THE ANTICHRIST WILL BE EMPOWERED BY SATAN TO BLASPHEME GOD AND WAGE WAR AGAINST THE SAINTS IN SEEKING WORLDWIDE WORSHIP AND DOMINION
Marvin Rosenthal: According to the Word of God, the Antichrist is a man who lived before. He ruled one of the previous seven great empires which directly impacted Israel. . . Not only has the Antichrist lived and ruled before, but he will live and rule again. He will literally be raised from the dead. . . Since the Antichrist will be a counterfeit Christ, he will also perform a counterfeit resurrection. He will be raised, but he will die again and go “into perdition.” Charles Ryrie wrote:
One of the heads of the beast was “wounded to death.” Literally it reads, “as having been slain to death.” This is exactly the same word that was used in 5:6 of the Lamb where it was translated “as it had been slain.” If Christ died actually, then it appears that this ruler will also actually die. But his wound will be healed, which can only mean restoration to life. In 11:7 he was seen as coming out of the abyss, and that coincides with his restoration to life here.
John Walvoord: Revelation 13:1–10 predicts a future world government that from God’s point of view will be a continuation of the ancient Roman Empire, expanded to cover not only the area of the ancient empire, but the entire world. This government will be empowered by Satan, and its primary objective will be forcing the whole world to worship Satan and his human representative, the world dictator.
Satan’s purpose to take the place of God in the great tribulation is the motivating power behind Satan’s activities today. Satan’s desire to be like God first plunged the universe into sin (Isa. 14:14). His program has never changed, and he is always seeking to lure people to obey him instead of God. In the great tribulation this purpose will be transparently clear, and after its manifestation it will be brought into divine judgment.
Charles Swindoll: Since the birth of Christianity, faithful believers have expected the coming of an evil dictator and his deceptive right-hand man who will have an enormous evil influence over the entire world. This diabolical duo will derive their power from none other than Satan himself. Although the Antichrist and false prophet are revealed in Scripture under various titles, the clearest and most definitive description of these figures is set forth in Revelation 13. These powerful end-times antagonists will emerge on the world stage like beasts rising up out of the sea (13:1) and bursting out of the land (13:11). Together, these two monstrous emissaries of evil will be the most persuasive and dynamic political and religious leaders in all of time.
Daniel Akin: Antichrist. The word itself conjures up images of supreme evil, ultimate deception, and eschatological holocaust. Called the “beast coming up out of the sea” in Revelation (13:1), his origin is the abyss or bottomless pit (11:7). It speaks of one who is coming at the end of history, though he has been preceded by many forerunners (1 John 2:18; 4:3; 2 John 7). The word identifies one who will be given power, a throne, and a great authority from Satan himself (13:2). He will be worshiped as a god, and the whole world will marvel as they follow him (13:3). But his reign of terror will not last. Actually it will be quite brief (13:5-7).
The word antichrist does not appear a single time in Revelation. In the Apocalypse he is called “the beast.” Elsewhere in Scripture he is called
- the little horn (Dan 7:8)
- the prince (ruler) who is to come (Dan 9:26)
- the lawless one or man of sin (2 Thess 2:3-8)
- the antichrist (1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7)
Buist Fanning: Main Idea: During the future period of final tribulation a ruthless world leader with a deceptive propagandist at his side will, under Satan’s authority, persecute God’s people and dominate the whole world.
The two main sections of this chapter are clearly set out by the occurrence of the words “and I saw” (καὶ εἶδον) in 13:1 and 13:11, coupled with the parallels “a beast coming up from the sea” (v. 1) versus “another beast coming up from the earth” (v. 11). In recounting the character and career of the beast from the sea (13:1–10) and the beast from the earth (13:11–18), John shows how they work together under Satan’s authority (vv. 2, 4) to persecute God’s people and to deceive and dominate the whole world during the period of final tribulation.
Kendell Easley: Political Evil Incarnated
Throughout the ages God has seen political evil as a horrible water monster, and in the final time of the Great Tribulation this monster will become a personal, powerful Antichrist who will receive worship and wage war against God’s people.
James Hamilton: Satan’s strategy is really pretty simple: he acts like he is God, and he tries to kill anyone who isn’t fooled by his impersonation. So in 13:1–4 Satan’s beast will try to convince the world that he is Jesus. Then in 13:5–8 Satan will go to war against everyone who isn’t convinced. Revelation 13:9, 10 calls the people of God to endure until God vindicates them. . .
The point of application for us here is very simple: let’s disabuse ourselves of any false hope that some merely human government is going to bring in the kingdom of God. God’s King, Jesus, is going to bring in the kingdom of God. And until he does, we’re not to be fooled by any cheap imitations.
(:1a) PROLOGUE – THE DRAGON OVERSEES THE EMERGENCE OF THE BEAST FROM THE SEA
“And he [the dragon] stood on the sand of the seashore.”
Sola Scriptura: Some translations include this verse in chapter 12. Other translations understand John to be the seer standing on the sand, thus the translation in the NKJV “And I stood.” However, given the relationship between chapters 12 and 13, it is more probable that the dragon is standing on the seashore. Having failed to destroy the Male-Son at birth, he brings together the final Beast Empire that will attempt to prevent the reign of the Son by resisting His takeover of earth.
Chapter 13 continues the reasons John must prophesy against “peoples, nations, tongues and kings.” He will now focus on the kings, particularly, the kings who will form the power base of the final restored Beast Empire.
I. (:1b-4) THE ANTICHRIST LEVERAGES POLITICAL POWER INTO WORLDWIDE WORSHIP
A. (:1b-2a) Description
- (:1b) Appearance of the Beast of the Sea
a. Coming Up Out of the Sea
“And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea,
John MacArthur: The astounding description of the Antichrist presented in the opening verses of this chapter is the most gripping, thorough, and dramatic one in all of Scripture. However, it was not new teaching to John’s readers. John wrote in his first epistle that his readers had “heard that antichrist is coming” (1 John 2:18). After describing Antichrist and his activity, the apostle Paul reminded the Thessalonians, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thess. 2:5). Those passages indicate that the truth about Antichrist was common knowledge in New Testament times. . .
Since 11:7 and 17:8 state that the beast comes up out of the abyss, it is best to equate the sea with the abyss. That interpretation is in harmony with the Old Testament, which also uses the metaphor of the sea to picture the realm of satanic activity (cf. Job 26:12; Pss. 74:13–14; 89:9–10; Isa. 27:1). Some of the demons are currently incarcerated in the abyss (cf. 9:1–11; Luke 8:31), and Satan will be imprisoned in that abyss during the millennial kingdom (20:1–3).
The Antichrist will be a man (2 Thess. 2:4), but at some point in his life, he will be indwelt by a powerful demon from the abyss. This demon-possessed man will be a gifted orator, an intellectual genius, possess great charm and charisma, and have immense leadership power. Added to those natural qualities will be the hellish power of Satan. The result will be a person of superhuman power, vast intelligence, and consummate wickedness.
b. Composite Nature
“having ten horns and seven heads,”
Sola Scriptura: The heads represent empires. The horns represent kings. As in Daniel 7, the beasts (four king/kingdoms) and ten horns (ten kings) have eschatological significance. The beasts (kingdoms) follow one after the other, however, the ten horns (kings) rule at the same time.
The ten-horn phase of the fourth Beast Empire is directly connected with the end-time scenario that eventuates into the kingdom of God. The composite beast of Revelation 13 pictures the second phase of the dragon’s plan. The fourth Beast Empire of Daniel 7 (the seventh empire of the dragon) is part of the first phase. The fourth Beast Empire eventuates into ten horns/kings. This is the second phase, which is pictured in the Revelation as “the beast who rises form the sea.” This explains why the composite beast has ten crowns on the ten horns. The kings are in focus and not the seven satanically inspired kingdoms that failed to prevent the rapture of the Male-Son to heaven after His birth. . .
Daniel’s fourth beast empire with ten horns is John’s composite beast with seven heads and ten horns with diadems. Daniel emphasized the fourth beast kingdom and John emphasizes the ten horns. Daniel emphasized the original best kingdom. John emphasizes the restored beast kingdom, which is evidenced in the ten kings.
c. Counterfeit Majesty and Claims to Deity
“and on his horns were ten diadems,
and on his heads were blasphemous names.”
Richard Phillips: The beast had “blasphemous names on its heads” (Rev. 13:1). This points to false claims to deity made by earthly rulers. The Roman emperors gave themselves the titles of lord, savior, son of God, and lord and god. The earliest emperors were deified only after their deaths, but before long the emperors began demanding living worship. This was particularly true of Domitian, the beastly emperor of John’s time, who demanded that sacrifices be offered to him in Rome and required the worship of his image throughout the empire upon pain of death.
John MacArthur: The final world empire will be in some sense a revival of the Roman Empire (the iron legs and ten toes of the statue in Daniel 2), but will far exceed it both in power and extent. It will be much more than a European confederacy; it will cover the entire world. Ultimately, Antichrist’s empire will be crushed by Christ (the “stone [that] was cut out without hands”; Dan. 2:34, 45) when He comes to establish His earthly kingdom.
- (:2) Animal Comparisons
a. Leopard-Like = Speedy (Greek empire under Alexander the Great)
“And the beast which I saw was like a leopard,”
b. Bear-Like = Strong (Medo-Persia)
“and his feet were like those of a bear,”
c. Lion-Like = Savage and Majestic (Babylon)
“and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.’
John MacArthur: He will be an insolent intimidator, devious, possessing a power not his own, a fierce destroyer of his victims, and so arrogant that he will dare even to “oppose the Prince of princes” (cf. v. 11), who is the Lord Christ. That move will prove fatal, however, and God’s power will fall on Antichrist, who “will be broken without human agency.”
B. (:2b) Delegated Power, Dominion and Authority
“And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.”
John MacArthur: Having been cast permanently from heaven (12:9), Satan will know that the time remaining to him is brief (12:12). To lead his last, desperate onslaught against God, he will empower his final Antichrist. The opening verses of this chapter reveal seven features of this ultimate dictator: his ancestry, authority, acclaim, adoration, arrogance, activity, and admirers.
C. (:3) Deceptive Resurrection
- Apparently Killed
“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain,”
- Apparently Resurrected
“and his fatal wound was healed.”
- Amassing Worldwide Allegiance
“And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;”
D. (:4) Devoted Worship
- Worship of the Dragon
“and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast;”
Sola Scriptura: The dragon gave the rule of earth to the beast and the people respond with worship to it.
- Worship of the Beast
“and they worshiped the beast, saying,
‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’”
Sola Scriptura: Since the composite beast is restored from the dead who would wage war with it. An enemy that cannot be killed cannot be defeated. War is useless.
Robert Mounce: The motivation for worship is not the beast’s moral greatness but the awesome power of his might. The authority he wields is the authority of Satan himself.
Daniel Akin: How like Satan! The one who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) will provide the world with a copycat “christ” to match all their man-centered ideals of personality, politics, and power. No wonder the whole world will be swept off its feet by this attractive, persuasive figure (13:3)! In fact, we are told the world will worship the dragon through their worship of the Beast. In this rabid fit of hypernationalism that will make Hitler’s Third Reich look like a high school sporting event, the world will cry out, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” (13:4). (Insights, 181) Satan desires to be worshiped and treated like God. He always has. He always will.
Kendell Easley: Following a human leader is one thing; outright worship is another. Now we learn that people worshiped the beast just as they worshiped the dragon. The verb for worship includes the notion of bowing down and acknowledging divine status, as the twenty-four elders had fallen before God (5:14; 11:16). Thus, the world’s people are so deceived that they worship Satan as God; they give the monster the divine status that belongs to Jesus. The monster is truly a pseudo-Jesus, an Antichrist.
II. (:5-8) THE ANTICHRIST ARROGANTLY BLASPHEMES GOD AND WAGES WAR AGAINST GOD’S PEOPLE
A. (:5-7) Delegated Satanic Functions
- (:5a) Arrogantly Blasphemes God
“And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies;”
Sola Scriptura: A direct allusion to Daniel 7:8, 20 where the little horn is given a mouth so that it can speak and say blasphemous things. However, here the composite beast has a mouth like a lion. That is, he is able to terrorize the people with its mouth. . . Since the dragon gave the composite beast everything else, it is safe to assume that he gave it the blasphemous language as well.
John MacArthur: Antichrist’s arrogance will surpass that of anyone else in human history. He will be Satan’s mouthpiece, voicing his master’s frustrated rage against God. He will also be the supreme blasphemer in a world filled with blasphemers. So hardened will sinners’ hearts be at that time that God’s judgments will elicit not repentance, but more blasphemy. In 16:9, John records a vision in which “men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.”
- (:5b) Acts with Delegated Satanic Authority for a Limited Time
“and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.”
John Walvoord: The time of this universal sway is clearly indicated in verse 5 as being forty-two months, namely the last three-and-one-half years preceding the return of Christ. This period is otherwise described as the great tribulation. It is apparent, however, that as the period moves on to its end a massive world war commences, continuing until the return of Christ. This war is a rebellion against the universal rule of the beast and comes at the very end of the tribulation. Though the beast enjoys tremendous power, he is apparently not able to suppress this eventual uprising against his authority.
James Hamilton: The beast will enjoy worldwide, universal reign, as we see in the rest of 13:7: “And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Clearly this period of time when the beast has universal authority over the nations is to be contrasted with the millennium, when the beast and false prophet are in the lake of fire and Satan is shut up in a pit so he can no longer deceive the nations (cf. 19:20; 20:1–3).
- (:6) Accuses and Blasphemes Everything Related to God
“And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God,
to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle,
that is, those who dwell in heaven.”
John MacArthur: Antichrist will utter blasphemous words aimed directly and specifically at God’s Person, His abode, and His people, both the redeemed saints and the holy angels.
- (:7a) Attacks the Saints and Overcomes Them
“And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them;”
Richard Phillips: The beast goes even further than blaspheming God and Christians. His first agenda is to acquire worship for himself and for Satan, and his second agenda is to violently persecute Christians when they refuse to give the worship that belongs only to God: “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Rev. 13:7). Notice that it is against Christians as “saints,” that is, “holy ones,” that the beast makes war. This reminds us that it is not for our sins and many faults that the world hates us, but for God’s saving work in our lives.
Sola Scriptura: Indicates that the saints will not be given a blanket protection from the composite beast. He will overcome or be victorious over the saints.
- (:7b) Assumes Worldwide Authority
“and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation
was given to him.”
B. (:8) Devoted Followers
- Everyone Will Worship the Beast
“And all who dwell on the earth will worship him,”
Buist Fanning: Whether this will be sincere devotion or a calculating submission to one whose rule cannot be resisted can be seen more clearly in vv. 12–17 (probably a mixture of both).
Robert Mounce: John now describes the results of the work of the beast to whom such awesome power has been given. The whole world (apart from those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life) will join in worship of the beast. Jesus had foretold the coming of false Christs who with displays of signs and wonders would “deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Matt 24:24). Once the Roman state had taken on a religious significance it was only natural that it should begin to demand worship. The worship of a satanically inspired perversion of secular authority is the ultimate offense against the one true God. The temptation rejected by Jesus at the outset of his public ministry (Matt 4:8–10) reappears at the end of history in its most persuasive form and gains the allegiance of all but the elect.
- Except for the Elect = Redeemed by the Slain Lamb
“everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world
in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
Daniel Akin: The book of life belonging to the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, is the registry in which God inscribed the names of those chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world. (This phrase is used as a synonym for eternity past in 17:8; Matt. 13:35; 25:34; Luke 11:50; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; and 2 Tim. 1:9.) Unlike unbelievers, the elect will not be deceived by Antichrist (Matt. 24:24), nor will they worship him ([Rev] 20:4). Antichrist will not be able to destroy believers’ saving faith, for the Lord Jesus Christ promised, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev 3:5; cf. 1 John 5:4). Believers have been in the keeping power of God since before creation, and they will be there after the destruction of this order and the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth (21:1ff.).
Believers are doubly secure, because the book of life belongs to the Lamb who has been slain. Not only the decree of election, but also the atoning work of Christ seals the redemption of the elect forever.
III. (:9-10) THE ANTICHRIST CAN ONLY BE OPPOSED BY PERSEVERANCE AND FAITH ON THE PART OF GOD’S PEOPLE
Buist Fanning: A stark division of humanity will surface in the cataclysmic final days of the tribulation, and this prompts the words of warning that follow in vv. 9–10.
A. (:9) Call for Spiritual Discernment
“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”
Sola Scriptura: Scholars are somewhat agreed that this hearing formula is rooted in Isaiah 6:9-10, Isaiah’s message to Judah regarded their unwillingness to hear, understand and repent of their idol worship. For this, God refused to give His word, lest it fall upon those who despise it. God, in His wisdom, saw some faithful among the wicked. Those who were faithful still very much needed God’s word. Therefore, the Lord gave his word in parabolic sayings. This enabled those who were spiritually minded to be enlightened while those who were not remained in blindness. This is the significance of the hearing formula in the Gospels. It also serves as a textual indicator that figurative language is employed and the reader will need to see beyond the obvious.
B. (:10) Call for Godly Response
Kendell Easley: The exhortation is two couplets of poetry, and should be compared with Jeremiah 15:2: “And if they [idolatrous people of Jerusalem] ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ tell them, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.”” The Jeremiah passage proclaimed the inevitable coming of God’s righteous judgment on Judah through the Babylonians.
The Revelation passage teaches the inevitable coming of unjust suffering on the saints through the Antichrist monster. As far as the saints are concerned, If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. This is similar to what Jesus had taught his disciples: “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matt. 24:9). This is not fatalism but rather recognition and submission to the sovereignty of God.
Robert Mounce: Two other less probable readings warrant our attention. One refers both couplets to the persecutors of the church by adding a verb that makes the first line read, “If any person leads [a believer] into captivity, into captivity that person [himself/herself] will go.” Thus the verse would be stressing that the enemies of God’s people would be requited for their persecution of believers in the same form they had employed (captivity for captivity, sword for sword).
The other reading is that of the Sinaiticus (followed by the NKJ) — “He who kills with the sword, must be killed with the sword.” This corresponds to the words of Jesus in Matt 26:52, “All who draw the sword will die by the sword.” The first couplet would teach that the believer must accept what God has ordained, and the second would warn against any attempt on the part of the church to defend itself by the use of force. Barclay writes, “It is an intolerable paradox to defend the gospel of the love of God by using the violence of man.”
- Submit to God’s Will
a. Accepting Captivity
“If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes;”
John MacArthur: This proverb contains important practical truth for those believers alive at the time of Antichrist’s persecution. They are to depend on God’s providence and not take matters into their own hands. Those believers destined by God’s sovereign plan for captivity (imprisonment) are to accept that incarceration as God’s will. They are not to resist or fight against Antichrist. Amazingly, the passage upholds the divine institution of capital punishment even by Antichrist’s evil government, warning that if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed (cf. Gen. 9:5–6; Matt. 26:52). God’s people must not retaliate against their persecutors; there is no place now, and there will be no place then, for militant, aggressive, violent believers terrorizing their persecutors. “Those also who suffer according to the will of God,” wrote Peter, “shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:19).
b. Accepting Martyrdom
“if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.”
Sola Scriptura: While some saints are destined for captivity, others are destined for martyrdom. The sword is the instrument of death by the State (Romans 13:4). God has destined certain ones to be martyrs by the state/government of Antichrist. This is God’s will. Those destined to die will die. This is the sense of the text. That believers will die by the sword is confirmed in Revelation 20:4. Both captivity and death by beheading is a part of God’s sovereign plan.
- Stand Fast in Perseverance and Faith
“Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”
This call for perseverance supports the Pre-wrath Rapture position that Satan’s wrath against believers will be unleashed during the Great Tribulation after the mid-point of Daniel’s seventieth week. The church will be called to experience this trial instead of being raptured beforehand.
Sola Scriptura: For those God has destined to captivity – perseverance will win the day. For those God has destined to physical death – faith will win the day.
Buist Fanning: Christ’s messages to the churches were filled with commendations and exhortations for steadfast faith (2:2–3, 13, 19; 3:10; also 1:9), and such will be called for in the following chapters as well (14:12; 17:14). The circumstances John is about to portray will certainly require faithfulness to Christ even to death, and such allegiance will be worth it when his victory is finally won (20:4).
Grant Osborne: As the saints go through their terrible tribulation, the ethical requirement of 13:9–10 is tough. They are passively to accept their imprisonment and martyrdom and place their trust entirely in God. John calls for “endurance and faithfulness” (13:10b), which the saints are to exemplify by refusing to take action against the forces of evil but instead oppose it by continuing their proclamation of the gospel, following the lead of the two witnesses (11:3–6) and the angel with the eternal gospel (14:6–7). Their victory against Satan is seen in their deaths (12:11). The two beasts both persecute and deceive the saints, but God allows this to test them and to bring out their victorious response. To reciprocate evil for evil, violence for violence, is to fall into the hands of the enemy, to yield to the deceptions of the devil. This is the lesson Jesus told Peter when he drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant: “Put your sword back in its place. For all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). This does not mean we sit idly by and allow evil to triumph. Rather, we take a prophetic stance and warn evil rulers of the folly of their actions, but we do so as part of our gospel proclamation, not as part of a revolutionary plot to overthrow. When one is put to the sword as a result of that bold proclamation, it is “endurance and faith” that gives one the courage to face martyrdom.