An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 5 June 2011; Revised 25 November 2016
Scripture: The Scripture text of Revelation used below is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle–Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid–2nd century BC. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers may be found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
The Beast from the Sea (13:1–4)
1― And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and on his heads blasphemous names.
And I saw a beast: Grk. therion refers to a wild animal. The use of the word "beast" implies that the Antichrist and his reign have no regard for a relationship with the Creator or the nobler virtues that were meant to characterize those created a little lower than angels. John insists on his personal experience. While the narrative will go on to attribute symbolic meaning to the beast, John didn't see a symbol. John saw a frightening wild animal. coming up out of the sea: Grk. thalassa. See the note on 4:6 on "sea." For John this likely would have been the Mediterranean Sea. Having been frustrated in his attempts to destroy the woman in the wilderness the dragon now stands on the seashore and summons the beast from the depths of the abyss in order to continue the war against the followers of Yeshua, the rest of the woman’s offspring. There is historical irony in this scene since Israel’s first persecutor was destroyed in a sea and Israel’s last persecutor will arise from a sea.
Morris suggests that the beast's ascent from the sea may mean that the shaft to the abyss from which the beast ascends is somewhere in the ocean. Other interpreters have linked "sea" with the explanation of "waters" in 17:15 to suggest that the beast’s government arises from the Gentile nations of the world (Sevener 68). This interpretation could be considered as merely stating the obvious, since there is no evidence that the beast’s government is Jewish. However, neither the Lord nor John offers any corroboration of these speculations.
having ten: Grk. deka, the numeral ten. horns: pl. of Grk. keras, horn or horn–like projection. In Hebrew the horn is a symbol of power (MDNT). and seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven. In Jewish usage seven was used for a round number (e.g., Matt 12:45; Luke 11:26) (MDNT). heads: pl. of Grk. kephalē, head as a term of anatomy and also fig. used of a position to which others are subordinate. When the beast was introduced in 11:7 there was no further description, but here the beast has seven heads and ten horns, comparable to the dragon in 12:3. The image of a seven–headed monster also appears in ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian texts. A cylinder seal coming from Tel Asmar (ancient Eshnunna some fifty miles northeast of modern Baghdad), dating back to about 2500 B.C., shows two divine figures killing a seven–headed monster with flames arising from its back (Johnson).
The ancient enemy "Leviathan" may also have had multiple heads (cf. Ps 74:14). Also, several reptiles of antiquity (so–called "prehistoric") had multiple horns. John’s vision is very similar to the fourth beast seen by Daniel (Dan 7:7f). The horns represented "kings" and in the vision of the fourth beast a "little horn" grew up among the ten kings (Dan 7:8). Zechariah, too, had a vision of horns (without reference to an animal) that "scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem" (Zech 1:19), no doubt parallel to the vision of Daniel (cf. Dan 8:8f). "Horns" are often used in Scripture to symbolize power and pride of political and military strength (Ps 74:4f, 10; 92:10; Jer 48:25; Amos 6:13) and sometimes explained as representing the ruling powers of the world (Dan 8:12, 20ff) (Baron 45).
and on his horns ten diadems: Grk. diadēma, a royal symbol, crown. The seven heads (cf. Ps 74:12–14) of the great beast emulate the seven heads of the dragon of Chapter Twelve. Both dragon and beast wear crowns, but the dragon’s crowns are on his heads whereas the beast’s crowns are on his horns. This word for "crown" is not the same crown worn by the God's people. The dragon and beast wear crowns of royalty. It may be that the image refers to actual royal families who may regain power lost in previous revolutions.
Interpretation of the beast has taken a variety of forms over the centuries. The early church fathers generally treated the term as referring to a world deceiver who will reign just before the Second Coming of Yeshua. Some church fathers, like John in his epistles (1Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2Jn 7), treat the docetic heresy, the denial that Yeshua really came in the flesh, as the very spirit of Antichrist (cf. Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, 7:1; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5:16). Beginning with the Reformers, historicist commentators have interpreted the beast as the Roman Catholic papacy. Preterist commentators have found a parallel to the "Nero redivivus myth," i.e. a belief in the first century that the Roman Emperor Nero would return from the dead. Other commentators believe the beast to be a visual embodiment of the flesh and the world that is opposed to the reign of God.
The difficulty of interpretation results because the narrative in referring to the "beast" moves back and forth between speaking of an individual, using singular masculine pronouns (presumptively the Antichrist), and a governmental regime of seven heads and ten horns (seventeen kings). Since the heads and horns represent political leaders with their implied supporting bureaucracies, the heads may stand for even greater power. The heads of the beast simply represent the governing structure, power and authority of the Antichrist. The number seven in Revelation is typically thought to represent perfection or completeness, so the beast will be given all that is needed to carry out his diabolical mission. However the beast may be manifested in reality, the principal message of Revelation is that he and they function as a single personality and as an enemy of God and His people.
The beast may be taken symbolically because in 17:9–12 the heads and horns are explained as being kings, and likewise the ten horns of the beast in Daniel represented kings (Dan 7:24). Sevener suggests that the vision of "ten horns" given to Daniel and John are parallel to the "ten toes" of the great statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Dan 2:41f). While the two legs and feet apparently represented the Roman empire, the confederation symbolized by the ten toes has yet to be fulfilled (Sevener 24). Against this view the Talmud and early church fathers were in agreement that the mention of the toes of the statue only reinforced the meaning of the ancient Roman empire (Miller 96).
Some interpreters associate the seven heads and ten horns of the beast with the western industrialized nations and the European Union, although in a literalistic sense the numbers don’t add up. The lack of even a hint of a specific nation associated with the seven heads and ten horns implies that the beast’s organization would represent the entire world, not just Europe. And, the real power to orchestrate international developments to prepare the way for the Antichrist resides not in any European capitol, but in that unseen realm where principalities and powers, under the leadership of Satan, plot their final campaign.
It is important that followers of Yeshua not fret over any assumed connection between current political structures and the description of the beast in Revelation. Conspiracy theories regarding international agencies and international treaty alliances are really pointless since these entities are part of the present world system that will welcome the beast and then submit their power to him. Scripture predicts much deception and political intrigue prior to Yeshua’ coming, but such are the "beginning of birth pangs" (Matt 24:8). Yeshua will totally set aside the world system of powers and establish His rule when He is ready.
and on his heads blasphemous names: The blasphemous names on the beast are perhaps claims to divinity much like ancient Roman emperors who were bestowed divine titles by the Roman Senate, sometimes at the insistence of the Caesars. On his coins Nero called himself "The Savior of the World" (Earle). Domitian, in particular, demanded that he be recognized as Dominus et Deus – Lord and God (Ladd). Daniel prophesied that the beast–ruler would exalt himself above every god and proclaim himself to be God (Dan 7:20; 11:36f). Thus the blasphemous and blaspheming beast challenges the dominion and majesty of God by refusing to comply with the first commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20:3) (Johnson).
2― And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were 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.
And the beast which I saw was like a leopard: Grk. pardalis is an old word for a panther or leopard, used only here in the apostolic writings. The leopard (leo pard) was considered a cross between a lioness and a panther (Robertson). John informs the reader that the beast he saw had characteristics of three familiar land predators common to the land of Israel in ancient times. All three animals were a constant threat to the safety of flocks and people (cf. Jer 5:6), illustrated by David’s own experience (1Sam 17:34ff). Robertson suggests that the comparisons represented the vigilance of the leopard, the slow and crushing power of the bear, and the terrifying roar of the lion, but John offers no symbolic interpretation of the vision.
Daniel uses the same descriptions (in reverse order) of three of the four beasts he saw (Dan 7:4–6), the first like a lion with two wings of an eagle, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard with four wings and the fourth with ten horns but without similarity to any living animal Daniel knew (Dan 7:4–7). In Daniel’s vision each of the first three beasts represented different kingdoms – Babylon, Persia and Greece – that were crushed by the fourth beast, Rome. Here the beast incorporates the characteristics of these animals, which may mean that the fourth beast not only crushed these kingdoms, but absorbed their assets and power. Also, the beast is no better than the kingdoms he conquers, and demonstrates the same voracious appetite.
the dragon gave him his power: The beast is not powerful in his/its own right. Satan is the source of the power and authority enjoyed by the beast. Indeed, the whole world lies in the power of the devil (1Jn 5:19). There is irony in the dragon giving the beast power. Satan had tempted Yeshua with offering Him the kingdoms of this world (Matt 4:8), but Yeshua reminded Satan that worship of and service to the creator God take precedence over everything. Yeshua refused to take a shortcut to receiving the kingdoms of earth as presents from Satan when they are, after all, His by right of inheritance. In the Antichrist and his cohorts, however, Satan will find someone who will accept his offer, but unfortunately the choice will lead to hell.
3― And one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed after the beast;
And one of his heads as if: Grk. hos, a relative adverb that simply means "as" and is used primarily to denote a comparison or highlight a characteristic quality of a person, thing or action. it had been slain: Grk. sphazō, perf. pass. part., means to slaughter, to slaughter a sacrifice, butcher or murder. Danker gives the simple definition of to put to death in a violent manner. the verb occurs only 10 times in the Besekh, 9 of which are in Revelation. The verb is used in the LXX of killing an animal for a non–religious purpose (Gen 37:31), killing an animal or human for a religious purpose (Gen 22:10; Ex 4:24; 8:15; Ezek 16:21), killing in war (Judg 12:6), execution of a human (1Sam 15:33; 1Kgs 18:40), and assassination (Jer 41:7). The perfect tense of the verb here would indicate its lasting results.
The vision reports that "one of the heads," meaning one of the seven leaders of the beast confederation, is attacked. Preterist interpreters believe the healing of the wounded leader to be a reference to the Nero redivivus myth, a legend that persisted to the end of the first century of Nero’s supposed resurrection and return (Gregg). Whether first century believers would have made a connection between the legend and this prophecy cannot be proven, but it is a certainty that Nero never reappeared, making the theory of little value today other than as a historical parallel to the future Antichrist. A futurist interpretation is that the wounding of the leader refers to the Antichrist mimicking the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
and his fatal wound was healed: Grk. therapeuō, aor. pass., to offer helpful service or to heal in a physical sense. Here the latter meaning is intended. The leader is killed (assassinated, or apparently so), but then his wound is healed, probably by occultic methods. This could explain how the "prince" of Daniel 9:26 becomes the Antichrist. The "prince" is assassinated and in the restoration to life the "prince" is possessed by the beast–spirit from the abyss.
Readers of virtually all Bible versions may find the phrase "as if it had been slain" (or words to that effect) to be misleading because the wording seems to imply that one of the heads only looked as though it had been killed but really was not (Ladd). The Greek words are exactly the same as those used in 5:6 that mention the Lamb "as" slain, so John is describing a factual event. He further reports in verse 14 that the death blow came from a sword. The death and resurrection of the beast deceive the people and solidify their adoration so that the beast quickly gains their loyalty.
A different approach based on the use of the word "sword" in Revelation is that the wounded head is actually someone other than the Antichrist. Elsewhere in Revelation the "sword" is primarily a symbol of God’s wrath (1:16; 2:12, 16; 6:4, 8; 19:15, 21), although it is used as a weapon against the disciples (13:10). Thus, the incident here may be some event in which God had struck a deathblow or some serious setback to the authority of the beast’s oligarchy (and the dragon, cf. Isa 27:1), yet which the beast had restored (Johnson). This approach would be supported by the reaction of the masses reported in the next verse. The beast, at least for a short time, will appear to rival the power of God.
And the whole earth was amazed: Grk. thaumazō, aor. pass., be extraordinarily impressed, to wonder or be surprised. after: Grk. opisō, prep., a state or situation that is subsequent. the beast: Political assassinations always garner widespread media coverage, so the people of the whole world will be glued to their TV sets following the story with rapt interest and curiosity. After all, the beast is one on whom the world has based all its hopes for peace and security (1Th 5:3).
4― and they 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?"
and they worshiped: Grk. proskuneō, aor., to recognize another's prestige by offering special honor (Danker). In the apostolic writings the term ordinarily focuses on a religious context of worship directed toward deity. See 3:9 and 4:10 on "worship." the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast: All unbelievers worship the dragon though unaware of the fact. Worship of the dragon certainly includes the obvious forms of occultism (such as spiritism, astrology, witchcraft, eastern mysticism and even Satan worship), the idolatry of man–made religions and self–worship (humanism). The term "worship" is appropriate since the dragon, or Satan, is the god of this world (2Cor 4:4; 1Jn 5:19). The essence of worshipping the dragon is serving his purposes in the world. Satan’s character was aptly described by Yeshua as a thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Any attempt by people to destroy the foundations that God established for the good of mankind (e.g., marriage, righteous standards, justice, worship of God), constitutes worship and emulates the character of the dragon.
and they worshiped the beast: In Daniel’s vision the beast with ten horns also represented a kingdom that would subjugate the entire world (Dan 7:23). The "little horn" symbolized the one who would gain power over the other "horns" and rule the beastly kingdom (Dan 7:24). The dragon, who has the world in his power, gives his full support to this one "horn" over the others to rule the world. The amazement and admiration of the people lead them to put the beast on a pedestal without equal. In this context the term "beast" must of necessity refer to the individual, because religious acts of worship must focus on a single object. Of course, this is not the first time that people have worshipped their ruler, and, as in other times, this act of sacrilege will result in their destruction.
Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him? The idolatrous worship of the people includes a litany that poses two rhetorical questions. Taken together the two questions may represent Hebrew parallelism with the second question merely amplifying the first question. Taken separately the first question may be intended to mimic a verse from the Song of Moses, "Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?" (Ex 15:11) The question may also be a parody of the name of Israel’s guardian angel Michael (Hebrew, "who is like God") who defeated the dragon (Stern). The implied comparison with God might refer to the beast’s global prestige, prominence and political prowess.
The second rhetorical question also has a Scriptural parallel: "O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? …You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm" (Ps 89:8, 10). The people’s question indicates a deception that the beast is invincible (cf. 2Th 2:10), and perhaps implies that the Antichrist has conquered any potential threat to his reign. In ancient times this is the sort of boast that could have been said of Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar. In other words, there has to be a considerable military organization to back up the authority of the beast, because the question infers a military power with global reach. Moreover, it appears from the question that in the minds of the people the ability to wage war provides the justification to do so. Both questions reflect their earth–bound philosophy and values of the people and focuses only on the contemporary situation. The deluded people do not acknowledge the superiority of God who, in the end, will destroy the Antichrist and all who follow him.
Tyranny of the Beast (13:5–7)
5― And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty–two months was given to him.
a mouth speaking arrogant words: Grk. megas, exceeding a standard and therefore impressive, ordinarily rendered as "great," but sometimes as a superlative "exceptional" or "outstanding" (Danker). Marshall renders the plural adjective as "great things." In Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast the "little horn" was full of boastful words (Dan 7:8, 11, 20). The reference to giving "a mouth" is reminiscent of God’s words to Moses, "Who has made man’s mouth? … Is it not I, the Lord?" (Ex 4:12) While the Creator God provides mouths to good and evil alike, the expression of "given a mouth" in this context means that the beast will be permitted to exercise an audacious boldness to speak publicly against God. One can imagine the pompous strutting of the Antichrist bragging of power and glory, making grandiose political promises, as well as ridiculing God and anyone who believes in God. Satan who will tell the beast exactly what to say since Satan is the source of the beast’s authority.
authority to act for forty–two months: A finite period of time is allocated to the beast to impose his idolatrous reign on the earth. While his dominion may come from the dragon, the ultimate authority is God who cuts the tribulation short "for the sake of the holy ones" (Matt 24:22). After all, the dragon would certainly not limit his activities of his own volition, but he must comply with the wishes of the sovereign God. The time period "42 months" is the fourth mention in Revelation of a 3½–year period. See 11:2–3 on this subject. Preterist interpreters assign the 42 months to the period of the Roman Empire and historicists with their "day–for–year" symbolic approach interpret the beast’s reign of 1,260 days to the period of papal supremacy (Gregg). However, the language of the next two verses does not support any association with the reign of Caesars or the Roman Church, but points to the future reign of the Antichrist at the end of the present age (Earle). Note that the beast does not rule for seven years as dispensationalist interpreters suggest, but 3½ years, which equals the "time, times and half a time" period of rule of the beast in Daniel 7:25.
A proto–type of the beast occurred in the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who reigned over Israel 168–164 BC. Antiochus forbade all Jewish religious practices, such as circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices, and feast days, on pain of death (1 Maccabees 1:50, 63). He also had a statue devoted to Olympian Zeus erected in the temple and swine were sacrificed on the altar in place of the Jewish sacrifice, an abomination which desecrated the Temple (Dan 11:31). Later the Maccabees defeated the forces of Antiochus, then recaptured and rededicated the temple, an event memorialized by the festival of Chanukah (Stern). So, too, the beast at the end of the age will change "times and laws" (Dan 7:25) in his opposition to God’s people.
6― And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
blasphemies against God: The Greek phrase pros ton theon, "against God," means "face to face with God" in sheer defiance, like Milton’s picture of Satan in Paradise Lost (Robertson). to blaspheme: Grk. blasphēmeō, aor. act. inf., means to injure the reputation of, revile, defame in relation to men or to blaspheme in relation to God. The verb "to blaspheme" occurs four times in Revelation (also 16:9, 11, 21). The beast has the audacity to slander God in ways that no previous despot has ever done. The activity of the Antichrist is the same as the "little horn" in Daniel’s vision, who is said to "speak out against the Most High" (Dan 7:25). The blasphemy naturally flows from the fact that the beast "exalts himself above every so–called god or object of worship" (2Th 2:4). The colloquial expression "opened his mouth" may refer to actual public speeches or various other forms of publication.
His name: The blasphemies have three targets, the first being God’s name. The beast is no passive atheist. The beast’s unlimited arrogance elevates his ego to unimaginable heights and thus he attempts to sully the holy name of God. To blaspheme God’s name is to contradict the essence of His name and is the opposite of the invocation of the disciples’ prayer "hallowed be your name" (Matt 6:9). It could be that God’s personal name YHVH (Isa 42:8) is in view here, and considering its meaning the beast would be alleging that the God of the Jews and Christians is not "I AM," but "I WAS," since the beast displays "himself as being God" (2Th 2:4).
and His tabernacle: Grk. skēnē means tent, booth, lodging, dwelling. In the LXX skēnē renders the Hebrew words ‘ohel (a pointed tent), sometimes mishkan (dwelling) and on occasion sukkah (a matted booth, shed or hut). Sukkah was also the booth used in the Feast of Booths, but interestingly, the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting is never called sukkah but ‘ohel or ‘ohel moed (DNTT 3:811). The beast also defames God’s tabernacle. "Tabernacle" is God’s word for where He dwells and thus the tabernacle that Moses had prepared served as a replica of God’s dwelling–place. In 21:3 the promise that "the tabernacle of God is among men" follows the offering of the New Jerusalem as the dwelling place of the people of God. A parallel allusion occurs in 7:15 where God promises to spread His tabernacle over the His people. Thus, "tabernacle" stands for both the dwelling and those who reside in it.
that is, those who dwell in heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling–place of God (Danker). See the note on 3:12. The beast finally rails against those who were elevated to the dwelling place of God. The phrase "those who dwell in heaven" would be lit. "the ones tabernacling in heaven" (Marshall). Throughout the prophetic portion of Revelation those who dwell in heaven and serve God are contrasted with those who dwell on the earth and serve the beast, as identified in verse 8 below. The contrast has not so much to do with actual location as the mindset of the two groups. Followers of Yeshua know their citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20) and not only live under heaven’s authority, but pray that the same "will" done in heaven will be done on earth (Matt 6:10). The beast will feel threatened by such loyalty to God and may foment a propaganda campaign to turn public sentiment against those who follow God and provide a plausible justification for their removal from society. Similarly, the beast may accuse the followers of Yeshua of trying to establish a Christian state and control everyone’s morality and blame Jews for the bad economic conditions that afflict the earth in its final days. The beast may even continue to vilify the followers of Yeshua after his "protection" order, as depicted in the next verse, because of their unwillingness to bow to his "divinity."
7― And it was also given to him to make war with the holy ones, and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
And it was also given to him to make war: Verse 4 reflects an attitude of invincibility and thus the beast does not hesitate to declare war against his adversaries. Neither the dragon nor the beast possesses the power to fight against God’s people without permission being "given" from the sovereign God (cf. Job 1:9–10). A war is a coordinated and systematic campaign to disarm and to destroy the enemy. with the holy ones: Grk. hagioi, pl. of hagios, holy ones. In the apostolic writings hagioi is a standard term for godly members of local congregations (Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1; Php 1:1; Col 1:2). In the context of the turbulent great tribulation, the holy ones are those who "keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (12:17). Yeshua promised his disciples that there would not only be wars, but wars directed at them (Matt 24:6–9). This verse corroborates 7:14, because there is no way the beast can make war on the holy ones if they had been removed from the earth to heaven before the beast came to power.
and to overcome them: The success of the Antichrist’s war against the people of God was first envisioned by Daniel. In his vision of the fourth beast with ten horns, the "little horn" arose, overcame three of the ten "horns" and proceeded to wage war with those faithful to God (Dan 7:21, 25). Early church fathers repeatedly warned Christians that the Antichrist would come to rule the world and exhorted to be faithful in the face of temptation and trials lest they lose their inheritance in the Kingdom of the Lord (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, 16; The Epistle of Barnabas, 4:15; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, 25–30; Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 14). Justin Martyr (110–165) expresses his expectation by saying,
"The times now running on to their consummation; and he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High." (32)
Church fathers believed that Yeshua's reference to Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation and Paul’s teaching that the Man of Lawlessness would be revealed and set himself up in the temple of God before the Second Coming could only mean that the Church would face the arch–enemy of Yeshua. Irenaeus specifically warned that the beast would "put the Church to flight" (Against Heresies, Book 5, 26:1; cf. Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 60–61), The writers of this period offered no panacea of being secretly rescued from tribulation, but encouraged the believers to persevere. Once Yeshua returned the wicked Antichrist would be destroyed and Yeshua would establish His reign of peace and righteousness.
While Christians of the patristic age responded to the encouragement of their leaders and congregations enjoyed continued growth in spite of localized persecutions, the Antichrist at the end of the age will wage war in order to "overcome" or totally destroy the people of God, whether Christian or Jew. See 11:7 on the beast's war against the two witnesses. A prelude to the Antichrist’s success is found in the cryptic comment of Yeshua that the good news would be proclaimed to all nations and then the end would come (Matt 24:14), that is, the end of evangelism, because the power and influence of Yeshua's faithful disciples has come to an end. How important it is that all believers and congregations work to spread the good news while there is still time.
The beast’s strategy is not revealed, but he will probably dissolve the legal standing of every congregation, denomination and religious organization in every country, order their assets confiscated, arrest congregational leaders, impose economic sanctions on believers and then begin systematically exterminating them. The genocide of six million Jews during the World War II era will pale in comparison to perhaps over one billion Christian and Jewish casualties of the beast’s reign of terror. Thus the name great tribulation. The day is far–gone and the night is coming.
and authority … was given to him: Having overcome God's people and removed their opposition and influence from the earth the Antichrist will be assured of the security of his totalitarian reign. There have been many "world" dictators since Nimrod’s rebellion at Babel (Gen 10:8–11; 11:1–9), and the great empires of history certainly incorporated diverse peoples. However, the description of "every tribe and people and tongue and nation" implies global rule, which is reinforced by the mention of "all who dwell on the earth" in the next verse. (See 5:9 on these categories.) Such language rules out merely a Western empire, such as Imperial Rome in the first century or the European Union of modern times, as conspiracy theorists suggest. Dictatorships are unwieldy organizations by nature and the only way that a global authority can work is by the tacit consent of the governed and the unseen support of Satan’s demonic empire. The mention of the power to make war being "given" is also applied to the beast’s ability to seize global authority, which he uses to the fullest extent possible.
Folly vs. Faith (13:8–10)
And all the ones dwelling on the earth will worship him: The beast will achieve his desire to be worshipped by all. The phrase "who dwell on the earth" occurs ten times in Revelation and refers to the general population who take the mark of the beast. To dwell on the earth not only points to a place of residence but also indicates a life focus. Paul pointed out that the believer’s citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20) and that heaven is "our mother" (Gal 4:26). Disciples of Yeshua are called to lay up treasure in heaven, not on the earth (Matt 6:20). Those "who dwell on the earth" have believed the evolutionist lie that the material universe is the only reality, and thus their citizenship, familial ties and investments are all oriented to this present world.
To worship is to obey and not only does the beast gain legal authority but the passionate loyalty of the world’s populations. The people will in effect believe that this man is greater than any other earthly leader, but most of all superior to God (which must be assumed as a basis for worship). As did the ancient pagans and modern evolutionists, they "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" (Rom 1:25) (Morris).
As Juster points out God divides humanity into two groups: those listed in the Book of Life and those who aren't (57). Of course, only those whose names are not in the Book of Life will participate in the idolatry. In the apostolic writings the Book of Life is mentioned in Philippians 4:3 and Hebrews 12:23, as well as six times in Revelation (3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27), serving as God's register of those granted eternal life.
whose name: Bible versions take this reference as applicable to humans in general, but grammatically it could also refer to him whom the earth will worship. has not been written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe and may refer to the mechanical activity of writing, the content of what is written down, or the literary composition of a work. This phrase is a backwards affirmation that no one whose name is in the Book of Life will worship the beast. While it is possible that the reference to the Book of Life is really a metaphor, given the omniscience of God, there is no reason not to take the reference literally. In Revelation John also sees individual names written on white stones to be given to the holy ones and on the walls memorializing both the twelve tribes of Israel and the apostles (2:17; 21:12, 14). To not have one’s name written down in a permanent record in heaven is the greatest tragedy of life.
in the book: Grk. biblion, a diminutive form of biblos, means a book, a scroll or a document. In the LXX biblion translates Heb. sēpher, which was used for anything that has been written, such as a scroll, book, writing, letter, diary, or a legal document. Biblion is also used in the LXX for individual sacred writings (Dan 9:2), but most importantly as a solemn expression for the Torah (Deut 17:18; 28:58; cf. Heb 9:19). John calls his testimony a biblion (John 20:30; 21:25). In Revelation biblion occurs 19 times (out of 34 in the Besekh) and is used of the book mentioned in 1:11 that John was commanded to write, the book of life and the books of works opened at the final judgment (20:12), but especially the book containing the divine decrees for the future (DNTT 1:243).
of life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in the physical sense in contrast to being dead; life. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence on planet earth in the presence age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity, half of which are in the writings of John. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH–2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. The expression "book of life" corresponds to the mention of the "book of life" in 3:5 where it is a registry of those granted eternal life on the basis of trust in Yeshua (also in Php 3:20; Heb 12:23; Rev 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27). The Book of Life is first mentioned in Exodus 32:32 followed by six other references in the Tanakh (Ps 69:28; 87:6; 139:16, Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Mal 3:16).
of the Lamb: Grk. arnion denotes a lamb as distinct from probaton, sheep. Arnion occurs 30 times in the Besekh, only one of which occurs outside of Revelation (John 21:15). Significant is that Revelation does not use Grk. amnos ("lamb"), which occurs only four times in the Besekh (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1Pet 1:29) and is only used of a sacrificial lamb in the LXX. In Revelation arnion represents the victorious Lamb that has accomplished redemption and is worthy of power and glory. who has been slain: Grk. sphazō, perf. pass. part. See the note on verse 3 above. The reference to the criminal execution of the Lamb means that the atonement was not an afterthought and not a counter attack. God knew from the moment He decided to create that atonement would be necessary and planned His remedy from the beginning.
from the foundation: Grk. katabolē means "foundation" or "beginning". The word comes from kataballō, which means to cast down or lay down, as a foundation (Heb 6:1). of the world: Grk. kosmos. See 11:15 on "world." "Earth" would have been a better translation. "Foundation of the world" is an expression that refers to the founding or creation of the earth in its completed form with all its flora, fauna and human life within six days as recorded in Genesis 1 (See Matt 13:35; 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Eph 1:4; Heb 4:3; 9:26; 1Pet 1:20; and Rev 17:8).
There is a significant theological difference of opinion over whether the verse is saying that the Lamb was slain from the creation (cf. 1Pet 1:20) or that people were written or not written in the Book of Life from creation. My translation is a literal rendering of the Greek text. Ladd contends that "from the foundation of the world" can grammatically modify either "written" or "slain," but he thinks the parallel thought in 17:8 decides in favor of modifying "written." However, Ladd fails to note that the Greek word order of 17:8 ("has not been written the name on the scroll of life from the foundation of the world") is not the same as in this verse.
Bible versions are about evenly divided with many translating in favor of "written" (ASV, CEB, CEV, ESV, HCSB, HNV, LEB, Mace–NT, MSG, MW, NAB, NASB, NCV, NEB, NET, NJB, NLV, NRSV, RSV, TEV, TLV, WEB) and many others in favor of "slain" (AMP, CJB, DRA, GNC, GW, JUB, KJV, LITV, LTB, MRINT, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NKJV, NOG, OJB, Phillips–NT, Weymouth–NT and YLT). (Of interest is that the AMP and NASB with opposite translations are produced by the same organization.) Along with the KJV six other early English Bibles favored "slain from the foundation of the world" (Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops, Geneva, and Wesley).
Considering the Greek word order (as in 17:8), with the important clause occurring last in the Greek sentence after the reference to the Lamb being slain, yields the most natural meaning. Yeshua, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), was in fact slain before creation. That is, the plan for atonement was made before sin occurred. While some may believe this verse emphasizes the Calvinist doctrine of restricted election, a select group of Christians predestined for salvation, the fact cannot be ignored that for individuals being written in the Book of Life, regardless of when it occurs, there is no absolute security against being blotted out for rebellion (Ex 32:33; Rev 3:5).
NOTE: We should not overlook the fact that the Calvinist concept of predestination was based on replacement theology by twisting Paul's words "chose us" (Eph 1:4) to mean Christianity when he could have only meant Israel (cf. Rom 9:1–6; 11:1–2, 17–24; 1Cor 10:18; Gal 6:16; Eph 2:12–18; Heb 8:7–12).
9― If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
The Lord offers an admonition again to "hear," similar to his earlier exhortation to the congregations (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; see 2:7 on "hear."). This is God’s succinct way of saying that the prophetic portion of Revelation, particularly the warning of the beast to come, has application for the believer’s life. Disciples need to be prepared for the tide of public opinion to turn away from godly virtues to the moral relativism that is the hallmark of the spirit of antichrist. The Lord expects that the character of the disciple’s life will present a definite contrast to those who "dwell on the earth." As multitudes line up to receive the mark of their ruler, the disciples will understand the full cost of their loyalty to Yeshua. Commitment to the Lord needs to be so settled that any temptation to trade eternal gain to avoid temporary pain is immediately rejected. God is very serious in His warning that worshiping the beast will result in eternal consequences.
10― If anyone 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 faithfulness of the holy ones.
If anyone: Some versions add the word "destined," which is not in the Greek text. The Grk. MSS are divided and contain no less than nine different forms of the clause about captivity (GNT 868). for captivity: Grk. aichmalosia means one taken captive at spear point (Rienecker), normally as a result of war (cf. Num 31:12; Eph 4:8). The M–Text has "if anyone holds, to captivity he goes." The TR has "If anyone gathers to captivity, to captivity he goes," which the KJV incorrectly translates as "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity." The NA–Text has "if anyone [is] for captivity, to captivity he goes" (Marshall).
if anyone kills: Grk. apokteinō, aor. pass. inf., to put an end by force the existence of another. Bible versions are sharply divided over the translation of this part of the verse due to the differences in the Greek manuscripts in which there are a dozen variant readings, although they are of two basic types: First, the verb is presented as future tense, "will kill," which points to an offender as the subject. This is the reading of the M–Text, WH–Text and the TR. The future tense is reflected in some versions (ASV, DRA, KJV, LTB, NASB, NKJV, and RSV). Metzger believes that copyists were influenced by the Torah retribution principle (lex talionis), i.e., anyone who kills will be put to death (Lev 24:21; Num 25:30; Matt 26:52). Second, the verb is presented as past tense (aor. pass. inf.), "to be killed," which may imply someone destined to be killed. This is the reading of the Nestle text and followed by several versions (CEV, CJB, HCSB, ESV, GNT, NCV, NET, NIV, and NLT).
Ironically, the only support for the aorist infinitive verb in the first part of the clause comes from Codex Alexandrinus, an important MS from the 5th century, and three MSS from the 14th century. The influence of Alexandrinus is very strong, because as Metzger believes, among so many variant readings the aorist infinitive is the least unsatisfactory. The cryptic comment about captivity and killing really completes the thought of verse 9 as a message from the Holy Spirit similar to the epilogue in each of the seven letters to the Asian congregations. At the very least the verse represents Hebrew parallelism and may be an allusion to the sovereign warning of Jeremiah, "Those destined for death, to death; and those destined for the sword, to the sword; and those destined for famine, to famine; and those destined for captivity, to captivity" (Jer 15:2).
he must: Grk. dei, pres., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen. be killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor. pass. inf. The second half of the clause involves both destiny and retribution. This statement is a reality check of the death toll of followers of Yeshua anticipated in the Great Tribulation. Millions will be arrested and summarily executed, although many may be spared for slave labor. Those who survive captivity until the Lord’s coming will experience the joy of Yeshua breaking them out of prison or freeing them from enslavement. The important fact is that the parallelism leads into a commendation of the faithful servants who must endure the beast’s rage and wait for the justice of God.
The retribution aspect of the verb promises justice for the murder of God’s people. So the ones who "must be killed" are followers of the beast. However, the principle also is a warning for disciples, some of whom may not be willing to turn the other cheek and accept "joyfully the seizure" of their property (Heb 10:34). While many disciples sincerely believe in such "self–defense," even quoting Luke 22:36 as justification, it is not God’s way. These modern Zealots seem to ignore the fact that the One who could call on more divine swords than the disciples could muster (Matt 26:53) instead chose to heal the High Priest’s servant after the unprovoked assault by Peter and to forgive His enemies (Luke 23:34). Yeshua also pointed out to Pilate that if His kingdom were of the world, His servants would fight (John 18:36). Yeshua’s kingdom is of heaven and He does not permit using the world’s methods to bring about His reign nor to oppose the Antichrist (cf. 2Cor 10:3f; Jas 4:4).
Here is the perseverance and the faithfulness of the holy ones: The Lord’s way is humble acceptance and endurance of martyrdom. This was Paul’s wish (Php 3:10). Indeed, the disciple’s life is lived in the shadow of the cross where self–interest and self–preservation must give way to God’s eternal purposes (cf. Luke 9:23; Gal 2:20; 6:14). It is no accident that perseverance and faithfulness are linked together. In the memorial to the Hebrew patriarchs, the writer sums up their character with these words, "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (Heb 11:12).
The patriarchs and prophets were convinced of God’s reliability and sacrificed everything to be faithful. There is no essential difference between the faith of the Hebrew patriarchs and the new covenant followers of Yeshua. Perseverance, then, is based on an unshakable trust that God will do justice for His children. The true character of the holy ones in the terrible trial will be as described by Paul, "we also exult in our tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance" (Rom 5:3). God's people will persevere in the face of persecution, because of their loyalty to and confidence in Yeshua.
The Beast from the Earth (13:11–15)
11― And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.
And I saw another beast: John saw a second beast ascend out of the abyss, as did the first beast, although his entrance is not seen coming from the sea. he had two horns like a lamb: Grk. arnion, which denotes a lamb as distinct from probaton, sheep (Rev 18:13). A "lamb" is a young sheep, generally less than a year old. The second beast is not described as having multiple heads or crowns, but he did have two horns. The "two horns like a lamb" would be a familiar phenomenon to John. Both domestic and wild sheep were common to the land of Israel.
Horns are not as common in sheep as they are in cattle and not all breeds of sheep have horns. The reference to "like a lamb" means the horns are not fully developed. Unlike cattle horns that usually grow away from the head, sheep horns grow more to the back and side of the head. Horns may be used by the animal to ward off predators or spar with rival males. The number "two" is significant because there are sheep breeds that grow four (or even 5–6) horns. The presence of horns probably indicates the beast’s aggressiveness as illustrated in the vision of the ram and goat in Daniel 8:3–8. Unlike the second beast, the Lamb of God is never described with horns.
and he spoke as a dragon: While John does not note anything distinctive about the mouth, the words coming out of that mouth reflected the character of the dragon, which means that he exhibits the art of clever and deceitful speech of his mentor. Stern takes this second beast to be the Antichrist and abomination of desolation, and believes the first beast represents the government of the Antichrist. However, the description of the second beast’s activity in the following verses clearly identifies him as subservient to the first beast and with no worship directed to him. In addition, the Antichrist is much more likely to be the head of the first beast which was slain and then raised. Confusion results because the narrative in referring to the first "beast" moves back and forth between the individual (anti-messiah) and the government structure (the seventeen kings).
12― And 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.
And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence: Grk. enōpion , prep., occurs no fewer than thirty–two times in Revelation and in every instance means "in the presence of" or "before" (Johnson). The same word is used of the two witnesses in 11:4: "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before (enōpion) the Lord of the earth." BAG concurs on this meaning but also notes that enōpion can mean "by the authority of" or "on behalf of" in this verse and verse 14, which is followed by the NIV to emphasize that the second beast functions as a representative of the first beast.
And he makes the earth … to worship: The second beast is given total discretion in his job description by the first beast to motivate, develop and enforce religious rites to the honor of the anti-messiah throughout the world. The assignment and activity of the second beast in this chapter indicate that he is probably the person referred to as the false prophet in 16:13 and 19:20, making him the Secretary of Religion for the beast empire. The activity of the second beast is similar to the imperial priesthood in the first century whose purpose was to promote worship of Rome and its emperor.
It has been a common Protestant interpretation since the Reformation of Luther to interpret the first beast as Pagan Rome and the second beast as Papal Rome (Robertson). Some futurists have modified this historic viewpoint to predict the false prophet as heading an apostate Church (Gregg 295). "Apostate church" is generally code language for an ecumenical amalgamation of the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches and various New Age movements headquartered in Rome. Hunt (45) asserts that it is the Antichrist himself who heads this perverted form of Christianity.
However, it should be noted that the imagery of this chapter depicts the second beast as installing worship of the Antichrist with no hint of offering a corrupted form of Christianity. It is ironic that those who have championed the separation of Church and State and the elimination of any expression of the Christian faith from the public square, including government discourse and education, will welcome the deification and worship of the beast–head that was slain (verse 14). Unlike the first century Caesars who allowed all manner of pagan religion as long as people paid homage to them, the Antichrist will insist that he is the only one worthy of worship.
13― And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.
And he performs great signs: Grk. semeion. (See 12:1 on "sign.") In order to secure and assure the adoration of the masses the second beast performs miraculous signs that will deceive the public into believing a lie. In common understanding, a miracle is an event outside the ordinary, a supernatural intervention into the natural order of things (Stern). Morris offers the helpful distinction between Grade A miracles, which require creation out of nothing, and Grade B miracles, which manipulate existing natural processes (BBMS 81f). Morris classifies most of the healing miracles of Yeshua as Grade B miracles, because the normal process of healing was greatly accelerated. Only a small number of the healing miracles that Yeshua performed could be considered Grade A, such as in the case of the man born blind and the resurrection of Lazarus (John 9:16; 11:43f).
In the book of John miracles are referred to as "signs" because they attested that Yeshua is the Son of God (John 2:11, 21:30–31). The same word occurs here, not because the beast has equivalent power as Yeshua, but to point out that the second beast uses "miracles" to convince the world that the beast is worthy of their worship.
so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven: Paul speaks of the lawless one coming "with all power and signs and false wonders" (2Th 2:9). Both Paul and John report that Satan performs signs, but there is no mention of the Antichrist personally doing miracles. Paul’s statement is clarified in this chapter with the information that the false prophet performs signs. The activity of the false prophet may in part be to counteract the miraculous works of the two witnesses, just as Pharaoh’s magicians mimicked the miracles of Moses (Ex 7:11f; 22; 8:7). To pretribulationists, the Christian Church acting as salt and light, as well as the Holy Spirit, are restraining the "mystery of lawlessness" and must be removed in order for the full activity of Satan to take place. After all, if the Antichrist came while the Church was on the earth, then Christians would point him out and he would not succeed in fooling the world.
In the latter part of the twentieth century numerous prominent persons were declared to be the Antichrist by Christians. In 1989 Robert W. Faid identified Mikhail Gorbachev as the Antichrist ("Gorby the Antichrist," Harper’s Magazine, January 1989, 24). Various prophecy "experts" have also designated many other world leaders and prominent persons, including Kurt Waldheim, Willy Brandt, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Henry Kissinger, Saddam Hussein, King Juan Carlos (of Spain), President Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, and Bill Gates. One only needs to search the Internet to find a multitude of theories about the identity of the Antichrist. A pretribulationist website on a page titled Antichrist lists many candidates in the modern era that have been proposed for the title of Antichrist. Such apocalyptic pronouncements, if they gained any attention, have been generally treated with scorn and derision by unbelievers. So, disciples pointing out the real Antichrist when he is revealed would mean absolutely nothing.
In reality, the presence and many good works of the disciples down through the centuries have not significantly diminished the working of evil around the world, as evidenced by the persistence of wars, totalitarian regimes, genocide, slavery, feudalism, institutional discrimination, poverty, and all the works of the flesh by sinful humanity. Paul’s prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2:5–7 is not about the removal of the Holy Spirit but the coming of the Man of Lawlessness or Antichrist. Paul goes on to say that God will send a "deluding influence" (2Th 2:11), which, combined with the Satanic deception and wonders, will override any efforts of disciples to expose the Antichrist. The lesson of history is that monsters can come to power with much popular support and God’s people invariably become the victims.
The Torah forbids following a prophet who uses signs and wonders to induce worship of a false god (Deut 13:1). This is a warning against putting faith in what is seen or in someone merely because he does something spectacular. Yeshua similarly warned His disciples, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matt 7:15), and then predicted that these false prophets would complain when they are kept out of heaven, insisting that they performed miracles in the name of Yeshua (Matt 7:22). The false prophet of Revelation imitates the miracle of Elijah by calling fire out of the sky, probably referring to lightning (1Kgs 13:38). As a false Elijah he prepares the way for a false Messiah (Mounce).
14― 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, 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.
And he deceives: Grk. planaō means to lead astray, cause to wander from the right way, mislead or to deceive someone. Deception is one of Satan’s principal weapons and in Revelation is used with success in leading people astray from the truth of the living God to worship other gods (2:20; 12:9; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10; cf. 1Jn 2:26; 3:7; 4:6). Sadly, too many people are convinced by what they see and do not look below the surface to examine character or issues. those who dwell on the earth: As noted in the comment on verse 8, this expression does not mean there are no followers of Yeshua on the earth at this time.
an image to the beast: The second commandment "You shall not make for yourself an idol" (Ex 20:4) is defiantly violated. The false prophet has a special bust or statue of the Antichrist erected for worship, probably in the beast’s capitol city, but possibly in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem thereby causing the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27; 11:45; Matt 24:15; 2Th 2:3f). The phrasing also suggests that individual citizens will be required to obtain or purchase a replica of the image for household use. An historical parallel occurred when Nebuchadnezzar set up an image and required everyone to bow down to it on pain of being cast into a fiery furnace for disobedience (Dan 3:1–6).
the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life: This is the third mention in the chapter of the death and resuscitation of the beast. The apparent death of the one beast head will probably be caused by an attempted assassination. The cause of the wound mentioned in verse 3 above is the sword, which refers to the Roman short sword. The "wound of the sword" could be taken literally as to the cause or it may be a metaphor, which in the modern context might refer to any weapon, such as a firearm. The sword speaks of bodily violence and is not a passive attempt such as poisoning.
15― And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
there was given to him to give breath: Grk. pneuma means breath or wind. See 1:10 on "spirit." The second beast not only erects a statue, but also gives it life. The mention of "breath" probably means that the image is actually possessed by a demonic spirit that causes the image to exhibit all the energy and movement of a living being. There was a popular belief in the ancient world in the power to make statues speak, perhaps owing to the practice of ventriloquism and sorcery by cultic priests (Mounce). There grew up a legend around the person of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9ff), and early Christian literature relates stories of how he brought statues to life (Ladd). The verse here emphasizes that the false prophet does not inherently possess this "creative" power, but only receives it from the dragon.
and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed: The false prophet devises a simple loyalty ceremony for everyone. In order to live, all a person must do is bow down to the image, perhaps even say a prayer to it or recite a loyalty oath. The ceremony will likely be repeated worldwide and not just conducted in the beast’s capitol. When Nebuchadnezzar decreed that his image be worshipped the Jews refused to commit idolatry, declaring,
"Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not … we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up" (Dan 3:16ff NASB).
This loyalty requirement will no doubt be sold to the public as an inoffensive act merely designed to insure the peace and unity of the world. God's people at the end of the age will recognize that this government mandate is not merely establishing a religion, but a declaration that the God of the universe has been replaced.
The Mark of the Beast (13:16–18)
16― And 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,
And he causes: Grk. poieō, pres. act. ind., to do or to make. Since the "all" is in the accusative case, then the verb focuses on the result of the action and means to cause someone to perform the action. the small and the great: This is a Hebrew idiom meaning "young and old." and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves: four more stations of life are given, all of which are mentioned in 6:15 of those who attempt to hide from the wrath of God. to be given a mark: Grk. charagma means a mark or stamp engraved, etched, branded, cut or imprinted. The only use of charagma outside of Revelation is Acts 17:29 in reference to an idolatrous object. Ladd says that in the first century the word was a technical term for the imperial stamp on commercial documents and for the royal impression on Roman coins. Johnson adds that charagma was used to refer to the "bite" of a snake or to a "brand" on camels indicating ownership.
on their right hand or on their forehead: The Secretary of Religion imposes another significant public policy. He requires everyone, without exemption, to be marked, thus ensuring that worship of the Antichrist will be more than just a religious ritual. Of course, people could only be forced to conform if there were severe penalties identified for noncompliance, probably death and forfeiture of all property to the State. In ancient times branding or marking was used to brand disobedient slaves, soldiers defeated in battle, or devotees of a particular god (Barclay).
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish scholar, wrote that "This is a practice of idolaters [i.e., Gentiles], who brand themselves for an idol in order to show that they are dedicated to its worship" (Laws of Idol Worship, 12:11). Stern sees the mark of the beast as mocking the phylacteries which Orthodox and Conservative Jews wear in the synagogue on the hand and forehead to obey Deuteronomy 6:8. The beast’s marking may also mimic the sealing of the 144,000 (7:3, 9:4). In any case, the marking signifies loyalty, not servitude, and serves as an indirect proof that the Rapture of believers does not occur before the advent of the Antichrist. If the Christians are gone, there is no need to mark the population.
Marking an entire population has no historical precedent. However, Jews have been singled out for marking. In the third century before Yeshua Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt (285–246 B.C.), compelled some Alexandrian Jews to receive the mark of Dionysus as his devotees (Robertson). In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council and Pope Innocent II mandated that Jews, male and female, in all Christian countries distinguish themselves from the rest of the population in public places by a special kind of clothing to prevent "criminal" sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews. The canon law and papal bull resulted in each country legislating a special identifying badge to be worn by Jews. Innocent's bull was enforced by successive Popes, making these "marks of Cain" a common sight, and for six centuries exposed Jews to public contempt everywhere they went in Europe (David Dickerson, The Jewish Badge January 2005). In Nazi–controlled Europe of the 1940s Jews were again forced to wear a Jewish badge, the Star of David, on their clothing in order to separate them from the rest of society, to promote public humiliation and to desensitize the public to government discrimination and eventual extermination. Jews sent to concentration camps were tattooed with a special identification number.
The reader should understand that the mark of the beast is not instituted until the Antichrist actually reigns. After all, the mark of the beast is the beast’s mark. The marked citizen is given the choice of having the mark on the hand or forehead. Perhaps the more zealous of the Antichrist’s devotees will opt for the forehead. Taking John’s narrative literally the mark of the beast most certainly would not be the social security number, baby footprints, a national identification card, debit cards, bar codes, smart cards, bio–chips, or the new system of shopping with your fingerprint ("Paying by Fingerprint at the Supermarket," Reuters: March 14, 2005).
In 2001 many Russian Orthodox Christians began objecting to a new tax identification code and tax form bar code that has three pairs of thin parallel stripes in the beginning, middle and end of the code, in order to be readable by a scanner (Andrei Zolotov, Jr., "Antichrist Fears Put Church in Crisis," The Moscow Times: February 21, 2001). Many Christians have been deceived into believing the myth that all computerized accounting is based on the number 666. However, no bar code contains the number "666." The only numbers on the 13–digit bar code that are scanned are those shown in the conventional numerals underneath it. This urban legend has been widely circulated by well–meaning Christians, but it is a total distortion of Scripture. See Barbara and David Mikkelson, A Scan of Wealth and Taste, Urban Legends Reference Pages: 31 December 1998. Similar false representations have been made about smart cards and bio–chips. See Mondex, Urban Legends Reference Pages: 24 March 2004.
Too many disciples have succumbed to hysteria and paranoia over supposed "marks," needlessly worrying about the impact on their salvation, and in so doing tacitly deny what Scripture actually says. Bear in mind, it is impossible to receive this mark accidentally or without knowledge of its purpose and God will make sure His people are not deceived about the true mark of the beast when it comes. See 14:9 on God’s plan to warn His people and the world. The word for mark in Revelation amounts to a permanent visible engraving on the skin, like a tattoo. In taking the mark the person violates the second commandment against making an idol or a graven image (Ex 20:4) and the specific Torah prohibition, "You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord" (Lev 19:28). The marked person becomes an idol reflecting his or her god, the beast, and in so doing is marked for death. Followers of Yeshua need to ignore those who spread conspiracy theories and false rumors that promote nothing but fear, and instead trust in the sovereign care of the Lord.
17― and that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.
no one should be able to buy or to sell: The visible effect of marking will be the restriction on who is allowed to engage in or benefit from commerce, whether at the wholesale level or the retail level, and will be an important part of the beast’s war against the followers of Yeshua. Of course, to control access to economic privileges will require sophisticated secret surveillance to counter the barter system that would naturally arise among those who refuse the mark, perhaps even neighborhood watch groups to spy on their neighbors.
Efforts by preterist commentators to find a first century correlation to the prophecy of marking the population are totally unconvincing. The Sardis congregation was poor (2:9) and the Philadelphia congregation had "little power" (3:8), but there is no hint of economic sanctions. Indeed, the Laodicean congregation was rich (3:17). In addition, when governmental Rome took official notice of an illegal religion, it was always by criminal charges in the courts, not by economic sanctions (Johnson).
except the one who has the mark: The straightforward prophecy of John indicates that the marking is an anticipated event, used to distinguish the beast’s loyal subjects from those who refuse to worship him. Government propaganda will insist that the purpose of marking is not to restrict access to the marketplace but to insure the security of the global economic system. Since a significant concern of people living in the last days is safety (cf. 1Th 5:3), people will gullibly accept marking as the ultimate security defense. Obviously, anyone who would refuse to take the mark must be an enemy of the state and a danger to public safety.
the name of the beast or the number of his name: The text adds further information about the mark. The choice is given of being branded with the beast’s name or the number equivalent of his name, which implies that the mark will be visible, not like a microchip hidden under the skin. No one will be able to hide his or her choice to take or not take the mark from neighbors, friends and family.
18― Here 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.
Here is wisdom: Grk. sophia. See 5:12 on "wisdom." The opening sentence is a prelude to explaining a mystery. It also occurs at 17:9 where further information on the identity of the beast is given. The phrase "let him who has understanding" is parallel to the commentary of Matthew, "let the reader understand" (Matt 24:15), which is a recurring plea in Daniel in the context of communicating mysteries (cf. Dan 1:7; 1:21–23; 9:25; 12:13), and infers that anyone with godly wisdom will understand the mystery of the beast’s number. However, there is an implied paradox in this admonition. The Lord told Isaiah, "So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa 55:9) and it is impossible by any method of human wisdom or logic to understand God’s ways, thoughts or mysteries without divine disclosure (cf. Rom 16:25; 1Cor 1:21; Gal 1:12; Rev 1:1). So, the "wisdom" in this context refers to the explanation provided by the Lord, and, yet, God in His wisdom purposely does not explain which language should be used to convert the beast’s name to numbers nor provide any hint at all of the Antichrist’s name. The ones with "understanding" must be, then, those who actually live during in the time of the beast and his marking program, and they will be able to make the obvious connection. Regarding the debate over the timing of the Rapture, the admonition to "understand" makes little sense if the ones with understanding, i.e., believers, have been raptured before the beast even comes to power.
Let him who has understanding calculate: Grk. psēphizō means lit. to count with pebbles, to calculate, to reckon (Rienecker). the number: Grk. arithmos means number and the system used in ancient languages that assigned numerical values to letters. For the Greek numbering system see the Wikipedia article Greek Numerals and for the Hebrew numbering system see Hebrew Numerals. The suggestion to "calculate" seems to reflect the practice in John’s day of using the letters of the alphabet as numbers, since ancient languages had no figures. of the beast, for the number is that of a man: Grk. anthropos means man, which in the singular may be translated "a man" as in the text, but in the absence of a definite article the noun could be intended to mean mankind.
and his number is six hundred and sixty–six: A few Greek MSS have "616," but the earliest and majority of MSS have "666" (Metzger). On this basis many predictions have been made about the identity of the Antichrist by seeking names of candidates that would convert to 666. Too often ignored is the fact that the Lord did not specify which language to use. While the word "calculate" normally means to perform an arithmetical computation, Stern believes the number could be entirely symbolic and observes, "The name of Messiah in Greek, Iēsous, equals 888; seven is regarded as the perfect number; and triple repetition symbolizes absolute ultimacy, as in the praise of the seraphim, "Holy, holy, holy is Adonai of Hosts" (Isa 6:3). Therefore 888 means that Yeshua is absolutely beyond perfection, while 666 means that the beast in every respect falls short of perfection and is therefore absolutely and ultimately imperfect and evil."
The best commentary on this verse probably came from Irenaeus, who said,
"It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfillment of the prophecy, than to be … casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number  mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved…. We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision…. But he indicates the number of the name now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is: the name, however, is suppressed, because it is not worthy of being proclaimed by the Holy Spirit." (Against Heresies, Book 5, 30:3–4)
To sum up, those who attempt to identify the Antichrist by calculating the names of world leaders are wasting their effort on a totally useless exercise.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Revelation of John. 2 Vols. The Westminster Press, 1976.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Earle: Ralph Earle, The Book of The Revelation. Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. X. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.
GNT: The Greek New Testament. eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, Allen Wikgren. American Bible Society, 1966. (NA25)
Gregg: Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.
Hunt: Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast. Harvest House Pub., 1994.
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD–ROM Version 2.6, 1989–1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Ladd: George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.
MDNT: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. The Zondervan Corporation, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD–ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Sevener: Harold A. Sevener, God’s Man in Babylon. Chosen People Ministries, 1994.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
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