Cont.)
1. Vs.. 3b, 4
a) And all the world wondered after the beast.”
1) All the inhabitants of the earth. That the wicked are denoted by this expression indicates that they predominate. The righteous are few.
2) They “wondered after” the beast, i.e. they were amazed at his great power, and they followed him, rallied to his banner because of his power.
b) “And they worshipped the dragon,” etc.
1) To worship is to ascribe divine power to anyone and to bring him divine homage.
2) They worship, first, the dragon, because he gave power to the beast. The meaning probably is, not that they consciously serve the devil, but that by following after the beast they do the will of the devil and acknowledge him as the prince of this world.
3) Directly, however, they worship the beast, and that, too, because they put their full confidence in his power: “Who is able to make war with him?” The beast being supreme, war is now impossible. The long looked for peace has come!
2. Vss. 5-7a
a) “And there was given unto him a mouth,”, etc.
1) The meaning is: by God is given unto him this mouth, i.e., not in His grace, but in His providence. Even the power of the beast is God’s and is strictly limited by Him.
2) This enables him to speak great things. See. Dan. 7:8, 20, 25. The expression “great things” refers to his boastful pride, but also means that he makes great promises to the world in his own strength.
3) And blasphemies: he reviles things sacred. See on vs. 1.
b) “And he opened his mouth.” etc.
1) The main target for his wicked darts of blasphemy is God.
2) Hence, he blasphemies: “His name,” i.e., all that is connected with God’s self-revelation in Christ: “His tabernacle,” i.e., God’s covenant, His house and service and fellowship; “and them that dwell in heaven,” i.e., those that dwell in God’s tabernacle in heavenly glory: the hope of future glory. These he derides and mocks and tries to extinguish.
c) “And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” Even his time limit is determined by God. God gives him his power to carry on his wicked work. For the “forty two months” see on ch. 11:2, 3: 12:6, 14.
d) “And it was given unto him to make war,” etc.
1) Notice the repeated expression: “it was given unto him.”
2) He makes war with the saints, i.e. persecutes them. There being no other political power opposing him he can direct all his attention to the “seed of the woman.” This was the devil’s purpose.
3) “And to overcome them.” Not, of course, as if he can overcome and subdue them spiritually. But he kills them, puts them in prison, and, for a time, silences their testimony. See on 11:7-10.
3. Vss. 7b, 8.
a) “And power was given him over all kindred, and tongues and nations.” The R.V. has the fourfold division: “every tribe, and people, and tongue and nation.” The meaning is that the rule of antichrist is universal. And again, notice that this power is given him of God.
b) “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him.” Notice that the form here merges into that of direct prediction: “Shall worship” The antichristian beast enjoys universal adoration and worship.
However this does not apply to every individual on the earth; it includes only those “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (The R.V. connects the last phrase with “written” and reads: “whose names are not written from the foundation,” etc. This, however, is a commentary rather than a better translation).
b) Concerning this book of life we may note:
1) That it is the book of election.
2) That it is called the book of life because the names of those that are ordained to eternal life are written in it.
3) That it is the Lamb’s book, because those written therein are given to Him.
4) That it is mentioned here for the comfort of the elect and the assurance of their final victory while it spells sure defeat for the wicked worshippers of the anti-christian beast.
d) The Lamb is slain (as the slain Lamb He purchased those whose names are written in the book) from the foundation of the world: from the very beginning the world killed Christ.
4. Vss. 9, 10
A) “If any man hath an ear, let him hear.” This familiar exhortations, of course, addressed particularly to the spiritual people of God. They only have ears to hear. By it special attention is called to the following warning.
B) “He that leadeth into captivity,” etc.
1) The expression means that just retribution shall be inflicted upon the anti-christian power and those that follow the beast.
2) To this the suffering saints that are led into prison and death, may and do look forward..
3) Hence: “here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” The hope of their final deliverance and justification is the object of their faith, and the explanation of their patience.
LESSON XXXIII (Revelation 13:11-14) The Beast Out Of The Earth
Vs. 11. “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth.”
1. A second beast appears in the vision. This also is called “a beast,” though its appearance is not at all like that of a wild animal. The reason is that its nature is quite like that of the first beast.
2. This second beast arises out of the earth, i.e. it has its origin in the sea of nations, war-swept, restless. That the second beast arises out of the earth denotes:
a) That it is earthly, from below, carnal: not from above. James 3:15.
b) That it has its origin not in the power of the sword, but in them that dwell on the earth, not in war and strife, but rather in the more quiet development of earthly, human life and ingenuity. It is not political, but a spiritual character. This suggests at once that this second beast is a product of human ingenuity and talents fulfilling its original mandate to have dominion over the earth: culture, science and invention, human wisdom divorced from the wisdom that is from above.
3. The description of the beast: “and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”
a) The number of the horns has no special significance except to indicate that it looks like a normal beast, and that, too, like a lamb. There is no direct comparison to the Lamb, for He has seven horns. That his horns are like those of a lamb rather indicates that this beast is not fierce and warlike, but meek and peace-loving. However, his appearance reminds of the Lamb. We are minded here that false prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Matt. 7:15.
b) The speech of this beast belies its appearance: it speaks like a dragon, i.e. , with the purpose to tempt and deceive. The speech suggests that also this beast stands in the service of the devil, innocent though it looks.
c) Notice, too, that it speaks. It does not exercise its power by force of arms, but by the power of its word. It represents the false prophet, i.e. not any particular person, but the entire power of false science, culture, religion.
Vs. 12. “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him.”
1. The original word for “power” means “authority.” This seems to suggest that this second beast is clothed with the official authority of the first beast. The political power of the anti-christ takes antichristian culture and religion in its service. Hence: “before him,” i.e., before the first beast this second beast does all its work. It stands in the service of the antichristian empire.
2. “And causeth the earth and them which dwell therein,” etc.
a) This is the very specific service it performs for the beast. It makes people all over the earth worship the beast.
b) Let us note here:
1) That this is accomplished by the persuasive speech of the second beast. It molds public opinion.
2) That they that worship the beast are described as “the earth and them that dwell therein,” i.e.. all men and that in their capacity of dwellers in the earth: they devote their all to the beast.
3) That it is emphasized here that the special reason for this worship and admirations that the deadly wound of the first beast is healed. See on vs. 3.
Vs. 13. “And he doeth great wonders, so that,” etc.
1. The word for “wonders” in the original is “signs.” To be able to do signs belongs to the office of a true prophet. Signs corroborate his word. Hence, also the false prophet will produce his signs. See Matt. 24:24; Mk. 13:22. These wonders are not mere tricks, but very real, even though they are all limited to the sphere of earthly things.
2. He even brings fire from heaven. This is mentioned merely as one of the great things he will be able to do, representing other wonders. Reminds of Elijah.
3. And he performed all this “in the sight of men.” It is his special purpose that men be witnesses of his power, in order that they may believe his word. Hence, he performed them publicly.
Vs. 14. “And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles,” etc.
1. This again in harmony with Matt. 24:11, 24. Many will be deceived. The great deception is always that it is good and leads to happiness to depart from the living God and His Word.
2. The wonders serve this purpose. By it the second beast seems to prove that he is able to inaugurate an era of unheard of prosperity and happiness. The R.V. has “which it was given him to do.” This is correct.
3. His deception consists concretely in that he persuades men to make an image of the beast.
A) Notice here again that the worship of the beast is brought into connection with the fact that the deadly wound was healed.
B) The image of the beast is meant as an idol, representing the antichristian world-power. This may very well find literal fulfillment in the future.
LESSON XXXIV(Revelation 13:15-18) The Name Of The Beast
1. Vs. 15.
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast.” The R.V. is more correct: “And it was given unto him to give breath unto it, even unto the image of the beast.
a) The false prophet is given power (see on vss. 5,7) to give life or breath, literally “a spirit” to the image of the beast.
b) According to some (who interpret the entire chapter as referring to the Roman empire) some images of the deified Roman emperors were reported to have spoken, and John is supposed to have believed this superstition. Needless to say, that we must regard such interpretations in conflict with the idea of infallible inspiration.
c) Exactly in what manner this is to be realized we do not know; however in our day of radio and Dictaphones, etc., it should not be difficult to visualize a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the future. “And that the image of the beast should both speak and cause that as many would not worship,” etc.
1) The “spirit” is given to the image in order that it may speak: anything recorded can be reproduced.
2) And the specific purpose of this speech is to detect and expose the faithful saints that refuse to worship the beast and his image, that they may be killed.
2. Vss. 16, 17. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark,” etc. Notice here:
A) That all classes of men without exception receive a mark, by which they are distinguished as belonging to the beast and being loyal to his cause.
B) That they wear this mark “on their right hand, or in their foreheads” has, evidently, no other significance than that it must be plainly seen and, therefore, be worn in a conspicuous place.
C) The mark is given them (thus in the original), and this implies:
1) That under the powerful influence of the false prophet (the second beast) it is decreed as a state law, that all worshippers of the beast shall receive and wear such a mark.
2) That, nevertheless the mark is voluntarily received. It is not forced upon them, for the saints do not receive the mark. Only on swearing allegiance to the beast and worshipping him can the mark be received.
d) From vs. 17 (“save he that had the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name.” R.V.) it is plain that the mark consists of the name of the beast or the number of his name. Let us note here:
1) That by the name of the beast is not meant the proper name of some individual, such as Nero, Domitian, etc. The name in Scripture is the expression of the nature of anyone or anything, or the symbol of belonging to someone. See. Rev. 2:1, 3:1, 5, 12. Here the name denotes the antichristian character of the beast.
2) That by the number of his name is not meant the numerical value of the letters of his name either in Greek or Hebrew.
a) This would limit the interpretation of this entire chapter to its application to the Roman empire. The name in that case is supposed to be the name of the Roman empire, or of one of its emperors, and the number of the name the sum of the numerical value of its letter.
B) Even then the question arises: a name in what language? Hebrew, Greek, Latin? And what name? It is better and more in harmony with the symbolism of the numbers in the book of revelation, to interpret the “number of his name” as the symbolic expression of the meaning of the name in a number (see below on vs. 18). The general meaning is, therefore, that the mark is some sign that expresses the antichristian character of the beast; perhaps, literally the number 666.
E) Again, the purpose of this mark is to distinguish the worshippers of the beast from those that refuse to worship him, and to persecute the latter: “And that no man might buy or sell save he that had the mark of the beast.” What this means may easily be surmised. It would make social outcasts of believers, so that literally they have no place left in the world.
3. Vs. 18. “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast,” etc. Let us note here:
1. That it requires wisdom and understanding to count the number of the beast,” etc. In Scripture “wisdom and understanding” are not the same as human ingenuity, but they are spiritual, from above, and enable one to know the spiritual things of the kingdom of God.
2. This should warn us against those interpretations that make of this number a riddle or puzzle, e.g. L (30 A (1) T (300) E (5) I (10) N (50) O (70) S (200): 666 is LATEINOS, the Roman empire. And there are very many explanations that proceed on the same principle.
3. That it is the number of a man, i.e., not of any particular individual, but of a human being, characteristically limited as a human being, mere Man.
4. In the light of this: 6 is 7-1, the mere earthly, the week without the Sabbath, labor without rest. The repetition: 600, 60, 6 represents the repeated efforts of man to establish his own kingdom of blessedness and peace, and his repeated and ultimate failure.